drone strikes

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Sleep Rules?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Getting kids to go to bed at night, and to stay there till morning, and not get up, again and again, is possibly life’s greatest challenge. When I had young children, I was willing to do whatever it took.

Drink of water? Sure. Okay. No more.

Drone strike? Well, as tempting as that sounds . . . no.

But according to The Washington Post, Farea al-Muslimi, a young Yemeni man, testified before the United States Senate that some parents in his country have taken to threatening their children at bedtime, “Go to sleep or I will call the planes.”

Pretty funny. Until it dawned on me that our USA is now scarier than the monster hiding underneath the bed.

“What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village,” Muslimi warned, “one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

Georgetown University Law Professor Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon advisor, testified: “Every individual detained, targeted, and killed by the U.S. government may well deserve his fate. But when a government claims for itself the unreviewable power to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret information discussed in a secret process by largely unnamed individuals, it undermines the rule of law.”

Anything that undermines the rule of law, undermines the United States of America.

It’s long past time we put the lawlessness of the killer drone program to bed . . . and not just till morning.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: It’s not about drones

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The key issue of last week’s great Rand Paul filibuster was not drone technology, as such, but whether those who run the government will accept the rules of the Constitution. That’s the message from Yours Truly this week on Townhall. Read the column, then come back here for some more links to further facts and opinion.

Drone Strikes at Home?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The main controversy over the current administration’s drone strikes program has not been about committing acts of war without a declaration of war.

It has not been about committing acts of war within the boundaries of allied countries.

It has not been about killing innocents.

And it has certainly not been about the reliability of information that gets to the president’s desk that might cause him to order a drone strike.

No, the controversy has centered on the killing American citizens abroad with drone strikes. Some people favor it, since the main American targets are “traitors” and “terrorists.” But many others balk: Without a trial, how do we determine their guilt?

The usual response to that? “This is war!”

But no war has been declared. And, ahem, our side often blows up people far away from any battlefield and in allied territory . . . including a 16-year old American citizen killed in Yemen for being related to his father, Anwar al-Awlaki.

This, however, is just the tip of the enormity. The language from the folks in the administration suggests that borderlines mean nothing to them. Which raises a big question: “What about within our borders?”

The administration has been evasive.

This disturbs Sen. Rand Paul. “What I’m asking is about drone strikes on Americans, on American soil. The president will not answer that he cannot do this. In fact, he seems to be asserting that he can do this; all he’ll say is he doesn’t intend to do this.”

Sending drones to kill foreigners, innocents as well as enemies, on allied soil, in secret, without any method of accountability, is the behavior of a rogue nation. To claim the same power  on our own soil? That’s tyrannical.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

We’re All Bond Fans Now

Friday, January 4th, 2013

The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, is so well liked that there’s even Oscar buzz about it. But it’s not just moviegoers who feel like they’ve entered a new era.

In the new flick, M, played by Judi Dench, argues before a parliamentary board that, because “the enemy” can be just about anybody these days, now’s really the time for some good old-fashioned espionage, James Bond-style. You know, with casual murders committed by men given a “license to kill.”

But things have changed. The old Bond skirmished with Russkies while fighting rich criminals who dreamed of destroying or ruling the world. Today’s Bond fights an ex-agent who wants to hurt the higher-ups in the spy biz who had hurt him.

In reality, it’s the U.S. President — Felix Leiter’s boss — who has the license to kill, exercising it by overseeing multiple drone programs, the practice of rendition, and a developing program called a “disposition matrix,” which aims to target people who are up-and-comers in the America-hating (and thus) terrorist game.

Many critics have noted that the recent Bond films starring the brilliant Daniel Craig have become more personal and less gadgety. Maybe that’s the way real-life spying plays in Britain (I doubt it) but from the American perspective, the current reality of drone strikes overseas, unregulated-by-law rendition tribunals, and database management geared to determining terrorist psychology is positively science-fictional.

And I don’t mean that in a good way.

This is not a Brave New World or a 1984, I realize. But it still frightens.

Indeed, for people in the targeted regions it must be pure horror. America’s ruling classes have upped the game. And we can expect to reap a . . . skyfall.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Dictators’ Drones

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Partisanship leads to mass delusion.

The “targeted” drone runs of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama have killed thousands of innocent people in foreign lands — without a declaration of war.

The main theme of Greg Greenwald’s terrific and much-tweeted Guardian article, “Obama: a GOP president should have rules limiting the kill list,” is how Americans have deluded themselves by partisan loyalty and trust into caring about constitutional limits only when thinking about “the other guys.” Democrats fear Republicans in charge, but not their own “Messiah” (to use Andy Levy’s term for the president, on RedEye).

Republicans fear The Socialist Kenyan with his finger on the button, setting off cluster bombs and cruise missiles and the like, but applauded the previous, “Texan” president’s bombing runs a great thing, just what the War on Terror required.

But of course, when drone strikes in multiple Muslim countries kill thousands, when innocents are killed “collaterally” (the previous euphemism) but are redefined as “terrorists” because of proximity or familial relationships, and when even American citizens overseas are targeted for kills without any legal framework for such decisions, something has gotten out of hand.

The president is now above the law, like a Roman emperor. Might as well call him “dictator” and let it go at that.

Both progressives and conservatives need to be reminded that the rule of law — as “inconvenient” as it may seem when it comes to fighting terrorism — is there to protect all of us, including those who wield power.

And not merely from others. Also from ourselves.

Why? Power tends to corrupt. No one is immune. And who seeks to be corrupted?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.