The Stalinist in the White House
William Norman Grigg
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In the fashion
thrice refusing the crown even as he assumed dictatorial powers,
tyrants will occasionally engage in self-aggrandizement disguised
as self-deprecation. Barack Obama offered a moment of that kind
last week when, in
reply to a question about the budget sequester posed by a media
sycophant, he said, "I’m not a dictator."
serious, of course. He does consider himself a dictator, albeit
one whose term in office is limited, at least for now.
not lock the doors of the Oval Office and force Republican congressional
leaders to carry out budget negotiations, but – as his Attorney
General made clear in a
letter to Senator Rand Paul – he considers himself duly empowered
to carry out the summary execution of U.S. citizens on American
soil if he deems such action necessary.
his March 6 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Holder made it clear that the president he serves answers to nobody,
and is bound by no laws, in carrying out extra-judicial killings,
either within U.S. borders or beyond them. Expressing a point of
view familiar to students of Soviet Russia under the reign of Stalin,
Holder maintained that the purpose of the law is to prevent anybody
– whether an individual citizen, a judge, or a legislative body
– from restraining the exercise of presidential will.
believe Congress can pass a law prohibiting [the President] to use
lethal force on U.S. soil?" Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
asked Holder. If we still resided in something resembling a constitutional
republic, that question itself would be perverse: Congress wouldn’t
need to pass a law to prevent something that the law doesn’t authorize
the president to do.
as civil liberties activist Marcy Wheeler points out, Grassley’s
question wasn’t intended to suggest a general prohibition against
"targeted killings," but rather one that "would apply
only where a person did not present an imminent threat." In
other words, Grassley was willing to concede that the president
could order summary executions after addressing some trivial formalities
about the dire necessity of such action.
But even this
would be too restrictive, according to Holder.
sure that such a bill would be constitutional," he told Grassley.
"It might run contrary to the Article II powers that the President
has." In other words, Holder is claiming that the President,
as Commander-in-Chief of the military, can order the military (or,
presumably, the CIA) to carry out an extra-judicial execution of
a U.S. citizen on American soil – and Congress would be forbidden
by the Constitution (whatever that word means to Holder and his
ilk) from preventing such action.
of the military as a law enforcement agency is forbidden by the
Third Amendment and the Posse Commitatus Act. This means nothing
to the budding Stalinist occupying the Oval Office.
For the Obama-centric
Left, as it was for the Bush-centric Right, the U.S. President is
the "Living Constitution." His power is limited only by
the resources at his command, and the extent of his sadistic imagination.
Thomas Jefferson – in
an essay promoting what we are told is the subversive and un-American
doctrine of "interposition" – warned that "confidence
in men" is a "dangerous delusion" that is fatal to
liberty. Today, collectivists of the Right and Left insist that
this is true only on those occasions when power is exercised by
people associated with the other faction.
is an unfair and overbroad characterization. There are some prominent
figures who can abandon partisan attachments in defense of principle.
Regrettably, this usually means that party labels are discarded
in favor of an unabashed embrace of the non-partisan Warfare State,
and the principles being applied are entirely depraved. Witness
the fact that many conservative commentators, rather than condemning
Obama for assuming the powers of a literal dictator, have actually
applauded him. Among
them is John
Bolton, who represented the Bush administration in the United
Nations, who admits that Obama’s drone strike program "is consistent
with, and derived from, the Bush administration approach to the
war on terror." In Bolton’s opinion, the drone-killing program
is "entirely sensible."
of a Stalin-era Communist Party apparatchik, South Carolina
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham has
proposed a resolution applauding the administration’s drone-killing
program and urging all of his Republican colleagues to express
their support. Graham has explicitly commended the administration
for the summary execution of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was
murdered (no other word is suitable) by a drone strike in Yemen
without ever being charged with a crime. Graham hasn’t said whether
he considers the murder of Anwar’s 16-year-old son Abdelrahman to
be a similarly commendable act of statecraft.
still was the reaction of John Yoo, a former Bush-era Justice Department
functionary who now teaches law at the University of California-Berkeley.
