Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Deja Yoo

Noam Chomsky, and others on the left, have inveighed against the recent targeted killing of al-Awlaki claiming that the U.S. no longer bothers to detain, and interrogate alleged terrorists, but simply kills them.

To give credit where credit is due, the mastermind behind covert kill squad perations targeting terror suspects was not President Barack Obama, but former vice president Dick Cheney. And, as the New York Times has reported, this practice dates back over over a period of years, and long before the al-Awlaki execution. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/world/asia/10terror.html?hp

Back in 2009, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh spoke of a secret assassination squad that answered directly to Dick Cheney. In the Bush years, this taking down of alleged enemy combatant was a function of the CIA. And, as Hersh reports, under Obama there is what's called a Joint Special Operations Command of which "Congress has no oversight... It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on." http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/7929

On George W. Bush's watch, too, according to Hersh, special operation forces have been "going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us."

Over the past decade, there has been a rapid, and remarkable deterioration of the constitutional separation of powers such that the CIA is now essentially in a parasitic relationship with the Department of Defense as is the State Department.

The boundaries between the different branches have been carefully deconstructed, brick by brick, and there are no longer independent branches of government. Some might argue this has been done in the name of national security, but one would be hard-pressed to convince Thomas Jefferson of that.

What may one day be seen as a signature misstep of the Obama administration was to leave Robert Gates at the wheel of Defense as long as it did. While he looks liberal compared to Rumsfeld, Gates ensured that the global war on terror would not only be kept in place, but accelerated, without contest, for as long as possible.

The press, which was virtually shackled and silenced during the Bush years, last week selectively leaked another "secret U.S. memo," only unlike the Bybee Memos of August, 2002 that justified the use of interrogation methods that have always been considered torture under the rubric of presidential authority in wartime, the secret memo of the Obama administration now justifies the targeting, and extrajudicial murder of "high level leaders," whether they are U.S. citizens or not, who are "plotting to kill Americans...in the armed conflict with al Qaeda, and the Taliban."

The Obama administration memo contends international law approves of extrajudicial killing of alleged high value leaders of al Qaeda and Taliban as "self-defense," but is the "driving force" behind "Inspire," an al Qaeda Internet magazine considered a leader, high value or not? http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/aulaqi-killing-reignites-debate-on-limits-of-executive-power/2011/09/30/gIQAx1bUAL_story.html?wpisrc=al_national

What about those civilians who were collateral damage, so to speak, when drones wiped out dozens in Pakistan and elsewhere? The legal, and moral, implications are far-reaching.

Is there a difference between "plotting" and planning? Is ideation considered plotting, or planning?

From another perspective, the efforts made by the Bush administration to fly under the radar in terms of Geneva and the Constitution may also be seen as plotting and planning a subversive act, an act that subverts both due process and human rights.

Remember that it was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John Yoo, who drafted which has since come to be known as the "torture memo" of 2002. This was the memo that sanctioned interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, and that said essentially that anything that falls short of loss of limb, or life is acceptable. The memo was later approved, and signed by Bush's legal counsel, Jay Bybee. It was this memo that got the proverbial ball rolling, and that took us down the road we're on now.

But, in stark contrast with the Bush administration, there are no John Yoo's stepping forward now to take responsibility for personally drafting a memo defending the death by drone of U.S. citizen, Muslim cleric, and alleged al Qaeda kingpin, al-Awlaki from those who are outraged by this affront to due process. The Obama administration memo says simply that "what constitutes due process in this case is due process in war."

Even the phrase "due process in war" is not only an oxymoron, it stings. The only thing that stings more is a White House that, when taking office, denounced the "torture memos," proclaiming then like it's predecessor before it that the U.S. This White House has now acquiesced, "in broad terms," as the Washington Post suggests, to the use of deadly force not solely in the battlefield, but anywhere, and on anyone it deems to be not merely a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban, but so-called "associated forces."

While the focus of the White House, Congress, and the American people has squarely, and almost exclusively been on fixing the economy, Mr. Obama must distance himself not just from the failed economic policies of his predecessor, but from its failed military, and moral practices, too.