Sunday, March 10, 2013

If Only Rand Paul Would Use His Filibuster Powers For Good Instead Of Evil

This week Kentucky Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul decided to have a thirteen hour, one-man circle jerk filibuster on the Senate floor in opposition of the nomination of John Brennan as the next CIA director until he got assurances from the White House that drones would not be used to target US citizens on US soil, you know because it's happening almost daily on our streets already.

This all stems from the targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born expatriate who repeatedly called for jihad against the United States, had ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers, Fort Hood shooter Nadal Malik Hasan, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and was elevated to regional commader in Al-Qaeda. Yes, the same Al-Qaeda which we are supposedly involved in a war against. Not what I would call a model US citizen, that al-Awlaki. Yet all these politicians are getting the vapors over this particular drone strike targeting someone that clearly was an enemy of the US, but since he was a US citizen the logical conclusion is that clearly it can happen here on American soil, even though it's never happened. And why would that be? Enter Rand Paul.

Paul sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to ask if the Obama Administration thought it was legal to use drones against American citizens on American soil. Holder responded with the following:

"As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.” 
The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.” 
“For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.
So, the answer: It's never happened, we have no intention of making it happen but hypothetically under the most extreme circumstances, it's possible. And the only thing Rand Paul focused on (as well as a lot of the media - you know, because controversy du jour) is the "it's possible" part to begin his fist shaking (and fundraising opportunity) outrage.

As David von Ebers writes, no one was worried about "the possibility" of military strikes on US soil under extreme circumstances when we were under attack.
"...the fact that the Bush Administration sent military aircraft – both armed and unarmed – into the skies on September 11 surprised exactly no one. As events were unfolding, and before anyone knew exactly who was responsible for the attacks, the President and the military were prepared to use lethal force to stop planes from hitting additional targets, even if it meant killing innocent American passengers, and regardless of the nationality or citizenship of the hijackers. 
If you paid any attention to the news coverage at the time, you knew this. And I suspect, like me, you didn’t object to it in the least. As much as I abhor nearly everything George W. Bush did as president, I can’t fault him or his military leaders for making that awful decision. What other choice did they have? If they’d had the opportunity to shoot down even one of those planes, they might have saved the lives of thousands of other innocent people. It’s an awful choice to have to make, but we expect presidents to make extraordinarily difficult choices in extraordinarily difficult circumstances... 
...Atty. Gen. Holder told Sen. Paul that the Obama Administration would do exactly what the Bush Administration attempted to do on September 11, 2001, in identical circumstances. Now I’m old and my memory is imperfect (although I did remember, quite clearly, that the Bush Administration scrambled fighter jets on 9/11), but try as I might to wrack my middle-aged brain, I recall exactly no controversy – as in none, zip, zero, nada – absolutely no controversy whatsoever following the Bush Administration’s attempt to use lethal military force that day. 
So you can understand my confusion. This is not a case where the Bush Administration expanded the powers of the presidency and the Obama Administration followed suit; instead, this is a situation where Pres. Bush’s actions were met with no controversy at the time because they were not controversial. What Pres. Bush did on 9/11 – ordering fighter pilots to take to the air, to shoot down hijacked airliners if necessary – appeared to everyone at the time to be right in the presidential wheelhouse, legally and constitutionally. Awful, yes. Illegal? Of course not."

Now, don't misunderstand. I think the usage of drones and who orders them and where are important issues. I think that their usage puts the US' moral creditability on the line (if we have any left to begin with). But it makes absolutely no difference to me whether the target is a US citizen or not. 

All these politicians wetting their diapers over the drone debate have framed the issue as a hypothetical attack on an American citizen, and the hypocrisy is astounding. What about those brown people we've been vaporizing "over there" with the drone program that we all knew about? Fuck them, what do we care about killing innocent civilians in a foreign land? Collateral damage. Wrong place, wrong time. Besides, they're probably jihad loving mooslims anyway, right?

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen and therefore and deserved a fair trial? But those 160 guys imprisoned in Guantanamo for years without benefit of trial - fuck those guys. And so says the rest of the Senate with their continual votes not to fund the closing of Gitmo. The only thing for which Rand Paul should be given credit is for actually using the filibuster as it was intended (instead of placing a cowardly, anonymous hold on a vote) even though all it amounted to was free publicity and some campaign cash as intended.

So Rand Paul, and Tea Party wingnut Ted Cruz and Poland Spring spokesman Marco Rubio who took the opportunity to ride Paul's coattails in the latest search for the 2016 spotlight, please spare me the crocodile tears of Constitutional rights on one drone terrorist target who also happened to be an American citizen. Until Congress sets trials for everyone in detention centers like Gitmo, they should just shut their cake holes.


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