“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
I want to like Barack Obama. I really do, but his speech yesterday left me conflicted, confused and concerned. (Apologies to Johnnie Cochran – RIP)
He talks about the need for a free and open press and the essential nature of the rule of law, and that’s fine. I’m with him all the way and think he’s going strong, but then he turns on a dime and continues to advocate using drones to launch attacks on other people’s soil, and maybe setting up some kind of approval process permitting him to extend the use of drone warfare even further. Isn’t sending in a drone to kill people an act of war? Doesn’t he need congressional approval for that? Approval, I mean, beyond the current and apparently ongoing approval the Congress set up (Authorization for The Use of Military Force Against Terrorists), which may or may not be slippery-slope material for a constitutional lawyer who still might think that only the Congress can declare war? And that it should be, um….you know, kind of….ah…official, rather than an ongoing implication that Mr. Obama can go so far but no further? And how far is that? Does the U.S. Congress believe that undeclared acts of war are okay? How about nuclear force? Where does the Constitution say anything about that? These things continue to bother me, but I’m no constitutional attorney, so it’s probably way over my head.
I can’t even begin to get into the rule of law and freedom of the press as it does or does not apply to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains under the threat of deportation (on what appear to be dubious charges) to Sweden if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, while most of the world believes the Swedes are merely partaking in legal role-playing on behalf of the United States, which wants to prosecute Assange, irrespective of any First Amendment rights that might come into play after he released material which embarrassed the U.S. Government. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t get into it, and then I did. So I lied. So I should be a politician. Anyway, what could any of this have to do with Memorial Day? Hang on, I’m getting there.
If our system is, as was so elegantly described by Mr. Lincoln, as being, “…of, by, and for the people,” then shouldn’t “We the people” be able to understand it? I can’t remember who it was that said “If you can’t write your idea on a 3 by 5 inch notecard, then you don’t have a clear idea.” Maybe that should be a new law governing the actions of Congress? If they can’t get a proposal on a notecard, then they can’t submit it?
Doesn’t the rule of law work, only when applied equally to all? And isn’t there a danger in thinking that only the United States can conduct drone attacks on foreign soil? In conducting those attacks, isn’t the U.S. opening the door for others to do the same thing to us? Isn’t that why the more “civilized” nations have agreed to avoid chemical and biological warfare? And doesn’t the ongoing Congressional approval for “rendition” and holding enemies on foreign soil without trial, and the ability of the U.S. military to kidnap American citizens on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without due process, isn’t this a problem for a President who talks about the rule of law?
In fairness, Mr. Obama, has been prevented from closing Gitmo by a cowering Congress. He has also called for the repeal of the Authorization For the Use of Military Force, and a return to habeas corpus, which is legaleze for what once was our right to have a court hearing following an arrest or in this case, military detainment. Wait a minute. If the military can detain Americans on American soil then aren’t we under a state of martial law? Who made that declaration and when was it made?
At the very least, it appears Mr. Obama, is trying. Or is he? To what degree is he a front man, taking orders from the power structure?
I feel like I’m starting to sound like a conspiratorial nutjob, except that nothing I’ve written here is untrue. A lot of it should be, and would be, if my country hadn’t changed so radically over the past dozen years, setting aside civil liberties and conducting air-strikes and invasions without official declarations of war from a Congress that keeps ducking for political cover. Who are we? What the hell are we really all about? I want to like Mr. Obama, I really do, but maybe it’s time to get back to some basics?
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy your barbecue. While you do, try and remember that this is supposed to be dedicated to those who died fighting to preserve our liberties. Most of us have lost family and friends in defense of the nation. That’s what this is supposed to be about, not just a three-day holiday and marketing opportunity for mattress manufacturers and beer distributors. Liberty. It’s about those who gave their lives to preserve liberty.
Perhaps we should also be thinking about Dr. Franklin’s assertion that it is inherently wrong-headed to think it’s okay to exchange our civil liberties and the rule of law for “a little temporary safety.”
Oh, and one last thing. My senators are Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. My congressman is Brad Sherman. Should I suddenly disappear, please ask them to send official inquiries to both the White House and the Pentagon, with regard to my possible whereabouts and legal status.