Idolizing Absolute Power: Assassination Bloodlust

From today’s Counterpunch

Assassination Bloodlust
Idolizing Absolute Power


The Christian Science Monitor published a piece I wrote last month wrote opposing allowing the U.S. government to kill Americans without a warrant, trial, or any judicial niceties. The article, Assassination Nation: Are there any limits on President Obama’s license to kill?,” spurred a torrent of feedback on that vividly illustrates how some Americans now view absolute power.

Some folks believed that opposing “extrajudicial killings” should be a capital offense. My article mentioned an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit pressuring the Obama administration “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” “Will R.” was indignant: “We need to send Bovard and the ACLU to Iran. You shoot traders and the ACLU are a bunch of traders.” (I’m not aware that the ACLU is engaged in either interstate or international commerce). “Jeff” took the high ground: “Hopefully there will soon be enough to add James Bovard to the [targeted killing] list.” Another commenter – self-labeled as “Idiot Savant” – saw a grand opportunity: “Now if we can only convince [Obama] to use this [assassination] authority on the media, who have done more harm than any single terror target could ever dream of…”

Many folks feared that any restrictions on U.S. government killing could be fatal. As “Rogmac” groused: “You guys who are against killing these guys are going to be the death of all of us.” Other commenters started from the self-evident truth that, as “Bert” declared, “In the best interest of the United Sates and it’s citizen’s, someone has to be the judge, jury and executioner.” This theory of government differs significantly from that proffered in the Federalist Papers. “Rich” was sure everything had been done properly: “The warrants have already been signed, the execution orders have all been approved now we just need to find them and eradicate them.” Having a president approve his own execution orders is more efficient than the procedures used by the U.S. government in earlier times. “Coder Cable” joined the pro-power parade: “In a time of war, the military (ie: President) is allowed to execute anyone for the crime of treason, assuming there is strong evidence to backup the claim.”

This was practically the only pro-assassination comment that referred to a standard of evidence. The question of whether government officials can be trusted to arbitrarily label Americans as enemies did not arise. Instead, most commenters favored “faith-based killings,” blindly accepting the assertions of any political appointee as the ultimate evidence. “Dark Ruby Moon” wrote: “I won’t loose a minutes sleep over these people being eliminated…. One of the reasons presidential elections are so important is we are picking someone who must make such difficult decisions and who is in the end accountable for those decisions.” Perhaps future presidential races will feature campaign promises such as “Vote for Smith – he won’t have you killed unless all his top advisers agree you deserve to die”?

Commenter “FU” played the race card: “James bovard, I don’t think the killing started with Obama but I wonder if you would write the same article if the cowboy from Texas was pulling the trigger? Or is it that you are angry because the existence of plantations run with blacks are done in this country and Obama managed to become president? We would all be better off if bigots like you stopped writing crap.” Bigotry is the only reason to oppose permitting a black president to kill Americans of all races and ethnicities.

For “Rocketman1945,” the fact that I opposed unlimited presidential power proved I was a foreigner: “WOW! You can sure tell what side of the political spectrum this article came from. Not one word of support for the currant American President. Who are these people that write this drivel? Not Americans that’s for sure.”

The newspaper won few fans on Yahoo for publishing that piece. “Zaria” said it was no surprise that an article that was “all nonesense” came from the Monitor. “Nomadd” denounced the Monitor as a “socialist rag” that should be “put in supermarket checkout lines.” Perhaps “Nomadd” assumed that only left-wingers had anything to fear from this new power. (I never saw socialist rags in grocery checkout lines, except maybe at the Boston Food Co-op).

Unfortunately, the primary difference between some assassination advocates and Washington apologists for targeted killing is that the latter use spellcheckers. For both groups, “due process” is an anachronism – if not a terrorist ploy. And for both groups, boundless groveling to the Commander-in-Chief is the new trademark of a good American. Anything less is national suicide.

James Bovard is a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books.


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9 Responses to Idolizing Absolute Power: Assassination Bloodlust

  1. elissar008 June 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    That’s always been a goal of the flagrant use of illegal power. Seeing it used, and seeing no consequences hardens people to it–normalizes it.

    This, I think, was always one goal in maintaining Gitmo: to show people around the world that if you opposed American policy with any real efficacy, we can make you disappear, torture you (or have you tortured) and keep you in a cage, for years if not forever.

    All I could do was sigh and mutter a curse bitterly after reading this. There are an alarming amount of fascists in America these days.

  2. alpowolf June 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    America is increasingly infected with people who are cowards who never learned to spel gud. The gubmint skools have done their evil work well.

  3. Tome Blantoon June 30, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    all traders is gilty of traisin and they are a ensult to paytreodic amarikins in amarika

  4. Black Bloke July 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Your critics seem to know nothing about you, and they’re proud of it.

  5. Jim July 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    My hunch is that most people who enjoy commenting on the web are careful to avoid eyestrain caused by doing excessive research.

  6. Brian Wilson July 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    When your critic’s comments are reduced to ad hominems, it confirms he has run out of intellectual ammunintion and his brain just went “click”.

  7. Jim Bovard July 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    And the “click” was not the sound of the Spellchecker switching on.

  8. steve July 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I would be curious to see what kind of comments one would receive from an article calling for a significant expansion of presidential power. Something ridiculous like a 6 month grant of Dictatorship following a crisis like the Romans used to do.

    Meanwhile, I will just console myself with the potentially mistaken belief that these guys are just self-selecting.

  9. Jim July 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    There would probably be a lot of complaints about the dictatorship being limited to 6 months.