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Wrong, wrong, wrong

I was going to write about Beyonce—how the attacks from Right Blogovia seem to have caused the denizens of Left Blogovia to rise to her defense, despite her celebrity persona being, one would think, very troubling and problematic from a feminist perspective. Because, you know, celebrities are interesting. And problematic. And because of our society and culture, women who are celebrities—women who craft or have crafted a celebrity persona—are always interesting and problematic.

And then I saw that Michael Isikoff and NBC news had announced that they had obtained a Justice Department memo [that] reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans. By legal, I should point out that they mean grossly and obscenely illegal. Nothing in there is surprising; everything is shocking.

Look—I make no bones about my support for Our Only President. He’s quite likely the best in my lifetime, and far better than anyone had a right to expect. This is the policy area where he most utterly departs from my own view—in my mind where he most utterly departs from moral sense. And where, I believe, he departs from Our Party’s basic ideas.

Actually, I think the past two Administrations have departed from their Party’s basic ideas on this matter. The Other Party believes, I would have said strongly, in the tremendous value of US Citizenship, in the exceptional nature of America and Americans, and in treating Citizens with distinction and preference, along with liberty and anti-tyranny and all that. And my Party believes, I would have said strongly, in open trials, in legal representation and the civil rights of the accused, and in, you know, not dropping bombs and shit. And having said that, I also think that this policy, this obscenely illegal and wrong policy, is in fact supported by a majority of the people, probably quite a large majority.

How does that happen? How does something like this—and I should be clear, we’re talking about murdering US citizens based entirely on the President’s approval—become widely popular while being so obviously counter to each Party’s ideas? How is the restraint that Parties bring to bear on other issues so totally loosened on this one? Those questions are rhetorical: I know how it happens. So do you. Our Congress, decades ago, ceded the War Power to the Executive because it wanted nothing to do with restraining our baser natures in this area. And we, culturally, allowed our baser natures to prevail. We cheer for the deaths of our enemies, and we mock anyone who insists that there is another way. A better way. Or at least… if there isn’t a better way, that the lack of a better way is a reason for sadness and regret.

So. I’m happy to see Left Blogovia is largely taking a moment to criticize Our Only President on this. I don’t want people to think that we out here support this policy. The way the policy goes away (maybe someday) is if it is not supported, not by us, not by the Other Party, not by our elected Representatives (and by the way, if you have an open seat and an upcoming primary, say f’r’ex for a special election for the US Senate, this is exactly the sort of thing where pressure before the primary pays off after the general), not at all. It shouldn’t be a tribal thing, though.

Beyonce? That should be a tribal thing, the instinct to defend whoever the other side is attacking. Right. Awesome. Plenty of time to criticize Mrs. Carter next week, when the other side has forgotten about it. But murder? I think murder is different.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I'm certainly in agreement with you about the illegality and immorality of murdering people, whether the murder is carried out by the U.S. government or a private individual and whether the murder weapon is a rocket-armed drone aircraft or a semi-automatic handgun.

But I think that the question you've asked about how this has happened should not be just a rhetorical question. Or, rather, the question of how this has happened is less important than the question of why this has happened. Myself, I don't find the answer to the of why a policy of assassinating American citizens abroad who are alleged to be involved in terrorist activities against the United States has become popular to be an easy one to answer.

So, American citizens hate or fear these alleged terrorists, and they agree that extra-judicial executions of them, with innocent bystanders or mistaken targets as collateral damage, is either necessary or appropriate.

In reaching this conclusion, have Americans simply allowed our "baser natures" to prevail? What are the moral and rational calculations involved in reaching this conclusion? Do people believe that these alleged enemies are a real and present danger to American lives and livelihoods? Are they justified in that belief? If these alleged enemies are a real and present danger, why is assassinating them necessary or appropriate? What are the alternatives? The alternative that I see mentioned most often is sending 100,000 troops overseas, and it is adverted that drone strikes are far preferable to undertaking large-scale military occupations of, say, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.

I confess to not having spent all that much time thinking about this whole matter, partly because it is so obviously wrong, and partly because I believe that its difference from the kinds of actions that the espionage forces of the Unites States have been engaging in for the last half century is only one of method, not of results. American citizens have, taken collectively, have generally either willfully ignored or actively condoned this sort of thing for a long time. (I'd describe myself as someone who has done no more than passively object, which doesn't amount to much.) So activities that are "obviously counter to both Parties' ideas" have been going on for generations with only a small minority of U.S. citizens actively objecting (as, notably, in the School of the Americas protests).

If we are going to ask why this consent has been given, I'd ask that we push farther than concluding that we have allowed our baser natures to prevail. Why have we allowed it, what sort of moral recognitions are required to lead us to rescind our permission, and what are the alternative approaches to dealing with the alleged threat of alleged terrorists? (I don't deny that there are real threats from real terrorists, but the reality of a given threat seldom receives legal affirmation by due judicial process before preemptive violence is authorized.)

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