Whose Kill List? Romney’s Or Obama’s?

October 30, 2012 • Commentary
This article appeared on Cato​.org on October 30, 2012.

I write this very shortly before we know who our next president will be. But an explosive Oct. 23 investigative report by the Washington Post’s Greg Miller explains how President Barack Obama’s administration may sharply upend our laws and values for years ahead:

“Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next‐​generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’ ” (“Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists,” Washington Post, Oct. 23).

Though it is a program of the Obama administration, former Gov. Mitt Romney, as I shall demonstrate, already agrees with a vital part of its essence.

A number of substantial news analysts, led by Glenn Greenwald, are following up on Miller’s revelation. For example, Greenwald points out that Miller, after interviewing “ ‘current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies,’ ” comes to the significant conclusion that, as “ ‘the United States’ conventional wars are winding down,’ the Obama administration ‘expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years’ ” (“Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent,” guardian​.co​.uk, Oct. 24).

But Greenwald digs deeper: “The ‘capture’ part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the U.S. focus is overwhelmingly on the ‘kill’ part.”

Keep in mind the ever‐​increasing use of CIA pilotless drone killings of suspected terrorists and their families who come to bury them.

The Post’s Miller writes of a further sign of the deaths to come (without any of the corpses having first appeared in our courts): “CIA Director David H. Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones.”

When Petraeus was the head of the Multi‐​National Force in Iraq, I admiringly reported his having strongly commanded the troops that torture and any other brutal disregard of our values were forbidden. But now he is part of implementing this model for the next generation of kill lists.

And what does Mitt Romney think about this approach to terminally disposing of purported terrorists by ignoring our Constitution’s due process, presumption of innocence and insistence on justice?

As I have reported, Romney is on the record as supporting, among other suspensions of our Constitution, the National Defense Authorization Act, championed by President Obama, that empowers the military to imprison, without a warrant and probable cause, American citizens somehow alleged to be partnered with terrorists (“Cheney Side of Romney on Torture et al.” Oct. 17).

Then, during the last presidential debate, when moderator Bob Schieffer asked him, “What is your position on the use of drones?” Romney unhesitatingly answered:

“Well, I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who are a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.”

Moreover, you can find the views of prospective target‐​killing commander in chief Romney in “Five Specific Questions Journalists Should Ask About the Drone Strike Policy” (Robert Naiman, huff​in​g​ton​post​.com, Oct. 26).

Even if none of those people have a chance to be shown any of the government’s evidence of the deadly charges against them in our courts.

So, as I said at the start, it may make no difference who is about to be celebrated as the president. Either way, he will have helped create an infamous place in world history for America as a nation of the most coldly insatiable official target‐​killers.

Whether these will be Obama or Romney “kill lists,” how many Americans will be sufficiently moved — now that the secret is out — to assemble and act against this international genocide by their country?

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, is ready:

“Tragic mistakes have been made, hundreds of civilian bystanders have died, and our government has even killed a 16‐​year‐​old U.S. citizen without acknowledging, let alone explaining, his death. A bureaucratized paramilitary killing program that targets people far from any battlefield is not just unlawful, it will create more enemies than it kills” (“ACLU Comment on Targeted Killing ‘Disposition Matrix,’ ” aclu​.org, Oct. 24).

On Oct. 24, Glenn Greenwald gave an additional update of where we are now on the Guardian’s website: “Today, reports CNN, ‘missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people — including one woman’ and added: ‘the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.’

“Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the U.S. killing of 16‐​year‐​old American Abdulrahman Awlaki, killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground(s) that he ‘should have (had) a far more responsible father.’ ”

Just a prelude to countless “due‐​process‐​free assassinations — something the U.S. government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life” (Greenwald, guardian​.co​.uk, Oct. 24).

Don’t you think you ought to warn your grandchildren about the kind of country they’ll be part of?

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