When George W. Bush began assassinations of non-Americans without trial, Democrats expressed strong objections. When Barack Obama began assassinations of Americans, without any trial, Democrats got confused about what to do. A few have expressed opposition, but many, leaders and rank-and-file alike, have decided that they’ll support Obama’s policy of extrajudicial killings, even though it’s more extreme than the policy they objected to under George W. Bush. We’ve known for a long while that Barack Obama has been targeting Americans that he alleges have been involved with terrorist organizations that are planning violent attacks against the United States. Yesterday, however, Americans were able to read a leaked document, created at Barack Obama’s direction, explicitly stating that the President can order the killing of an American citizen who is alleged to be connected to a terrorist organization.
It’s not an issue of whether the U.S. military needs to tiptoe on a battlefield, worrying if people on in the enemy ranks might include disloyal Americans. It’s an issue of targeted assassination of a particular individual who is not on an actual battlefield, and who is known to be an American citizen. Obama’s policy does not require that there is what any reasonable person would describe as threat of an imminent violent attack. The policy “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future”. That’s a direct quote from the Justice Department policy briefing prepared at the request of Barack Obama.
At heart of the problem of Barack Obama’s policy of targeting Americans to be killed is that it accepts George W. Bush’s contention that terrorism is no longer a crime, but an act of war. War, however, is something that takes place between nations, or within nations where there is a contest between groups over who will control the government. In the case of terrorism linked with Al Quaida, we have an international criminal organization attempting to commit crimes. In the United States, it is illegal for the President to order an assassination – even during the course of a war. It is unconstitutional to impose a punishment for a criminal offense without a trial.
A few Democrats in Congress are speaking up, but most are doing so behind closed doors. Congressman James Moran has publicly stated that he believes the policy may be unconstitutional. 11 Democrats in the U.S. Senate are asking the Obama White House to share with them all its internal policy papers on the issue. Even these Democratic politicial are not taking concrete action to stop the killings of Americans without trial or other due process, however. Most Democrats in Congress aren’t even making mild protests. They’re remaining silent, letting the issue lie, not wanting to appear disloyal to Barack Obama. The ACLU is protesting vigorously, but the ACLU has always been a non-partisan organization. MoveOn is conspicuously demanding that the Macy’s department store end its association with Donald Trump, but the group isn’t making a peep about extrajudicial killings ordered by the President, now that the President is a Democrat.
There are some stirrings among rank-and-file Democrats. The Rude Pundit writes, “Now that a 16-page memo was leaked to NBC News that details the “legal” justification for targeted drone strikes on American citizens abroad, Obama-supporting liberals (like yours truly) have to confront, in vivid, concrete ways, the actions of a White House that, if a Republican were in office, would cause us to spew blood vendettas against those responsible. Oh, wait. When a Republican was in office, we spewed those oaths over the detention and torture of Americans and others. Now we’re up to stone cold murder. We should be even more outraged. The fact that a Democrat is president does not change that.”
Most of the Democrats reacting to the Rude Pundit’s article have supported the protest against Obama, but others have objected that admitting that Obama has broken the law is unacceptable, because it provides Republicans with “the impeachment card”. One Democrat objects to the very idea of a careful approach to protecting civil liberties, writing, “Wonder WHY republicans get away with portraying democrats as weak on national defense ? Here we go again getting bogged down in the “nuances” and complexities of issues…” Which way will the Democratic Party go?