Thursday, March 07, 2013


Political Mayhem Thursday: Rand Paul is Right

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has always been a favorite of the Razor, but up to this point that was pretty much because he is the man who brought us the Aqua-Buddha, back in his Noze Brother days at Baylor.

Now there is a new, and better reason to like him: His talking filibuster of the inevitable Senate confirmation of John Brennan as the new head of the CIA. Here's what I love about it:

First, he's gone old school and is doing a filibuster the right way, by talking aimlessly for days.

Second, he's got a good point. He is filibustering because Attorney General Eric Holder "refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the United States in “extraordinary circumstances” like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." Rand Paul correctly responded that "our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

What do you think?

Also, does anyone else think it is a little odd that pro wrestling figure Paul Bearer and Hugo Chavez died at the same time, and both were supposedly 58 years old? There is a certain surprising likeness...

A few random thoughts:

1. In re the Razor's previous coverage of Paul: it is always a great advantage to be dismissed and/or underestimated. It gives one just the right amount of room to grow and think and plan. This was a nice coming-out party for Paul. He has now arrived. He better watch out. He will never have the luxury of flying below the radar again.

2. On most days the Senate "talks on aimlessly." I assert that the rare (talking) filibuster days are probably the most productive and intellectual. Yesterday certainly was.

Three cheers for Rand Paul.

#StandwithRand #CourageCounts
This comment has been removed by the author.
I watched the filibuster for about an hour last night, and yah, felt kind of proud to be an American. It was beautiful.

Second, I agree that it is an issue worth filibustering over. Nothing could be more important, and I wish more Democrats would have joined him.

That said I have some questions and critiques.

First a couple honest questions.

1) What is the hang up on drones? Would we feel more comfortable if the missile came off a helicopter or a sniper set up shop in the apartment across the street (or a half mile away.) Of course not. So why the hang up on drones? Is it because they can loiter for hours or is this just raising an issue that should have been talked about a long time ago? Maybe we assassinated some soviet spies that were U.S. citizens and no one wanted to talk about it in a Cold War context? I don't know.

2)What is the deal with the American soil distinction? Should our rights be less secure on foreign soil? It almost seems hypocritical. As if the militaristic right is saying, (if you read between the lines) "We don't care if you kill Muslim-American's that go over there to fight. Those people are not real Americans like us. We just want to make sure our rights, and the rights of our right wing militia supporters are protected."

3) Lets talk about the Civil War, and other examples of American citizens supporting armed conflict against the United States. Notice I did not say waging armed conflict, that is an easy question. A U.S. citizen, whether in a Confederate uniform in 1862 or a German uniform in Europe in 1943, that person is going to get shot. I don't have a problem with that. But what about the shelling of any given city in the south during the Civil War. If we knew it was going to kill people that did not pose an imminent threat, was that illegal? I suppose not if there was no intent. But still.

Or suppose a duel U.S.-German citizen returned to the motherland during WWII, and suppose that person was an esteemed scientist working on the atomic bomb for the Germans. Could we assassinate them in Germany? In the United States when they returned home for their mothers funeral?

4)And that brings us to today. If a U.S. citizen is supporting terrorism, what then? Is it ok to treat them as an enemy combatant because Congress declared war on Al Qaeda? But what if the ties to Al Qaeda are tenuous? Or are non-existent because they are a domestic terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. What then?

At the end of the day I agree with Rand Paul, and in fact I would go further. I think U.S. citizens should maintain their rights at all times, on U.S. soil or not, unless they are an enemy combatant of an entity the U.S. has literally and legally declared war on, or they pose a truly immanent threat.

That said, I think we need to think through some things first. I really don't get the hang up on drones or the U.S. soil distinction.

For David Best:

1. As far as I can tell, Rand Paul is against live government snipers taking down American citizens without due process. I see no inconsistency on his position in that regard.

2. Probably more--but at least two considerations re American soil vs. international soil are access and jurisdiction. Presumably, we are killing "bad guys" with drones in Yemen because sending over law enforcement officers to arrest and apprehend suspected terrorists is just not practical.

3. By tradition, insurrection and espionage during war seems to be a different kettle of fish. Like you, and Rand Paul, I think, I would like a bit of clarification on this particular circumstance: our undeclared war against Al Quaeda.

In re your last paragraph, I think you found a bit more "between the lines" than I do--or, I suspect, even the "militaristic right" might have intended.
I don't think Paul is being inconsistent per se. I'm sure you are right, no one literally thinks drones are problamatic but something else is ok. It is the language and imagery and the timing. People's imaginations are in full gear. (Not that I blame them). Somehow this notion of a drone strike is just freaking people out, (which it should to some degree) but a missle strike from above is not actually a new possibility. (Though the ability to loiter and the safety of the pilot are of course new.)

