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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beyond the Pale with Obama

I have for some time intended to compose a list of those things that Obama is doing that are beyond the pale.
That is, not just things that I disagree with, but things which are beyond his legal authority to do.  This may  be a good time to begin this since one of them is in the news.

1.  Obama is using drones to kill American citizens without benefit of trial or any other judicial protections.  If you doubt it check out the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.  Persons selected for this fate are reviewed by a group in the Executive Department.  The president has quoted a congressional statute to justify this. The administration's response to the question of what protected the target's constitutional rights was that these were always considered in the meeting in which the target was designated to be killed!!  Those acquainted with the ACLU will not be surprised to learn that they have a problem with this.

I support Obama's extensive use of drones.  Al-Queda has stated that it is at war with us.  I accept that and therefore I believe that we are at war with al-Queda.  Therefore, I do not have any objection to members of al-Queda being targeted for killing without Constitutional considerations.  That includes American citizens who have clearly signed on al-Qaeda.  The president can do this based on war powers.

Now I understand that this may sound a bit contradictory.  It is not.  The difference is that I believe that this "interaction that we are having with al-Qaeda" is a war.  But for curious reasons the President does not want to call it a war.  Therefore he is not able use that justification.

What I believe is beyond the pale is not the targeted assassinations, but the claim that this is being done within the Constitution and without the use of war powers.  Based on previous comments to that effect, the President's position on this is ludicrous.

We will see if the current hearings on the new head of the CIA forces a change in his position.

I  believe that it will.


  1. I find myself as nervous or conflicted about drones as Dan. If there is a likelihood of killing innocent civilians, then it is morally wrong. Also, I disagree with Wayne about this being a "real" war, as the authors of the Constitution understood war. When Jefferson fought the Barbary pirates, he didn't ask Congress for a Declaration of War. Of course, if you leave out he moral issue and judge this on Realpolitik terms only, you must defend Obama, whether he declared war or not.

    1. KW I share a concern over the moral issues in killing innocent civilians with drone strikes, however, I will say that I fully support the Drone program as it is being used today. I long ago resolved, in my mind, the innocent civilian issue many years ago with “the Elevator Conundrum”.

      You are in an elevator with two men, one of which intends to kill you before you get to the ground floor, but you do not know which one. You have a gun with 2 bullets. What do you do?

      As regrettable as it may be the only choice I see as logical is to shoot both of them.

      I could temper that argument if the man that wants to kill me has good cause and there are those that claim that terrorist have “good cause” based on past actions by the US. In this case I reject the “good cause” claim and accept that innocents will be killed.

  2. Wayne did not say that it was a "real" war as the authors of the Constitution understood war.

    Wayne thinks that it is a war in the sense that the opponents have declared war on us. We can accept the fact or pretend that it is not so.

    You say Jefferson didn't ask Congress to declare war on the Barbary pirates. That makes them a good parallel for Al Queda. So, in that parallel, the issue that I have with Obama is: Do you treat the enemy combatants as if you are at war or do you treat them as ordinary criminals with all of the American rights of due process? In particular, did Jefferson bring any Barbary Pirates home to be tried in Federal Court?

    Finally, and this was my main point in saying that Obama was going beyond the pale, he simultaneously claims:
    1) enemy combatants have Const. rights of due process if captured and
    2) they can be killed without due process.