FEBRUARY 8, 2013 9:32PM

U.S. Slouching to Dictatorship

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No one is safe from assassination by the American President, including American citizens -- ANYWHERE on the globe.

The American President and his small cabal of operatives are immune from any oversight and accountability of said assassinations.

Thus sayeth the American President and his small cabal of lawyers of the Department of Justice and their “secret memos” paralleling the memos of the last American President’s and the assumption of the executive right to detain and torture ANYONE at will.

This American President didn’t seek this right. He assumed it.  He just had an American citizen assassinated, incinerated by a drone. Well, three American citizens, actually. Then his lawyers in the DOJ hustled to write up secret memos to make it psuedo-legal after the fact. It is not legal. It is not ethical.

So what does one of the heretofore secret psuedo-legal memos claim? As quoted from Bill Van Auken in wsws, the American President (according to one of these memos a/k/a "a white paper" leaked last Monday to the media) “can” target an individual who is an “operational leader of Al Qaeda or an associated force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack and whose capture is not feasible.”

So much to be outraged by.

Let’s start off asking what is an “associated force” that would be murder-able according to this? Any group or individual hostile to the United States in the eyes of the American President whether he, she or they are Al-Qaeda -- or not even close. Once again, no immunity and no accountability after the fact. If the American President or his over-empowered minions have determined “hostile one or ones" murder-able, then it is a done deal. Excruciating annihilation by drone.

Again, no questions to be required thereafter which THEY also have determined.

Dictatorial? Abso-friggen-lutely.

The aforementioned leaked Department of Justice Office Legal Council memo was given last summer, Van Auken reveals, to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees “on condition that its contents be kept secret from the American public.” Isn’t that troubling?

It was prepared to psuedo-justify the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in a September 2011 drone strike. Samir Khan, also a naturalized American citizen, was killed in that same missile attack. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, born in Denver, was murdered by a drone strike two weeks later, also in Yemen. A country we are not at war with.

Van Auken re assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki:

In the case of al-Awlaki, no evidence was ever presented that he played an “operational” role in al-Qaeda, and experts on Yemen dispute this description. What is clear from the rest of the conditions, however, is that once the US president or his underlings make such a designation—without presenting charges, much less proving them—assassination is “lawful” according to the Justice Department.

Last week Jay Carney, Obama spokesman, was questioned about the memo. Carney readily defended the entire drone killing program, insisting drone killings “are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.” Van Auken reveals that conservative estimates claim nearly 5,000 men, women and children around the globe have been killed by them.

Van Auken quotes Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU on the memo:

“This is a chilling document. Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killings of an American citizen ... It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

The memo was “leaked” at the same time 11 U.S. senators (ONLY 11???) -- 8 Democrats and 3 Republicans -- were demanding the administration provide Congress with their heretofore “secret” legal opinions supporting “the President’s authority to deliberately kill American citizens.”

Van Auken:

In both its criminal content and its pseudo-legalistic tone, the white paper resembles nothing so much as the so-called “torture memos” that were drafted under Bush and released by the Obama administration in April 2009 in what it claimed at the time was the inauguration of a new era of “transparency and openness.”

The administration has defended those responsible for torture and other crimes ever since, while establishing the tightest reign of secrecy in American history. As the summary of the assassination memo make clear, the criminality that existed under Bush has escalated sharply under his successor.


The white paper argues that Authorization of the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in September 2001 justifies assassinations and drone strikes anywhere on the planet. It recycles the claims made by the Bush administration that the entire world is a battlefield in the war on terror.

Among the sources cited in support of this contention are speeches given by Nixon administration officials in defense of the 1970 invasion of Cambodia. That Nixon’s Cambodia policy was subsequently an article in his impeachment apparently doesn’t faze Obama and his underlings.

The document asserts that there “exists no appropriate judicial forum” to consider whether presidentially ordered assassinations of US citizens raises constitutional issues. Any court review, either before or after the killings, it states, would improperly interfere with “specific tactical judgment” of the president and “officials responsible for operations.”

The rest of the paper consists largely of assertions that the extra-judicial executions of US citizens by means of drone strikes violate neither the US Constitution, nor the US ban on assassinations, nor international law and cannot be construed as war crimes. Much like the torture memos drafted a decade ago, these claims are meant to reassure those following the criminal orders of the White House.

What is spelled out here is a presidency which has arrogated to itself the “right” to act as judge, jury and executioner in carrying out secret assassinations of American citizens as well many thousands of other human beings around the globe. The overturning of any limitations on this power of life and death lays the groundwork for a police-state dictatorship.

Yeah, let’s give away our fifth amendment right of due process to nice personality Obama a/k/a Murderer-in-Chief whose evil policies have trumped dramatically George Bush’s, which we all know is saying a profound lot.

Let’s watch Obama who campaigned so hard on "change" bring us to full-out dictatorship.

