“In a striking admission from the Obama Administration’s top intelligence officer, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair announced Wednesday that the United States may target its own citizens abroad for death if it believes they are associated with terrorist groups.” (Feb 4, 2010)
We face a multi-trillion dollar deficit derived to fund two ongoing wars of dubious legality against unconquerable nations and still, U.S. school kids learn we are a nation “of laws not men.”
“Conservatives” refer reverently to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, but where in that Document does a President derive authority to order assassinations? Must the Constitution adapt to wars against terror and communism? Like the contemporary conflict with “terror” the Cold War (1946-91) required our Commander in Chief to use “extrajudicial procedures: the CIA executed “enemies” without judicial process.
The media reports such procedures as routine news stories. “U.S. Predator Drones fired two missiles into Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on the Afghan border… killing at least a dozen people … the third such attack by a CIA-operated drone aircraft in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas this month.”
The October 16, 2009, Reuters dispatch continues: “An intelligence official in the region said 12 people were killed in the attack targeting a house while another put the death toll at 15 and said most were Afghans…the dead included eight women and children.”
The drones hit a house “close to a sprawling madrasa, or religious school, set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former veteran Afghan militant commander who is also a senior Taliban leader … close to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.”
Another CIA drone killed “militants” and maybe civilians in Pakistan. The news media treats these as if they were routine oil spills, psychos whacking fellow workers or celebrities divorcing. The story assumes the CIA’s “right” to murder people in a foreign – and friendly — country.
For almost a decade, “patriotic” citizens have berated the CIA, which “discovered” bin Laden, for its failure to assassinate him and other members of his gang. No one mentions indictments or trials.
During the Cold War, most of the CIA’s murders escaped the media. In 1954, President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to plot the overthrow of the elected Guatemalan government under President Jacobo Arbenz.
The Agency apparently refused the request of their Guatemalan General Castillo Armas (chosen to depose Arbenz) to assassinate 58 leftist Arbenz backers. Instead, one CIA official, whose name was blacked out in a subsequently declassified report, “thought the assassination of a smaller number ‘say 20’ would be sufficient.”
By the late 1940s, the CIA had already set up sabotage teams to use against governments Washington opposed and created a special ‘K’ group trained to perform assassinations.” (Gerald K. Haines, CIA and Guatemala Assassination Proposals 1952-1954, pp. 12-13, found at the National Security Archive)
Under the guise of fighting communism, the Agency became the President’s Praetorian Guard. Eisenhower helped key U.S. corporations to maximize their foreign investments. In 1953, the CIA deposed the elected government of Iran, for the benefit of U.S. oil companies. The Guatemalan caper benefited the United Fruit Company. “Democracy” triumphed – even though Arbenz was not a Communist.
Who benefits now from drone attacks on “suspected militants?” And what are the costs – in expected blowback? Does anyone care that President Obama boasted: “We took out” Mehsud, the man “the CIA blamed for bombings across Pakistan.” (Reuters Aug. 21 2009)
No court indicted this man, much less tried him under any law. Obama, or some underling in “intelligence”, declared Mohammed Doe evil, like a Nebraska abortion doctor, and thus a reason to assassinate him.
You’d think Law Professor Obama could cite Justice Louis Brandeis’ words. “Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution.” (Olmstead et al v. United States (1928))
Instead of discussing this ethical premise, the national debate still rages around how many more crimes the government should commit to ensure “security.” Few talk of how relatives of “droned down” victims in North Waziristan will exact revenge!
On December 30, 2009, a suicide bomber killed seven Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan. On February 3, “a U.S. drone struck a Pakistani target killing six militants.” On the same day, “Pakistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb on Wednesday that killed three U.S. soldiers outside a school in the northwest of the country and threatened more attacks on Americans.” (Reuters)
Also, on February 3, “a suspected U.S. drone aircraft fired two missiles into Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on the Afghan border on Tuesday, killing six militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.” (Reuters)
SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His films on DVD are available (roundworldproductions.com). His A BUS AND BOTOX WORLD was published by Counterpunch.