Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.”

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.” Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their ...

Published: Sunday 19 February 2012
“Examples include José Padilla’s unlawful detention suit and the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.”

While talking to a group of constituent students, New York Congressman Chris Gibson (R) defended the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), citing Section 1021(e), which says that:

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”

Gibson’s reliance on Section 1021(e) highlights a major problem: “existing law or authorities” could be construed to include unconstitutional extensions of executive authority whose legality has never been successfully challenged.

Examples include José Padilla’s unlawful detention suit and the assassination of US citizen Anwar ...

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
“The NDAA renders the Posse Comitatus Act a dead letter.”

America changed as the new year stumbled across the threshold, but the big shift didn't get much press, which is easy to understand. Can there be a deader news day than a New Year's Eve that falls on a weekend? Besides, alive or dead, habeas corpus has never been a topic to set news editors on fire.

The change came with the whisper of Barack Obama's pen, as he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual ratification of military Keynesianism — $662 billion this time — which has been our national policy since World War II bailed out the New Deal.

Sacrificial offerings to the Pentagon aren't news. But this time, snugly ensconced in the NDAA, came ratification by legal statute of the exposure of U.S. citizens to arbitrary arrest without subsequent benefit of counsel and to possible torture and imprisonment sine die. Goodbye, habeas corpus. I wrote about this here before Obama signed the bill, but when a president tears up the Constitution the topic is worth revisiting.

We're talking about citizens within the borders of the United States, not sitting in a hotel or out driving in some foreign land. In the latter case, as the late Anwar al-Awlaki's incineration in Yemen bore witness a few months ago, that the well-being or summary demise of a U.S. citizen is contingent upon a secret ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
“Romney has conveniently forgotten that as late as Feb. 1 of this year, he was on CNN saying, ‘I probably would avoid the term ‘dictator’ in referring to Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.’”

Mitt Romney, stuck in the 20s in Republican opinion polls, has begun flailing around trying to make a splash on foreign policy. He has charged that President Barack Obama’s coddling of dictators provoked the masses of the Middle East to the Arab Spring and sent it “out of control.” Romney needs an issue. Evangelicals are skittish about his Mormon faith. He is not the favorite of the populist and somewhat isolationist tea party activists. As a quarter-billionaire former head of a private equity investment firm that specialized in outsourcing American jobs, he faces uncomfortable questions from unemployed and underpaid Americans. Desperate, Romney has decided to try to depict Obama as clueless and weak on Middle East issues.

It is a doomed gambit. Obama has had a string of foreign policy successes this year, especially in the Middle East. His special forces took out Osama bin Laden and he authorized a drone strike that eliminated al-Qaida propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. He deftly handled the transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, so far retaining the friendship of those countries as they move from pro-American dictatorships to parliamentary regimes. His Libya gamble paid off with a transitional government in Tripoli that may be the first in the Arab world whose members and supporters have waved American flags. On Oct. 21, he announced the end of another long national nightmare in Iraq, with the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country by the end of this year. Left-of-center Democrats, including this writer, have ...

Published: Sunday 23 October 2011
“If presidential death warrants beyond the reach of scrutiny and review by courts or juries are the mark of a banana republic, then we were all waving the flag of just such an entity.”

The day I became a citizen of these United States, June 17, 2009, in the old Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland, I raised my right hand and swore that I “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

To my immediate left in that vast and splendid deco theater was a Moroccan; to my right, a Salvadoran; and around us 956 others from 98 countries, each holding a small specimen of the flag that was about to become our standard. All of us had sworn earlier that day that since our final, successful interviews with immigration officials, we had not become prostitutes or members of the Communist Party.

The sovereignty I was abjuring was the Republic of Ireland, itself not so far from shifting its allegiance from the Irish Constitution to the dictates of European bankers. Since questions about the Bill of Rights were likely to come up in those final interviews, many people in the theater had a pretty clear notion that along with allegiance came certain important protections, such as guarantees of due process and the right to a public trial by jury. There’s no doubt that for many, with vivid memories of summary seizure and arbitrary imprisonment in their biographies, these guarantees had great significance.

But as it turns out, it was all a fraud. The Uzbek down the row from me, who had fled Karimov’s regime, probably had no need to anticipate being boiled alive — a specialite de la maison in Tashkent. But being roasted alive by a Hellfire missile, doomed by the executive order of President Obama, without due process in any court of law, for reasons of state forever secret, could theoretically lie in his future. If presidential death warrants ...

Published: Monday 17 October 2011
Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and – with counterinsurgency out of favor – the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.

They increasingly dot the planet.  There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth at an air base in the United Arab Emirates that almost no one talks about. 

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide.  Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of America’s ever-widening undeclared wars and a spate of stories on drone bases in Africa and the Middle East, most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous -- until now.

Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their proxies, these bases -- some little more than desolate airstrips, others sophisticated command and control centers filled with computer screens and high-tech electronic equipment -- are the backbone of a new American robotic way of war.  They are also the latest development in a ...

Published: Saturday 1 October 2011
The bipartisan disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law stopped when Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked about the air strike that on Friday killed the two Americans in Yemen.

President Obama’s authorization of the assassination of an American citizen, New Mexico–born Anwar al-Awlaki—in a drone attack that also killed American citizen Samir Khan, who was raised in New York City and North Carolina—drew high praise from execution-enthusiast Rick Perry, who congratulated Obama by name for “getting another key terrorist.”

But the bipartisan disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law stopped when Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked about the air strike that on Friday killed the two Americans in Yemen.

The congressman, who is competing with Perry and others for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has long complained about “war on terror” abuses that he sees as part of “the disintegration of American jurisprudence.”

And he was blunt in rejecting the victory-lap mentality that saw Obama Democrats and Perry Republicans celebrating the killing of American citizens.

“I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul said in New Hampshire. “Al-Awlaki was born here; he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. Nobody knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually—that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys—I think it’s sad.

Noting that no move was made to assassinate Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was arrested, tried and executed,

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