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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Barack Obama's Coup de Grace on America

Barack Obama's Coup de Grace on America
Image © Austin Cline
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Candidate Barack Obama ran his presidential campaign on a message of hope and change. President Barack Obama seems to be running his presidential administration on the thesis that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney didn't go far enough in the creation of a secretive national security state. Even more than they ever did, Obama seems to be pushing for a nation where habeas corpus, constitutional rights, and basic civil liberties protections can be emptied of substantive meaning whenever the president decides.

America has been kicked in the values so many times that I'm sure many doubted it could ever be able to stand back up again; others, I'm just as sure, were optimistic that America would be able to recover. I fear though that Barack Obama has delivered a final coup de grace to basic American values by authorizing an official assassination program against American citizens around the world. I don't think it's possible to argue that there can remain any substance to basic civil liberties if the president can officially have you whacked any time, anywhere, for any reason.


It's important to be absolutely clear on what Obama's assassination program is all about. Unfortunately, it's a secretive program that the government doesn't want us to know much about. I'm surprised that anyone even admitted to its existence. As far as anyone can tell, though, Barack Obama has asserted that he has the authority as president to order the death of American citizens anywhere in the world based on unknown evidence from unknown sources and for unknown reasons.

There can be no independent, judicial review of the evidence, no independent challenges to the sources, no public debate about the reasons. Obama has asserted the authority to be "The Decider" in ways that go well beyond what anyone else has tried to do. Even Bush and Cheney only asserted the authority to merely arrest and imprison people without trial or review; Obama, in contrast, thinks that because you voted for him, he has the authority to order your death.


Yes, you — I mean the personal "you" not the impersonal, generalized "you." The authority Obama is claiming is not restrained by any sort of public debate and pressure, impersonal laws, or independent oversight. You can generally count on laws and an independent judiciary to protect you from being arrested and imprisoned for crimes you didn't commit; there are no protections from Obama ordering your death. You should treat this as a personal threat instead of just assuming that you're safe, because you have no good reason to assume that it will only ever be employed against people you don't like.

The only reason it hasn't happened to you or people like you yet is that he simply hasn't singled you out. You have to trust that you'll never do anything that will personally bother him enough. Sure, we know that he won't order the death of a blogger for writing a critical essay, but that's only because we trust that he's a better person than that. Shouldn't our confidence instead be based on the existence of laws preventing it? And just how justified are we in trusting the character of a man who would institute an official program of extra-judicial assassination of American citizens?

Don Obama

"Murder" is the term we should be using here; "assassination" and "killing" are almost too euphemistic because they fail to communicate the full truth of what's going on. Killing a person without anything like a trial or judicial review and solely because a single person with power has decided that they need to die is murder, nothing more. It's not just the hired assassin who is a murderer, though, but also everyone in the chain who passes along the order to commit murder — right up to and including Barack Obama. The buck stops with him.

What's the difference between Obama ordering a hit on an American he thinks is helping enemies among Muslim extremists and a mafia don ordering a hit on a member of the family he suspects of helping the FBI by giving them information? Nothing grants any president anything even close to this sort of power. It's no more legitimate for a president to order the assassination of an American citizen than it is for any other American citizen to order the assassination of another citizen.

Laws or Men

It really doesn't matter if Barack Obama is convinced that he is doing this for the right reasons. It doesn't matter if he is convinced that he needs to do this to "protect" America and Americans from other Americans. It doesn't matter if he really is a good person who will only use this power for good things, never for evil. When you are forced to trust in the whims of a person rather than the generally applicable standards of the law, you no longer live in a country ruled by laws rather than by men. You no longer live in the sort of country that the Constitution was supposed to create.

It's undeniable that Bush and Cheney did a lot of things to move us in this direction, but Obama has made things immeasurably worse by trying to institutionalize the Bush/Cheney measures and by making them more official. This matters tremendously because what kills values, ideals, and principles is not so much attacks — not even attacks from those who pretend to defend them — but rather the absence of enough people who will defend them.

America's "Left" has largely abandoned its commitment to the rule of law in favor of adopting the Right's commitment to the authoritarian principle of following and accepting the decisions of the Leader. What is separating them is which leader they will blindly follow, not whether some leader deserves their blind allegiance.

