Kill List Democracy

Barack Obama has a kill list.

Its legal justification is a secret. Its contents are secret, too. You don’t get to see who’s on it. Nor do any members of Congress. Nor any federal judges. Basically no one does.

How does someone end up on it? Obama decides. He decides with a small group of people, all of whom hold their jobs at his pleasure.

Whatever methods they use, they’re secret, too. The evidence — you guessed it — is secret. If there even is any.

We don’t know much about the kill list, but we do know a few things. We know it can include American citizens. That’s already happened. We know it can include American citizens who are minors. That’s already happened, too.

We know that the kill list is valid anywhere in the world: Obama claims the authority to kill these people wherever they may be, including within the United States. Including children sleeping peacefully in their homes.

We know that no one gets to review his decision. Ever. The ones who might do it have all abdicated the responsibility.

If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.

Do not tell me that I need to vote for him… because you are afraid that he will lose. He deserves to lose.

And worse. He deserves to walk onstage not to cheers, but to hisses, boos, and a shower of rotten vegetables. He deserves a place in presidential history somewhere far beneath Warren Harding or Richard Nixon, both now counted rank amateurs when it comes to subverting the republic. Obama deserves the reputation of a Catiline or a Hipparchus, if only we remembered who they were.

No, I don’t think Romney would be better. For the next four years, government by kill list is baked in the cake. Romney’s been mum about the whole thing, and that’s just what we would expect from someone who thinks himself worthy of the power, and who hopes to enjoy it come January.

Would Romney take out Sasha and Malia? Of course he wouldn’t. Could he? In principle, yes.

As John Adams put it, we have a government of men, not laws: Conditional on one man’s good judgment, we are safe.

We are safe, that is, as long as someone who says “I am worthy of personally deciding the life and death of my fellow citizens” — “fellow citizens” surely a misnomer by now — also says that now is not your time.

Yet the very act of claiming the power also calls into question anyone’s good judgment. How exactly does someone conclude that he, personally, deserves the unchecked power of life and death? I couldn’t. I would be ashamed to show my face in front of you or to call you my equals. I might be a god or a beast, but not a man in a society. (Rome still is instructive, is it not?)

Yes, a judge and a jury can sentence someone to death, but even there, many still blanch at personally having to do it. And we have limits on the death penalty. There has to be solid evidence. The crime has to be especially unconscionable. And even when you do vote to convict or sentence, there’s still an appeals process, and if you totally fuck things up, some judge will maybe overrule you. You’d hope so, anyway. And yet we know for a goddamn fact that sometimes innocents still die. We know this.

And next to that, what’s one man with a secret list, and his lackeys, and his own good judgment? Why, that’s what most of you are going to the polls to elect. Who gets that power, Obama or Romney?

You wonder why I find the conceit of a choice so revolting. This is why. We don’t need an elected beast-god with a kill list. We need to end the system that proposes, every four years, to place one of our human equals into that role. A role any decent human would refuse. And this election just isn’t going to do it.

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436 thoughts on “Kill List Democracy

  1. Sometimes I feel good about being an American. Proud of our traditions and our laws and our culture and our government, imperfect though they all are. I defend and celebrate them from time to time.

    And then I read something like this and realize that indeed, there are things about my nation that are not only imperfect, but intolerable to any rational, moral person. And worse, that there is no ready means to remedy them.

    Then I recall the inextricably intertwined relationship between government and violence. Not necessarily exported and arbitrary violence such as is described here, but the more basic fact that a government must claim and enforce a monopoly on violence, which means that inevitably, it must engage in violence from time to time. And I can only come to rest on the notion this stew may very well be as good as it ever gets.

    Ironically, it is on that note which I prepare to go to court.


      • No. There are no true pacifists. The anarchists know, or ought to know, that anarchy invites violence.

        My despair in the specific case results from the utter lack of necessity for our state to export its violence, and indeed in such an arbitrary fashion as Jason describes in the OP. It is in a more general sense, though, that I indicate that a state must either monopolize violence or fail.


          • A single mugging does not a failed state make. (Caveat: the state has failed as to the victim of the mugging.) You can’t point to a place where crime occurs from time to time and say “That’s a failed state.”

            Now, if we credit the reports and rumors of drug gangs systematically working their will with violence, and the Mexican government helpess to stop them from doing so, then at least those parts of Mexico where the gangs rule are failed states and the effective government in those localities is the dominant gang. The failure may be a result of corruption rather than insufficient force being present.

            I also think it’s unfair to Mexican law enforcement to say that either urban street crime in the various cities, or the gang violence in the northern deserts, are “tolerated” by the government. The government of Mexico does not look at all interested in power-sharing relationships with the gangs. It may well be at a loss for how to effectively deal with the problem. ‘Course it took us a long time to get on top of street crime here, and while crime is down dramatically from a generation ago, it isn’t completely gone.


            • A generation ago in DC there were plenty of places where the cops wouldn’t go. Some because they had “paid rich-boy cops”, some because it really was that bad.

              Same thing with Mexico — they’re fighting the gangs, sure, but they aren’t doing anything about the American expats with their hired goons. (not that the Americans in general cause much fuss…). (also, we aren’t even talking about the failed revolution down south in Mexico, a few years back).


  2. I liked Bill O’Riley’s sign in his mock debate with Jon Stewart.

    “O’Reilly’s next sign: Drones Yes, Waterboards No. He notes the irony of hating waterboarding and being cool with dropping a missile in the middle of a city. ”

    I’m waiting for the foreign policy debate, to see if the moderator has the balls to ask about the kill list. Has Obama been asked in any interview about it?


  3. Obama is not the only person with a kill list.
    Hell, even Greenpeace has one.

    Bet if I look it up, you’re on the record as favoring martial law.
    (or is there actually a libertarian who was in favor of TARP?).


        • *blink*… umm… I swear a lot in real life too.
          I may take on a bit more of a “persona” online —
          I think me talking like a cowgirl might come
          off as more fake with my accent than it does online,
          so I might be more likely to not do it.

          But other than that, I is what I is, and I type as fast as
          I think. ;-)


          • Let me expand on that. I think you’ve got in a brain in there, and that brain may even have some interesting ideas in it. Unfortunately, you’ve completely obscured that brain and its ideas with an almost constant stream of bullshit.


            • What have I said that you’d call bullshit on?

              I think the difference between me and koz is that
              you can see where koz gets his beliefs. my beliefs
              are just a little cocked out of normal (for
              liberals or conservatives). so you’ve either got
              the idea that I’ve got “sooper sekret knowledge”
              or that I’m making it up out of whole cloth.
              I think if I was making it up out of whole cloth
              i would be better than this.


                    • Ooh, ooh, and that Lincoln lost America’s empire, and that he was to blame for the Nixon-Goldwater Southern Strategy! And that if you make less than $200,000/year, you’re not even middle class!


                    • I could dig up the references to those claims, but I can’t be bothered at the moment. I trust that others here will remember them and will second me when I say that they’re real.

                      Come to think of it, I should make a “Kim/Kimmi/Kimsie’s Stupid Outrageous Lies” page, source everything, make it permanent here at the League, and invite people to vote on their favorites.

                      That would be fun.


                    • “and then the south would have been pulled back piecemeal. no, Lincoln did many things,b ut save the Union was NOT one of them.

                      Lincoln gave us Jim Crow and the Southern Strategy — and possibly, just possibly, the loss of the American Empire.”

                      Jason, I’ll stand by what i said (and the part about the southern strategy I most assuredly did say.)

                      I’m no oracle, and i don’t claim much foresight either. Kindly don’t ascribe such to me.


      • b-psycho,
        go talk to half the people on Calculated Risk.
        Hell, go read half of what they wrote in 2008.
        Anyone sane and in the know was sweating bullets.

        Do I LIKE that it was necessary? Fuck no.
        But try explaining what the problem was to fucking libertarians.


          • yeah, they got their cabals and shit.

            OTOH, people did big things back then, and
            not all governmental folks, to make sure
            that everything didn’t collapse on their watch.

            Self-interested? you betcha!


          • They were in favor of martial law? Potential riots?
            Something like Argentina, when their fiscal system collapsed?

            Particularly if they’re in favor of that last one, they’ve got bigger balls than I’ve given them credit for. (And I’ll extend a formal apology to anyone who was willing to walk that line).


              • Then you misspoke earlier, when you said that they understood the full risks of doing nothing.
                I do not exaggerate here, though I’m not exactly giving percentage probabilities (all mentioned are well above 1% probability and thus worth mentioning).


                • I did not misspeak.

                  You’re point begs the question considerably. The US is not Argentina, and Somalia isnt the sole alternative to bank bailouts.


                  • Sir, in medicine we look at all the possible consequences before suggesting a course of action. Someone who fails to properly consider the “somewhat likelies” is not doing his damn job.

                    I did not bring up Somalia, (nor even Zimbabwe!). I brought up Argentina. I could also bring up Iceland, where they had riots and an attack on the state’s capital.

                    If you can’t look the bull in the eyes and say, “Yes, it’s fairly improbable, but I’m willing to take that risk.” you’re just living in airy fairy town.

                    Let me take a radically different example: Do you favor deep sea drilling (such as that by BP)? Do you still favor it, even knowing that we had a 10% chance of ending all life on earth, from one single accident? See what I mean? It’s fundamentally irresponsible to not look at the “somewhat less likelies”


                    • Let me take a radically different example: Do you favor deep sea drilling (such as that by BP)? Do you still favor it, even knowing that we had a 10% chance of ending all life on earth, from one single accident?

                      [Citation needed.]


                    • Jason,
                      ping fishgrease, he’s the expert. If that crust had busted loose, we could have had a LOT of oil pouring into the water there. And with all that surfactants (otherwise known as “don’t make an oil spill on the SURFACE”) that hadn’t been tested (how they were being used.), who knows where it might have wound up. There was another hypothesis that it would have wiped out all life on the east coast (going airborne), but I don’t have any percentages on that.


                    • No luck. I vaguely remember something from Balloon Juice claiming that Deepwater Horizon, rather than just being a terrible environmental disaster (which, to be sure, it was) could also end civilization as we know it, through some sort of crust disruption.

                      They concluded it was a bogus claim. But again, if you could provide a link, I might — hint, hint — waste even more of my time by reading up on your claim.


                    • Chris,
                      God no! Just as lazy as not treating them at all. Paranoia is NOT a virtue in high places, it is a very big vice.

                      You do your statistics, you say, “can I handle it if everything goes pearshaped” — and then you make your move.

                      I hang with gamblers, I’m willing to take risks, particularly when “lost $10,000” doesn’t leave me at all worse off than “made $1,000.”

                      I’m no sheep, sitting around taking only the safe roads.


                    • Interesting that you bring up medicine, because I think my position here is more in line with the Hippocratic oath.

                      If the US economy were a diabetic, I’d be recommending a reevaluation of diet and lifestyle. You’d just give it an insulin shot and send it home. ;)


                    • Chris,
                      … I believe you have my position sorely misread.
                      I’m hoppin mad, and there’s enough shit to be done.
                      We don’t need to burn down the barn to shovel out the shit
                      (at least I hope to god we don’t!).


                    • A lot. The bailouts were the best bad decision possible at that point in time.
                      There were PLENTY of points both before and after where better choices could be made.
                      At that point in time, the other guy had the upper hand. “Your money or your life” — give them the money. Then shoot ’em.


                  • I think Schilling is being a little overboard, but I think a lot of people in their hatred for the banks have forgotten how fucked up things were back in ’08. The Big Banks imploding wouldn’t have not meant that a few rich executives would’ve not gotten a big bonus. It would’ve meant hundreds of thousands of more people out of work, the financial system being completely FUBAR’d, and world trade going from barely working to non-existent.

                    Yes, you can think the bailouts were badly handled and more strings should’ve been put on the banks, but if you think we should’ve just let Citibank and JP Morgan collapse and see how the cards fall, then you’re simply substituting ideology, whether of the free market or left-wing kind in place of actual reality.


                    • So we just prop up the current system in essentially its current form? We recognize that the problem is “too big to fail” banks, so we encourage them to become even bigger?

                      The whole thing looked to me like wallpapering over the rot, not solving any actual problems. So we prevent catastrophe today, and set the grounds for repeated, and probably even bigger, problems down the road.

                      And, no, I don’t think CFTC is going to do anything to prevent that problem. CFTC is nothing more than a regulatory wet dream.


