RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Boardman writes: "Intentional or not, Rand Paul's theatrics provide cover for acts that are arguably war crimes and impeachable offenses - leaving President Obama, like President Bush or any future president, free to continue assassinating brown people at will, regardless of their innocence or guilt, anywhere in the world."

A member of CodePink protests the Obama administration's use of drone strikes and the recent nomination of John Brennan to be the next CIA director, in front of the Heart Senate Office Building on February 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. (photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI)
A member of CodePink protests the Obama administration's use of drone strikes and the recent nomination of John Brennan to be the next CIA director, in front of the Heart Senate Office Building on February 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. (photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI)


Drone Strikes & War Crimes

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

12 March 13

 

Exceptional Americans don't kill exceptional Americans with drones

hen it came to the Senate filibuster on drone killings, the stupid party held the floor, the craven party mostly kept quiet, and the victims had no voice - just another exceptional day in the contemporary clown show of American democracy.

In the second minute of his half-day filibuster February 6, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced an apt reference to one of the absurdities of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," illuminating the abuse of unchecked absolute power. He started reading from Chapter XII, after the King says, "Let the jury consider their verdict":

"No, no!" said the queen. "Sentence first - verdict afterwards."

"Stuff and nonsense!" Alice said loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!"

"Hold your tongue!" said the queen, turning purple.

"I won't!" said Alice.

"Release the drones," said the queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice.

"Release the drones," was Paul's interpolation of the Queen's original order, "Off with her head!" And that's where the Kentucky senator stopped reading, still solidly rooted in the Wonderland of the U.S. Congress, a collective mad tea party of March hares, mad hatters, and dormice.

The wonderland quality of Rand Paul's theatre of the imaginary is clear from his focus on the threat that the president might kill Americans on American soil. And, while Paul didn't mention it, the president might also take a feline crouch on his executive branch, smiling down and slowly fading from view until there was nothing left but his smile.

In reality, if this president - or any president - decides it's necessary to kill an American on American soil, he will get her done one way or another. But wouldn't a killer drone have made a neater job of it at places like Waco or Ruby Ridge?

Don't Drone Me, Bro - I'm American!

Given the non-existence of the imagined threat, Paul's performance amounted to little more than a solipsistic ceremony of American exceptionalism, pottering on sometimes incoherently about the fundamental non-threat of killer drones in America despite the paranoid assurance of some Rand Paul followers that the government is coming for them soon. That's why Americans should be exceptions to presidential drone policy, Paul argues, just because we're Americans. He offers no other rationale.

It's not that his argument is wrong - it's not - but it's Lilliputian and quite literally narrow-minded. While some now celebrate his filibuster as some sort of defense of civil liberties, it's only a defense of some civil liberties for a few people in a special class of Americans. Despite all the media overplay of this stand-your-ground stand-up routine, such ideological opposites as the Cato Institute and Anti-War.com were unimpressed with a moral argument that singled out only Americans for any sort of due process protection under law.

Why would Americans be concerned with other people in other places getting killed without due process of law? It's not like they're covered by the U.S. Constitution, is it?

Intentional or not, Rand Paul's theatrics provide cover for acts that are arguably war crimes and impeachable offenses - leaving President Obama, like President Bush or any future president, free to continue assassinating brown people at will, regardless of their innocence or guilt, anywhere in the world.

The conventional Washington wisdom may preen over the "conversation" about drone strikes set in motion by Paul, but it's a shallow conversation at the start, with little momentum, and less likelihood of reaching a rational goal - such as controlling or, better, ending attacks on anonymous people who may or may not mean us harm and too often turn out to be men, women, and children celebrating a wedding.

Don't Worry, It Won't Happen - Until It Does

Much has been made of the letters from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senator Paul. The first letter was dated March 4, several days after Paul had begun planning his Senate floor pseudo-event. Holder's letter was an embarrassment of legalese, hedging every conceivable bet, while criticizing the Senator's query for being "hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront" - although, Holder said, it's "possible."

