Imagining a Legal Basis for Obama's Overseas Assassinations

by Michael S. Rozeff
Feb. 07, 2013

Obama and his minions speak with forked tongue, when they bother to speak at all in justification of their heinous deeds. Secrecy in government operations is a ground for impeachment in my book, especially when it attempts to conceal evil operations. Obama kept secret his drone assassinations as long as he could, and likewise he has kept secret the so-called "legal" opinions that are supposed to justify killing people in foreign lands, including U.S. citizens if he determines that they are an imminent threat.  We only find out about these matters through leaks. This is badly malfunctioning government. It's malfeasance in office.

Thanks to someone who has reservations about Obama's murders and leaked it, we have a copy of a secret legal opinion that is supposed to lay out the conditions under which such presidentially-directed murders are legal. And, by the way, Obama has a secret body of assassins to execute those whom he designates. I mean that its operations are secret, and its accountability to the general public is nil. Government without public accountability is not proper government and cannot possibly be proper government. It takes on the character of a rogue or criminal enterprise.

This heretofore secret document imagines a legal basis for Obama's overseas assassinations. Imagine is not quite the right word. It fantasizes such a basis. It makes it up by stringing together words that are supposed to make a plausible case. On inspection, however, this case collapses. It is rather like setting a wall on what is supposed to be concrete, but actually is pudding.

The supposed rationale in this document goes like this. First, the Congress authorized the use of military force against al-Qa'ida. Let's stop right there. The resolution that Congress passed says this:

"(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Congress didn't even bother to identify who it was that planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, 2001. It didn't bother to declare a war. It couldn't if it didn't know who the enemy was and didn't identify them. Instead it authorized the President to make war against anyone he wants to based on his "determination". The Congress essentially divested itself of its power to make and declare war and vested it in the President. Of course, this is unconstitutional, but that didn't stop them from doing it anyway.

The President is supposedly given a power that he does not have constitutionally, which is to decide (determine) unilaterally who the people are who are responsible for 9/11/2001. The President gets to decide whom to make war against, and that's clearly unconstitutional, since only Congress may declare war. The President after that determination is also authorized to use force against them so that they won't do it again.

It should be obvious that no one person and no one branch in government should have the power both to determine enemies of war, which is a facet of declaring war against them, and also have the power to prosecute such a war. That's almost dictatorial power, lacking only the critical step of being able to finance that war. Congress still passes spending bills, but the President has ways of inducing Congress to fund his warfare.

Given those major flaws in this resolution, notice that it envisions retaliation against people who had a hand in the 9/11/2001 attacks. It doesn't authorize drone warfare in a dozen different countries. It doesn't authorize killing people who have had no connection with 9/11 or only a very remote connection.

We know that the al-Qa'ida of 2001 is long gone, whatever its role may or may not have been regarding 9/11. The government at times has said this. Today, all kinds of persons and groups can use or not use this term, and so can Obama in order to claim a connection with 9/11. But this is 2013 and 11 full years have passed since 9/11 occurred. Blowing up people in 2013 because they are said to be in al-Qa'ida and had something to do with 9/11 cannot possibly be rationalized under the authorization that Congress so hastily and irresponsibly passed in 2001.

But that is what the secret counsels of Obama say. They claim that the United States is in armed conflict with al-Qa'ida. This is false. Obama can label whatever people he wants as terrorists, via his unilateral determination, and he can also label such terrorists as belonging to al-Qa'ida, but these verbal gymnastics have no connection, meaning or relevance with respect to what occurred on 9/11. And they have no relevance under the Congressional resolution which was aimed at those unidentified persons who perpetrated 9/11.

The secret counsels claim that Obama can legally use force against this version of al-Qa'ida in that Congress has authorized the use of such force. This is nonsense. The people that Obama is killing today didn't perpetrate 9/11.

The legal opinion, such as it is, provided to Obama in this White Paper goes on to say that if Obama determines that if in a foreign country -- any foreign country -- Obama unilaterally determines that a person or persons "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States," then he may have them killed, be they United States citizens or not. This, it asserts, is consistent with "national self-defense".

Once again, we have lawyers who are saying that a President has the unilateral power to identify an enemy and then attack that enemy anywhere in the world. Congress has nothing to say about it, having divested itself unconstitutionally of one of the most major powers that the Constitution specifically vested in Congress, so that it cannot be divested by the supreme law of the land. Or so it was supposed to be.

When, if ever, has there been any imminent threat of violent attack against the continental United States from any of the hundreds who have been killed by drone attacks? Or by the hundreds of innocent women and children who have been slaughtered? We have seen George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, a crew of their neoconservative associates, and many others of many political persuasions who, at best, thought wrongly that Iraq posed an "imminent threat", and at worst were outright liars. We have seen the same with respect to Iran for decades on end. No one who looks at these matters in the cold light of day can say that some small bands of armed men who have various political-religious axes to grind in a variety of foreign nations pose imminent threats of violent attack against America. This is fantasy. It is wild imagining. The assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen, Somali, Afghanistan, and in contested regions elsewhere have nothing to do with al-Qa'ida or the Congressional resolution. They have to do with U.S. interests and U.S. foreign policy, using drone warfare where Obama thinks that such warfare advances these interests and this policy. This is far, far from being war made against imminent threats of violent attack on Americans.

Within this administration, there are finally some voices who have made known their opinion that this presidential warfare, constantly growing in scope, and having no known legal limits at this time, is imbuing new minds and new recruits with the entirely reasonable idea of ridding their lands of occupiers and attackers from the United States, some of whom who will be willing to die in that effort and some who will entertain the hazardous tasks of visiting what destruction they can upon the continental United States. Such a pragmatic view is welcome, but it is also too limited in respect of the problems with presidential killings, and I have not attempted to mention them all in this blog. I am here sticking to only a few questions that came to mind when I began to read this despicable White Paper and its fabricated rationales.

I brushed over the fact that Obama claims the legal power to identify American citizens and kill them, if he thinks they pose an imminent threat and if he thinks they cannot be apprehended in any other way. This is Waco and Ruby Ridge writ large. What, not even a show trial?? Even Stalin had show trials after brainwashing and torturing people. The U.S. just locks you up in Guantanamo or some domestic prison and throws away the key. If Obama says you are an imminent threat, after "determining" that it's so, by some secret arcane methods not subject to public knowledge, inspection or review, then you are a goner. If he can kill you, he certainly can be generous and let you live locked up in some prison somewhere incommunicado. Allowing Obama the power to kill implies that he can imprison and torture, because these are lesser violent incursions on a person than killing them.

These things are by no means being done wholesale, not yet. But given an apparatus for killing, we can fully expect that this bureaucracy will want to grow. It will come up with longer and longer kill lists. Imprisonment without trial will then logically be a corollary said to be less harsh!

The United States government is a disaster that should be dismantled. In my adult years since I turned 21 in 1962, there has been no president that, each in his own ways, has not been a disaster for this country. This has been made possible because of the structure of government in America. The next revolution should not be a violent one. It should involve no guns. It should focus instead simply on ending the Union, scrapping the Constitution, and scrapping the United States government that it is associated with. This should be the main goal of political striving, in my opinion. The Russians got rid of the USSR. Can we not get rid of the USA?

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