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Where is the Debate on Obama's Assassination Program?

by danps Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 05:45:48 AM EST

Last week a remarkable story was broken about the president's directive to assassinate a citizen, and there has been a troubling silence about it from nearly all the major players.

For more on pruning back executive power see Pruning Shears.

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

The revelation last week that the president authorized the assassination of a US citizen created a surprisingly small splash.  I try not to engage in speculative "imagine if" games, but if the president had done such a thing in 2005 it is hard to think there would not have been near apoplexy on the left.  It is a nakedly thuggish act, and I can easily envision pictures like this with the faces of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales superimposed on them.  It would have raised an enormous outcry.

Writing on the relative quiet from liberals Avedon Carol wrote "early on when people asked, 'Would you rather McCain had won?' someone said, 'At least then you'd know you were in a fight.'"  Do progressives truly care that the president has made such an expansive claim?  Do they realize that their silence does not just make them look hypocritical, but will completely cripple any argument they make against a future Republican president who does anything even remotely that provocative?  Conservatives are already happily batting around the idea and soberly debating the pluses and minuses of executive hit squads.  Some on the right are already gleefully noting the apparent abandonment of principle among Democrats and their supporters.

The response from the right has been largely muted, though.  In a way it makes sense that all sides would rather the issue go away, because it does not run on established political fault lines.  Democrats do not want to take a hard line against a Democratic president; they already have enough of a self-destruct narrative to want to avoid high level internecine conflict.

Republicans, meanwhile, would have an equally hard time coming out forcefully against the president.  Aside from the fact that Obama's actions are very much in the strong, decisive and brutal approach towards foreign enemies that they seem to gravitate to naturally, they have to know any investigation would likely reach back into the Bush years very quickly, a chapter in their history they would just as soon not revisit.

Still, this is an election year, and even though their numbers look good right now that may just be a mirage.  If they base their electoral strategy on reflexive obstructionism and pandering to the base (neither of which, you'll note, has anything to do with addressing the problems facing America) it is hard to see how they sustain any kind of momentum through campaign season.  They might get some traction running against health care, though, particularly if voters do not see enough meaningful, tangible benefits before election day.

(I cringe whenever I hear Democratic leaders talk about the need to educate voters on the new law; aside from the whiff of elitism it carries - which has been a useful club to beat them with in the past - it raises the question of why the huge reform they are touting cannot be directly felt.  If it is so great, why does it have to be sold?  Just step back and let people begin enjoying the wonderfulness!)

The GOP seems determined to not get any advantage whatsoever on financial reform, however.  On what may the the biggest issue of all - unemployment - there is radio silence from the party.  Presumably they just want for us to wait for the invisible hand to stop giving us the finger and start working its magic again.  Democrats may not have a much greater sense of urgency than that, but the minority party needs to distinguish itself if it hopes to not remain the minority.

Executive power may not be a sexy peg for Republicans to hang their hats on, but since they are already ceding the most popular issues to the Democrats, they may as well make as much hay on this one as possible.  The Democrats' refusal to stand up to Obama is depressing but not really surprising.  It would be nice to see them stand on principle and to put institutional obligations over party objectives.  That most likely is not in the cards, though.  The Republicans' reluctance to make this an issue is a little more surprising.  At least, it is surprising to the extent that I am still amazed to see a major political party continue to show no instinct for self-preservation.  

What Obama has done is a dangerous and outrageous precedent.  One of the reasons the GOP has been unable to sway the public for the past year is because it is clearly lying on big issues like health care and financial reform.  If it directed that same energy and persistence in the service of truth it might start to bring the electorate along, provided it has retained some vestigial interest in such a thing.

by danps (dan at pruningshears (dot) us) on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 05:46:14 AM EST
A bit late after the media picked up on this story two weeks ago ...

Osama Bin Laden is holed up in AfPak region for conspiracy in deadly attacks of 9/11 and East African Embassy bombings. Anwar al-Awlaki is holed up in Yemen mountains, he won't be traveling abroad, he played his game in Fort Hood killings and attempted bombing of Nortwestern airliner on Christmas day. The only message these two deserve is to be delivered by drone. These two are exceptions to the rule.

FBI's Most Wanted
Delta Flight 253 and Intelligence Watch List
A Soldier of Allah ... Nidal Hasan

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

by Oui on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 07:56:30 AM EST
Trial by government say so. Whatever could go wrong?
by generic on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 09:49:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

"What Obama has done is a dangerous and outrageous precedent."

I feel this whole article shows an amazing pseudo-naivete about the level of intensity needed to maintain a nation of 300 million brainwashed consumers.

Obama can accept the intensity, and ignore the moralists and principle wonks, and do what is needed, or he can be replaced with someone less talented, and certainly less progressive.

All or nothing on principle is a crippling game plan for the "leader of the free world." Perhaps Obama's expertise extends to knowing the difference between campaigning and governance, unlike some of his critics.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 04:47:36 PM EST
He needs to assassinate some citizens to keep the rest brainwashed?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 10:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yemen's Awlaki family offers deal

SANA'A, Yemen (al-Jazeera) - "Anwar al-Awlaki has always been looked at as a preacher rather than a terrorist and shouldn't be considered as a terrorist unless the Americans have evidence that he has been involved in terrorism," Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the Yemeni foreign minister, said.

His announcement came after a powerful Yemeni tribe threatened to use violence against anyone trying to harm al-Awlaki.

In an official statement published on Saturday after a meeting of tribal leaders, the Al-Awalik tribe, which is active in the Abyan and Shabwa regions that are important al-Qaeda strongholds, said it would "not remain with arms crossed if a hair of Anwar al-Awlaki is touched, or if anyone plots or spies against him".

"Whoever risks denouncing our son (Awlaki) will be the target of Al-Awalik weapons," the statement said, and gave warning "against co-operating with the Americans" in the capture or killing of al-Awlaki.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is beset by serious political and administrative problems.

In addition to the conflict with the regional branch of al-Qaeda, Yemen's weak central government has struggled to contain separatists in the south and Houthi fighters in the north.

Yemen, a country with U.S. values and democracy

Yemen Ready for Surrender to Al Qaeda

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

by Oui on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 11:46:10 AM EST

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