Monday, March 11, 2013

Os três mitos Democratas contra o filibuster de Rand Paul

Three Democratic myths used to demean the Paul filibuster, por Glen Greenwald:

 In sum, virtually all of the claims made by these progressive commentators in opposition to Paul's filibuster are false. Moreover, last week's Senate drama, and the reaction to it by various factions, reveals several critical points about how US militarism and the secrecy that enables it are sustained. I was traveling last week on a speaking tour and thus watched all of it unfold without writing about it, so I want to highlight three key points from all of this, centered around myths propagated by Democrats to demean Paul's filibuster and the concerns raised by it (...)

Some progressives are unintentionally candid about their self-interest leading them to dismiss these issues on the ground that it doesn't affect people like themselves. "I can think of lots of things that might frighten me, but having a drone attack me in my bed tonight is not one of them", declared one white progressive at a large liberal blog in the course of attacking Paul's filibuster. Of course that's not a concern of hers: she's not in the groups who are so targeted, so therefore the issues are irrelevant to her. Other writers at large progressive blogs have similarly admitted that they care little about "civil liberties and a less bellicose foreign policy" because they instead are "primarily interested in the well-being of the American middle-class": ie, themselves. And, of course, the same is true of all the MSNBC hosts mocking Paul as paranoid: they are not the kind of people affected by the kinds of concerns they aggressively deride in order to defend their leader.

When you combine what Teju Cole describes as this selfish "empathy gap" among progressives with the authoritarian strain in American liberalism that worships political power and reveres political institutions (especially when their party controls them), it's unsurprising that they are so callous and dismissive of these issues (I'm not talking about those who pay little attention to these issues - there are lots of significant issues and one can only pay attention to a finite number - but rather those who affirmatively dismiss their significance or rationalize these policies). As Amy Goodman wrote in the Guardian: "Senator Paul's outrage with the president's claimed right to kill US citizens is entirely appropriate. That there is not more outrage at the thousands killed around the globe is shameful … and dangerous."

For a political faction that loves to depict itself as the champions of "empathy", and which reflexively accuses others of having their political beliefs shaped by self-interest, this is an ironic fact indeed. It's also the central dynamic driving the politics of these issues: the US government and media collaborate to keep the victims of these abuses largely invisible, so we rarely have to confront them, and on those rare occasions when we do, we can easily tell ourselves (false though the assurance is) that these abuses do not affect us and our families and it's therefore only "paranoia" that can explain why someone might care so much about them.


The primary means of mocking Paul's concerns was to deride the notion that Obama is about to unleash drone attacks and death squads on US soil aimed at Americans. But nobody, including Paul, suggested that was the case. To focus on that attack is an absurd strawman, a deliberate distraction from the real issues, a total irrelevancy. That's true for two primary reasons.

First, the reason this question matters so much - can the President target US citizens for assassination without due process on US soil? - is because it demonstrates just how radical the Obama administration's theories of executive power are. Once you embrace the premises of everything they do in this area - we are a Nation at War; the entire globe is the battlefield; the president is vested with the unchecked power to use force against anyone he accuses of involvement with Terrorism - then there is no cogent, coherent way to say that the president lacks the power to assassinate even US citizens on US soil. That conclusion is the necessary, logical outcome of the premises that have been embraced. That's why it is so vital to ask that.
To see how true that is, consider the fact that a US president - with very little backlash - has already asserted this very theory on US soil. In 2002, the US arrested a US citizen (Jose Padilla) on US soil (at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago), and then imprisoned him for the next three-and-a-half years in a military brig without charges of any kind. The theory was that the president has the power to declare anyone (including a US citizen) to be an "enemy combatant" and then punish him as such no matter where he is found (including US soil), even if they are not engaged in any violence at the time they are targeted (as was true for Padilla, who was simply walking unarmed through the airport). Once you accept this framework - that this is a War; the Globe is the Battlefield; and the Commander-in-Chief is the Decider - then the President can treat even US citizens on US soil (part of the battlefield) as "enemy combatants", and do anything he wants to them as such: imprison them without charges or order them killed.

Far from being "paranoid", this theory has already been asserted on US soil during the Bush presidency. It has been applied to US citizens by the Obama administration. It does not require "paranoia" to raise concerns about the inevitable logical outcome of these theories. Instead, it takes blind authoritarian faith in political leaders to believe that such a suggestion is so offensive and outlandish that merely to raise it is crazy. Once you embrace the US government's War on Terror framework, then there is no cogent legal argument for limiting the assassination power to foreign soil. If the Globe is a Battlefield, then that, by definition, obviously includes the US.


Defenders of the Obama administration now insist that this entire controversy has been resolved by a letter written to Paul by Attorney General Eric Holder, in which Holder wrote: "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no." Despite Paul's declaration of victory, this carefully crafted statement tells us almost nothing about the actual controversy.

As Law Professor Ryan Goodman wrote yesterday in the New York Times, "the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has acted with an overly broad definition of what it means to be engaged in combat." That phrase - "engaged in combat" - does not only include people who are engaged in violence at the time you detain or kill them. It includes a huge array of people who we would not normally think of, using common language, as being "engaged in combat".

Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a "combatant", that he was "engaged in combat", even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was "engaged in combat" at the time he was killed - and it clearly does - then Holder's letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.

The phrase "engaged in combat" has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of "enemy combatant" have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture.

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