President Speaks in the Shadow of Illegal Drone War

President Obama must address his administrations egregious position on the use of drones to murder United States citizens. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2013 – Presidents are human and it’s human nature to want to look on the positive and avoid the negative.  So it’s no surprise that President Obama’s State of the Union Address focused on the nation the way he wants it to be and on the goals and accomplishments of his administration, even if they’re pure fantasy.

Certainly he didn’t want to focus on his failed foreign policy, endless wars, disastrous economy, numerous scandals and general incompetence.  Perhaps more than anything else he didn’t want to draw attention to the kinds of mistakes which have come to define an administration whose apparent allegiances on the political left seem to be very far from liberalism and a lot closer to Stalinism.

Everything he said tonight seemed hollow in the context of more pressing issues of bad policy which needed to be addressed and were instead ignored, most of all  his administrations position on the use of drones to murder United States citizens.

When your White House spokesman has stated on your behalf that it is “legal, ethical and wise” to kill American citizens without due process of law on nothing more than suspicion of terrorism, that should really take everything else off the table.  When you go in front of Congress and the people you have an obligation to address such an outrageous claim.  Ideally, a repudiation of that position by the President would be the first imperative of the State of the Union address.  If President Obama does not have enough respect for the people or the rule of law to issue a repudiation and an apology, then at the very least a detailed explanation and defense of such an unconscionable policy would seem essential.

In the absence of a more coherent explanation of the pressing need for extrajudicial extermination of people he doesn’t like, we are left with nothing but the current justification that these measures are needed for little more than the convenience of government bureaucrats in the Department of Homeland Security.  Apparently with their army of lawyers and investigators, it’s too much of a challenge to assemble evidence, file charges and hold a hearing even when the lives of US citizens are at stake.  Perhaps they are too busy shredding copies of the Bill of Rights to take the time to do their jobs properly.

Without a compelling narrative of some immediate threat to the safety of the nation and its people, this broad policy of sanctioning assassination is unacceptable and likely illegal.  Beginning with President Ford in 1976 every president has issued an executive order banning the use of assassination.  President Obama has not issued an order reversing this long tradition. 

Even if you accept the dubious claim that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that started the War on Terror is still valid, US military law specifically limits killing to situations of military necessity or to protect lives, and forbids the targeting of civilians.  Further, under Article 1, Section 8.11 of the Constitution the authority to order an assassination or similar action is clearly reserved to Congress and not among the powers of the president.  These restrictions apply to foreign citizens and should be observed even more strictly when US citizens are involved, as they should also be protected by the right of habeas corpus and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights.

The state of the union is perilous and President Obama is one of the chief malefactors who has put it in peril.  He needs to be held accountable for the gross malfeasance of his administration and his own betrayal of his oath of office.  The drone issue is just the latest of a long series of civil liberties abuses by this administration, but it must be addressed and repudiated or there should be serious talk of impeachment.

Tonight President Obama talked about everything but the drone issue, sticking to happy talk about pie-in-the-sky projects which will never win Congressional support and which his bankrupt administration which hasn’t passed a budget in almost four years, certainly cannot pay for.  The more he talked the more I wished that our Congress would behave more like the British House of Commons and stand up and challenge a rogue chief executive. Someone needs to tell him to stop talking and start listening to the people.

For the moral health of the nation, the best thing that could have happened during the speech would have been for one of our more volatile representatives like Walter Jones or Louis Gohmert to break with tradition and call the President to account with a cry of “shame” from the floor during tonight’s speech.  Sadly our representatives are either too polite, or too conscious of their own complicity in these attacks on the rights of the people, to stick their necks out and challenge the tyrant.

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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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