A leaked Department of Justice memo recently reignited one of the most contentious issues in U.S. foreign policy — the use of unmanned drones to kill American citizens believed to be members of al-Qaida.
The administration’s argument for targeting citizens with deadly force rests on three main conditions.
First, the target must be a “senior operational leader” of either al-Qaida or an “associated force.” Second, a “high level” U.S. official must deem the target an “imminent threat.” Third, capture must be “unfeasible.”
The memo argues that these conditions adequately restrain the program, preventing any necessity of judicial oversight.
At first glance, these restrictions seem to represent a solid bulwark against misuse. However, upon delving into the arguments, these restrictions are stretched to the breaking point, allowing for such broad exemptions that one might wonder whether any potential drone strike would be preempted.
Perhaps the most vacuous argument is the limiting of citizen targets to those who pose an “imminent” threat. The memo gives an extraordinarily broad interpretation of imminence, noting that “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that specific attacks on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
If it was not so insidious, that argument would be satirical — asserting that there need not be evidence of an imminent threat for a target to be deemed an imminent threat.
The caveats on targeted killings of citizens are altogether too broad to pose any meaningful limits on the use of such controversial force. There are certainly situations in which drone strikes on American citizens may be necessary for national security. The the case of Anwar al-Awlaki is an excellent example.
However, the limits asserted in the memo are purposefully vague talking points to defend against criticism. Such vacuous rules yield a troubling conclusion, that the Obama administration is not doing its due diligence in policing its own drone policy.
President Obama has a legitimate responsibility to protect the country, but something as serious as killing citizens with drones should not be done in such a cavalier fashion.
I trust the president to make the right decisions in targeting citizens who are serious threats, but that is not the way government is supposed to work. Our drone policies cannot be left to such an ad-hoc, precarious structure.
The killing of American citizens must be subject to codified law and judicial review. Judging from this dated memo, that isn’t the case.
For the past six months, there has been a lot of vitriol about Joe Paterno. The question I have to all who are spitting vitriol is this: Where was it when it was found that a certain religious organization’s management did the same thing that Paterno did, which was to pass the buck?
All Paterno did was what any football coach would do, try to protect the program. What is the religious organization’s excuse?
Washington T. Ray
Pipeline to climate disaster
The president of the World Bank, a conservative, establishment organization, last month warned that “we need to get serious fast” to avoid a “climate catastrophe.”
James Hansen, considered our leading climatologist, has stated that the exploitation of tar sands “would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”
He went on to say that if certain other greenhouse gas emissions are phased out over the next few decades and unconventional fossil fuels are left in the ground, “it is conceivable to stabilize climate.”
Building the Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast would unlock the unconventional fuel of the Alberta tar sands project for full development. Fierce resistance from indigenous and other Canadian citizens has effectively prevented building of a proposed pipeline to the West Coast from Alberta.
Proposed shipping of tar sands bitumen to Asia from West Coast ports also is meeting opposition due to the risks posed to fragile bays and rivers.
Not building the Keystone XL pipeline is key to our climate future. On Sunday, many thousands of citizens will converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Forward On Climate Rally.
The purpose is to convince members of Congress and the president that, in this era of accelerating climate change, business-as-usual policies on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline are no longer acceptable and, in fact, directly threaten their constituents, the nation and future generations.
The climate threat is unmistakable, but solutions are available today, if we have the political will to utilize them.
If you are concerned about the climate future facing us, contact your members of Congress and the White House. To participate in this Rally, Google: “Forward On Climate.” Charter buses will be leaving from Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Build to last
I think that most people are aware that boring tunnels to solve our sewer problem is not a permanent fix.
Digging up the streets and building new storm sewers is.
These should not be the precast concrete sewer lines used today, but hand-laid brick sewers like some cities that are centuries old have. Sewers from the Roman Empire are still in use.
Let’s do it right first time around.
Drilling down for the good news
There is so much negative reporting in the Beacon Journal on the oil and gas drilling in Utica shale formations. I have to go to Canton and farther south to get good, truthful, positive reporting.
The new movie, FrackNation, has an investigative reporter telling all the good about oil and gas drilling. Hydraulic fracturing happens only at the end of the drilling process. This movie proves what the activists are saying and doing is wrong.
Most of the complainers are the ones who don’t get it. If activists want to protest, they should stop buying gas and oil and quit wearing all the items made from petroleum.
In drilling and construction, there are always some inconveniences and problems that come up, and they can be worked out. Our dependence on foreign oil may some day come to an end with all the good that is happening in the Marcellus and Utica shale.
The discovery of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing was the best, safest accomplishment that could happen in our country.
Ohio has a lot of good educational programs offered to people who want to learn the positive aspects of what is being accomplished by the oil and gas industry.
There are better, more positive ways the Beacon Journal could help people who own land over shale formations. We need to expose all the good gas and oil companies and their employees are doing for Ohio.
John Lewis and the right to vote
In recognition of Black History Month, I submit the name John Lewis, representative from Georgia’s 5th U.S. House District. Lewis is living history.
His story is richer and more powerful than most of the civil rights icons of the 1960s. In fact, when historian Howard Zinn was asked to tell the civil rights story, he chose to tell it through the eyes of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Lewis was one of its founders and presidents.
Lewis echoed the following words in Youngstown at the Board of Elections just prior to the re-election of the president: “The vote is precious and almost sacred and we can’t and must not let anyone keep us from exercising the right to vote.”
He often talks about the freedom rides, sit-ins and struggles that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
His most passionate story is the one he tells about ex-Klansman, Elwin Wilson. Years earlier, Wilson had beaten Lewis mercilessly at a Southern bus station. Lewis bears the visible scars of that beating today.
For years, Wilson couldn’t rest and felt great remorse. After he learned that Lewis had become a U.S. House member, he called to apologize. Today, the two are best friends.
Some people, and many of the younger politicians in Washington, still don’t understand. In the 1960s, when many of our youths were talking about Marxism and expressing a lot of divisive, militant rhetoric, Lewis was talking about nonviolence.
For half a century, this man has been in battle mode to create what he calls “that more perfect union.” Lewis knew way back then that the only sensible way to protect the individual’s rights was through the power of the vote.
What living African-American do you know today who was more instrumental in paving the road to the Barack Obama presidency?