Drone Attacks Against US Citizens On US Soil

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US Senate confirmed, on Thursday, Obama’s nominee, John Brennan, the mastermind behind Obama’s drone attacks and kill list, to head the CIA. Four years ago, Obama shied away from nominating him for the position, due to his association with Bush’s policies of torture and rendition, but now, in his second term, the President seems less concerned about such issues. Now, in addition to continued torture in Guantanamo Bay and CIA kidnapping of opponents and rendition to countries for torturing, he openly maintains a “kill list” and continues drone attacks in several countries.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to make people who believe in the democratic and due process and peace concerned and frightened, there is a new discussion and admission by this Administration: that the US government has the authority to kill US citizens on US soil, if it thinks – rightly or not – that they’re  “engaged in combat”. Who decides and by what criteria or process that someone is “engaged in combat” is conveniently and purposely vague and undefined, which leads one to believe it would be the CIA or the military or the President or someone reporting to the president. This must make the future Dick Cheney’s of this country salivate in excitement. Already, the US military calls anyone it kills an “enemy combatant”, even if the killing was by mistake. It should not be hard to imagine the government chasing down and shooting hellfire missiles at US citizens who in a mass protest, the like of which we saw in Egypt and elsewhere, try to bring about real and meaningful change. Dr. Martin Luther King’s and Malcolm X’s of the future would not stand a chance.

None of these policy changes that not only affect foreign policy and issues of war and peace and international relations and laws and human rights, but also Americans’ civil and constitutional rights and freedoms and due process under law, is being debated and decided openly and democratically. There is no Congressional debate and vote on abandoning and violating the constitution; there is no public discourse or referendum that such fundamental changes would deserve. The CIA or the military or the President’s office suddenly and quietly acquiring such extra-judicial and extraordinary powers that tosses aside the judicial process of making an arrest, reading the person’s rights, charging him with a crime, trying him in a court of law with the right to a lawyer and competent defense and sentencing him if found guilty, and replacing it with the firing of a missile from a drone, operated from some secret military building and away from public’s view or knowledge, is not a small matter. Actually, what’s taking place is nothing short of a full-fledged coup.

Such quiet coups are done in stages, so as to evaluate the public’s reaction in each stage, to the degree that they’re allowed to know or find out about them. First, came the drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and elsewhere where suspected terrorists and their families were being targeted and killed with drones – solely on the suspicion of their association with Al Qaeda or being “engaged in combat” – and against international laws, and Americans said nothing. Then, came the assassination of US citizens overseas, and the American people said nothing. And now, they’ve floated the idea of assassinating US citizens on US soil, as Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 7 letter to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made clear. Should you be naive enough, you’d expect at least some kind of outcry from at least those news organizations that consider themselves liberal, such as New York Times or MSNBC, to such egregious overstepping of the Constitution and due process, but they too are mostly ignoring the gravity and ramifications of such changes.

But, even the “focus” and attention that the drone killings have received of late is troubling to the Pentagon and the White House. As reported by Reuters, today, U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan war, said in a statement that it will no longer include the data on drone attacks in its reports because it was “disproportionately focused” on the use of weapons by the remotely piloted aircraft. It’s hard to keep the killing of an entire family in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen a secret, but it doesn’t mean they won’t try.

The pattern should be clear to anyone paying attention. With the pretext of “war on terror”, the US military complex has been engaged in a two-pronged war: an endless war against its opponents overseas that has included several simultaneous wars for both regime change and for targeted killings of its opponents, and a war within the US against the constitutional and civil rights of the citizens and for gradually turning the country into a full fledged police state with the government having the right to indefinitely detain citizens without a charge or trial (NDAA signed into law on 31, December, 2011) and targeted killings with the use of drones, as floated by the Obama Administration. There is reason for all this and it’s not “war on terror”. That’s a fabrication and a red herring. Of course, if you attack and kill others, they will try to someone retaliate. “War on those who seek justice against US atrocities” would be much more appropriate and much more reflective of the reality than “war on terror”. The real reason they’re changing the rules and tossing aside the Constitution is because they’re anticipating riots and uprisings due to the economic crises and impasse capitalism is finding itself in. You don’t expect them to just lay down their weapons and say “okay you win, we lose”, do you?

This is the time to raise hell and resist against these attacks on the Constitution, on due process and our civil rights. The more we give up, the harder it’ll be to get them back and the harder to fight for social and economic justice. And, that’s the motivation behind the changes and turning the country into a police state: to make it hard to fight for and bring about real change.

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