by Achy Obejas (WBEZ91.5)
We used to be afraid that President George W. Bush, pushed by his nefarious warmongering VP and a Department of Justice that justified medieval tortures, was going to expand executive branch powers to such levels as to threaten the very balance and foundation of our democracy.
That’s why so many of us voted for Barack Obama — because we wanted somebody who was anti-war, who would close Guantanamo; somebody who knew and understood the Constitution not as some sacred sentimental Old Testament but as a covenant of fairness, with inviolable safeguards, between the governed and the government.
One of those safeguards has always been due process — the idea that individuals are protected by a process of law from arbitrary action by the state. In other words, that the government must follow its own laws. In the U.S. Constitution, it’s so important that it’s stated twice, in the 5th and 14th amendments.
Today, however, the media tells us that the president of the United States in the person of Barack Obama has now extended the power of his office to order the assassination of fellow citizens without a shred of due process.
Anwar al-Awlaki, whose death has been announced by media all over the world, was born in New Mexico and lived for years in the U.S. Sabir Khan, a second U.S. citizen, was also killed in the attack aimed at al-Awlaki.
But for all the talk about al-Awlaki being Al Qaeda’s English-language propaganda mastermind, he was never actually indicted on anything. Yes, he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, and to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who tried charged to blow up a Detroit-bound plane.
But there were no charges. Zero. Nada.
Instead of closing Guantanamo — the black hole of justice that has allowed the U.S. government to skirt its own Constitution by arguing that, because it’s in a foreign country, the base is not subject to U.S. law — President Obama has actually broadened the mandate that allowed it in the first place.
According to the Washington Post, “he has embraced the notion that the most effective way to kill or capture members of al-Qaeda and its affiliates is to work closely with foreign partners, including those that have feeble democracies, shoddy human rights records and weak accountability over the vast sums of money Washington is giving them to win their continued participation in these efforts.”
Since taking office, Obama has actually defended — in court! — Bush-era warrantless wiretapping and the torture and rendition of CIA prisoners.
Now this precedent — the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen without a single charge against him. The targeted killing of a U.S. citizen simply because the president of the United States has determined that the man is dangerous.
Now imagine that power in the hands of a future President Perry, or President Bachman…