The revelation of the Obama administration's “targeted-killing policies” has even some of the liberal media upset – and that's saying something. What's making them uneasy is that this administration is coming right out and unabashedly admitting something that was only suspected of previous administrations – that they reserve the right to “take out” U.S. citizens abroad suspected (note the word -- “suspected”, not proven) to be involved in “terrorist” activities. And who spilled the beans? Some radical libertarian or paleocon website? Nope – it was NBC News, one of the most reliable lapdogs of the Regime. So something is clearly up. I think what American liberals are finally starting to realize is that (1) Obama is no liberal when it comes to foreign policy, and (2) anything that he claims he has a right to do now can also be claimed by someone else – someone more “conservative”, even – at a later date. There is also an increasing awareness of “mission creep” on the part of organizations like the CIA, which has taken unto itself many military functions, both overt and covert, as a way of either augmenting or replacing the efforts of the armed forces.
The other realization, which has not escaped the attention of talk radio, is that the definitions of what constitutes grounds for making a hit on Americans abroad have grown increasingly fuzzy. What, for example, is a “senior, operational leader”? It could be someone in charge of a handful of people – or allegedly in charge. What is an al-Qaida “affiliate”? It could be virtually any political, paramilitary, or activist organization anywhere in the Arab/Islamic world, or one with connections thereto. And what is an “imminent threat”? Something that could only happen in the next 24 hours? Or maybe next week, or next month, or next year... etc. We all recall how “imminent” the threat of Saddam's “weapons of mass destruction” was, that justified our invasion of Iraq. And, oh, the Iranians are all set to lob a nuke at Israel, all they have to do is wait for the weather to clear. And so on. The fear – justifiable, in my opinion – is that the definitions in question are going to be stretched like pizza dough, so that all of a sudden the policy can include U.S. citizens in the U.S., and not only “terrorist” organizations but ones that are considered “sympathetic” or “supportive”... or simply ones that are not overtly hostile or opposed to organizations and activities that the government has defined as “terrorist”. And, this notion of “senior, operational leaders”? What about “foot soldiers”? We've already killed any number of these, and Guantanamo is full of them.
Here's what it amounts to, in the general sense. There is no longer any theoretical or legal “wall of separation” between the American citizen and arbitrary violence on the part of the government. Now, this doesn't mean that armed government employees are going to start randomly taking pot-shots at people on the street. But what it does mean is that anyone who becomes a “suspect” -- whatever that may mean – is going to be subject to “termination with extreme prejudice”, as the saying goes. Not that there won't still be trials, but the government might just decide to take the easy route and save all that time and money. And this was all perfectly predictable, the minute someone in Washington invented the term “War on Terror”. Because what is a “war on terror”? It's not just a war on specific people who are doing specific things; it's a war on a feeling – the feeling called “terror”. And that feeling can arise in any place, at any time, and for any reason – which means that the war on it can also be fought in any place, at any time, and for any reason... and against anyone who happens to fall into the desired category at that particular moment.
There was a saying in the higher echelons of the Soviet Union, “Show me the man and I'll show you the crime.” In other words, if there's someone who needs to be gotten out of the way, it's a simple matter to figure out which laws he's broken, since there are laws covering virtually every aspect of human behavior. This, as we should all know by know, is the case in this country – with its massive legal code and its massive prison population. You may be morally innocent on any given day, but you've surely broken some law somewhere along the line; it can't be helped! All the authorities have to do is keep an eye on you (which they already do) and they'll find something – the way you can walk into a doctor's office feeling perfectly healthy, but walk out thinking you're at death's door.
And this brings up an interesting point. We talk all the time about the “rule of law”, as if there was some grand, exalted, supreme law of the land that treated everybody equally and expressed all of our highest ideals. It is contrasted with things like tyranny, dictatorship, arbitrary power, privilege for the few, corruption, cronyism, etc. The problem is that the law is not an absolute... and it can be strikingly arbitrary and capricious at times. And even when it's applied consistently and “fairly”, who's to say whether it's morally sound? Even lawyers know that there are plenty of immoral acts that are legal, and plenty of moral acts that are illegal. We also need to reflect on the fact that most dictatorships in recent history have had quite elaborate legal systems – laws, courts, judges, and so on. Did that protect those who were caught up in the machinery? Everyone who was sent to a concentration camp or to the Gulag had been convicted of something – tried and found guilty. There were judges in big hats, and executioners in crisp uniforms – nothing random or arbitrary about it, apparently. But was it right? Was it moral?
See, this is the dilemma that outfits like NBC News are in at this point. After having preached for decades, along with academia and the legal profession, that everything is relative and that the law is only what the president or the courts say it is, with no moral significance one way or the other... they are suddenly discovering that the law can be wrong! But – compared to what? Compared to what is right, i.e. actual human values, actual morals. But are they going to speak up now... now that it's too late? What they're more likely to do is just wring their hands and hope for the best – but the process they are now having misgivings about is one that they had a lot to do with aiding and abetting. Congress passes a law they don't like, and it's declared unconstitutional by the courts? Three cheers for the courts! Or – Congress passes a law they don't like, and it's ignored by the president? Three cheers for the president! Where is there any principle in all of this?
So... on this issue, Congress, the courts, and the media have long since been hopelessly compromised. The path is clear for the president to assume dictatorial powers, which really means that the path is clear for the Regime to assume dictatorial powers – not on a covert basis, which has always been the case, but right out in the open and in defiance of whatever is left of informed public opinion.
Just don't assume that “law-abiding citizens” have nothing to worry about, and that this is meant only for baddies. This was said about any number of laws in the past, but ordinary people have been ensnared nonetheless. And once you fall into the maw of the system, you become a commodity – just so much fodder. There are, truly, two parallel worlds in this country – the world of the “justice” system and the world of people who have managed to stay below radar so far. The problem is that it is becoming harder to stay below radar – and one reason is that it is becoming impossible to know, based on any sort of objective thought processes, what is legal and what is not.