Wednesday, March 13, 2013
There are actually people, in the blogosphere, on Facebook, and on Twitter, who argue--with a straight face--that the Constitution (specifically the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to due process before execution) doesn't apply if acting in accordance with it and following its directives might be risky, dangerous, inconvenient, or politically inopportune.
The Constitution exists precisely for such circumstances, as opposed to just those times when upholding the cause of justice is a simple, straightforward, innoxious exercise. Period, full stop.
Yes, there is plenty of danger inherent in sending armed forces into another country to try to capture, and bring to justice, an American citizen suspected of crimes. And it is pretty well laid out in the Fifth Amendment that when the United States is at war with a country, American armed forces, military and navy, may--in accordance with the rule of law--do what is necessary to defend the nation.
And furthermore, who could argue that flying into Pakistan, under that country's radar and without its permission, and attempting a capture-or-kill of the leading and most-wanted terrorist of our time--Osama Bin Laden--was not fraught with risk and dangerous in the extreme?
Bin Laden was not even an American citizen, yet the children living with and around him were spared, as we were repeatedly reminded by the media in the days that followed. A cynic might call that politically opportune.
But the droning continues elsewhere, in the villages and homes and hideouts of terrorists less well-known and headline-worthy. Innocents live there too, but they aren't as lucky as the ones who slept under Bin Laden's roof.
To drone apologists and the various incarnations of "all's fair in love and war" they keep repeating, I say this: We are not at war with Yemen.
Nor are we at war with Pakistan.
In the case of targeting an American citizen, living abroad, for execution, why is it regarded as "whining", "puristic", or "naïve" to call out these crimes against humanity and the law itself for what they are? How can a thinking, moral person be fully satisfied that a suspect's right to due process isn't being abridged when he is summarily executed--blown to bits--without having been afforded the basic rights that are constitutionally guaranteed to citizens, whether here or abroad? Denied the rights to confront his accusers and make a case for his own defense even, or to simply stand in front of a judge and state how evil this country is--or indeed to say nothing whatsoever, but to at least be given the chance to do so instead of having that choice--to speak or not speak--made for him, and done so brutally, antiseptically, irreversibly, and with concurrent harm to others?
And even if one were thus satisfied (and I am emphatically not), one cannot deny that the United States has been sending missile-loaded drones into that which our government deems "enemy territory" but which, while very likely serving as home and refuge to suspected terrorists, happens to be home to countless innocents, too. Ordinary families, that is, with their children, their animals, their homes, their places of worship, and even their emergency personnel--those brave souls we call "first responders", the people who rush to the scene when an explosion occurs in order to offer aid. All killed, by either the first explosion, or by the followup bombing, as happens in the execrable "double-strike" attacks, which wipe out any stragglers and even neatly take care the first responders--the medical personnel--whose life's work it is to attempt to save lives, not extinguish them.
All these people are killed along with the terrorist suspects.
They are not merely the unintended damage occasioned by war, because, again, the United States is not at war with their country. They are not, Heaven help me, collateral damage. (What a hideous euphemism that is.)
They are rows upon rows of sooty-faced children: always motionless but for any still-flowing blood; often with bits of their skulls missing. Children who are no less innocent--and no less beloved by parents, family, and friends--than the white, middle-class victims of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut for whom President Obama, and countless others, publicly shed tears.
And I can't countenance any of this. Neither the wanton disregard for the rule of law, nor the wanton disregard for innocent human life--wherever it exists, and whatever its nationality, faith, or skin color.
Posted by Deborah Newell at 3:59 PM