Does it matter, really, what the attorney general says? If he promised there would never ever be a drone strike on an American on American soil, would that make it impossible? Would it even make it less likely, unlikely as it may be at present?

The day after Paul's filibuster, on March 7, Holder wrote a second letter that reads, in its entirety: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no."

The loophole here is huge - "an American not engaged in combat." How does the drone know who's American? And who says what combat is, or who's engaged in it?

In Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere, the United States has killed thousands of people no American has even seen, except through a surveillance camera. The victims are strangers, mostly never identified, but it is U.S. policy to consider any male who appears to be 18 or over as an "enemy combatant."

Although he fits that description, Rand Paul has trumpeted the second Holder letter as a victory.

And the legal basis for lethal drone strikes - a White House argument, not a statute passed by Congress - remains secret.

There is no significant effort in Congress to rein in White House power.

Had Rand Paul continued with "Alice in Wonderland," the next sentence he read would have been the court's response to the Queen of Hearts's order - either "Off with her head!" or "Release the drones!" That response was: "Nobody moved."

And then Alice took matters in her own hands and, as they all flew into the air about her, she said, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

The wonderland of exceptional Americanism these days has no Alice, just the pack of cards and a president with a Peace Prize.



William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+20 # angry 2013-03-12 10:57
Look, guys, this nation has ONE and only ONE problem ... crooked and greedy politicians. Who pretend to be little Gods but instead take campaign bribes to do anything to advance their personal wealth, even against the best interests of the nation. And we have idiot voters who don't yet understand the game, and keep voting them back in. ONLY a 100% turnover in 2014 will move us forward.

Until then the drone manufacturers will own our politicians. Get over it, or do something about it!
 
 
+5 # RHytonen 2013-03-12 15:12
Here will always be someone willing to accept bribes, and those will be the ones corporations will back,with unlimited funds, to the gullible majority fools who vote according to TV ads, and only for one of the two identically corporatist parties.

And those politicians will always defend and protect corporate rights to do that and retain their monopoly on the airwaves.

You have TWO choices, both of which will be necessary against such a corruipt system:
1. Vote only for third, ANTI-BUSINESS party candidates ( that's NOT "libertarian" BTW- they're for an unregulated capitalist jungle. More of the same.)
2. END corporate rule (=capitalism.) Boycott, demonstrate, Occupy, and BLOCK their extractionism. Needless to say do not be one of the petty investor/gamble rs the Wall Sreet Gamblng House preys on.
 
 
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-03-12 18:27
# ANGRY The rules of political survival were made by politicians. Until we have publicly funded elections, it, not much will not change.
 
 
+24 # charsjcca 2013-03-12 11:20
Drone strikes ARE war crimes. They have gone unpunished.
 
 
+36 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 11:45
Good article.

By the way, Rant didn't bother to filibuster any of the other affronts to our civil liberties that have occured since he took office (like the Patriot Act extension). Now's the time to start running for president, and he's just trying to get in the spotlight.

He also voted against the Disclose Act which would force the government to disclose who funded each campaign. I wonder why.

He also voted against the transfer of Guantanamo torture victims to the U.S. to face trial. Of course he gave a lofty speech about the right to a fair trial first, then he went ahead and voted against trials anyway.
 
 
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-03-12 18:24
As Bill Maher once said about Paul, "smokes too much weed."
 
 
+16 # DPM 2013-03-12 11:47
In comments that I read and people that I talk to, conservative and liberal, it seems more and more people feel that a new government is the only thing that will put an end the the farce our current government has become. See Carl Gibson's article published in RSN, here: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/16407-abolish-it-and-replace-it-with-what
Corruption is too endemic in our politics and government to try to change it, piecemeal. We need a new beginning. What it could be, I don't know, but we should begin thinking about it.
 