                    • James,
                      No, we get hopping mad and we do some serious work. Hell, even Michael Moore is getting in on the act (nothing like a pinch of populism, eh?).
                      We got plenty of things to go fix (and a good part of that’s congress).

                      I just feel like it’s a REALLY naive move to shoot ourselves in the head, simply because our legs are rotting off.

                      Work’s not at all done, and you’re right, absolutely right, all we’ve done is bought time to get working…


                    • No, James, I would’ve nationalized them and in the process of winding them away from federal control, broke them into smaller banks.

                      Again, yes, I think TARP as passed was bad policy. But, simply letting everything fail would’ve been even worse policy.


              • You’re ignoring the facts on the ground, and choosing to live in a magic fairy land where MONEY MEANS NOTHING!
                Libertarians who think that the loss of monetary valuation would cause no disruption whatsoever.
                Who’d have thunk it?


                • I’m actually more against redistribution from the have-nots to the haves more than I am against redistribution in principle. No matter what kind of numbers and theory it’s dressed up in, the bailouts represent a net transfer of wealth from the tax pool to the wealthiest and most privileged sector of our economy.


                  • *nods* great! we agree!
                    Yeah, it was a horrid move. I don’t like that we had to do it.
                    I will defend the folks what did it, because the alternative
                    was genuinely worse.

                    Now’s the time for us to right the ship and make sure this is NEVER allowed to happen again.

                    (I kinda like a bit of redistribution from the haves to the have-nots. Keeps the have-nots from rioting, if nothing else)


  4. Hear, hear. As I have said repeatedly, the Kill List is an absolute disqualifier for me. If I thought there was even a ghost of a chance that Romney would address it, I’d pull the lever for him.

    Nob and I have gone a few rounds on this topic, and Nob has attempted to demonstrate that the list arose out of gaps in extant legal precedent/processes/security needs. Nob has also proposed establishing a framework to address similar situations in future.

    I understand that these issues are complicated, and I have no doubt that Obama and his advisers were doing what they thought needed to be done at that time to protect American citizens. But I would have enormous respect for the man now if he took Nob’s prescriptions to heart, and said, “You know, at the time we did this, we were in uncharted waters and time was short. But it is apparent to me that the status quo is not an acceptable state of affairs, and so I am endorsing [something like Nob’s proposal] to ensure judicial review and the protection of basic American rights in similar situations in the future”. If he did this, I’d pull the lever for Obama.

    It is *critical*, IMO, that this situation be resolved ASAP.


    • In case it is not clear, let me clarify – my specific area of greatest concern is the current lack of due process for US citizens on the Kill List (ex. Al-Awlaki). Non-US-citizens are a whole different kettle of fish. This is not because non-citizens’ lives are somehow worth less; it is because the implications to US democracy as a whole are catastrophic when the Kill List can be applied to US citizens. It makes our President a King.


      • No, if you are at war and some of your citizens are fighting for the other side you are entitled to kill them without due process unless they surrender or fall into your hands as prisoners. If they become prisoners they may be tried by whatever court is constitutional. I note that some American citizens were caught working for the Germans in WWII. They were tried before a courts martial even though not in the military. Some were executed. It was apparently legal.


        • This hinges on a definition of ‘fighting’ that I am unsure Al-Awlaki, or the Kill List itself, actually meet. The Kill List, as far as we know (and of course, we don’t, not really), means ‘kill this person on sight, no matter where they are, or what they are doing at the time’. Not ‘Kill if on a battlefield, gun in hand, or about to blow up a building’; not ‘Kill while attempting to capture’.

          And this is all on secret evidence. This makes the president judge, jury and executioner, outside the established laws of war or exigent circumstances.

          RE: WWII German spies & saboteurs – 1.) there was a declared war and 2.) even a court martial can be considered due process. This is more than Al-Awlaki got.


  5. I should preface this by saying I am totally okay with a kill list that involves non-American citizens provided that collateral damage is avoided at all cost. That means no drones, no explosions. It means serious men slitting throats under dark of night. I also want oversight and all kills announced by the WH within one week of when they happen.

    Now, with that fantasy out of the way, I am going to put on my partisan hat and tackle Jason’s post. I was a lot more rah-rah Republican between 2004 and 2008. As such, I remember the Bush protests. I remember the way that the Left bemoaned the end of our civil liberties. I remember the villification of John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. It was ugly. So I ask:


    I also have to wonder, is the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare a fair trade-off?


    • No, it’s not.
      From my perspective, the left is still trying to drag the right kicking and screaming out of the festering hole it’s dug itself into. When we can have real elections again, we can have sane discussions.



      Hiding behind a blue curtain. “Our guy” won’t abuse presidential power as much as the “other guy” will. Jason’s worry is how we tolerate even the possibility of such abuses, and I’ll concede that it requires some mental gymnastics on my part. Concessions to principles and whatnot. But like Burt, I think this is the perhaps the best we can expect from a dynamic system. I’d rather have government where things like kill lists were impossibilities. But that’s unrealistic, in my view. The best we can hope for is to reduce the likelihood of those possibilities being expressed in policy, and that requires changing not the structure of governance, but content of it. Personally, I think we’re heading in that direction, at least if history is any guide.

      Not that any of this answers Jason’s questions.


    • “I also have to wonder, is the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare a fair trade-off?”

      For many people, I’m sure the answer is yes. Most folks are touched far more by DADT or Obamacare than they are by the Kill List.

      “What do I care if someone halfway across the globe dies? My brother can serve now and my child is getting the medical care they need.”

      And while it might seem easy to cast these people as monsters, I think “human” is the better describer. That doesn’t make it the correct position, but an understandable one, especially for folks who are concerned more with their day-to-day lives than broader, more abstract concepts.

      All that being said, I am greatly troubled by the kill list. Can someone less ignorant than I illuminate how it came to be? Is Obama the first to have something like this?


    • Mike, in that the GOP and the Dems have not a lick of difference between them on drone policy specifically I’d say that the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare is an excellent tradeoff if you like either of those which I’m 1.5 for 2.


  6. And, from my pov anyway, such a policy is completely unnecessary even on its own terms. Any American (or foreign national) participating in acts of combat against the United States or its armed forces can already be legitimately targeted and engaged anyway.

    Some libs will rationalize that “Mitt Romney would do the same things, just worse.” Note that when a lib argues this, it will almost always be simply asserted, never argued. They want to pretend that they’re not enabling this horrible Administration, and his policies in Afghanistan, Libya, or judicial assassination but that just doesn’t hold water.


      • Exactly. Kos’s argument is that Libs are delusionally confused: they think Romney would be worse, so they support Obama in a practice they despise. Conservatives, on the other hand, are crystal clear: Romney wouldn’t even bother keeping the kill list a secret since he has the authority to kill everyone on it anyway. Which pretty much undermines the claim that liberals are delusional in thinking Romney would be worse…


        • This is crap. Every Commander-in-Chief has the authority to kill eneny combatants against America. Mitt Romney as C-in-C has that authority too.

          This was not a facet of executive authority that needed to be expanded, but President Obama has nonetheless expanded it, thereby creating problems in the future when and if another President (or the people in general) want to unwind it.


          • Koz, how has Obama expanded it? By keeping the list a secret? You’re conceding that Obama, as the CinC, already has that authority, yes? What has he done that extends the already granted power in question?


            • The Prez, specifically the armed forces under him, already has the authority to kill anyone who is an enemy combatant. This President claims the authority to authorize the assination of anyone he designates to be an enemy combatant. It’s not a real close call.


              • That’s a power granted under the Bush Admin: the President of the SecDef have the unilateral power (well, it’s not quite unilateral) to designate anyone an enemy combatant. How is Obama’s use of that power an expansion of the power granted to the President under Bush?


                • President Bush justified continued incarceration of people based on that designation. President Obama is designating people not in custody as enemy combatants for the purpose of assassinating them.


                  • I’m confused, Koz, and I’m not sure it’s that I’m saying something wrong or that I don’t understand what you’re saying. Let’s go thru things a little more slowly.

                    Here’s the Administration’s defense of the legality of drone strikes:

                    Remarks of John O. Brennan – Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

                    First, these targeted strikes are legal. Attorney General Holder, Harold Koh and Jeh Johnson have all addressed this question at length. To briefly recap, as a matter of domestic law, the Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack. The Authorization for Use of Military Force—the AUMF—passed by Congress after the September 11th attacks authorizes the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11. There is nothing in the AUMF that restricts the use of military force against al-Qa’ida to Afghanistan.

                    As a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense. There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.

                    Let’s suppose that argument is sound. (It might not be, which is of course an issue worth considering.)

                    Question 1: Is a kill list limited to AQ operatives constitutional? (On the face of it, it seems like it is, yes?)

                    Question 2: Does the targeting of specific AQ operatives by the Obama Admin. constitute an expansion of already existing US power? (On the face of it, it seems like the answer is no.)

                    What are the counterarguments?


                    • Question 1: Is a kill list limited to AQ operatives constitutional? (On the face of it, it seems like it is, yes?)

                      To what extent is membership to AQ decentralized?

                      That is to say, to become a member of ELF or ALF, you pretty much just have to say “I am a member of ALF!” You break in, you free the lab animals, you spray-paint “ALF DID THIS” on the wall… well, then ALF was responsible. There’s no place to send a membership fee to. No form to fill out. No one to say “no, you’re not a member of ALF”.

                      To what extent is this also true of AQ?


                    • First of all, drone strikes aren’t the same as kill lists, drone strikes are about means whereas kill lists are about ends. There’s a lot of things to quibble with regarding the War on Terror in general but I specifically hate the kill lists, for several reasons.

                      1. It codifies many bad things for future precedent in the worst way possible.
                      a. It undermines geographic limits on warfare.
                      b. It undermines temporal limits on warfare.
                      c. It aggregates, in a very bad way, every form collaboration with the enemy when in fact there are many different kinds which should be handled in vastly different ways.
                      d. It undermines American citizenship (that’s actually an important consideration for me relative to others here at the League).
                      e. It renders the exercise of executive authority less accountable.
                      f. The means in which somebody gets on the list itself a centralization of power.

                      2. The existence of such a list is public, contrary to the intent America wants to present of itself.
                      3. From what I can see, it’s not needed to solve any problem.


                    • It doesn’t seem that hard to me. For whatever actions of President Obama that they don’t like, libs rationalize them away on the theory that President Romney would be worse. In addition to whatever else could be said against that, it’s horribly lazy. It’s as if they want us to accept as equally credible their pejorative extrapolations or speculations regarding Mitt Romney and the known facts of President Obama and his conduct in office.


                    • Stillwater is correct: As C-in-C, Obama seems well-grounded by the post 9-11 AUMF of 2001. Obama’s actions are exactly as reviewable as any military commander’s, and must be judged in that light, not civilian ones. [Putting the lie to the old argument that terrorism is a law enforcement matter. No Obama supporter, esp John Kerry, iirc, can have this question both ways.]

                      FTR, the AUMF against Terrorists requires the target have a link to 9-11—the prez can’t just waste anybody, like fundies or capitalists. Some argue al-Qaeda in Yemen isn’t the same al-Qaeda that took out the Twin Towers. Perhaps. It’s a technicality that troubles neither the executive nor the legislature.

                      And as for the judicial branch, one law prof noted we have a pretty specific “Congressional intent” here, not just the executive branch going rogue. If Congress felt President Obama was exceeding his authority, they could easily pass a resolution clarifying the post 9-11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, saying that it’s not intended to authorize the President’s “kill list” and drone war.

                      But they have not, because as one poll put it, 82% of the American people approve and perhaps so does a similar %age in Congress.

                      It seems creepy that President Obama is so hands-on with the kill list, but it beats just blindly turning over the program to the military.

                      I think. 0?


                      COMMANDER IN CHIEF POWERS

                      Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Commander in Chief clause, states that “[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

                      The questions of whether and to what extent the President has the authority to use the military absent a Congressional declaration of war have proven to be sources of conflict and debate throughout American history. Some scholars believe the Commander in Chief Clause confers expansive powers on the President, but others argue that if even if that is the case, the Constitution does not define precisely the extent of those powers. These scholars tend to construe the Clause narrowly, asserting that the Founders gave the President the title to preserve civilian supremacy over the military, not to provide additional powers outside of a Congressional authorization or declaration of war.

