Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons.
Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons.
How’s that morning coffee treating you? Nice and warming? Mmm.
While you’re savoring your cup o’ joe, imagine the president of the United States hunched over his own coffee, considering the murder of another American citizen. Now, if you were plotting to kill an American over coffee, you could end up in jail on a whole range of charges including—depending on the situation—terrorism. However, if the president’s doing the killing, it’s all nice and—let’s put those quote marks around it—“legal.” How do we know? We’re assured that the Justice Department tells him so. And that’s justice enough in post-constitutional America.
Through what seems to have been an Obama administration leak to the Associated Press, we recently learned that the president and his top officials believe a US citizen—name unknown to us out here—probably somewhere in the tribal backlands of Pakistan, is reputedly planning attacks against Americans abroad. As a result, the White House has, for the last several months, been considering whether or not to assassinate him by drone without trial or due process.
Supposedly, the one thing that’s held up sending in the drones is the administration’s desire to make sure the kill is “legal.” (Those quotes again.)
Last May, Obama gave a speech on the subject. It was, in part, a response to growing anger in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere over the CIA’s ongoing drone assassination campaigns with all their “collateral damage,” and to the White House’s reported “kill list.” In it, he insisted that any target of the drones must pose “a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” At the time, the White House also issued a fact sheet that stated: “Lethal force must only be used to prevent or stop attacks against US persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively.” While that sounds like a pretty imposing set of hurdles to leap, all of the “legal” criteria are determined in secret by the White House with advice from the Justice Department, but with no oversight or accountability.