[cross-posted on correntewire] 

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The attitude of "it's easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission" doesn't even cover it- it's an attitude of "I'll do whatever i want and you can't stop me." ( Mankind has called me to transform America - mankind in the form of my corporate cronies)

At the risk of invoking Godwin's law- there's a reason people study History- to avoid repeating it.
there was a long period of time when i thought americans were capable of democracy. many states had it and tended to be more successful. surely they merely had to look to, notably california, these states and discover that initiative and recall lowered administrative costs, good schools attracted high value knowledge industries, good public health lowered business costs.

nope. when you're dumb and ignorant, you stick with what you know, which is 'let the politicians rule, they know best.' besides, that democracy leads to 'mob rule' which leads to socialism which leads to race mixing. never underestimate racial bigotry in discussing american politics.

so the executive branch is usurping the powers of congress, large numbers of congress are so crooked that their oversight is worse than useless, and a very large proportion of americans are quite content at an authoritarian government because they have a henchman's character: find the strong man, do what he wants, catch the spare change he throws you.

democracy is not just beyond the range of the henchcreatures. 'progressives' don't want it either. all they want is that their masters be 'nice.' hard to say which sort is more of an obstacle.
Rudy -- yes, it totally is about: "I'll do whatever i want and you can't stop me." one more prez with stunning arrested development relishing and helping to expand the massive and saturated criminality of the matrix! What should be considered impeachable has most Americans ho-humming. Clearly, we need to drain the swamps of all three branches. Criminal cronyism abounds. It is horrifying!!!

al -- both Obama's and the drones' popularity are apparently up. it boggles the mind. WTF??? this country, so incredibly much of it, is lost to authoritarian rule. it is lost to "exceptionalism", to collective narcissism, to over-identifying with the oppressors, a Stockholm Syndrome on steroids. Yet, there are many who are awake and with conscience, but they are ignored by the government, the media and their fellow country people. Still, that is where my hope is. There are more than we realize and hopefully more and more people will wake up and get courage and get "it". Watching the soft fascism harden faster and faster is excruciating but I do feel some hope in the courage and clarity of courageous and moral people. We have to play it where it lays, and "it" lays in a gigantic amoral cesspool at the moment.

note to commenter I deleted. differing opinions welcome. nasty name-calling not!
The democratic political system was theoretically created so that a politician seeking and sustaining office was responsible to the people who put him or her into office and therefor the politician was theoretically sensitive to the needs and the opinions of his voters. Currently, it is monstrously expensive to go through the process of becoming elected and therefor a politician must have the funds to do so or respond to those who can donate that funding. Therefor the politicians, and that includes both congressional and executive members of government, and also the judicial sector selected by the elected sector, must respond, not to public needs and desires, but to those who can donate funds for an election. Until those who control public media are forced to legally donate free time for public exposure necessary for people running for office, elected politicians will continue to respond only to those who will guarantee their hold on their office, not the public need. The US government will remain solidly and totally corrupt until this basic is remedied. And since those now in office are the only ones capable of making this change, the prospects for accomplishing this change remains negligible.
All very true, Libby, and I agree with you and al loomis that, to a large degree, things are this way because the population is content with our state of affairs and, in many cases, it's even enthusiastic about the drone killings and other such outrages. My own theory is that the US is actually much worse than other dictatorships of the past, because at least in those the government ruled using censorship and outright oppression. There's not much censorship, let alone open oppression in the US, information on all of this is available at the click of a computer key, i.e. it's pretty much all happening out in the open with the public's consent. This can only mean that our sheeple are completely satisfied with our way of doing things and nothing is likely to change any time soon. Sure, it's fine for us to keep complaining on OS and elsewhere, but we'd be foolish to ignore that overused Pogo quote: "We have met the enemy, and..."

more from Van Auken re Brennan hearing:


"Contained in this statement is the tacit recognition that the rights enumerated in the US Constitution, including the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that no one “shall be deprived of life … without due process,” have been turned into a dead letter.

"Wyden went on to ask for clarification as to whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. Brennan’s response omitted any assurance that American citizens will not be secretly murdered on US soil.

"Instead, he cryptically asserted his determination to “optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.” Neither Wyden nor anyone else on the Senate committee attempted to probe further.

"With this chilling exchange, the threat of a US police state dictatorship comes clearly into view. Brennan will not disavow the president’s “right” to secretly murder US citizens on American soil, because such methods may prove necessary, ostensibly for the struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security.”

"After all, they proved to be so in other countries. Obama and Brennan did not invent the methods of secret “kill lists” and covert assassinations. They were employed on an industrial scale less than four decades ago in the Chile of General Augusto Pinochet and the Argentina of General Jorge Videla.

"There, military and intelligence officials, most of them trained in the US, drew up kill lists of tens of thousands of their own citizens and carried out their assassinations. They also acted in the name of a struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security,” but had the real aim of crushing the resistance of the working class.

"Workers, students, peasants, intellectuals and anyone perceived to be a potential enemy of the state were rounded up by death squads, tortured and killed in secret prisons or thrown alive from airplanes into the sea. Like Mr. Brennan, the officials of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships refused to acknowledge any role in these state killings, leaving their victims to be counted among the “disappeared.”

