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A Drone Court to Legitimize Assassination


Soon Brennan will be confirmed, an Obama-Brennan, Brennan-Obama, Obrennan-Brenoma government  which merely compounds the grab for Executive Power already underway, to the prejudice of the US Constitution and flatout affront to humankind’s moral sensibility (presently in short supply in America).  Events move fast, assisted by Gresham’s Law of evil doings which foster a progressively intensifying race to the bottom.

Drone warfare for targeted assassination, slice it any way you want, is Naziism déjà vu all over again [thanks, Yogi], the London blitz in microcosm, the terrorization of a whole people—a war crime, pure and simple, originating at the highest levels of political authority, watched over more or less complacently by the Congress and the American public.  To have a special court scrutinizing (I’m being charitable) each application for the use of lethal force, is a macabre joke—US justice rather than safeguard the law has been in the vanguard of transmogrifying it, to suit a priori Reactionary goals and purposes and/or a national-interest doctrine compatible with US global hegemonic claims, perhaps more than ever being pursued and contested in a multipolar world (which places a seemingly unbearable strain on American institutions unused to experiencing challenges).

Murder from the skies is a (last) desperate attempt to instill fear and respect into an international arena in which counterterrorism is an excuse for something else: to remain unmodified at home (drastic maldistribution of wealth and power), while simultaneously attempting to stabilize the world system on lines advantageous to American capital, itself undergoing transformation into a capitalistic framework, monopoly capital at a highly mature stage, perhaps qualitatively different from the past, although the signs were there since perhaps the close of World War II.  I speak of the militarization and financialization of American capitalism, which makes a more aggressive foreign policy, particularly foreign economic policy, both attractive and imperative, and with drone warfare as suitable illustration, realizable.  We are seeing the logic of counterterrorism unfold, its purposeful incorporation on a political-ideological continuum with counterrevolution.

Brennan is our point man; soon all of America will be waterboarded, with Obama, glibness, erzatz liberalism all polished, teleprompter at the ready, smiling his condescending smile in the wings.  I add my Comment in yesterday’s New York Times on the discussion of a special court:

[NYT, Comment, 2/9/13.  The court a rubber stamp for unconstitutional practices]

Either targeted assassination is legally and morally justified, or it is not. I believe it is not, and to invoke a FISA-like court to pass on drone warfare merely legitimates a practice which, under any circumstance, is reprehensible, the violation of international law, and–if one must be practical–wholly counterproductive. Just say, No.

The discussion has several fundamental flaws, indicative of where we, as a nation, currently are (i.e., falling into a moral void, in which the Constitution itself is openly violated without the slightest misgivings). First, the courts, including that set up under FISA, have lost their way, starting at the top. American justice has been politicized beyond what is acceptable, much less believable. Your point on FISA: 2011, 1,745-0 record of approval on surveillance, with 30 alterations! The court obviously has become a rubber stamp for unconstitutional practices. Why should a drone court be different? It only would serve to legitimate rotten practices.

Second, why does justice stop at water’s edge? Is murdering a foreign national any less heinous than murdering an American? Shame on those who want to limit such a court to assassination of Americans–parochial and xenophobic. Third, we face unbridled Executive Power, yet that is not addressed in the discussion. The whole drone program should be scrapped, its proponents, from Obama down, reigned in, as now in WAR CRIMES territory. Assassination is a moral outrage. Period.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

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