 
+3 # Nominae 2013-03-12 17:12
Quoting DPM:
In comments that I read and people that I talk to, conservative and liberal, it seems more and more people feel that a new government is the only thing that will put an end the the farce our current government has become. .....


Absolutely SO ! Thanks for the post. Indeed, it is now incumbent upon us to literally *imagine* a totally new system. A different way of banking, financing, new social structures, new political structures, etc.

The more we focus upon that goal, the more ideas will come to us. Already there are many groups around the world engaged in just such efforts to "imagine".

What kind of a society do we want ? How do we want to be treated ? How do we want to treat one another and our life sustaining planet ?

These subjects all seem intimidating and overwhelming to the individual, but collectively we will see solutions that seem so obvious and self evident that we will wonder why we never thought of them before.

Through all it's fits and starts, mistakes and victories, OWS has made incredible progress in these imaginings. OWS started with banking, and based upon the Bank Of North Dakota, they have a totally *new* banking picture in which no one gets "screwed" !
What a *concept* ! Imagine that.

OWS is also connected with other global groups focused upon the same mission. Thinkers, planners, futurists, and just plain "regular folks" all over the globe are becoming involved.

The more the better.
 
 
+6 # jackloganbill 2013-03-12 11:52
I am against war, period! But when it comes to war, what difference is there between drones and the more acceptable missiles and bombs. Face it, unless all battles are accomplished hand-to-hand, there will be anonymous killing....
 
 
+5 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 14:50
It's sort of a philosophical argument, isn't it? It's hard to be 100% for or against the existence of drones.

I personally think the problem isn't the drones themselves as much as it is what they enable. If you replace the word "drone" with missile, do we have the right to kill people in countries we are not at war with? Drones just make this a whole hell of a lot easier. Killing people with missiles is impersonal and (let's face it) cowardly, but drones are one step more impersonal.

Also, the packaging is a big lie. With missiles, it's widely accepted they're not "surgical", no matter what propaganda we're fed. With drones, there's this myth that they only take out "bad guys".

Here's another twist: I've heard the argument that drones aren't really that far advanced technologically . Therefore, it's only a matter of time before everybody has them. They will get smaller and smaller, stealthier and stealthier, and deadlier and deadlier. Eventually, Yemen may decide to drone the hell out of Indiana or Oklahoma. We might not be able to stop them. What if individuals can make their own drones?

It's getting bizaare and the only way to nip it in the but (I think) is to lead by example and realize it doesn't serve our own national interest to perpetuate their use or even existence.

You're right. It's really not a simple matter. We have a nation of citizens and politicians who aren't capable of dealing with subtleties.
 
 
+5 # Doubter 2013-03-12 18:44
"What if individuals can make their own drones?"

Not necessary.

Just buy a radio controlled model airplane, (soon available down to mosquito size) attach explosive of choice,and drone away!
 
 
+1 # Todd Williams 2013-03-15 06:30
War hasn't been personal since we used swords and axes and knives. Bow and arrows were impersonal. Guns are impersonal. Bombs, missiles and artillary are impersonal. Drones are just another impersonal way of killing. Every impersonal weapon we deploy lets another genie out of the bottle. And they never go back in the bottle.
 
 
+4 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 14:54
It's RANT paul, and we aren't blaming him. We're just pointing out his hypocricy and the phony acting job he did while grandstanding.

If this is Obama's fault (and it is), it's also equally the fault of ALL of our national leaders and ALL of our national media, with only a few exceptions - and RANT paul isn't one of them.
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 19:25
This comment was meant as a reply to Depressionborn' s comment about "blaming rant for Obama's misdeads". Sorry about making it seem like a reply to jackloganbill.
 
 
+2 # Nominae 2013-03-12 17:42
Quoting jackloganbill:
I am against war, period! But when it comes to war, what difference is there between drones and the more acceptable missiles and bombs. .