Tea Baggers

Sadly ironic is how the Tea Baggers have invested so much time and effort complaining about Obama undermining liberty while falsely identifying this with things like health care reform. They aren't protesting the policies where their complaints have some validity; on the contrary, they seem to approve of those policies. Thus the Tea Baggers are protesting the loss of freedom in the context of policies which don't affect their freedoms while supporting policies which really do undermine basic freedoms.

I'm not sure if they are the ones who are more confused, or if it's the liberals who voted for change under Obama but now tacitly or even openly approve of Obama's expansion and deepening of the illegal national security programs they complained about under Bush. They are all deeply confused, and I think it's because they are still trying to pay lip service to values they no longer truly believe in.

Tea Baggers and the Right probably abandoned those values first, but it really doesn't look like many on the Left care much about them anymore either. At best they only honor those principles when it's convenient, but I suspect that even that isn't true very often anymore.


  1. Admit it, Cline -- you're just jealous because YOU haven't been deemed dangerous enough to warrant liquidation. Freedom-loving Americans will have to wait for the reign of futurePresident Palin before citizens INSIDE the United States are assassinated on the orders of our anti-terrrrrrr experts, who, of course, have never been wrong.

    I just hope Romney does not become president, because he'll just outsource the killing jobs to foreigners like he did with all those companies his hedge fund took over. Can you imagine -- allowing roving hit squads of poorly-paid Chinamen to go around taking out terristamericans? Blackmurder boys might cost a bit more, and their helicopters might damage a few collaterals, but I say "America first" when it comes to targeted killings.


    Spread the word. Millions of less fortunate people count on you to spread the word to get this legislation passed. Our goal: To get 500,000 people to send these emails.

  3. Austin makes another great post. 'Tis true that these liberal and neocon politicians have far more in common than they have substantive differences. The whole left-right dichotomy is false; it is designed to distract the public with trivialities, so that the real raping of the little guy can occur unimpeded.

  4. Austin, I think you are missing a critical distinction here (aside from conflating Liberals with the Left). I know nobody on the Left (or among Liberals for that matter) who is anything but outraged by Obama's betrayal (yet again). However, you have to understand that the Liberals are so worried about the Republicans and their certifiably psychotic followers regaining power that they are afraid to undermine Obama even if it turns out he is barbequeing third-world babies in the Rose Garden, basting them with a plum sauce, and serving them to visiting dignitaries.

    In fact, almost all of the outrage over this new power grab has come from bloggers and other pundits on the Left. The Right are merely licking their chops, thinking about what they will inherit if they regain the White House, and making up hit lists.

    It is very easy to organize and express your outrage when the opposition party is in power and abusing that power. After all, your goal is to undermine them in the minds of the people and vote them out of office. Cowardly weasels in the Democratic party are afraid of hurting their own chances to stay in power, and are in a moral bind that they lack the stones to stand up to.

    Those of us who were highly critical of Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 campaign because he refused to disavow LBJ's Vietnam policies ended up helping elect Nixon. That fear is abroad today, where Dems are more terrified of a President Palin or President Beck or even President McCain in 2012 that they are standing mute publicly on Obama's embracing of the Cheney theory of the Unified Executive and virtually unlimited Presidental power.

    But don't confuse that cowardice (or perhaps I should be charitable and say caution) with approval. As I said, I have yet to hear anybody to the Left of Atilla the Hun express anything but disappointed outrage (at least in private) over this obscenity and dozens of other OBusha actions.

    I suspect that Obama's throwing the Dawn Johnson nomination under the bus was because, though he was in favor in the days after the election of cutting back severely on Bush/Cheney's overreach of power, a year in office and the constant whispering of Rahm Emanuel and others in Obama's ear, has convinced him that, since Bush/Cheney creatd all of this extra-constitutional and extra-judicial centralized power, he should take advantage of what he inherited instead of curtailing it. Few have the moral fortitude to give up power once acquired.

    Power corrupts, and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely, it is said. And this is Obama's first real taste of Power, and thanks to Bush and Cheney, power approaching absolute.

    The Left MUST take Obama and the Democratic leadership to task for his actions and inaction over the past year - even if it means losing the next election to the GOP. Since the Dems are reluctant to unravel the damage that Bush has done, we really have less to lose from seeing the Dems kicked out of office and replaced by more Republicans.

    At least the Left and the Liberals will feel far more liberated in organizing against an overt enemy than a false friend. My only hope is that the country will be able to survive another 4 years of Republicans (or, for that matter, Conservadem jellyfish).


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.