I was gratified to read a copy of the e-mail from your office at Bruce Ross’ blog at the Record Searchlight over the week-end, in which you expressed your support for the spirit of Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster.
Like you, I am disturbed by executive overreach, by the suggestion that U.S. citizens could be targeted by weaponised drones not only abroad but in the United States. I welcome the attention that Senator Paul drew to the issue through his passionate speech in the Senate, and am sorry that more of his colleagues from both sides of the proverbial aisle had neither the desire nor the moral fibre to join him in calling attention to the issue and derailing the nomination of a very dangerous individual who, like many others in the past decade, has not been called to account for his crimes. This is particularly hypocritical of Democrats, who were quick to denounce similar moves undertaken by the Bush administration.
However, I am perplexed and disappointed that Senator Paul allowed himself to be satisfied and derailed by the administration’s response to the very narrow question of whether Americans can be killed on U.S. soil by drones. Senator Paul is reported as declaring himself “quite happy with the answer” (which was a straightforward “no”).
But there is much at stake that was not addressed by the administration’s response. The issue of the President’s assertion that war by drone is not really war, and therefore not subject to Congressional oversight, went unmentioned. As did the methods used by the U.S. in the wars it is currently fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and very likely elsewhere. Nor did the ethics of waging a war which is so easy to justify when the killings are all on one side of the equation. And the issue of the well-documented imprecision of weaponised drones went unremarked upon.
You wrote that “the debate over the use of drones on American soil is symbolic of the larger debate over the role and scope of our government”. I submit that the more important symbolism of the use of drones, on American soil and elsewhere, is rather in connection with the War on, of, and with Terror that the United States has been waging for upwards of 11 years now, a war which has cost the lives of North State residents, of thousands of U.S. military personnel, and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis, and Libyans, to reference just some of the places where our government has made war, in daylight, at dusk, and in the darkest hours of the night, unseen and unacknowledged by the public, and un-probed by our elected representatives.
On your facebook page, you shared a news piece related to Senator Paul’s filibuster, commenting on “a great effort to spotlight the ‘due process’ problem this Admin has”. I wonder whether you are equally disturbed by the “due process” problem this administration and its predecessor has had with the methods used in its prosecution of the war on terror. To that end, to better understand how you intend to move forward on this issue, broadly, I hope that you can share the following with voters in the North State:
1) Do you approve of the methods used by the Bush and Obama Administrations in the War of Terror? Namely, abduction, disappearance, extraordinary rendition, torture, assassination, wrongful imprisonment, murder, the maintenance of secret prisons and torture camps.
2) Do you support inciting warfare, and the waging of aggressive war? Next Wednesday, it will be exactly ten years since the U.S. launched a war of aggression against Iraq, a war which we knew now and then to be one incited by your Republican colleagues, based on deliberately-misleading intelligence, and on a manufactured connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. This war was carried out using methods and rationalisations which besmirched the reputation of our military and intelligences forces, the integrity of Congress, the probity of the media, and the honour of the presidency. 4,487 U.S. soldiers died, over 32,000 were injured, and between one and eight hundred thousand Iraqis were killed.
3) Do you believe that the United States, a country dedicated to republicanism, should cede its moral and political capital around the world by allowing itself to be drawn into support of authoritarian (Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain come most quickly to mind) or colonial (Israel springs to mind) regimes on grounds of combating “terrorists” who could often be as easily described as revolutionaries, pro-democracy activists, or local insurgents?
4) Having declared your intention to defend “liberty, due process and the Constitution” in the e-mail referenced above, do you support the contention of former-Vice President Dick Cheney who insisted that the United States, “also [has] to work through, sort of the dark side, if you will [and] to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective”?
5) Do you support the waging of an expansive “War on Terror”, and if so, can you identify in concrete terms who is the enemy in this “war”, what are our objectives, and how you best believe the U.S. can go about “winning” a war that is involving us in both open and secret conflict in South and Southeast Asia, North, West, and East Africa, and the Middle East?
I come from the opposite side of the political spectrum to yourself and Senator Rand Paul, but our President’s executive overreach, the casual manner in which we have waged aggressive war seemingly without purpose or prospective end in the last decade, the enormous numbers of deaths which have accrued to Americans and people around the world as a result, and the concomitant destruction of our moral reputation and of our commitment to civil and human rights make it very important to make common cause with those similarly disturbed on all sides of the political spectrum.
I genuinely hope that your support for Senator Paul can be the beginning of a concerted effort by Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated citizens (I count myself in this latter category) to stop these unjust, unnecessary, and brutal wars which have sapped our will, indebted our nation, taken the lives of many people, and inhibited our ability to live peaceful and prosperous lives.