Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Yes Sarah, there is a death panel

Like many people, I find this quite disturbing. I understand that the War on Terra provides certain (what shall I call them?), ah, conceptual challenges to our ordinarily largely thoughtless process of suspending morality in the service of war. In order to make war seem like a morally endowed realm, over the centuries people have developed rules.

For example, it's okay to kill people with projectiles or explosives, but not with poison gas. That seems utterly nonsensical to me but it's extremely important to some people who get quite passionate about the distinction. It's okay to attack a target knowing full well that non-combatant bystanders will be killed or maimed, but it's not okay to intend that they be the target. Again, the distinction largely escapes me, but it's important to some people. Within such constraints, it's fine to kill people, but if you happen to capture them, it's no longer okay. It's also not okay to torture prisoners, or otherwise treat them inhumanely, unless the perpetrator happens to be the United States. And, obviously, you can only kill or maim people using explosives or projectiles if they are combatants of a nation with which the country doing the killing is at war, or happen to be collateral damage of efforts to kill or maim said persons.

In the case of the War on Terra, we have, perhaps perforce, extended the definition of an entity with which we are at war beyond the nation state, but the U.S. has never declared war on Al Qaeda, nor the Taliban, nor is it clear who is and is not a member of either group. Al Qaeda, in particular, is not really an organization but just a label which various people and groups with various degrees of organization and coherence apply to themselves, or have applied to them by others. Osama bin Laden, who U.S. forces recently killed, was a citizen of Saudi Arabia (I believe they revoked his citizenship, leaving him stateless), with which we are not at war; and was killed in Pakistan, with which we are also not at war.

Anwar al Awlaki was a citizen of the United States, with which we are not at war, and was killed in Yemen, with which we are not at war. He also happened to be a citizen of the United States, and therefore constitutionally protected by the following language:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Plain enough. So it would seem that the president of the United States would be exceeding his authority by ordering that a United States citizen be killed, if said person had not been convicted pursuant to due process of law and sentenced to death. In fact the president would be a murderer.

As the Reuters article linked above explains, the president did not issue such an order. In order to "protect" him, such orders are first promulgated "committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval." All of this is done entirely in secret, without any possibility of judicial review. The president can object, but does not proactively order the person killed.

Evidently I'm supposed to trust these unidentified people to kill only people of whose death I would approve. But why should I? What if the president happened to be someone who appears on the same stage with Bryan Fischer, and agrees that the Bill of Rights does not apply to non-Christians, or homosexuals? Now that we have a functioning death panel, and it's evidently perfectly legal and requires no public justification or accountability of any sort, it's officially available to the next president. Not that I'm down with this one either, but just in case you are, I'm just sayin'.


Tom Spradlin said...

Yes, Michael, I am offended as well. Thanks for your post.

But we really don't have time for outrage. After all, it is the NFL season, and Dancing with the Stars is getting suspenseful.

Cervantes said...

Thanks Tom. For others who want to get personal with me, I use my middle name, call me Bart.

(Barton was my great-great grandmothers' lover's mother's maiden name. He was a friend of the family so they wanted to name my father after him but, as a proper Victorian gentleman, he was afraid there would be intimations of illegitimate descent. So he said, use my mother's maiden name, and I'll know you mean to honor me. True story. My grandmother was weird in general.)

xlpharmacy said...

it's totally true, you are right men in some cases kill people are totally justified, but when the case really warrant it, people say "poor no, don't kill it is a human being" LIARS!!!