                      The terrorist attacks of September 2001 created new complications for the separation of powers within the war powers sphere. After September 11, the United States Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists (AUMF). While the AUMF did not officially declare war, the legislation provided the President with more authority upon which to exercise his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, Presidential Commander in Chief powers increase when Congressional intent supports the actions taken by the Commander in Chief. The AUMF served as that expression of Congressional intent.

                      Written before the Obama drone war, BTW, but the issues are the same.


          • > This is crap. Every Commander-in-Chief
            > has the authority to kill enemy combatants
            > against America. Mitt Romney as C-in-C
            > has that authority too.

            There’s a little problem there, Koz.

            That whole “declared war” thing. It’s kind of an important procedural detail.


    • You tell those dirty libs, Koz! I have faith that the man of “Double Gitmo” fame, who gave that speech at VMI earlier this week, and who has surrounded himself with folks urging him to officially start up the torture program again will be much better on the issue of “War on Terror” civil liberties!


      • I will, believe me. As far as what the future President Romney will do, frankly I don’t know. We don’t know the problems he will have to face, at least we don’t know all of them. We do know that smart people tend to do smart things, whereas incompetent people do, well, whatever it is that President Obama does.

        The worst of President Obama’s moves are so stupid they don’t even make sense on their own terms. I don’t know what the President’s policies about Libya or assassination were intended to accomplish.


  7. Who has ever told you that you need to vote for him? Who, especially here, has not understood and respected that you were never going to, with prefectly legitimate reason?


          • I’m not saying I’m voting for her (I’m not voting for anyone for president, because that’s who I trust with such power: nobody), just that if one still believes the story on voting then they should use it to support whoever comes closest to representing their view of things. Thus, those concerned with civil liberties who support government administered social programs should support Jill Stein, and those so concerned on the former while skeptical of the latter should support Gary Johnson.

            On the other hand, if one doesn’t give a shit beyond govt required & mandated health insurance, there’s Obama. If unconcerned beyond tax cuts on capital, Romney.


            • Thus, those concerned with civil liberties who support government administered social programs should support Jill Stein…

              Assuming you actually have that option. I’m not totally sure, but I doubt the Greens are going to be on my ballot in Kansas.


        • I don’t think anyone is allowed to mention Jill this election cycle. As her existence on the green party ticket would pull more votes from Obama than Romney, she’s probably had 2 milliseconds of coverage from the mainstream press.


          • I don’t think you need to resort to elaborate explanations as to why she doesn’t get much press attention–she’s a minor-party candidate. Virgil Goode isn’t getting a ton of coverage either.


      • Sort of, if you’re making the claim that someone is likely to object to your voting intention, or telling you whom you must vote for. It would be presumptuous of them to do so, and it’s presumptuous to anticipate that people of good will will. (And who were you talkng about? The statement was made in the second person.) Granted, it’s not a wrong as killing people.

        Of course, if what you’re reallydoing here, without owning to it, is objecting to others’ voting intention and telling them whom they must vote for, then it would make sense for you to anticipate their lines of defense. But then also see above.


        • The second person was offered as a rhetorical flourish, not as personally imagining anyone necessarily occupying the role.

          Really, this isn’t so uncommon. Dialectical philosophy has been doing it since Plato. Anticipate an argument, answer it. Repeat as needed.

          Where it gets unfair is when a writer invents an argument that no one would ever even consider making, merely to have the pleasure of knocking it down. Yet “vote for the lesser of two evils” is such a common proposition that I didn’t think I could be accused of fantasy in anticipating it.


          • I think it’s significant that this is, as far as I am aware, the community in which you most engage these questions, and in any case the community into which you chose to issue that second-person injuction (apparently targeted at all speakers everywhere, however generally their supposed injunstion “to you” about whom to vote for). And here, as far as I am aware, no one is telling anyone they must vote for Obama on the basis of being the lesser of evils on this issue.

            My experience of Lo2E arguments in this election on these issues is that they ahve been offered as defense of votes for Obama against attacks saying that such an intention proves either insincerity about objections voiced to similar policies under Bush, or simply insufficient concern over these issues. But perhaps you’ve seen more affirmative arguments made out in the ‘sphere that people particularly concerned about these issues must vote for Barack Obama as the Lo2E in this election on them and take no other course than I have, and if so and those are what you’re referring to, then fair enough. Of course, a simple statement that someone is the lesser of evils on some particular thing is not an injunction that anyone in particular must vote for him.


      • Let me amend that: no, it’s not wrong. It’s presumptuous and unfounded. Have people told you what you need to do with your option to vote? Anyone we should care about? Do you really expect anyone to?


        • Gosh, I dunno. Maybe you could try asking some people around here?

          Because it’s so unreasonable as an argument, and gosh, no one would ever ask me to consider voting for the lesser of two evils. Wow, how presumptuous and unfounded of me.

          Not only do I expect people to tell me how to vote, but they are offering advice. Here. On this blog. On comment threads that you’ve participated in. And very often, they have argued that while both of the big two candidates are bad, it’s still important to choose the lesser of two evils.

          I can’t believe that you didn’t notice this. I also can’t believe that you actually made me go look for it and link to it. Really.


          • And very often, they have argued that while both of the big two candidates are bad, it’s still important to choose the lesser of two evils.

            Folks have argued that on a specific issue (usually in foreign policy) the two parties may be indistinguishably “evil”, and on those issues their preferred candidate is perhaps marginally less bad. But the argument doesn’t generalize from there. On other issues, people think their candidate/party is actually doing good things. So it’s incorrect to say of most people that they think they’re voting for the lesser of two evils.


          • If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I recall a lot of defenses and practically no injunctions. I don’t have time to go through those, but for now I see Koz making the argument that we must vote for major parties generally, but not related to these issues. I see Mike S. saying he’s going to vote for the Lo2E on these issues, maybe or maybe not as the primary driver.

            I think you’re conflating alot of different kinds of public statement here.


  8. From my point of view it all depends on whether you think you’re at war. If you are at war there is no doubt the commander in chief has, legally, whatever power over his enemies his military and security forces can provide him with.

    On the other hand, if you are not at war, the commander in chief has no such authority and should be impeached and criminally charged if he murders foreigners or Americans in any jurisdiction.

    I happen to think you are at war. One of the reasons you are not doing as well as you might like is too many of you can’t face up to the reality.


    • Are we to be at war everywhere, and forever, against an enemy that isn’t even capable of surrendering?

      Does the territory of the United States resemble a war zone to any appreciable degree? If not, why does it need to be governed by the laws of war?

      The reality is that we are at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya, but not really anywhere else at the moment. Beyond that, it’s just legalism and sophistry, without the tiniest bit of “reality” to face up to.


      • Kuznicki
        The theatres you name are only the most active ones. America’s enemies can only fight using a guerilla and raiding strategy against undefended or poorly defended targets. They are only loosely organised but strike almost anywhere in the world including in the American homeland itself.

        In my view your view would be dangerously naive if you were in a position of authority in America’s defence effort.

        As for America being governed by the laws of war, I think you know full well that civilian law still holds for most purposes. I would agree there is a debate to be had about recent legislation following 9/11. Personal privacy and freedom have been curtailed in pursuit of better security. I don’t feel even slightly qualified to judge if the balance is reasonable.

        As for your comment on “the forever war”: wars against guerillas and raiders have been won in the past. As with all wars where outright victory is unlikely you need to use a strategy which makes the cost of war for your enemy too great for the advantage gained. That is what your enemy is trying to do to you. They are well aware that outright victory is beyond their means.


  9. The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own. On that list was a 14 year old blogger named Malala Yousufzai. Surgeons have just extracted bullets from her neck and cranium. Her crime? Advocating for the girls of Swat Valley, once a paradise, to attend school. The Taliban stopped her bus, singled her out and shot her.

    Anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart.


    • You’ll note that our good friend Jason is merely advocating that the military might of America be not used for these Kill Lists.
      Perhaps he might put in a good word with the Kochs…

      Anyone rich and powerful enough has an Enemies List — hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to know that you’ve got one too.
      Some people think the folks on their enemies list need to be killed. Others ruin their lives. Some just troll the living fuck out of their enemies until they’re batshit insane.


      • I’m growing sick and tired of these puerile arguments about Kill Lists. These pantywaists seem entirely content that 14 year old bloggers should be singled out and killed — oh, to be sure — they’ll be sure to agree with the idea that such things are evil. And somewhere along the line, we shall hear the Infamous But which negates every such stipulation.


      • That’s pathetic. We’re talking about Kill Lists. Seems entirely germane to me, if not to you. The overlap’s pretty obvious, as outlined in the first sentence: those on our Kill Lists have Kill Lists.


        • And you’re certain that the people on our kill list have kill lists how? Because the nice man on TV said so?

          Even if, mistakes happen. Oops, sorry we got the wrong “BlaiseP”. Guess that’s what he gets for sharing a name with a terrorist. Lie with dogs and you get fleas!


            • I infer from your argument that her shooters are already on the kill list? Because that’s the only way your argument works, and it implies a level of access to the current administration that I did not until now know you had.


              • Stop right there. I was asked how I knew the people on our kill list have kill lists. I responded with the name of a girl on just such a kill list. She’s been blogging, anonymously, since she was 11 years old, about life under the Taliban. So they singled her out and shot her.

                So let’s have none of this twaddle about how I know the Taliban have kill lists. The Taliban have murdered many of the tribal leaders I worked with in the Jalozai camp in Pakistan. They were on kill lists, too.

                What I didn’t say was that I know who’s on that kill list. I merely stated the bastards who shot this blogger belong on that list. Do try to pay attention.


              • Blaise, you’re entirely missing the point. Who is on our kill lists? How do they get there? Who determines that they should be there? And how do we, that is you and I, know that the people on that list have kill lists?

                No one is disputing that there are people out there who have their own kill lists, literally or figuratively.

                Once we’ve answered the actual questions above (not the ones you want to answer, which no one is asking), we can ask the real question, is wise to kill people who have kill lists, because they have kill lists, without some sort of process in place?


                • I have missed no points. As for questions I’ve asked, all I’ve gotten is so much shrieking and ululating and running around in little circles, with the usual suspects flapping their hands at the wrists. But no answers.

                  Our kill lists are no different than any other target list. You don’t like the idea of civilians on kill lists. Our enemy doesn’t wear a uniform and therefore deserves no Geneva Convention treatment. Anwar al-Awlaki had already been given a death sentence by the Yemeni government, we can get him off the list of Americans we’ve had on kill lists.

                  Now let me tell you how these things actually work: there’s something called an Interpol Red List. Any police force in the world can arrest these guys, it’s a global warrant system. The military has Kill or Capture lists.

                  See, y’all need to grow up and see the world as it is a, a goodly chunk of it beyond the rule of law. The Red List doesn’t work there. Nobody’s going to arrest these guys. They go on CIA and other agency lists, troublesome customers for the entire civilised world. They’re tracked and rewards are put out for them. If we get one of these guys in our sights, then the CIA and military go into overdrive. There’s no Kill List. It just doesn’t fucking work that way. They pop right up for immediate executive attention. It’s all on a one-off basis.

                  Take the cynical view here, try to dump all this weak thinking for just a wee moment — and open your minds to a bit of sunlight.

                  CIA and the military doesn’t want to kill these guys. They’re far, far more useful alive than dead. Often, it’s far more important to know where they take a piss, so you can find where a whole bunch of them might be, and you can form up a military target. Very easy to spot a puddle of piss in the IR. Plinking these guys one by one, it just doesn’t happen that way. We watch them, often for years.

                  Now here’s an aspect of this problem which Jason hasn’t addressed. More often as not, we capture these guys alive. But for many years, we’ve been turning them over to regimes which torture those prisoners. Now we do it ourselves, or did it, and there’s no washing that stain out of our shorts. Quit worrying about those kill lists. They’re not the problem, those targets are military targets, actual threats.

                  And those lists are less secret than you think: we share intelligence even with regimes you might think we wouldn’t. The last thing we want is some political crisis arising from murdering the citizen of another country. Even Pakistan complains about the US drone strikes but they don’t complain when we’re killing Taliban. I’ve been reading the Pakistani papers on this since last night and the whole country is in a rage at the Taliban at this point.


                  • I agree with most all of that, but am troubled by the kill list on a procedural, or perhaps more accurately a structural standpoint. In most of our early state constitutions, the command of local militias was given to judges instead of mayors or county executives because they felt that a judge was less likely to have a political motive or abuse the office for his own ends. At the state level, the governor was in charge, but from there the chain of command didn’t automatically replicate the civil political structure.