Seven years before Eric Holder claimed that Congress has no authority
to rein in Obama’s power of discretionary killing, Yoo
breezily claimed that no law or treaty could prevent President Bush
from ordering the sexual mutilation of a child in order to extract
information from the victim’s parents.
employed a Wall Street Journal op-ed column to criticize
the Obama "white paper" that sets out the guidelines for
drone attacks – not because it gives unaccountable discretionary
killing power to the president and his subordinates, but because
it supposedly extends due process to "enemy combatants."
Yoo complains that the paper "suggests" that U.S. citizens
like Anwar al-Awlaki "enjoy due process rights. By doing so,
it dissipates the rights of the law-abiding at home."
Yoo’s concerns have been placated by Holder’s unflinching assertion
that the president has unqualified authority to murder Americans
anywhere, for any reason he deems suitable.
Angus King of Maine has proposed the institutionalization of
the drone program through creation of a
special court that would be modeled after the tribunal that
issues warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(or FISA). The FISA court, significantly, issues warrants after
surveillance has begun. In similar fashion, Senator Young’s proposed
court would review decisions to carry out drone strikes after the
missiles had flown and the targeted individual had been killed.
This proposal has been criticized by some congressional Republicans
– once again, not because it represents a concession to tyrannical
power, but rather because it supposedly inhibits the exercise of
that power, if only by acknowledging that the power is subject to
some form of independent scrutiny.
filibuster staged by Senator Paul – who, despite his plentiful
shortcomings, has proven that he has learned much from his heroic
father – no Senate Republican had rejected the Stalinist premise
that the President can order the summary execution of U.S. citizens.
What about the Professional Left – the people who, like then-Senator
Obama, were so agitated over the Bush administration’s crimes against
the Bill of Rights? They’re too busy debating such weighty matters
proper honorific by which to address the Dear Leader, or helping
Southern Poverty Law Center draw up "kill lists" of domestic
It took the
13-hour filibuster from Senator Rand Paul to wring this
terse statement from Attorney General Eric Holder:
come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question:
`Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone
to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The
answer to that question is no."
Like all statements
from people who presume to rule others, this brief message from
Holder – who is Nickolai
Krylenko to Obama’s Josef Stalin – should be read in terms of
the supposed authority claimed thereby. This means removing useless
qualifiers in the interest of clarity.
is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have
the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is
engaged in "combat," whether here or abroad. "Combat"
can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance
against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed
by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy
of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old
Under the rules
of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan,
"military-age" male found within a targeted "kill
zone" is likewise designated a "combatant," albeit
usually after the fact. This is a murderous application of the "Texas
Sharpshooter Fallacy," and it will be used when – not if – Obama
or a successor starts conducting domestic drone-killing operations.
a carefully qualified question in order to justify a narrowly tailored
answer that reserves an expansive claim of executive power to authorize
summary executions by the president. That’s how totalitarians operate.
a week ago, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted
that Washington would maintain its embargo of Cuba because the regime
ruling that island continues to be a "state sponsor of terrorism."
Unlike the Regime for which Nuland speaks, the Cuban government
doesn’t occupy a foot of foreign territory, nor does it use robot
aircraft to rain death from the skies on neighborhoods halfway around
its 2011 human rights report on Cuba, the agency that issues
Nuland’s paycheck described its government as a "totalitarian
state" ruled by a military hierarchy that routinely commits
criminal violence against the innocent. All of that is true, of
course. Interestingly, the document admitted that in 2011, "There
were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary
or unlawful killings." The same cannot be said of the Regime
that employs Nuland, which in the same year murdered hundreds of
people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Among those "arbitrary
[and] unlawful killings" were the summary executions of at
least three U.S. citizens, including – let us never forget – one
involving a 16-year-old boy. And now the chief law enforcement officer
of the Obama Regime insists that the "law" would forbid
Congress to restrain the Dear Leader from carrying out the extra-judicial
killings of U.S. citizens.
true that Cuba remains mired in poverty and still lives under the
reign of a thoroughly despicable ruling clique, we really must confront
By what standard
is the government of Cuba totalitarian, if the Regime in Washington
is not, at least in principle?
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2013 William Norman Grigg
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