People in cities, ghettos in particular are accustomed to helicopters overhead, (we called them gheto birds when I lived on the wrong side of the freeway in Pasadena) They were often poking their spotlights around in the middle of the night, ostensibly to catch bad guys, but possibly for other purposes as well. Who would ever know.
A point of clarification. I thought we officially and legally declared war against Al Qaida. Though I recognize that who Al Quaida is in 2013 is a bit of a challenge in some circumstances.

There is this: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists

But one can see it is a stretch to still be using it today, in as much as those directly responsible for planning or aiding the attack on 9.11 are few and far between these days, depending on how you want to interpret it.
Let's say that the government found out about Tim McVeigh while he was still testing bombs in Michigan. No doubt a potential terrorist with big plans. Is a drone strike to take him out justified?
Is a drone strike to take him out justified? No, not if there is no imminent threat.

The argument I am hearing for the overseas situation is that in many situations we could not arrest her if we wanted to. But when would that be the case in the United States?

David Koresh comes to mind. It would be interesting to know what the legal justification was there. Obviously tings got out of control, but what was the legal through process looking forward? I don't know enough about what really happened to have a strong opinion. But if the argument is that a drone strike may be appropriate in extraordinary circumstances, I'm having a hard time imaging when those circumstances would not include imminent danger. If there is imminent danger, as there was to the kids in the Koresh compound, then the use of a sniper, a tank, or a drone may be appropriate, if used under the typical rules of engagement for police that comply with established law.

If the danger is not imminent then what justification can there be for denying due process?
I would hope that the FBI and ATF would first try to get at a McVey type scenario first. But then their track record isn't so good - Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian's.

Location would also play into for me; is he set up in a warehouse in the middle of town (population) or presumably hidden on acreage trying to fly under the radar?

I do appreciate what Rand had to say - he was reasonable and he doesn't feel the current administration would just go randomly take someone out on American soil But there should be known "rules" if this option is to remain on the table. The technology exists and we should be aware of its' "appropriate" use(s).
And, to address the real issue and the question posed in this post:

The President of the United States should state simply and without equivocation: executing an American citizen on American soil without due process (who does not pose / is not posing an imminent threat) is unconstitutional.

Robert Baird, the great BU philosopher, was making the rounds a few years ago with this assertion:

Torture is an immoral act. There are compelling circumstances in which one can envision committing the immoral act of torture (e.g., if torturing one person might lead to the survival of millions), but the immoral act of torture would continue to be immoral. Whoever committed the immoral act of torture (no matter how justified in their own mind--or even in the eyes of the public or the law), would still have to face the consequences of his immoral act.

Killing an American citizen without due process is unconstitutional. We can all imagine circumstance in which said killing might be "justified" or "necessary" or a least bad of all bad choices. And, if a President ever finds himself in that position, he must make a decision based on law and morality and necessity, and he will need to accept the consequences of his action.
Well said WC. I agree completely.
The US Congress should proclaim that "the war on terror" which is now called "the war on Al Qaeda" is over. Assassinations, including by drones, would then not be an option.I agree with Steve Coll, who wrote in the New Yorker; "the empirical case for a corporeal thing called Al Qaeda looks increasingly threadbare. A war against a name is a war in name only".
Rand Paul, I don't think, is proposing that we end the war on terror which would take the legal right to assassinate our enemies away from this and future administrations. I think he was asking for the administration to take a `weapon ( drones) off the table in a time of war. He was asking the Attorney General to promise not to use drones against a potential combatant who is also a citizen and in the US.
I will join in the cheers for Senator Paul when he leads the country to end this war, ending all assassinations in the our name.

Waco Farmer seems to imply that we have a right, in another sovereign nation, to arrest or kill, without a trial, our enemies when it is in our interest. Would other countries have the same right?

I agree with Rand Paul but certainly not with his process. Dad

Actually, the Paul family comes about as close as mainstream national politicians are ever going to come to agreeing with Mr. Osler's assertion. Far be it from me to tell Mr. Osler for whom he should stand up and cheer, but Rand Paul did an heroic thing yesterday.

FTR, I did not imply that we have the right to kill our enemies in a sovereign nation on our own authority. That is a separate question, which is fraught with all kinds of ethical and intellectual land mines. Sounds like a good topic for a Political Thursday Mayhem one day.
RIP Percy Pringle, aka Paul Bearer. I always hated the Undertaker. He was terrible at putting people over, and all of his matches were boring, but Paul Bearer was one of the all-time great heel managers.

I thought yesterday's fillibuster was great theatre, and I agree with Paul's point. However, I have trouble taking any of this seriously when it is coming from someone named "Rand," which I'm pretty sure was the name of the preppy blonde kid in Goonies.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?