                    My gut feeling is that you don’t want people at the top targeting individuals because it creates the temptation to change the political landscape by rubbing out personal enemies. It gets too close to kings and queens ordering the arrest and execution of rival claimants to the throne. But you also want them to have executive power, backed by the representatives of the people, so perhaps they should limit themselves to declaring war or declaring a state of hostilities (the pirates will be eradicated!) and then let the trigger pullers do their jobs, generating operational orders or kill lists that flow from a logical, strategic approach to defeating the enemy.

                    The Presidential kill order strikes me as giving the king the power to insert the removal of his second cousin into what is otherwise a military “to do” list. It also ties the President to a particular death carried out on his orders, as opposed to “It’s war. Shit happens.” And of course it’s an evil-Spock Star Trek mirror of giving the President the power to pardon, not the power to condemn.

                    From a structural standpoint, I’d say that the people should decide what the proper procedure should be, the military should implement it, and the President should keep to the big strategic questions, as the kill list is a bizarre anomally like having the President insert himself down into the county traffic court level on a case-by-case basis.


                    • European ethics about warfare evolved to separate civilians from combatants. We’ve been gradually refining these ethical constructs over time but long distance weaponry and aerial warfare, culminating in the nuclear weapon have put an end to all such niceties.

                      Now our enemies will emplace weapons in schools and hospitals and sacred buildings, knowing we won’t fire on them. Our scruples have only become an exploitable soft point.

                      All this talk about kings and suchlike is just maundering horseshit. If they played ball with us, we’d play ball with them. If they negotiated in good faith, we’d parlay with them. Probably work out very well for all concerned. But that’s not the game they’re playing and as such we should quit playing the game and just shove the bat up their ass and put the fear of death into them all.

                      You want to talk about Structural Problems. Now let’s suppose we did have Mr. Mujahid in our sights. This guy just shot a 14 year old blogger on the orders of his religious leader.

                      Are you serious about putting out a warrant on him and expecting some goddamn Dudley Do Right to go out there and arrest his ass? In the back of beyond?

                      Whose army pays him? He’s not a soldier by any definition. This isn’t some Kobayashi Maru problem, it’s a question of waging war on a well-defined enemy of the USA and our ally, Afghanistan, a nation upon which we have poured out blood and treasure so these poor bastards can have elections and a government by and for the people.


                    • Blaise, I don’t believe that I, nor many of the others here, dispute that killing active enemies of the state. I even think that many would agree that it can, at times, be worth the loss of innocent lives.

                      What makes me uncomfortable is the secrecy of the kill list, and the attempt to drape this particular aspect of a global, often blurred conflict in the majesty of the law.

                      In an odd way, I feel more comfortable with the idea of America breaking (or at least circumventing) the law to get Those Who Must Be Got, rather than changing the law to pretend that nothing nasty is going on. People should be unsettled by the idea of Kill Lists; some things cannot be justified under the law without harming the integrity of the law.


                    • The Kill List is an open secret. I’ve already laid this out for y’all. Start with the Interpol Red List. Every intelligence service in every country in the civilised world has another, shorter list, active threat targets.

                      You don’t think it’s just the USA which has become the target of terror, do you? In like manner, those lists are shared. Russia’s been fighting a war on Islamic terror for many decades now. You can bet your life they get a copy of our list. China’s facing Islamic terror threats, they get a copy, too.

                      Quit worrying about the Kill List. It’s just bullshit, okay? It’s not a kill list in the first place, we want them alive. We ought to worry about torture, how we behave to our prisoners once we get them, and believe you me, we get lots of them alive.


                    • Oh, I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill the Taliban who shot the girl, I’m saying that the decision to kill that Taliban should be made by a major or colonel, not the President of the United States, who should instead be deciding things like whether he should authorize colonels to engage such people in a particular combat area.

                      He should be setting the parameters of what our military will do and where it will act instead of making out a Christmas list naming the people he wants removed from existence.


            • This appears to be a simple rehash of your original tu quoque argument.

              Because someone somewhere in the world attempts execution without a trial, we have the right to do the same?

              No, we have no more right than they do. The correct answer isn’t to go assassinate the shooter (do we know his/her identity with certainty?), but to actually catch them and put them on trial.

              And not us, but their fellow citizens.

              When people are shot in our country, this is how we do it. A sovereign nation (Pakistan) has the right to its own internal justice (or injustice if it chooses). Or are we now the world’s policeman? Because I never voted for that.

              We’re not going to bring democracy, or the rule of law, to another people who aren’t ready and hungering for it themselves. If they want their stone age tribal justice, then they’ll have it until they get sick of it and change themselves of their own accord. We should support those efforts to change as much as possible, short of actual military action.

              Your underlying attitude seems to be “if we do it, it must be right because we are the good guys”. Am I correct? I see no other basis for a moral code in what you’re arguing.


                • Since I wasn’t there, I can only reply with what the media have reported. Yes, it seems the Taliban have claimed responsibility for her shooting. This doesn’t change the fact that you are making a tu quoque argument in the least.

                  I don’t know that the person who ordered the shooting, or who carried it out, is on the kill list, since it is a secret. And neither do you. You don’t know what the people on the kill list have done or not done. You don’t know that the people on our kill list have kill lists, but you’ve inferred as much, because ‘we are the good guys’, right? If we are doing it must be right?


                  • Tu quoque my ass. Not once along the line, anywhere in Jason’s article did he once address the notion that there are two sides to this argument. If I happen to point out the other side of this argument, I will not now be schoolmarmed by a bunch of precious handwringers who don’t want to hear that another side just might exist, that our drones are even now hunting down the murderers of a 14 year old blogger.


              • There’s a district attorney at least four years dead in Penn State. No trial yet. Someone disappeared him good.
                There’s someone else dead for asking too many questions about gas drillin.
                You can kinda tell who disappeared that guy.

                Nobody done put their killers on trial yet.


        • those on our Kill Lists have Kill Lists.

          And we should always stoop to the level of our opponents. The more vile they are, the more vile we must be. The more inhumane and wicked they are, the more inhumane and wicked we must be as well. True honor and nobility lies in being exactly like that which you most despise.


    • “The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own.”

      So you say. Of course, there’s no way to confirm this assertion cuz we’re not allowed to see the Kill List.

      There is a long list of evil fuckers doing evil shit in the world — even right here in the USA. Obviously, anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart. Fuck this due process shit, amirite?


      • So, Shannon, what’s your solution to the fact that the Taliban is murdering schoolteachers and bloggers and blowing up schools? Due process starts with the rule of law. Where the Taliban’s rule of law is the modus vivendi or in this case modus moriendi, shall I gather from your assertions about Due Process that justice was done for this girl?


        • I don’t accept your premise that opposition to secret Kill Lists requires me to come up with a military campaign for defeating the Taliban on behalf of the women of Afghanistan. What’s your solution to the fact that US drones operating under orders from the Kill List are killing innocent women and children?

          Look, if we are in a war against the Taliban in support of women’s rights, then lets get Congress to declare a war against the Taliban on behalf of Afghan women (because it seems to me the AUMF is a bit stale for that purpose).

          I do know that whatever solution we come up with shouldn’t involve the simple use of secret kill lists that, as best we can tell, are used for much more than going after Swat Valley blogger killers.

          What assertion about due process?


          • I asked you for a solution, not more question-begging. We are already at war with the Taliban. They enforce their own laws. You’re very sure about what you Don’t Want. What you do want seems somewhat vague. Please elaborate on how we shouldn’t target murderers for drone strikes beyond the range of foot patrols, out where it’s the Taliban’s rule of law and not our own. They didn’t exactly give Malala Yousufzai a trial. They just boarded a schoolbus full of girls and put a couple of rounds in her.

            Due process my hairy white ass. We’re dealing with a regime which enforces its own laws, a regime we waged war against and drove from power and now they’re attempting to murder their way back into power and you want Due Process?


              • I’m still at work, can’t watch it just now but based on what I’m hearing, Lara Logan is saying what everyone with a clue already knows, that the Taliban run pretty much the hinterlands and the Karzai regime could care less.

                But it’s not as dire as it was when the Taliban ran the show in Afghanistan. The only Afghans coming over the border into Pakistan are Taliban. While Pakistan refuses to act against them, the situation will be sorta like the war against the USSR in Afghanistan. But given this latest outrage, look for the Pak Army to go back into Swat again and once again take terrible casualties doing it. It’s a worthless army, for the most part. All the officers are fat and lazy and utterly corrupt. But that’s Pakistan for you.

                If we reallyreallyREALLY wanted to put an end to this crap, we’d put as much effort into peace talks between India and Pakistan as we’re putting into the Israel/Palestinian talks. Get China involved, too. Afghanistan is nothing but a colossal carbuncle on the world’s ass presently. If we could get the Pakistani Army to move troops off the Indian border and into the west, they could enforce their writ of law and this problem would largely go away. But while Pakistan still thinks India might be sneaking into Afghanistan, the Pak military will go on treating the Taliban as an asset.


    • “Anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart.”

      Well, you’re right that these bastards probably deserve to die.

      I’m not sure what differentiates THESE bastards from the other 3,498,571,627 other such bastards alive in the world today.

      Why is it imperative that America act as judge, jury, and executioner for bastards in the Swat Valley but not in say, the Mongolian Steppes, or the Andean mountains, or the Indonesian jungles?


            • The Taliban is a threat to us, by its ability to wield boxcutters? This differentiates them from Al-Quaida which has franchises all across the Muslim world how?

              So our strategy is to assume control of Afghanistan and any other country in which boxcutter-wielding Muslims oppose us, and impose a government that is in line with our interests?

              Given the fact that we have launched attacks in 6 different nations, mounted ground invasions in 2, spent about 4 Trillion dollars, and yet are no closer to that result than we were a decade ago, how many decades of war need to pass and how many different nations do we need to attack before we decide this policy isn’t working?


              • So, let’s get this straight. A Taliban judicial authority handed down a death sentence for Malala Yousufzai for the crime of blogging and getting an education, contrary to Taliban law.

                That death sentence was carried out. Alas that they didn’t actually kill her.

                Justice was served? Should the Taliban come back for Round 2 and actually kill her in accordance with their laws?


                  • And what’s more, they have Kill Lists. Which was my point all along. Now that we’ve established that the Taliban are bad guys, all caps natch, perhaps you’ll get to that part about their justice system. They do have one, you know. One which has sentenced a blogger to death.

                    I have an answer, Liberty. You could have a little protest outside the Taliban embassy. And strum guitars and wave placards. You betcha.


                    • K: I’ve already described how these things actually work. Rhetorical cheap shots seem to be the stock in trade of people who continue to believe, every last bit of common sense and cynicism to the contrary, that these Kill Lists are somehow Bills of Attainder.

                      Olly-olly oxen free. Time to quit hiding in the bushes. We long since forfeited the right to complain about the singling out of civilians after Dresden and Hiroshima, where we simply put a Big Red Circle around an entire city and marked it for destruction: man, beast, insect and plant. All this mendacious bullshit about these Kill Lists, as if the President could simply add his personal enemies to that list and everyone down his chain of command would follow his orders like little Praetorian Guards, to the point where this Semi-Righteous Indignation leads them to philippics about throwing garbage — I think I’ll throw some back.


                    • We long since forfeited the right to complain about the singling out of civilians after Dresden and Hiroshima,

                      Because once we’ve sinned, there’s no possibility of redemption. There’s no changing our ways. The only path is forward, ever deeper into the abyss.


                    • A) You’re posing a false dichotomy, so your question, in context, is meaningless.

                      B) But for the record, no. It’s something I’ve given serious thought to. My ancestors were Mennonites, who are–at least supposed to be–pacifistic. When I got interested in studying anabaptist beliefs I gave very serious thought to pacifism, but ultimately I stumble over issues like WWII. Sometimes the only effective response to violence is violence. But I’m pacifistic enough to believe that we (humans in general, and for present purposes, specifically focusing on Americans, not because we’re worse, but because we’re all too human) are far too quick to resort to violence, and to use it when it’s not justified, not productive, or both. That’s why your question poses a false dichotomy–you seem to be suggesting that a person must either support the kill list (and perhaps the GWOT) or be a pacifist, but there’s ample midground between those two options.