"Those comforting themselves with the old adage, “It can’t happen here,” should think again. The lurch to the right by the entire American political establishment and its irrevocable break with the democratic principles enunciated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very far advanced.

"Less than 40 years ago, a special Senate committee headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church did grill top CIA officials on covert assassinations, denouncing the agency for the practice and introducing a law against it. Even Republican President Gerald Ford was compelled to declare that his administration “does not condone under any circumstances any assassination attempts,” and to “condemn any CIA involvement” in “assassination planning.”

"While no doubt the US government and its spy agency continued to carry out crimes in subsequent years, support for bourgeois democratic forms of rule within the political establishment remained sufficiently strong to force the government to officially reject assassination as state policy.

"Just four years ago, Brennan’s involvement as a top CIA official under the Bush administration in the crimes of torture, extraordinary rendition and secret CIA “black sites” made it impossible for Obama to nominate him as CIA director. Now, not only are those crimes forgiven, but the even more serious ones involved in the drone assassination program go unchallenged.

"We have already seen in the past few years anti-terror laws invoked against domestic protesters and dissidents, from the arrest of five men last May in Chicago on “conspiracy to commit terrorism” charges for their involvement in anti-NATO protests, to the revelation that the FBI carried out a nationwide investigation treating the Occupy Wall Street protests as “domestic terrorism.”
Jan, as I read your comment I think of the people I implored to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party. "But I haven't heard of her" they challenged me. "That is because the corporate media doesn't want you to know about her because she could turn money in politics around, end corporate wars, get healthcare for all, get jobs back." But because she wasn't known, she wasn't trustworthy to vote for ironically because people were expecting corporate media sponsored by the sociopathic corporations whom people should not trust to endorse her and if they didn't she was nothing! We need to have a tipping point of public consciousness -- connecting the dots that the corporate media is not our friend and is the mouthpiece of sociopathic corporations. Hello!!! best, libby
Alan, so well and astutely said. The boiled frogs obtuseness of the people is so profound. The Stockholm Syndrome, the learned helplessness, the incredible passivity. Even with Brennan. 4 years ago he couldn't have become CIA head. Now Americans are okay with him and what he is doing beyond torture and detention, now drone murdering. best, libby
i sure aint no 'associated force'. i aint a 'joiner'.
i suppose i am safe from summary execution by the Prez.
i mean, i say only nice things about him & his wife and the
lovely daughters. and i always mention biden,mad dog

i am safe.

(dont tell the Prez that i read Jan Sand's comment and agreed)
(please! i dont want a drone overhead messing up my head)
If I believed that airplanes flew into the Twin Towers because of a down draught caused by global warming, I might seriously consider your wasted vote for--what's her name again?--and question my premise that the war on terrorism is a bit more important than mandatory green energy policies. I assume the fact that 99% of the public agree with my premise is, I further assume, of no consequence to you.
Of dicks and dicktaters...... There certainly are many of both in the monstrosity of corporate control and the majority. I think it's hilarious that ignorance finds solace in its overwhelming majority. I seem to remember that 90+% of people found solace in that the majority supported slavery as well. And, 90+% of people found solace that the majority supported the oppression of women before the suffrage movement. And, 90+% of people found solace in the majority supported the oppression of minorities before the civil rights movement. In fact, I suppose the majority has always found solace in the conformity of their ignorance and acceptance of evil and injustice. They are very adept at using statistics and faux intellectualism to rationalize every injustice imaginable. Including murder.

Given society or social values have never been any measurement or litmus test of truth or justice, and that only human values that have an intent of human decency or compassion or similarly derived divine values ever represent any form of truth, I find solace in being part of the small minority who are able to recognize evil and to stand to account.

Or, as Soviet dissident and goulag survivor Natan Sharansky said in his memoirs, it takes courage to recognize evil. You know, like the 2% who resisted the tyranny of a king, the 2% who resisted slavery, the 2% who resisted the ignorance and violence of ethnic and gender violence, bigotry and hatred.

The path to human dignity and justice is always the path least traveled. But, the rewards granted by aspirations of virtue, empathy and human dignity means I never have to rationalize who I am. I never have to rationalize why I sold my soul to the "devil" or to evil of any kind.

And that means I am truly free. No one can ever take that away from me.
Multiple the wrongs subtract apathy and jingoism and you still can't come up with anything in the US Constitution that authorizes, justifies or in anyway enables the President or anyone else the legal authority to execute an American citizen without due process in open court. That doesn't mean it hasn't been done before Obama decided to escalate the drone war. When the federal judge who ruled on this said she'd been swept down the rabbit hole with all the warp and woof of post 9-11 congressional passage of new federal law, she wasn't kidding. That doesn't mean that any of it's legal - SCOTUS will have the final say on that question. In the meantime, Obama and his lawyers must have been smoking special something to come up with this piece of BS!