Every time I write about predator drones or anything associated with the technology, it seems I have to write two back-to-back items: one post laying out what I believe to be a rational, reasonable, historically-sourced argument which, at the end of the day, is skeptical of the president’s war powers, and a second post responding to everyone who appears to not have read what I wrote in the first post.
So here we go again.
Of all the responses I received yesterday, here’s the one that infuriated me the most.
“Remember when Democrats were all suspicious of and cynical about the War on Terror? How it was all a big sham to enrich Bush’s pals in the weapons industry and settle scores in the middle east? Remember “You Can’t Declare War on a Noun”? Yeah, those were the days.” –Commenter “MarshallLucky”
I can only assume this was a direct attack on my post based on the misconception that I’m a supporter of the war on terrorism when, in fact, everything I wrote was prefaced on the idea that the president’s war powers in the so-called war on terror ought to be summarily repealed by Congress. Additionally, I’ve previously written that the war on terrorism ought to end, and any counter-terrorism actions be approached using traditional anti-terrorism policies because temporary war powers in an endless war are no longer temporary and are therefore dangerous.
So speaking for myself, I’ve never stopped being suspicious about the war on terror. Likewise, I’m growing increasingly suspicious of liberals who continue to lean on the jolly, candy-like panic button regarding everything that involves the word “drones” — even when administration officials like Eric Holder have explicitly stated that the official means of thwarting terror plots inside the U.S. is via traditional law enforcement mechanisms.
Here’s another comment that caught my attention, and not in a good way:
I’m sorry but if you can’t pare out the underlying meaning in Holder’s words you are Obama blinded. This administration has an undeniable and insidious record of double speak. Just one opinion.
The whole “Obamabot” counterpoint has become so over-used, facile and cliche — the left’s version of “liberal media bias.” Once again, I had just called for President Obama to be stripped of his war powers and his use of drones to be regulated with new laws and congressional oversight. But this view is entirely overlooked because I refused to get all crazystupid about drones and, instead, noted how the president — any president — has always reserved the right to use military force to stop an in-progress attack by either foreign or domestic enemies. Furthermore, law enforcement engages in the use of deadly force against criminal threats on an almost daily basis.
If you disagree, allow me to present yet another hypothetical scenario.
A group of organized American citizens have acquired a vast stockpile of military weapons and begin to fire mortars, RPGs and other destructive munitions into a U.S. military base. You’re the commander-in-chief. What do you do? If you said anything other than “return fire,” you’re either an extreme pacifist or you’re lying.
Here are two real world circumstances: military personnel returned fire against American citizen and soldier Nidal Hassan, paralyzing him from the waist down; and during the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, which precipitated the Civil War, Major Robert Anderson, the U.S. commander of the fort, returned fire on the rebel combatants. Would it be any different if Anderson had dropped artillery rounds from a hot air balloon (the 1861 equivalent of drones)? Or should he have held his fire because the assailants were American citizens?
The fact of the matter is that Eric Holder strictly confined his remarks about military force to emergencies in which attackers were in the process of engaging in assaults on targets inside the United States, specifically the examples of Pearl Harbor and September 11.
Now tell me, Rand Paul — or kneejerk liberal hipster X for that matter, if President Obama had refused to thwart such attacks and allowed them to happen, what would you say? (Paul is filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan as I write this, so he has time to respond.) It’s not a stretch to assume that Paul and his Republican Party would launch an inquisition leading to an impeachment trial if Obama had the opportunity but failed to shoot down a hijacked airliner and it crashed into, say, the U.S. Capitol building or a civilian facility like the Georgetown University Hospital. Imagine the Benghazi screeching times a gazillion.
Furthermore, if there had been an opportunity to take out U.S. citizen Timothy McVeigh’s explosive-laden van before it detonated and destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City, would you have authorized it if you had attained unequivocal evidence of where he was going and what he was doing?
I wouldn’t think twice, personally. Then again, I’m clearly an Obamabot who loves the war on terrorism (I’m neither), and if Bush had done it, I would’ve opposed it and preferred that everyone in that building had died instead (I wouldn’t have preferred that, obviously).
In a senate hearing yesterday, far-right Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled Eric Holder about his letter to Rand Paul, repeatedly asking Holder if he thought it was constitutional to use a drone to kill a citizen who was drinking coffee at a cafe on American soil. Yes, really.
It’s an absurd line of questioning given that Holder strictly confined the use of lethal military force to imminent, emergency situations on the level of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Holder continuously responded that it’s inappropriate under the Constitution to use any other means beyond typical law enforcement methods if this hypothetical coffee-drinker happened to merely be planning a terrorist attack. Holder wrote the same thing in his letter to Rand Paul and, other than a brief salutation, the law enforcement policy description encompassed the entire first half of the letter.
But not once has any Republican, including Cruz and Rand Paul, mentioned anything about ending the war on terrorism or repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The lack of nuance, as well as the lack of a sense of history on both the far-right and far-left is eerily coincidental. (Make up your own mind about what’s driving it.) Again, it’s important to have oversight on drones, but let’s get real here. Cruz and others seem to have hastily constructed a bridge of paranoia and hyperbole between “a guy having a coffee” and “hijacked planes careening towards skyscrapers.”
Other than the addition of a new weapon in the arsenal, what exactly has changed in terms of the president’s military powers and policies inside the borders of the United States? Based on Holder’s letter, nothing — traditional law enforcement in nearly every circumstance and lethal military force if another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor happens to be in progress. Beyond that, there’s only speculation, paranoia and kneejerk hysteria. And it all sounds equally ridiculous regardless of which side it’s coming from.