                    • C’mon. First it was tu-quoque, then goalpost moving, now it’s false dichotomy. It’s like being nibbled to death by a frog. James, I’m relyin’ on you to hold up your end of the argument here. You usually do.

                      So you’re not a pacifist. Neither am I. I see a big decision promoted through the ranks, right up to the president, who has the final say-so on the kill shot — as a vast improvement on sending out the CIA and people like me to handle some Political Objective without any direction.

                      I see these bullshit Kill Lists as a vast improvement on the destruction of cities. You want evolution, a world with justified kill shots? Well so does everyone who pulls the trigger. We don’t like maniacs going off on civilians or wholesale blank atrocities like Dresden or My Lai or propping up death squads. We had to live out there with those people. They weren’t just so many faces under non la to us, they were real people. And they weren’t afraid of us and they were afraid of the people we were shooting. They fought bravely and they died alongside us.

                      You want redemption? Redemption starts with admitting the truth, that we’re perfectly capable of justifying the unjustifiable, that our strongest intellectual suit is self-delusion. I’m sick of having to explain this to y’all.

                      There are people of my acquaintance who simply won’t explain this stuff. They know civilians will never get it and when people make stupid noises like Throw Garbage on the President, they understand all such people are so full of shit they’re ready to burst.

                      Well, James, I’m about ready to stop trying to explain it. I’ll just hold my tongue and let people make stupid noises of this sort. Because if I’ve learned one thing from this thread, nothing I’m saying is sinking in. Enjoy your little delusions folks. You should have taken the Blue Pill.


                    • Whatever, Blaise. I know you’ve got a BIG IMPORTANT POINT to make, and it’s a damn shame all the little people are worried about being logical and consistent and all that stupid little stuff that only shallow people like programmers have to worry about.


                    • I think his point is that these people need to be killed and that if a Kill List is what it takes to get that done then a Kill List we shall have, because Not Killing Them is not an option and the alternative is Soviet-style wiping out entire villages with bombing raids and death squads and shoggoths.

                      (straps on a headband, slides a big combat knife into a vest holster, and goes all First Blood Part II.)


                    • Don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers, James.

                      Logic would evaluate an expression before loading the result into the register. You just stick to professoring and avoid any computer oriented metaphors. You don’t like the results of my evaluation? That’s your problem, not mine.


                    • So, Blaise, you’re going to play coy and duck the real issue of your failure to make arguments that are logically valid?

                      There’s the value of blogs in a nutshell. They enable fools to voice their opinion ever more loudly.

                      I didn’t read any blogs for about two weeks, until today. I was happier for the last two weeks than I am today, because I didn’t encounter so much foolishness. But here at the League today I see Blaise P. arguing that we should behave just like those whose behavior we hate, and on another thread where I critique the unknowledgeable for clinging to a devout belief in an economist they can’t understand, Elias–a good guy in so many ways–seems to use that very ignorance as the justification for clinging to a devout belief.

                      I think I’ve been wrong in believing there was any real value to blogs.

                      Great post, Jason. Lousy commentary, all the rest of us.

                      God, should there be one, bless you all.


                  • Liberty = killing bad people, or potentially bad people, or people who hang out with bad people, or people who are related to bad people, or people whose neighbors said they were bad people because they don’t like them, etc. Good to know.


                  • There are murderous armed militias in Sudan/Yemen/Pakistan/Egypt raping and killing women and children.

                    Therefore America must immediately launch drones to rectify this situation.


              • No. OBL was depending on the feebs and fan dancers to do what we’d done in Lebanon, just back out of the Middle East like the Knights in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Run awaaaay!

                Well we didn’t. But guess what, the feebs and fan dancers haven’t exactly gone away. All very concerned about the rule of law, to be sure, oh yes, very concerned about Kill Lists. In any situation, we may rely upon them for the same answer we have always gotten from their camp: Run Away, lest we Offend Someone.


                    • There’s a long tradition of that sort of thinking and it’s backed by sound reasoning. But it never works out in practice. Americans used to think those threats were far away, that they’d never arrive on our doorstep. That line of rhetoric has failed us too many times for anyone to seriously consider it again.

                      At some point we must stand up for the rights of man, if only because all those refugees end up on our doorstep or else they stay in refugee camps for sixty years like the Palestinians, gumming up the works and we end up paying for them anyway.

                      Just gotta say I find all this talk about isolationism more than slightly contemptible.


                    • Where does it end though, Blaise? There are monsters everywhere (some who at times our rulers cynically claim as allies, but I won’t go there for now), how long must we play whack-a-mole with the world?

                      You say it’s standing up for the rights of man. Yet in the process our rights shrink, in the name of security. What are we really fighting for then? Is claiming to spread freedom abroad worth destroying it at home?


                  • Nobody quite gets Neville Chamberlain. He was tearing down old infrastructure and building the factories and armaments plants which built the aircraft which defended Britain. If it weren’t for Chamberlain, Britain would have fallen. As I’ve said any number of times, the bad historian always looks at the past through the lenses of the present.

                    Chamberlain couldn’t have unilaterally acted against the Third Reich. The British military was in horrible shape. France didn’t do anything either and they were far closer. Russia, whom everyone had expected to act, did nothing either, largely because Molotov and Ribbentrop were drafting new maps of Europe and lying to each other about this and that. But I don’t have to tell you all this. You already know.

                    Sounds to me like you want a nice sanitary war. Wrap the whole fucking thing in a maxi-pad the size of Texas and just pretend the Taliban don’t exist and that they aren’t a threat to the world at large.


                    • Stop moving the goalposts. Nowhere did I suggest that involvement in Afghanistan was against the national interest. What I’m saying quite clearly here is that America doesn’t need to have a Kill List just because the Taliban has one.


                    • I’m not moving the goalposts, Wrong Way Corrigan. People like me will always be pulling triggers and people like you will always be whining about it. Those Sanitary War Pads are great for bleeding hearts, too. Me, I view the president’s involvement in pulling the trigger as a democratic backstop to keep the Lieutenant Calley-s of this wicked world from repeating the Massacre at My Lai 4.


                    • Blaise: the old president-is-civilian-check thing is a joke now, unless you seriously think Obama giving an order that resulted in the equivalent of a My Lai would lead to impeachment & murder charges. Even the most rabidly partisan republican would defend it, or at least stay silent, since doing otherwise would be to side with Them Damn Hippies against Our Commander in Chief on war.


                    • It’s not a joke. Clinton did say No to dropping the hammer on Bin Laden. See, this sort of dumbassery is just more proof civilians ought to know more about how the military operates.

                      The military operates under separate law called UCMJ. They’re not protected by the Constitution. At any time, anyone from E1 to five star general can refuse to obey an order on the grounds it would be a violation of the Law of Land Warfare or the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners.

                      At that point in time, the military grinds to a halt and a very special ceremony begins, and it can begin at any time. It’s called Summoning the Chain of Command. It’s rather like the brake pull cord on the train. It’s a very serious occasion and it’s taken terribly seriously. The subordinate has his say, repeating the order he was given. If that order is deemed unlawful, as in the case of Lieutenant Calley’s order to massacre the people of My Lai, that officer can and will be relieved of command. That’s what happened to LT Calley and that’s how Sy Hersh found out about it. The military was conducting inquiries into what went down there and Sy Hersh just happened on it.

                      So President Obama goes crazy and orders up a dozen murders. Those orders will not be obeyed.


                    • “So President Obama goes crazy and orders up a dozen murders. Those orders will not be obeyed.”

                      You’re right. Our soldiers are perfect shining angels wherever they go. The best ambassadors of the American Empire I say. They especially love us in Okinawa. Because our soldiers treat the locals with such respect. I’m sure if President Obama ordered them to rape local children they’d refuse. That’s old hat.


                    • I don’t trust the soldiers on the ground too much, to be honest. But, I do actually trust the upper brass that if a POTUS went totally crazy, they’d pull some sort of evasive maneuver. I think during Nixon’s second term, the claim was that the JCS double checked any order from Nixon with Kissinger. Now, Kissinger was an evil bastard, but he was an evil bastard with a plan.


                    • You’re right. Our soldiers are perfect shining angels wherever they go.

                      Is that really where this debate has gone? What if the president decides to drive down to the nearest 7-11 and shoot the first dozen people he sees. Should we vote third party to ban guns, or convenience stores, or the office of the presidency to alleviate this grave danger?


                    • Yeah, Christopher. Our soldiers are all sick heartless bastards. None of them have a conscience. I gather you’re including me in the SHB Brigade and I’m sure I deserve every nasty thing you have to say about soldiers. Your long experience in uniform certainly informs your opinions of us.


                • very concerned about Kill Lists. In any situation, we may rely upon them for the same answer we have always gotten from their camp: Run Away, lest we Offend Someone.

                  Objection; false dichotomy.


                  • Responding to Blaise – up and to the right.
                    The CIA gives two shits about your sacred UCMJ:

                    Down to brass tacks: The US intelligence community collects the intel, relays that info to the President and recommends targets (people) for the kill list.

                    Many people here are concerned about giving the President the power of judge, jury and executioner. I believe it is much worse than that.

                    Who compiles the list of possible targets? Who collects the evidence given to the President in determining the Kill List?

                    My concern is that you are providing a veneer of Presidential authority to a program of assassination constructed by US Intelligence Agencies.


              • OBL was using the USA as a catspaw, provoking it with intolerable behavior to elicit reprisals. By eliciting the reprisals and portraying them as anti-Muslim aggression he hoped to coalesce support for a new Caliphate. With himself as Caliph. This failed, obviously. Not because the USA did not respond or because OBL lacked charisma. But because the USA’s response could not reasonably be portrayed as unjustified aggression after the dramatic destruction of 9/11, and because there really isn’t a desire for a multinational Caliphate today.


            • “Think it couldn’t happen again?”

              I actually don’t think it could ever happen again. Call it hubris if you like. Locking cockpit doors and increased vigilance of citizens is more than enough to assure that there will never be another 9/11.

              On top of this, it’s not necessary to destroy an entire region of the globe, instill another hundred years of enmity, and kill 14-year-old boys.

              Maybe this is just me the libertarian not giving a shit.


              • Chris,
                After 9-11, I was talking to a military strategist. His comment was: “The next major terrorist attack on US soil will be assassinating an entire town. Just wipe the whole thing off the map, down to the last child.”
                Now, he wasn’t predicting no ANTHRAX, but… are you willing to lose Red Lion? How about Tyrone?


              • Despite their earnest protestations to the contrary, Libertarians do give a shit. And they know, deep down, the rights of man are in the balances. We can stand by and allow the outside world to lapse into darkness and tyranny, we’ve done it before. But it only gets worse as we watch it go down. And we’re always dragged into these things anyway.

                Personally, I think Obama has struck the right balance here. Yes, he’s going after Taliban. After I rubbed y’all’s noses in it, I finally got someone to admit the Taliban really were bad guys. But I never really got to the point where anyone admitted we not only have a right but an obligation to put down these bad guys.

                We have an obligation to the Afghan people. We invaded their country. If we leave only to have the Taliban return, we have only turned over the doubling cube. And yes, it’s hubris to think it couldn’t happen again. Not only can it happen, it will happen. We’ve made those Never Again noises before.

                Famous last words: “the war to end all wars.” War is mankind’s natural state. Peace is an illusion, carefully cherished, like stained glass in a window. We do our best to preserve it. We dream of a peaceful world. But as a species, we will never be done with war and we don’t help matters along by pretending it’s someone else’s problem. It’s the world’s problem.


                • The more football, the less war.
                  Humanity has engaged in a systematic breeding pattern to devise a way for men to work together and get shit done.
                  It has involved some rather extensive reprioritization,but I think you’ll find we’re less violent now than then.


                  • Kim, I have faith in humanity. I believe with all my heart that mankind is doomed to repeat its folly and eat its own vomit and shit its own bed and ruin this planet until we have to wear a fucking space suit to get to work in the morning. And I have faith, backed by every history of every nation, that this trend will continue until the sun burns down to a cinder.

                    For I have faith in the hubristic idiocy of all who preach the Gospel of the Supremacy of the Individual. I have faith in the inertia of capitalism to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few and the selfishness of mankind to ignore the suffering of the poor in all times and all places. I have faith in the power of violence and hatred to silence the small, hesitant voice of reason. I have faith in testosterone, the molecule of rage, and its sovereignty over the human brain. I have faith that technology will continue to produce first toys then tools, then weapons, with which we will destroy each other. And I have faith the planet will be better when we are extinct.



