Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

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 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.



James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”