Thursday, June 7, 2012
To kill or Not to kill
I’m a lists person. I like having all of the things I need to do in one central location, preferably organized by priority and function. Over time my lists have evolved from bits of paper to post-it notes to legal pages to digital manifestations in various calendars and reminder systems. My thoughtful remembrance of a particular event for somebody has more to do with my electronic support system than a steel trap memory. I’m not alone in my lists – I have a friend who makes a list of the lists he has to make! President’s have their lists too…Nixon had his Enemies List. Carter personally scheduled White Hosue tennis tee times. And now Obama has his kill list.
The President of the United States of America personally oversees the kill list – taking nominations from advisors to add to it. Then he decides which one on the list will actually be eliminated. “He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for fifteen months has authorized killings of people he calls "terrorists." Since the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising last year Syria has been one of the few countries whose leader hasn’t fallen. The significant criticism against Assad and his regime is that they massacre and kill people without the benefit of due process.
"All options with regard to Syria are being discussed," U.S. press secretary Jay Carney said this week. It seems rather ironic (being generous and diplomatic) that President Obama is threatening Assad for doing the same thing he does – though on a grander scale (for now). Both authorize the killing of others without any due process or explanation. One is considered a despot, the other the leader of the free world.
George W. Bush was rightly criticized for his ‘cowboy’ foreign policy attitude. The rhetoric of “bring ‘em back dead or alive” seems almost quaint compared to his successor. Barak Obama has taken Bush’s policies to their next iteration. I fear for what’s next – under Obama II or Romney. For those who shun this ‘slippery slope’ argument, we only need to look back to the assassination of Osama bin Laden (5/1/2011) to see how far we’ve slide and how quickly. At the time the world was assured this was an extraordinary circumstance. A year later there’s a kill list that's actively used.
What legal authority – let alone what moral authority – has given one person the right to unilaterally order the execution of another, including his own citizens? There is none. “We’re at war” is the knee-jerk response...except that Congress has not authorized a war (as it required under the Constitution) since 1942. And, frankly, even if War had been declared no law gives the Commander in Chief unilateral authority to personally choose who gets killed. This week the world took a moment and rightfully honor and celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth of England. It’s been centuries since a monarch ordered anybody’s head off.
To kill or not to kill isn’t actually the question. The question is why the citizens of America, let alone of the world, have given Barak Obama a pass on this issue. Where is the outrage that the Presidency has become akin to the Boss in the Mafia? I can only imagine the hue and cry if George W. Bush was secretly choosing who gets to live and who gets to die in a non-declared war. Or do we as a people, as a species, just not care? Many issues will be vetted through this eternal election season. It’s up to us to make sure this is one of them.