                    • Perhaps you should read “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker. It might make you a little more optimistic about the future.


                    • Lovely, Blaise. Your anecdote trumps Pinker’s data. You’re old enough and well educated enough that you ought to understand why data actually trumps anecdotes, and to realize that saying the world is less violent is not saying that there is no violence.


                    • James, feel free at any time to pay a visit to a refugee camp. It will change your life. I know Steven Pinker. I’ve used his vacation photographs in videos I’ve made. Casualties aren’t going down in the modern world. People don’t have to die to become casualties. You need to see what becomes of the survivors. They’re the ones who deserve our grief.


                    • I remember when we had to fight with absolute conviction against the death penalty because it was the worst thing you could do to someone.

                      Now it seems we have to fight with absolute conviction against lifetime imprisonment because it’s the worst thing you can do to someone.

                      Before long we’ll have to fight with absolute conviction against preventing internet access because that’ll be the worst thing you can do to someone.


            • Because they’re a strategic threat to the USA? Ever hear of Osama bin Laden? Think it couldn’t happen again?

              OBL was a tactical threat t the U.S. Treating his as a strategic threat was our big mistake.


              • The day I see anyone from the Libertarian faction give a damn about the use of force by anyone except our own government, there will be two moons in the sky. Somewhere in a galaxy, far far away…..


                • Blaise, remember when Roger and I talked about Rudolph Rummel and his research on democide (killing of civilians by government)? Remember that your response was simply to insult Rummel?

                  It’s easy for you to write nonsense like this, but as usual you let your fingers get ahead of your thought processes.


                  • James, you’re a bird of a different feather. I hardly think of you as an orthodox Libertarian for a variety of reasons.

                    Rummel’s overarching theories of everything contain too many holes for me to take him seriously. He sounds too much like Tom Friedman for my tastes: Rummel’s notions of democratic peace sound exactly like the Moustached One’s McDonald’s restaurant theory, that nations with McDonald’s restaurants don’t go to war with each other.

                    Democracies do go to war with each other. Clausewitz says war is politics by other means. I’d extend that thought to say a shooting war is what happens when politics fail. Nations are forever in conflict with each other. They’re at economic war with each other, they spy on each other, they form Beggar Thy Neighbour alliances. And to top it all off, they secretly cooperate with their enemies lest either one lose face. The world’s a great deal more complicated than this pious baloney Jason’s serving. People don’t just end up on Kill Lists. They rise to the attention of a world which can no longer tolerate pirates and anarchist Islamists and Maoists and international criminal gangs and other such troublers of the world at large.


                    • Assange isn’t the problem. I think he’s doing the world a great service, pulling back the covers. I really didn’t expect an honest debate when I put up my first response to this essay and I haven’t been disappointed.


                    • Blaise,
                      Don’t that shoot to hell your argument that only bad guys get put on kill lists? Plenty of folks are after Assange and company…

                      This here participant is honest, and curious about your position.


                    • You thrust Julian Assange into this debate as if he’s on a Kill List. He’s not on a kill list. The USA hasn’t even filed any charges against him. Bradley Manning’s in prison. Personally, I think Bradley Manning’s chain of command should be in prison with him, especially the system architects and security administrators who let a troubled little freak like that stay on SIPRNET. They knew he was in emotional trouble. He should have had his clearance revoked a year before he leaked that stuff.

                      But that’s not how it works. There are two flavours of idiocy at work here.

                      Flavor 1. The US government blames the lowest man in the totem pole, as happened in Abu Ghraib and Haditha. Another incident, the coverup of the friendly fire incident which got SP4 Pat Tillman killed.

                      Flavor 2: The conspiracy theorists who blame the President for everything, dissecting away every other consideration. Case in point, Jason’s essay here.

                      Here’s a little insight into the problem of secrecy. Ever seen that flowchart which starts out “You fucked up.” ? What’s the next step in that chart? Yes, “Does anyone else know?” In the military, the logical response to a No answer is to stamp it Top Secret. That way the fart can be kept in the sack. Most truly important details such as troop movements, unit readiness, that sort of thing — details which would be of importance to our enemies — is only classified at Confidential.

                      Want a more accountable government? Every senator on the Armed Services Committee can get access to pretty much anything they want, any time they want. They have military attaches who handle this sort of thing for them. Usually they have extensive contacts inside the Pentagon and CIA who keep them read into these missions. Big fuckups do happen. Innocent people do get killed. Coverups do happen. But our system of government does provide accountability. People do get punished for screwing up and most of it you’ll never hear about. Trust me, the military and the intelligence services are trying to stay out of politics and they’re fighting back against attempts to turn them into political animals. It got so bad under Bush43 Dick Cheney had to work around the CIA and NSA to gin up all those bullshit arguments for the Iraq War.

                      You might have more faith in our civilian-dominated government and put less credence into these folks who would tell us Julian Assange is on a Kill List. He isn’t.


                    • Blaise,
                      I don’t know if you’re bullshitting me or not. Maybe you do.
                      Top Secret is what kind of clearance in the military?
                      There ya go, that’s an easy one.

                      You made the statement up above that everyone’s got kill lists, and that they all share ’em. You’ve also made the statement that you don’t know who’s on America’s. Now you’re stating that you do know that Julian isn’t on there.

                      See, you’ve gone and made my job easy on me. The way I figure, Julian’s the type of guy governments get pissed at, not so much private citizens. And he’s got glowing jewelry to prove how much someone got pissed at him.


                    • Clearances work rather like your path to work in the building. You come in the front door, you’re authorized to take the elevator to a particular floor. That’s one clearance. All the way to your desk, at every point where your path diverges, every turn requires a separate clearance. This is literally the way CIA Langley operates.

                      Top Secret is subject to review but it’s basically a statement that divulging this fact is a threat to national security. Things get reclassified all the time. If you’re read into a matter, that means informed of an issue’s existence, you might have access to all the information related to it. It’s not as if you get a promotion from Secret to Top Secret (TS), there are as many flavours of TS as there are issues. It’s called Need to Know.

                      Let’s take one flavour. SECRET/NOFORN. This means only Americans can read this document. We won’t share this with the UK. But if we wanted to share information with another country’s agency, it would be SECRET/[ACRONYM] meaning it’s not to be divulged beyond that ACRONYM specific agency. They might share it with New Zealand on the sly, but generally speaking with friendlies they’d ask before letting it out and we’d issue it ourselves at their request.

                      Here’s the deal with Julian Assange and here’s how I know he’s not on a kill list. We have to cooperate with Sweden all the time and they have to cooperate with us. This isn’t even a matter of intelligence, this is strictly at INTERPOL level. There’s a Red Letter out on Assange. He’s wanted on a Swedish warrant. We’re not going to issue a warrant against him. To be sure, there’s been plenty of political grandstanding but it’s all nonsense and don’t you believe it.

                      Furthermore, Assange is in an embassy. The UK is involved. They’re the ones with the problem, not us.

                      And here’s the clincher: Assange has already done as much damage as he can do. He’s not on a kill list because we tolerate all sorts of leaks from within our own government. Happens all the time. These politicians can’t keep secrets, not when there’s some political advantage in exposing them.


                    • Poisonous radioactive isotopes? Horrors! Let’s hurl every X ray technician into Gitmo forthwith.

                      If I want an assertion, Kim, I’ll put it into a switch statement so I can use default: and throw an AssertionError.


                    • James, you’re a bird of a different feather.

                      Definitional convenience, what an art form. As I look back, it was actually Roger who brought up Rummel first, but no problem, we’ll just define him as unorthodox, too. By fiat of Blaise P., libertarian orthodoxy requires not giving a shit about abusive governments outside the U.S.

                      Of course just because folks think U.S. intervention is often likely to create more problems than it solves does not mean they don’t care what happens elsewhere, but you just go on making false claims about other people’s motivations, because it surely requires less effort than learning the truth.

                      Rummel’s notions of democratic peace ….. Democracies do go to war with each other.

                      It’s not his notions. It’s a standard theory among IR theorists, primarily because it actually corresponds pretty damn well to the facts on the ground. That is, exceptions depend on some debatable definitions of democracy and war, but even allowing those exceptions the frequency of democracies warring with each other is far below what would be statistically predicted if democracy was not a relevant variable.


                    • As you began with debatable definitions, so do you end, James.

                      Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
                      As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
                      Are melted into air, into thin air;


            • So, going forward, every disparaging comment about Mitt Romney must be balanced out by an equally disparaging comment about Barack Obama?

              While that would actually make League a bit less lopsided, I think back to a discussion on Canada’s voting turnout where people were pointing out to the author that the U.S. voting turnout was much worse. Her response?


              I don’t think “are other countries doing worse than us” is a good measure of whether we’re doing a good job for ourselves or not.


              Continually stating “Well, the Taliban do much worse” is as relevant to the discussion of whether we should/should not have a kill list as “Well, Sir Robert Boyle dies on Dec. 31, 1691.”


                • True, that is a fair point.

                  However, what I’m trying to say is that whether or not the Taliban have a kill list is not a valid argument as to whether the U.S. should have one. Arguments on whether we should or should not have a kill list should be based on whether such a list is necessary, the realities of global politics, and whether we, as a constitutional republic, can accept the existence of such a list in our governmental framework.

                  Admittedly, while the first two questions are generally based on the facts, the last question is a subjective one. It can usually be answered by “What if the other side wins?” If Mitt Romney (or whichever Republican nominee you found most repugnant such as Perry or Santorum) won the election, would you be okay if they had a kill list?


                  • I’ve soldiered under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Nixon had his enemies list but that didn’t exactly redound to his benefit.

                    Pyre, I’ve laid out how this actually works. You’ve got it exactly backward. The President doesn’t operate Kill Lists. The CIA and the military form up actionable intelligence. Most of what the CIA actually does is bullshit filtration and it’s a goddamn shame more people don’t know what it is they do and how carefully they’re monitored. For there was a day when they weren’t monitored, when they went off to do terrible things, armed only with a vague mandate to handle some political situation. Now, we have these decisions put in the hands of the President. He can say No. Clinton said No when he had OBL in his sights: there were children around. We could have gotten him many times.

                    Now you can go on attempting to say I’m trying to justify our Kill Lists because the Taliban have kill lists. And that’s not what I’m saying. So quit it. There’s a reason why we have a civilian in charge of the military and why we have Congressional oversight of the intelligence services and why there are so many lawyers in the food chain. We don’t just go around killing people. It’s bad for business.

                    This is not the Roman Empire where some absent emperor like Tiberius can send out some Sejanus to do his dirty work. For one thing, our political process is robust enough to bring opposing forces to bear on the likes of Sejanus and this was equally true in ancient times, as Sejanus would find out. There’s always a Livia in the mix who can fix his little red wagon. Secrets don’t keep well in our republic any better than they did in the Roman world.

                    Fact is, Bush43 allowed Rumsfeld to become just such a Sejanus and eventually even Bush43 was obliged to get rid of his lying ass. Powell had resigned in disgust, the military was angry with Rumsfeld. Only Cheney was left to defend Rumsfeld. Bush43 looked at the equation, Rumsfeld had not given him victories, Rumsfeld had annoyed too many important people so he had to go.

                    Military victories aren’t partisan, Pyre. But military quagmires get awfully partisan. You get into a war, you’d better win.


                    • So you’re okay with it. Fair enough.

                      “Pyre, I’ve laid out how this actually works. You’ve got it exactly backward. The President doesn’t operate Kill Lists.”

                      I said “the U.S.”, not the President. I suppose that I could have said “the U.S. government” but that seemed obvious. I confess that I don’t know what type of oversight there is on such a process but, given what our government seems to get away to citizens within our borders *Pulls out list of wiretaps, TSA escapades, etc*, I have no problem with the notion that the oversight is probably almost non-existent. Sure, the President (if he’s the one giving the order) may still have to pick up the phone and tell the CIA director “Make this guy dead” but that doesn’t strike me as much of a hinderance. CIA director is unlikely to say no and, once done, who’s he going to tell? They’ll be held just as responsible and, being the head of the CIA, I imagine that any director that did go public would already know whether or not rogue directors can be targeted.

                      You’re saying that “it’s a goddamn shame more people don’t know what it is they do and how carefully they’re monitored.” Well, maybe the problem is that the government hasn’t really built up a whole lot of trust capital lately for people to buy the statement that they’re carefully monitored at face value.

