This is an important piece by a fellow named Glenn Greenwald, who Google tells me is a well-educated man who writes about politics. Here is the gist of it:
For the last four years, Barack Obama has not only asserted, but aggressively exercised, the power to target for execution anyone he wants, including US citizens, anywhere in the world. He has vigorously resisted not only legal limits on this assassination power, but even efforts to bring some minimal transparency to the execution orders he issues.
This claimed power has resulted in four straight years of air bombings in multiple Muslim countries in which no war has been declared – using drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs – ending the lives of more than 2,500 people, almost always far away from any actual battlefield. They are typically targeted while riding in cars, at work, at home, and while even rescuing or attending funerals for others whom Obama has targeted. A substantial portion of those whom he has killed – at the very least – have been civilians, including dozens of children.
Worse still, his administration has worked to ensure that this power is subject to the fewest constraints possible. This was accomplished first by advocating the vague, sweeping Bush/Cheney interpretation of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – whereby the President can target not only the groups which perpetrated the 9/11 attack (as the AUMF provides) but also those he claims are “associated” which such groups, and can target not only members of such groups (as the AUMF states) but also individuals he claims provide “substantial support” to those groups. Obama then entrenched these broad theories by signing into law the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which permanently codified those Bush/Cheney interpretation of these war powers.
To be clear, the headline and the partisan sniping in Greenwald’s piece aren’t why I think it is important. I am largely unaffected by those elements since we’re talking about a president riffing on and tailoring powers invented by the previous administration.
What does affect me is the U.S. government’s ever-escalating reliance on violence in general and killing from a distance in particular as a preferred means of “solving” problems. The discussion of party only matters to me because it clarifies what I believe strongly: neither party has the moral high ground on this issue.
I mention this because as I watch many around me gravitate toward progressivism and, most often, Democratic candidates in a sincere effort to find a kinder, gentler political home, I observe an alarming lack of nuance in acknowledging or understanding what Greenwald describes: that the Obama administration has hardly been dovish.
I mention this because as I watch many around me continue to link arms with Republican candidates because of their heartfelt passion for protecting and preserving human life, I’m stunned at how little real conversation there is (to offer one example) about the 150,000 civilian deaths in two wars started by a Republican administration.
I’m not after a debate about the virtues or lack thereof of either party, and I’m sincerely asking that the focus of any comments be on the remainder of my words, not on defending the side you identify with most closely. I understand most who have chosen a side in some fashion are quite persuaded of their choice, and it is not my goal to dissuade you. I mention parties only to explain that I observe our government and much of the country – inclusive of both parties – to now accept, some more actively than others, a way of violence that I personally do not accept. I wish to poke at that – not at the parties themselves.
I am of the scandalously unAmerican opinion that much of what we call technological progress has made killing so convenient that it almost demands we make “good” use of it. We are led by the machinery as it offers ever-simpler, cleaner solutions to our human dilemmas. It is not surprising, then, that political and legal lines will be redrawn to rationalize this lack of principle. It would all be very handy if the price – our collective soul – wasn’t so steep. The charade of moral superiority in the world has a limited lifespan, and we aren’t too many drones away from finding out what it is.
I’ve not made a secret of my very limited expectation of any human government, even the most well-intentioned. Yet even I have hope that we might at some point demand that our leaders – who are elected under the guise of defending “liberty and justice for all” – rediscover enough conscience and humanity to put a stop to this foolish downward spiral. We cannot win by matching evil-doers blow for blow, however tempting or satisfying that might seem. Somehow, some way, some day, we must find the soul to believe that evil can be overcome only by good and muster the imagination and courage to invest ourselves in that endeavor.