Idolizing Absolute Power


The Christian Science Monitor published a piece I wrote  last month wrote opposing allowing the U.S. government to kill Americans without a warrant, trial, or any judicial niceties.  The article, “Assassination Nation: Are there any limits on President Obama’s license to kill?,”  spurred a torrent of feedback on Yahoo.com that vividly illustrates how some Americans now view absolute power.

Some folks believed that opposing “extrajudicial killings” should be a capital offense. My article mentioned an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit pressuring the Obama administration “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” “Will R.” was indignant: “We need to send Bovard and the ACLU to Iran. You shoot traders and the ACLU are a bunch of traders.” (I’m not aware that the ACLU is engaged in either interstate or international commerce).  “Jeff” took the high ground: “Hopefully there will soon be enough to add James Bovard to the [targeted killing] list.”   Another commenter – self-labeled as “Idiot Savant” – saw a grand opportunity: “Now if we can only convince [Obama] to use this [assassination] authority on the media, who have done more harm than any single terror target could ever dream of…”

Many folks feared that any restrictions on U.S. government killing could be fatal.    As “Rogmac” groused: “You guys who are against killing these guys are going to be the death of all of us.” Other commenters started from the self-evident truth that, as “Bert” declared, “In the best interest of the United Sates and it’s citizen’s, someone has  to be the judge, jury and executioner.”  This theory of government differs significantly from that proffered in the Federalist Papers. “Rich” was sure everything had been done properly: “The warrants have already been signed, the execution orders have all been approved now we just need to find them and eradicate them.” Having a president approve his own execution orders is more efficient than the procedures used by the U.S. government in earlier times.   “Coder Cable” joined the pro-power parade:  “In a time of war, the military (ie: President) is allowed to execute anyone for the crime of treason, assuming there is strong evidence to backup the claim.”

This was practically the only pro-assassination comment that referred to a standard of evidence. The question of whether government officials can be trusted to arbitrarily label Americans as enemies did not arise. Instead, most commenters favored “faith-based killings,” blindly accepting the assertions of any political appointee as the ultimate evidence.   “Dark Ruby Moon” wrote: “I won’t loose a minutes sleep over these people being eliminated…. One of the reasons presidential elections are so important is we are picking someone who must make such difficult decisions and who is in the end accountable for those decisions.”   Perhaps future presidential races will feature campaign promises such as “Vote for Smith – he won’t have you killed unless all his top advisers agree you deserve to die”?

Commenter “FU” played the race card: “James bovard, I don’t think the killing started with Obama but I wonder if you would write the same article if the cowboy from Texas was pulling the trigger? Or is it that you are angry because the existence of plantations run with blacks are done in this country and Obama managed to become president?  We would all be better off if bigots like you stopped writing crap.”  Bigotry is the only reason to oppose permitting a black president to kill Americans of all races and ethnicities.

For “Rocketman1945,” the fact that I opposed unlimited presidential power proved I was a foreigner: “WOW! You can sure tell what side of the political spectrum this article came from. Not one word of support for the currant American President. Who are these people that write this drivel? Not Americans that’s for sure.”

The newspaper won few fans on Yahoo for publishing that piece. “Zaria”  said it was no surprise that an article that was “all nonesense” came from the Monitor. “Nomadd” denounced the Monitor as a “socialist rag” that should be “put in supermarket checkout lines.” Perhaps “Nomadd” assumed that only left-wingers had anything to fear from this new power.   (I never saw socialist rags in grocery checkout lines, except maybe at the Boston Food Co-op).

Unfortunately, the primary difference between some assassination advocates  and Washington apologists for targeted killing is that the latter use spellcheckers.   For both groups, “due process” is an anachronism – if not a terrorist ploy.  And for both groups, boundless groveling to the Commander-in-Chief is the new trademark of a good American.  Anything less is national suicide.

James Bovard is a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books.



Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs
Jon Hochschartner
Does Word Policing Actually Help the Left?