                      “Now you can go on attempting to say I’m trying to justify our Kill Lists because the Taliban have kill lists. And that’s not what I’m saying. So quit it.”

                      >>BlaiseP October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am
                      The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own. On that list was a 14 year old blogger named Malala Yousufzai. Surgeons have just extracted bullets from her neck and cranium. Her crime? Advocating for the girls of Swat Valley, once a paradise, to attend school. The Taliban stopped her bus, singled her out and shot her.

                      How was this, your very first statement, not justifying a kill list by stating “Here is where the Taliban are using a kill list. Therefore, we should also use a kill list.”?


  10. What always bugs me is that when I say something like “we should have a trial in absentia!” (something that, I should point out, is also something that is vaguely troubling), I’m told that even doing something like that isn’t necessary.

    We should have used a drone to kill Troy Davis.


    • My suggestion: we use a lottery to determine who we kill over there (or here, because there are always political enemies… I mean ideological enemies… I mean, people who hate us for our freedoms right here at home, right?). Because any male of military age (or at least close enough to it) is an enemy combatant if we kill them, aren’t they? This is the most fair way of doing it.


      • I have an unworkable solution for how we might be able to square this particular circle:

        Declare War. Like officially. Congress passes it, the President signs it, and we send soldiers over there to kill people until we find someone with enough local street cred for us to put a crown on and make them sign a paper surrendering. Plaster posters showing this guy surrendering all over. Show it on the news. Declare victory. Go home.

        I am enough of an idealist to say that if we do not wish to do that, then we should not send people over there to kill people until we find someone with enough local street cred for us to put a crown on.


        • Dude, the moment you provide any semblance of “reality” to the War On Terror(!!!!!!) it’s ceased to be the War on Terror(!!!!!!). The whole point is to make it dramatic, distant, and with no impact on our lives whatsoever. Your solution won’t focus group well at all.


        • Declare War. Like officially. Congress passes it, the President signs it, and we send soldiers over there to kill people…

          Hmmm. Speaking out of a butt-cheek here (the left one, natch) I tentatively agree with Koz upthread: I think the President already has the authority to target enemy combatants (and whatnots and etceteras). If that’s right, then the “kill list” doesn’t need to be a secret for legal purposes, but for some other reason. One that I can’t quite fathom. (I mean, anyone who’s legitimately on that list would know exactly why they are, and wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they are, so it’s not like making it public would tip any cards or anything.)


            • I don’t think that accounts for it, myself. In fact, I’m not sure what propaganda function is served by keeping an ostensibly justified kill list a secret. Again, anyone who’s legitimately on that list – because they’ve engaged in actions harmful to the US or whatever – knows full well that they’re a legitimate target of US military power whether they’re on the list or not. On the other hand, publicly promulgating that a kill list exists would serve a propaganda function, but the government isn’t publicly promulgating that information – at least as far as I know. And even then, it isn’t obvious that there are any propaganda benefits derived from doing so in Afghanistan, for example. Everyone in Afg. who’s an enemy of the US already knows that they’re an enemy of the US and that they’re already on a kill list.


              • I don’t think anyone in Afghanistan/France/Japan would think that we have a “justified kill list”, if it had citizens of their country on it. Or at least that knowledge of it would severely hurt our business.
                Someone says it’s justified — how, and in what way? I don’t find it legally justifiable when we have an ICC.


                • Please. Every country with an intelligence service operates lists and they share those lists. If some citizen of France is on an American list, the French are all too glad to operate on our behalf. And lots of those crooks and murderers do end up in front of the ICC.


          • I think the President already has the authority to target enemy combatants (and whatnots and etceteras).

            If we’re talking about particularly troublesome baddies for whom we would want plausible deniability if one of our Mission Impossible guys is caught/killed, I would tentatively agree with both of you. We have our Ethan Hunts for a reason, after all.

            If, however, we are not talking about killing someone without creation of diplomatic incidents, but needing to kill low-level bad guys who offend us on a moral level? I don’t agree.


          • You’re right. The “secret kill list”, if it exists, is just a tactical feature of fighting this kind of war. If you could fathom the tactics in play here it might well invalidate that particular tactic.


        • Preamble
          Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, two thousand and one,
          Joint Resolution
          To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.
          Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
          Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and
          Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and
          Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and
          Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it
          Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

          Section 1 – Short Title
          This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.
          [edit]Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
          (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
          (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
          (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
          (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

          Speaker of the House of Representatives.
          Vice President of the United States and
          President of the Senate.


      • Maybe we just do this once a year, and the lottery ‘winner’ gets crucified on live TV, and he can symbolically take on the sins/crimes of the world for the year. This would be completely equitable, save a lot of legal wrangling, and provide society-wide psychic benefits as all our sins get cleansed.

        Better yet, let’s elect our President by lottery, then crucify him* at the end of his 4-year term. He won’t need to pander for re-election that way. If you knew you only had 4 years left of your life, you’d want to either do the best job you could, so you’d be well-remembered, or else you’d spend your time drowning in drink, drugs and hedonistic pleasure (or quietly at home with family, if you’re into that sort of thing), in which case you hopefully can do little damage.

        * Note to Secret Service: the above is satire, and I in no way recommend nor approve of crucifying the President, except rhetorically.


        • I think al-Awlaki was much more like a volunteer soldier. What I got out of the NYTimes report on the Kill List was that voluntary involvement and material support were the two main criteria used in general.


          • Are we at war in Yemen?

            Are we at war everywhere?

            Clearly we’re at war in some places, but I’d thought “the whole entire world is a battlefield, no exceptions,” was a holdover from George W. Bush that the Democrats would have had the good sense to reject. More than anything else, the erasure of the distinction between war and peace is to blame for the ills I diagnose here.


            • Jason, I think we’ve gone around this bend before so I’ll try to be as minimally pedantic as possible.

              From Quirin:

              Citizenship in the United States of an enemy belligerent does not relieve him from the consequences of a belligerency which is unlawful because in violation of the law of war. Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war. It is as an enemy belligerent that petitioner Haupt is charged with entering the United States, and unlawful belligerency is the gravamen of the offense of which he is accused.

              Nor are petitioners any the less belligerents if, as they argue, they have not actually committed or attempted to commit any act of depredation or entered the theatre or zone of active military operations.

              From Hamdi:

              Further, we understand Congress’ grant of authority for the use of “necessary and appropriate force” to include the authority to detain for the duration of the relevant conflict, and our understanding is based on long- standing law-of-war principles. If the practical circum- stances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that understanding may unravel. But that is not the situation we face as of this date. Active combat operations against Taliban fighters apparently are ongoing in Afghanistan … The United States may detain, for the duration of these hostilities, individuals legitimately determined to be Taliban combatants who “engaged in an armed conflict against the United States.” If the record establishes that United States troops are still involved in active combat in Afghanistan, those detentions are part of the exercise of “necessary and appropriate force” and therefore are authorized by the AUMF.

              Quirin does leave the door open to being at war everywhere, although Hamdi restricts the time to (at least) active conflict in Afghanistan. There is also a strong case made that Yemen, specifically, is a “hot battlefield” with direct relationship to Al-Qaeda.


              • So, just to reiterate, your statement below is completely at odds with my reading of the SCOTUS precedent:

                If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

                In fact, the military would require evidence that Romney’s grandkids “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces”. If Obama were to force this through over his commanders – who could stop him or tell him otherwise just as with the breach of any other law – his administration would be tried in court where the judge would review any evidence and he would be impeached and likely thrown in jail.

                As to your claim that we are not at war with Yemen, I have not seen any legislative or judicial claims that a belligerent (particularly one out of uniform) stops being one when they leave the zone of active conflict. Obviously Geneva applies in instances where capture is reasonably possible, such as the hypothetical where al-Awlaki were to turn himself in.


                • What if they were never in the zone of active conflict? What if they were never in the zone of active conflict and their only connection with the zone of active conflict is being a member of a loosely associated network of militant groups?


                  • Then the “substantial material support” claim would be very difficult, if not impossible, to furnish. And if that person was in a completely inactive area such as the US or the EU, then Geneva would dictate that attempts be made to capture rather than kill him, so drones would be out of the question. Once captured he could not be tortured or abused and would have to stand trial blah blah blah…


                    • trizzlor, the missing link in all this is I think the ‘secret evidence’. How can this evidence be provided to the military, so they can evaluate the ‘substantial material support’ claim, if the evidence is secret? My understanding is that the evidence itself is being shared with nobody outside the highest intelligence circles, and the President.

                      So how does the military evaluate the order for lawfulness? I mean, sure, if the Kill List contains the name “John Smith”, or “The Situation”, they might think, hey, this sounds unusual, let’s look into this.

                      But a name like “Al-Awlaki” (which, aside from not “sounding” like an American citizen, could be a very common one in Yemen for all I know) – is that going to cause the military to do any vetting of their own?

                      Or do they take the order from their commander-in-chief with no questions, assuming he wouldn’t be on the list if he hadn’t been vetted?

                      And what makes us think the evidence will be reviewed after the fact? Won’t it still be secret? We still can’t compromise our sources presumably.


                    • Secret evidence is always pretty dicey but a necessary evil. The NYTimes article describes a weekly meeting run by the Pentagon that gathers “more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.” The President then reviews these decisions with his national security and counterterrorism advisors and gives the final confirmation. Presumably there are enough people with clearance and access to all of the evidence that they could tell the president otherwise or stop him. Of course, the president could over-ride them and choose to willfully commit a crime, but then the president can always do that and we tend not to structure our laws around it.

                      After the fact, anyone with standing can sue the government – as the ACLU is currently doing – wherein a judge and lawyers with the proper security clearance would re-evaluate the evidence. This is an area where a lot of abuse tends to happen, but it’s not unique to the Kill List trials and I’ve yet to see a comprehensive alternative.


                    • After the fact, anyone with standing can sue the government

                      After you’re dead, people can sue on your behalf.

                      I suppose it’s better than nothing, but, oddly, I don’t find it real comforting.


                  • What if they were never in the zone of active conflict? What if they were never in the zone of active conflict and their only connection with the zone of active conflict is being a member of a loosely associated network of militant groups?

                    Then the President would be acting illegally, yes? Outside of his authority to kill people responsible for the 9/11 attacks?

                    What other restrictions can be placed on Presidential power than to make certain actions illegal?


                    • Maybe that’s too quick. I’m not sure exactly what you’re arguing in this subthread.

                      It seems to me there is a confusion about the legality of targeted drone strikes and the kill list, and the morality of those things. I’m not sure which one position you’re arguing from, but it seems pretty clear to me that the Obama admin is legally justified in engaging in targeted killings based on a list of AQ operatives who’ve engaged in belligerent acts against the US.

                      Of course, there are worries about transparency and abuse, but those worries are neither unique to the kill list, nor uniquely applicable to it, it seems to me.


                    • Still, the point he made was that if they leave the active combat zone, they’re still targets. So it seems natural to ask, “What if they were never there?” What if they were never even supporting people who were there, but home-grown militarism (e.g., actively opposing the Yemenes government)?


                    • Chris, I don’t know how else to interpret this statement from the court: “Nor are petitioners any the less belligerents if, as they argue, they have not actually committed or attempted to commit any act of depredation or entered the theatre or zone of active military operations.“. Now, the court goes on to argue distinctions between uniformed/un-uniformed officers and how that also impacts their status as traitors or spies, but it does not effect their standing as belligerents.

                      So yes, one could be on the kill list without ever traveling to Afghanistan, but one would still have to meet the high standard of substantial material support (imagine an American citizen making and sending IED’s to Al-Qaeda officers in Afghanistan). And, as I mentioned before, different rules of engagement apply in a cold zone such as the US versus a hot zone such as Yemen.


                    • Trizzlor, which brings us to the question, who decides that someone in Yemen, who is, most likely, actively supporting insurgent operations in Yemen, is providing support to combatants in Afghanistan or Iraq? On whose authority? Our own intelligence agencies? The Yemeni government’s intelligence? Whose? What standard of evidence are we using? What procedures are in place to insure that we get it right? How would the courts ever find out if we got it wrong over there (as opposed to over here)?


                    • the point he made was that if they leave the active combat zone, they’re still targets.

                      Who? Brennan? His point was broader than that, as I read him. It’s that a) the “battlefield” isn’t geographically circumscribed and b) that any individuals or organizations responsible for the terrorist attacks are legitimate targets of US military action. b) is very broadly worded. Maybe too broadly worded for your comfort.