I agree. All this energy wasted in hyperventilatin g over a single weapon of war diffuses and dissipates energy that could be used for stopping ALL of these little "designer" wars of choice.

It is WAR that is killing all these innocents. That has always BEEN the case with WAR.

And, these people are not being killed by "Drones". They are being killed by Hellfire Missiles. Do you really think we could find no *other* way of delivering Hellfire missiles?

In Vietnam, we secretly Carpet-bombed Laos and Cambodia with B-52s for years. How's that for "collateral damage"? We hit civilians in the SOUTH (the people we were SENT to protect) with airborne stikes of NAPALM and "cleaned up" with helicopter gun ships. You cannot imagine "collateral damage" until you've seen the effects on entire villages in the aftermath of a NAPE Strike.

We dropped more tonnage in ordnance on that country of farmers and peasants than ALL the conventional ordnance that we dropped in WWII.

So, Drones are what need to be stopped ?

Let's consider the possibility that elective WAR is what needs to be stopped. This focus on one weapon simply misdirects our attention from the BIG picture of our overall culpability.

Follow the money. Always follow the money.
 
 
+8 # James Marcus 2013-03-12 11:52
Agreed with ANGRY!
Impeach. This activity is Treasonous.
Prosecute All (Politicians and Military) involved for Crimes Against Humanity. ALL Involved.
New Elections, absolutely. PUBLICLY FUNDED! END ALL POLITICAL "CONTRIBUTIONS" . Institute Term Limits. Retake our Nation from The Big Money
 
 
+7 # bretmosley 2013-03-12 12:07
I'm grateful to this writer for such clear thinking, for making such careful & pertinent differentiation s...and for his flair, for that matter. Thank you, William Boardman.
 
 
-8 # Depressionborn 2013-03-12 12:27
It seems a little ridiculous to blame Ron Paul for Obama misdeeds.
 
 
+1 # RobertMStahl 2013-03-12 13:16
Sweet. Let's make cognition a form instead of words leading to, well, a super trust in Rand making him more powerful.

It does confuse me how this silly election apparatus will open the gates for Ashley Judd, despite the fact she may be worthy, or not. Who's to know?
 
 
+4 # oakes721 2013-03-12 13:35
There is Dishonor Among Thieves ~ Exceptionally, politicians. Is Ron Paul NOT in a position to file impeachment proceedings for these War Crimes? The endless talking and occasional grandstanding only illustrate and enforce the Limited Lifetime Guarantee of exceptionalism. Through the Looking Glass we see that even basic training indoctrinates "Exceptional Americans" that all others are strangers.
 
 
+8 # cmp 2013-03-12 14:13
Looks to me like Ronald Reagan, is on his 9th term as President..

On January 30th, 1976 the Supreme Court said "money is speech" with, Buckley vs Valeo.

1975, was the very last year that we had a positive Trade Deficit; as well..
 
 
-2 # BMoldow 2013-03-12 16:09
When the allies bombed Dresden during WWII killing 100,000 citizens apparently this was perfectly acceptable since the opposition was also bombing and killing civilians.

It was an unfortunate happening but civilians do get hurt in war. Now the opponents of the use of Drones wish to establish a double standard allowing terrorists to blow up building,s and shopping malls and other establishments which are frequented by innocent civilians, with impunity.

I would venture to say that the terrorist bombings are killing significantly more civilians. What would the opponents of drone strikes propose as an alternative?
 
 
+4 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 19:35
Do you think less than 3,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9-11?

Also, there IS a double-standard . Otherwise, the only way to fight terrorism would be to become terrorists.

Also, we WERE AT WAR with Germany. Germany tried to take over the world. We are not at war with Somalia or Yemen. We are not under any threat from them either. AND, the people we are killing are not an army.