                      So it seems natural to ask, “What if they were never there?”

                      Is your worry that we would never know the difference between a “legitimate” vs. and “illegitimate” target since none of this information is publicly accessible? I’ll concede that. But I’m not sure what that has to do with kill lists. The President could just kill those people in any event, yes?, with or without a kill list, right? And the only potential constraint on his actions would be the legality of doing so.


                    • which brings us to the question, who decides that someone in Yemen, who is, most likely, actively supporting insurgent operations in Yemen, is providing support to combatants in Afghanistan or Iraq?

                      Totally fair point, but isn’t this a concern with any military operation? I don’t see a scenario where regular warfare against belligerents is acceptable, but putting a single belligerent on a targeted list is unacceptable. To me, the kill list seems like an additional check to make sure the individuals is a legitimate target to the best of our knowledge; as pointed out in this thread, historically lack of a kill list would has meant that everyone is on the kill list.


                    • It’s certainly not a question with any military operation. It is not even, for the most part, a question of most operations in active combat zones. It may be the question with missions that seek to root out combatants who aren’t in uniform and aren’t currently fighting, but are blending in with the population, but that sort of operation raises all sorts of problems even within active combat zones (witness Vietnam and the current conflict in Afghanistan). It raises a whole shitload of problems when the “combatants” are hundreds, even thousands of miles from an active combat zone, wear no uniform, exist among a network of varying militancy, some of whom are actively supporting fighting in combat zones or terrorist activities, some of whom are more about their local stuff, some of whom are militant but not materially supporting any actual violence, and so on.


                    • Chris, I’m starting to lose the plot but I appreciate your reasoned argument. I overstated my point. Obviously, this is not the case in any/most military operations in general. But it is the case for a specific tactic which we has become common: targeted long-range bombing. In those cases, military intelligence provides evidence – to the best of their ability – of hostile forces with minimal civilian casualties; and somewhere along the chain of command this evidence is formulated into an order of attack. After the fact, an internal or external investigation can be launched if their is evidence of war crimes. I get your point about the complexity of this tactic in the kind of war we are now fighting, but that’s a concern that is not unique to the kill list. What you’re raising appears to me as an issue inherent in any long-range attack against an un-uniformed force, full-stop.

                      I think I would understand where you’re coming from better if you proposed an alternative. So far, I’m seeing a sort of law-enforcement approach from Jaybird, where hostiles are first tried in court; and what I imagine would lead to a complete end of bombing campaigns from you and Jason. What am I missing?


                    • Not all hostiles, Trizz. Just the ones on the kill list who are American Citizens in countries where we haven’t declared war.

                      Or we could declare war. I’m good with killing people in countries where we’ve declared war, as well.


                    • Not all hostiles, Trizz. Just the ones on the kill list who are American Citizens in countries where we haven’t declared war.

                      Okay, let’s assume we are at war with Afghanistan. I grok your argument about the difference between a declaration and an authorization but let’s just set it aside for this bit.

                      So how does this policy work? When al-Awlaki is in Afghanistan he’s fair game as an enemy defector. But when he travels across the border to Pakistan or a few more borders to Yemen, he’s no longer a legitimate target until we have a trial? Does he get a full trial or a tribunal? Does the fact that he was tried in Yemen change things? Does the fact that we have an operational relationship with Pakistan and Yemen in the GWOT change things? Do we have to declare war on Yemen, or any other ally, before we can legitimately target him?

                      What if he enters the US? Obviously we can’t declare war on ourselves, is he also now bound only by trial and law-enforcement? The Quirin case, for example, references a specific situation where Nazi soldiers broke through our defenses and entered the US, without uniform, and with intent to do harm. In that case they were treated as belligerents and allowed only a military tribunal after capture. Was that precedent incorrect? Should we continue to follow it?

                      Now, it’s totally fair if you think all of these questions need answering only because of the AUMF. But then the debate isn’t really about a Kill List at all but about weather a Kill List can exist under the AUMF or only under a declaration of war (though the issues of domestic and allied soil still hold).


                    • trizz, first, let me be clear about where I am coming from: I protested the war in Afghanistan in 2001. I’m kinda anti-war.

                      That said, I would at the very least stop bombing with drones altogether, and stop long range bombing outside of active combat zones as well (we could debate the areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan and from which the Taliban has been supplying its troops in Afghanistan). Then if we want to fight against loosely associated groups in countries where we have no troop presence and will likely never have a troop presence, under the guise of fighting “terrorism,” then I would definitely take a law enforcement approach. When the governments of those countries allow us, we go in, capture people who we know to be actively plotting to attack the U.S. (either here or in the form of Americans living abroad), and try them in court. If that’s not possible, then we monitor them, and use other means (mucking with their finance, putting pressure on the governments of the countries in which they’re operating to arrest them, etc.).


                    • A good way around the whole “what if the guy is jumping borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan?” is the whole “have a show trial with evidence and stuff” option.

                      Surely the evidence against whats-his-nuts would get a jury in Texas to vote for him to get the Bill Of Attainder, no?


                    • Is the number of American citizens who are not in active combat zones and are also AQ members so great, that trials in absentia for them is prohibitive? If so, then we have a bigger problem than I thought. I was thinking there were like, maybe a couple hundred guys at most.

                      Maybe we could look at the List, and get a head count, so we could make a decis…oh, wait.


                    • “And, in response to those who are concerned about the possible misuse of these powers, I make this pledge: we are not going take military action against any individual without first holding a trial …”

                      “Yay! The system works!”

                      “… in Texas.”


                    • @Glyph: Is the number of American citizens who are not in active combat zones and are also AQ members so great, that trials in absentia for them is prohibitive?

                      If you’re talking about Just War then these numbers shouldn’t matter. You’re setting policy for the nation as a whole and how it’s entire military apparatus should function, that means a single consistent system based on ethics. We can’t turn on trials in absentia when it’s manageable and then turn them off if things get hot – that kind of slippery policy is *precisely* what does lead to abuse. This has to be consistent with the wars of the past and reliable for the wars of the future. Moreover, you’ve yet to explain why citizen/non-citizen belligerents should be treated differently (the courts make no distinction here), without which even the numbers wouldn’t work.

                      @Chris: That said, I would at the very least stop bombing with drones altogether…

                      Look, if your argument is that we should stop our adventures in the middle east and reinstate a law-enforcement approach to combat terrorism then I’m totally with you. I think we should have been out of Afghanistan long ago, I think drone-warfare as counterinsurgency creates more problems than it solves, and the law-enforcement/intelligence agencies are much better equipped to deal with any remaining terrorism than the military is. But that’s a debate over the best tactics for fighting this war, or weather to fight it at all; and it’s one where the two of have more in common that apart. What Jason is claiming, however, is that the Kill List policy, per se, is incompatible with the principles of Democracy. And that view is absolutely wrong. It’s wrong because the policy is designed so that the legislative branch has oversight on who gets put on the list and the judicial branch has oversight after the fact. It’s wrong because the policy is consistent with judicial thinking on the rules of war going all the way back to Geneva. And it’s wrong if the only proposed alternative is not to fight wars at all.


            • Absolutely agree, other than “the Democrats would have had the good sense to reject”. Look at the politics of it:

              1. There is no electoral downside to full speed ahead on the GWOT
              2. If you slow down the GWOT and there’s another incident on American soil, you have just Jimmy Cartered yourself and your entire party for decades

              The last person I’d expect to think a politician would risk 2 is you, Jason.


              • No, liberals are supposed to give up any political advantages we have the moment we have them, for the good of the country. Ignoring that, of course, not every Democrat is a pacifist. But yes, rule 451c says that Democrat’s always have to run an election with one hand tied behind their back.


                • Jesse, the Democrat left has to hide its true intentions. Obama a centrist? Hyuh.

                  If he’d had an actual mandate in 2008 and not just Bush fatigue, we’d have not only single-payer but Cap’n Trade, an anti-DOMA, Law of the Sea, lordknowswhatelse, he’d still have Congress and he would be cruising to re-election.

                  But he was found out with the Obamacare initiative, both in its statist content and how it was foisted onto the American people, where it trailed in the polls and trailed today. He lost his 60-vote senate when Ted Kennedy died and lost the House in 2010 bigtime.

                  I say it was Obamacare, The Bridge Too Far: presumptuous, bad law, and indeed tyrannical in the way it steamrolled all objections, not just from the polls and the Republicans, but even Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak.

                  If you want to measure the American electorate’s vital signs, look first at Bill Clinton from 1992 onward. He comes in with a lefty agenda and loses Congress to Gingrich in 1994. Turns to the center and wins re-election easily but is a disaster for the Dem Party downticket until the Bush administration commits its own follies and lets the Dems back in bigtime in 2006.

                  Respectfully submitted, Jesse, not just sledging—Reagan turned out to be far more centrist than feared. Dubya told us up front he was going to spend like a Democrat with “compassionate conservatism.”

                  Clinton ran as a centrist, got his ass kicked in 1994 after swinging left, then “triangulated” back to the Gingrich center. To me, Obama was transparently left–although his enablers continually insist he’s a centrist—and when he showed his true colors, got gobsmacked back just as Clinton did in the midterms, the difference being that Barack Obama does not “triangulate.” Instead he chose the Truman ’48 strategy of running against an obstructionist GOP congress.

                  Truman squeaked out ’48 against Dewey but was less popular by ’52 than Dubya was by ’08—hard as that is to believe [!]—so unpopular he didn’t even run again, though he was constitutionally eligible.

                  Where the Dem Party goes from here—even if Barack Obama squeaks out a second term as president—I don’t know. I wouldn’t even be able to start naming the Dem bench beyond Andrew Cuomo. The mayor of San Antonio guy? Sandra Fluke?

                  The party put all its eggs in the Barack Obama basket, and whether it’s soon or sooner, now or in 4 years, that basket is emptying.


                  • Actually, Obama’s part of the grand center-left tradition of the Democratic party. More conservative and neoliberal than I would like as a committed social democrat, but he is probably the most liberal President since Nixon, but that’s not saying much.

                    Single payer was never on the table with even the 2009 makeup of the Senate and every smart liberal knew this. Cap ‘n’ trade would’ve passed with a sane Senate and most likely will in the near future after somebody hopefully puts the filibuster out of it’s misery, getting rid of DOMA in Obama’s first term was never on the table, and as far as Congress goes, unfortunately, if you still have high unemployment, you’re going to lose some seats in the next Congressional elections.

                    I’m going to skip the rest of your typical “America is a center-right nation and Obamacare is tyranny (and getting more popular by the day)” and get to your point about no bench. Let’s see here, just off the top of my head, we’ve got Mark Warner, John Hickenlooper, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Kathryn Sebelieus, and down the road, in a few elections, when demographics are even more in our favor, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, or hell, even Elizabeth Warren. :)


  11. So….are conservative in favor of, or opposed to, the policies in Afghanistan, Libya, and judicial assassination?

    I checked with that RoboMitt website but it didn’t seem to help.


  12. “Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.”

    You’ve identified my central problem with liberals here.


  13. So these American citizens, they’re Americans in America who are part of American society and we’re killing them in America?

    No? They’re in other countries, conspiring with non-Americans to attack identified American military forces? Because that sounds like rather less of a problem. In fact, it sounds like something that, had the guy not been born in an American hospital, something that wouldn’t be considered a problem at all.


  14. My one quibble here is on the abdication of responsibility for acting as a check. It seems rather obvious to me that those in possession of said responsibilities haven’t functionally abdicated them as much as they prefer to not employ them at the moment. Certainly, they will claim that authority back the moment they sense some sort of political advantage to doing so. That’s Congress’ MO now, their powers are mainly to be used for political grandstanding in the service of fund-raising as needed.
    Favorably, that kinda, sorta, functions as a sort of check on the power itself. The president can put whomever he wants on the list, but the moment enough Senators no longer trust him with the power, suddenly it will be back in the Congressional purview. Practically, given the nature of our Congress’ nature, this will almost surely never happen.
    Unspoken in all this is the notion that the President has claimed this power and can keep it because most people want him to. It sickens me to think of it, but does anyone doubt that the idea of this power isn’t actually deeply popular with the electorate? Thus it should be no surprise that no one in power wants to be the bold defender of freedom that tries to pry that power from the White House.