Also, the war with Germany was caused BY GERMANY. We were not attacked by Iraq or even Afghanistan. We were attacked by 19 Saudis who had been hiding in Afghanistan. We were NOT attacked by a foreign nation, but by a small group of psychos. We responded by attacking their entire nation (and Iraq), then stealing their oil, torturing them, and are arguing that it makes no difference whether or not any of them actually had anything to do with 9-11. That's like getting retribution for a murder, by murdering 100 innocent children from another neighborhood. It's not only immoral and offensive. It's also incredibly stupid.

ALSO, we have openly admitted that we're killing people with second drone strikes after they are attempting to tend to the wounded. THAT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A WAR CRIME. The nazis did that in WWII. AT THE TIME WE DIDN'T STOOP TO THEIR LEVEL.
 
 
0 # Todd Williams 2013-03-15 06:35
Billy Bob, I tend to agree with most of what you said, but I am very interested in your ideas of how to stop terrorists from engaging in that act. I'm not trying to be a smart ass here, I really want your opinion.
 
 
+6 # slgardiner 2013-03-12 22:11
I agree with the idea, voiced by many, that hyper-focus on one tool of violence, the drone, misses the larger point that the problem is war and the forces that drive it are the deeper issue.

There is, however, one sense in which drone-deployed weapons as they may soon be (not so much as they are except in the sanitized language of American press briefings)could be a perverse game-changer. Such weapons represent the possibility of so drastically reducing "collateral damage" that the kind of violence they would be used for couldn't be called war at all in any conventional sense.

What I mean, is that with no risk to humans on the perpetrating side, and no damage to unintended victims, it is not war it is either (1) assassination, or (2) capital punishment (depending on whether it has the camouflage of law or not).

American (and other) power will claim legal sanction, and with it the right to kill anyone, anywhere on the face of the earth--without the pretense or actuality of war. The logic of the drone program as it exists, not fighting with Pakistan, Yemen, etc. but tribal peoples and political groups in those countries, is already a step in this direction.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2013-03-12 23:18
Beautifully constructed argument.
 
 
+1 # Nominae 2013-03-13 21:36
Quoting slgardiner:
I agree with the idea.... that hyper-focus on one tool of violence, the drone, misses the larger point that the problem is war and the forces that drive it are the deeper issue.

There is, however, one sense in which drone-deployed weapons ......could be a perverse game-changer. Such weapons represent the possibility of so drastically reducing "collateral damage" that the kind of violence they would be used for couldn't be called war at all in any conventional sense........

American (and other) power will claim legal sanction, and with it the right to kill anyone, anywhere on the face of the earth--without the pretense or actuality of war.


Excellent analysis, and incredible foresight on your part for a very "do-able" strategy on the part of Governments all over the world.

However, it would take some time to implement this approach in the U.S. simply due to the fact that our entire economy is based on international sales of war systems (entire Navies, Air Forces, etc.), and the associated weapons and platforms.

In addition, our Pentagon Procurement Programs, and our boots-on-the-gr ound military is essentially a jobs program that we will be reluctant to relinquish.

Past that, however, I can see your vision, extrapolated from the facts on the ground today, manifesting in a *flash*.

I am, perhaps naively, hoping for a change in direction for human consciousness before your analysis plays out to it's very logical conclusion.
 
 
+1 # Nominae 2013-03-13 22:28
Oooops ! Oh, well .... "problem solved".

As many readers here are now aware, the U.S. Air Force has "handled the situation" by simply deciding against *releasing* ANY more information regarding drones, weaponized or otherwise, in Afghanistan.

Just as brain studies show us that an infant who sees a ball that is then tucked under a blanket is convinced that the ball itself has simply ceased to exist, apparently the USAF is hoping to achieve the same "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" results noted in growing infants.

That same strategy has certainly been effective in preventing American citizens from seeing the coffins arrive at Dover AFB.

But, y'know, that was all happening BEFORE we were just lately promised "Transparency" ....... GEEEEZ, people .....

"What ever happened to "dinner and a MOVIE first ?"
 
 
0 # BobbyLip 2013-03-23 23:01
History will not judge our country kindly.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN