Saturday, May 14, 2011

The death of Bin Laden and the rule of law: letters from John Dunn, Fred Dallmayr, KP Fabian and Butch Montoya

Since the killing of Osama Bin Laden – an act of justice or self-defense on behalf of many peoples, as Obama said - there has been a chance at the beginnings of reconsideration of murderous and futile American policies. This targeted operation directed against a real mass murderer reveals, as I underlined here and here, the emptiness of the drone attacks from Creech Air Force Base in New Mexico, slaughtering innocents in Pakisan, which the Democratic think-tank "experts" pressed on Obama. New drone attacks slaughtered 17 at a memorial for Bin Laden last weekend (even children can commit the crime of attending a memorial), and another drone attack took out a 12 year old girl two days ago, according to the AP. Glenn Greenwald is right that American state terror is pressed by the ridiculous Democratic think-tank “experts” – the neo-neo cons – who cry out for war, as their ticket to "face-time" on CNN according to Leslie Gelb. They insisted that Obama had to “look like” a President given the mad baying of the Republican war mongers, even though he murdered mostly civilians and not Bin Laden or even the Pakistani taliban (5 civilians for every Taliban killed, according to a neo-con think tank). This self-destructive. reactionary two-step of American politics(out and over the abyss and down…) is likely to be further unleashed and motivated by Obama’s triumph. See here. It is why I emphasized in the last two posts and elsewhere that mass nonviolent civil disobedience will bring the elite to heal, as in Cairo and Madison, but very little else.

With Cheney and Bush, America became increasingly a police state (it does not yet operate simply as one against protest; yet its slippery legal interpretations and governmental practices require a mere expansion to make it a fullfledged police state). That administration tortured the American citizen Jose Padilla, and now Obama has gone them it better: last weekend, he tried to murder the American citizen and Coldorado State University (Fort Collins) grad Anwar Al-Awlaki. No American court has considered Awlaki’s “crimes.” He is in Yemen, not on the field of battle. For the executive to declare an American citizen an enemy combatant and murder him, without a trial, is tyranny. Thus, extend the case of Bin Laden to any other case, as Obama immediately did, and one soon has an all-powerful government acting widely as a tyrant.

Bin Laden could not bring down the rule of law in the United States; Bush-Cheney and in this respect, Obama could.

Among Presidents, Obama is an unusually competently lethal as the Bin Laden assassination showed, and he may have some significant evidence against Awlaki. But what he is doing is, as Marta Soler emphasized, already a non-starter, and one has but to review the other candidates – if one is too rosy-eyed about Obama – to see that he is at best extending tyranny, leaving a blue-print for an enlarged police state, and in Orwellian terms – his bidding of Americans to "look to the future, not the past" – pardoned torture without allowing apprehension of the criminals or trial.

Further, Obama only stopped torturing Bardley Manning, because Obama supporters who had paid to be at a San Franciso fundraiser, disrupted it with protest. He embarrassingly (especially for a lawyer and a teacher of constitutional law) said Manning was “guilty” (he had been charged after only many months of torture, after a significant breaking of his personality, and has not yet been brought before a court of law). Still, under protest and only under protest, Obama backed off. That underlines the point that only mass civil disobedience can force Obama or the Democrats to do the right thing. Andrew Sullivan hopes that having taken out Bin Laden and moved away from torture (sort of), Obama will now deescalate in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. He might (though there are still 127,000 troops in Iraq). But as with his shift to supporting democracy in Egypt, he will only do so if pushed. Just project the current "USA! USA!" euphoria and the dead working of American militarism (the machine of a trillion dollars expenditure, out of the world’s total $1.9 trillion spent on war last year, its 1280 bases abroad, where the French have five in former French Africa, Russia and England perhaps 1 or 2) and military industry dominating the corporate media (GE, the big weapons manufacturer, owned NBC until the channel was taken over by Comcast recently), and you will see why Greenwald underlines the danger of increasing drones, violence against civilians, the increased revulsion against America, and the like.

Tunisia and Egypt here are the great hopeful tendency. Mass democratic protest from below, largely nonviolent can make significant changes. For instance, Egypt has thrown down the fourth section of the wall surrounding Gaza. Al-Qaida is an isolated and rotting corpse (capable of doing evil things but not capable of leading or even much distorting resistance to American imperialism). In Palestine, Arab spring emerges in the March 15th demonstrations along with the possibilities of nonviolence (Omar Barghouti and the Boycott and Divistment movement - BDS - internationally are very attractive including among young Jews - consider the important organization Jewish Voices for Peace, see here). In Israel, those who refuse to serve in the occupied territories show the way.

But the darkness of the current trend without protest from below, just relying on Obama, is what motivates several striking letters on my second post on the taking out of Bin Laden, an answer to a wonderful letter from Marta Soler i Alemany here. The first is from John Dunn, a leading democratic theorist and friend:

“Dear Alan,

I am afraid that you are right about all this. My first thought on hearing the news (from my wife, who also by chance told me of 9/11) was "It will make no difference." But of course it will; and the difference, once again, is going to be much for the worse. This is a truly terrible process, a process of compulsive
self- and other-harming which runs on unstoppably as far as the eye can
see, and there is blood all the way. Endless blood and pain and anger and

I wish I had as sanguine a temperament as you do, let alone a tithe
of the energy and dedication.

It's nice to think of you in Denver. Less nice to think of what the
species is doing to itself on the scale that it can and does now act, and
of the world I've fecklessly brought my children into (the youngest girl is
just eight years old and sometimes astonishingly eloquent).

warm good wishes,

He also adds, and not irrelevantly:

“Again irrelevantly, Marta Soler comes very well out of the exchange,
doesn't she?


Sometimes readers hear me better than I hear myself. Marta wrote to me afterwards that she recalled how much I had emphasized the importance of the rule of law and the ending of torture and desisting from murdering civilians – drones are the weapon of the Company in Avatar, see here – in the course on American foreign policy I gave in Barcelona.

"Dear Alan,

Thank you so much for taking into account my opinion. I didn't think that my words would have been that powerful as you say.

Now, I understand how satirical were your words. I truly agree, as you say, that we must press the elite from below. I remember that you also explained, in IBEI's classes, that it is essential to fight for the rule of law. And even if I was convinced of this idea before, It certainly was reinforced with my learnings.

I admire John Dunn as well. We read a lot of articles from him during this course and to be honest, I am amazed to hear that he wants to write me...

Un saludo,

My friend Fred Dallmayr, a courageous political philosopher at Notre Dame, adds

"Dear Alan,

Thank you for your mail. These are great and beautiful statements. One cannot help remembering Nietzsche: "gerecht ist geraecht" (when we speak of justice we usually mean revenge). And we remember General Pinochet who 'disappeared' thousands of his opponents by throwing them into the ocean - thereby giving an example for other "civilized" and so-called 'Christian' nations to follow.

Take care. Yours, Fred D."

K.P. Fabian adds from New Delhi,

“Marta and Alan are right. It was in bad taste to have celebrated a killing. Certainly, it was unChristian.

Yes, justice does not mean revenge.

I wonder whether the temporary surge in his popularity is going to help Obama's re-election. It will depend much on the economy, especially the employment level.

It will also depend on who the other candidate is. Obama should pray hard for Palin to get nomination. She is his best bet.

Fabian K P.”

Yes, who will avenge all the innocent dead from American drones in Pakistan. There, large crowds of ordinary people, dispossessed and starving through the horrific flooding in Sind, chant “Death to Obama.” Europeans have quite a clear idea of what is wrong with America, its militarism, its cowardice about the rule of law (in Madrid, they put the terrorists who blew up Atocha Station on trial in courts; in New York, officials scream against such trials. Mayor Bloomberg, a man of shining principle in defending the First Amendment and the Islamic Center, here drags the city through the mud).

On K.P.’s point about Obama's reelection, I would guess that oil prices as well as mass unemployment and unending foreclosures will make difficulties, though the decision of the Republican leadership to attack the poor all out, to deprive the elderly of medical care (“let them eat dogfood”), and to destroy collective bargaining will make it hard for any likely Republican (Mitch Daniels might re-attract Andrew Sullivan, but even in his case one might wonder). The speculation of the bankers in gas (Obama’s supporters), and all the people who depend on the price of gas for an income – my son who delivers Pizza for Domino’s, for example – may no longer be able to afford to work by this summer…

Butch Montoya, whom I mainly agree with about racism, wrote me a long letter on my first post, misreading it from the opposite direction from Marta. He thought I opposed the taking out of Bin Laden. I reprint here part of his long letter, my response and his further resonse. To avoid being attacked as a Carter, failing in his attempt to rescue the hostages from Iran as Butch imagines in his second letter below, Obama overruled the Pentagon, requiring them to have a backup attack prepared to protect the Seals if the mission miscarried. He had thought it through very carefully (and unlike most Presidents and candidates, he is good at it).


Under a simple and impractical response to the reasoning you have shared
about 'the rule of law' and the shooting/killing of Osama bin Laden applied
to the World War II scenario - perhaps we should have simply turned the
other cheek to the Japanese for bombing a U.S. Naval Military Base at Pearl
Harbor in which thousands of innocent sailors, marines, army troops were
simply slaughtered by an enemy bent on destroying our way of life.

You can reference Nuremberg trials as an attempt to bring justice and not
revenge for the most heinous war practices by an enemy combatant under the
command of the Nazis, but even the justice of the Nuremberg trials do not
excuse, justify, or clear the slate on the number of innocent people in the
cities of England that were literally bombed night after night without
regard to civilian causalities. Many of these bombings had no military
context, it was merely the murderous minds of the Nazis to bomb England into
submission to Hitler. The bombings of cities and murder of countless
innocent residents of those cities along with the most ugly and unbelievable
inhumane acts against the Jews - even the Nuremberg trials can not pretend
to bring justice for these acts against humanity. There is no legal avenue
known to our system of democracy and the "rule of law" that can bring
justice to the crimes committed by the Nazis.

Under your reasoning about bin Laden, his orders to attack our naval ship in
Yemen which killed hundreds of sailors in a "friendly port of call," the
killings of innocent embassy staff and people in Africa, the number of
American soldiers and commanders killed in the war in Afghanistan, the
innocent people killed by suicide bombings, and certainly the attacks
against the rule of law by killing the thousands on 9 11 in New York City,
bin Laden was simply to be "brought to justice." Perhaps you may have
forgotten we are at war against an enemy no different than the imperialistic
Japanese and master minds of torture and murder by the Nazis. I do not
understand how we could have applied the rule of law to the world war of the
40's or to this war on terrorism of the 21st century. Because we live
without sacrifice or inconvenience...other than an occasional detour in our
daily lives because of possible threats of murder, not many of remember on a
daily basis that our country is at WAR.

One of the reasons I feel people are "upset and concerned about the attack
against the bin Laden compound," is that as a society we have not had to
sacrifice in this war against international terrorism. The life of greed
and white privilege lives on without any justice brought to bare on the
criminals of Wall Street, who robbed millions of Americans of their life
savings, homes, and future. Where is the out cry for the rule of justice?
Instead the Bush Administration under the theme, "if we don't bail out these
financial institutions and banks, we face world wide depression and economic
collapse." And so instead of bringing these bankers and investors to
justice under the rule of law, we merely allowed our government to bail them
out with our tax money, leaving them free to continue their immoral banking
practices of greed and capitalism. Where is the justice....or at least in
this case, the revenge? No revenge, no rule of law, just a bigger
bonus...and to hell to the millions who have fallen into the abyss of
financial depression and loss…

Butch Montoya"

I responded:

"Dear Butch,

Thank you for a long and powerful reaction. Would you mind if I post
on it? What I said in this post and the last (probably you should take
another look at that since that was what Marta was reacting against)
was that Obama acted with a kind of justice in taking out Bin Laden, and
that I supported him in that. I used the word lethality - and as far as the death of Bin Laden goes - said I had no regrets about it. I was and am disturbed about thesteady emergence of tyranny here and the fact that Obama's forces have also taken out 9 little boys in Afghanistan and many civilians with drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. If every killing in war were as targeted as this one, the US government would be doing much better. As it stands, the trend in terms of what America is becoming and doing to the world is very bad.

About Japan, let alone the Nazis, it was crucial to fight - and by the way the leader who destroyed the Nazis power was Stalin (also an awful murderer) leading the Russian resistance. The US government waged an heroic war of resistance to Japanese fascism, but the US also firebombed all the wooden cities of Japan, killing some millions of Japanese civilians, a far greater crime against humanity than even the use of nuclear weapons on two cities when the war had already been won. The US also locked citizens of Japanese origin in concentration camps (as part of many tyrannical acts - deporting a million Latinos in 1954, including citizens, from Los Angeles, or the whole Truman-McCarthy period). That either the mass murder of ordinary Japanese in Japan or the camps in the West helped win the war rather doing the opposite and undermining what was decent in the war effort (I remind you I have no problem with the President killing Bin Laden)I can't see.

I agree with you completely that the world would be a healthier place if ordinary people rose up against Wall Street. I strongly prefer nonviolence myself (think humanity will destroy itself within 100 or at the outside 200 years unless we follow the road of Egypt and Madison) and have little blood-lust but would not find it a matter of injustice if the exploiters could be taken down otherwise (I doubt they can be). South Africa was about as bad as it gets and is still characterized by enormous exploitation of poor blacks, but I prefer Mandela and particularly Bishop Desmond Tutu as a way to go both then and to deal with the remaining extreme injustices (see Tutu’s magnificent No future without forgiveness).

To his son who asked if someone is trying to kill you, what should I
do?, Gandhi said: stop him. I repeat: I have no problem with Obama taking out Bin Laden. I have a problem with having captured him, choosing to off him rather than putting him on trial. That is the corruption of corporate or mainstream American politics, its fear of legal proceedings, its increasing police state character. That problem is shown in Obama's inability to close Guantanamo and the thousand ways that just blind killing of enemies (most of whom are innocents) breeds the very thing that the leaders (and I regard Obama with respect and to some extent, liking, unlike the others) claim to oppose.

Bin Laden was a monster (a mass murderer), but not yet a Hitler (if he had become more powerful, Bin Laden plainly had the desire to murder Jews and Christians, and of course, most Moslems). Still, the US government has murdered many more innocent people than Bin Laden , even recently perhaps under Obama who is at least sometimes trying to turn the ship of crazed and self-destructive militarism unlike Bin Laden (consider, for example, the casualties of Bush's aggression in Iraq). Targeted killings of terrorists are clearly better.

All the best,

Butch replies:

"Thank you for your continued discussion and debate about the killing of bin
Laden, something which I believe is the best example of the freedoms we enjoy in our country. I agree with you that "targeted killings of terrorists are clearly better." I deplore the number of innocent people who have died as the result of war, countless souls lost in the fog of war and misdirected intentions and policies. I applaud our President for having the courage to lead an effort to rid this world of bin Laden for good. If the effort had failed, some pundits were ready to call him "Barack Carter" for the unsuccessful attempt by President Carter to rescue our embassy staff in Iran. I am sure in the back of his mind, President Obama thought of that fateful night in the desert of Iran, but with courage and strong support for
the intelligence people and Team Six,he ordered the raid to kill bin Laden. Time will only reveal more and more details, but at least for a short time, we can hope we are better off because of the death of this monster.

I would welcome you posting my comments and adding to the debate and discussion about this defining moment in our country's history...a time when
our military/intelligence apparatus and people proved when courage and leadership were necessary, our country's leaders were up for the task.

I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding the internment camps in which we
placed Japanese American citizens....something we should never forget. (Today we simply call the privately owned and most profitable jails....detention facilities for undocumented immigrants...we did not forget interment camps, but we built a bigger and better camp to do the same thing we did to the Japanese Americans). Operation Wetback (shows the lack of respect and sensitivity to Mexican-Americans at the time) which rounded up anyone who looked Mexican in the infamous "green vans of the INS." Many Latino American citizens were rounded up, pushed onto rail cattle cars, and sent to back to Mexico. I do hope you notice the distinguishing factor for both groups of was easy to round Japanese because they were is easy to round all "Mexicans" because they are different....but there was little effort to round up Germans or other European looking enemies, because they looked like the majority. Even today our immigration policies are based on who you look like....just ask Governor Brewer of Arizona how easy it is to profile an undocumented immigrant by their boots, belt buckles, hats, jeans, hair, eyes, and language. Not to mention the drugs they bring to America as "drug mules." Good thing I don't live in Arizona...and countless other ignorant states that are adopting similar copycat legislation.

Butch Montoya"

U.S. tries to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki

That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it (watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum -- Richard Perle's co-author for the supreme 2004 neocon treatise -- waxes admiringly about Obama's Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its "continuity" with Bush/Cheney). But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process. As The New York Times put it last April:

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .

That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post's Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list.

Yesterday, riding a wave of adulation and military-reverence, the Obama administration tried to end the life of this American citizen -- never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime -- with a drone strike in Yemen, but missed and killed two other people instead:

A missile strike from an American military drone in a remote region of Yemen on Thursday was aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric believed to be hiding in the country, American officials said Friday.

The attack does not appear to have killed Mr. Awlaki, the officials said, but may have killed operatives of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.

The other people killed "may have" been Al Qaeda operatives. Or they "may not have" been. Who cares? They're mere collateral damage on the glorious road to ending the life of this American citizen without due process (and pointing out that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law" -- and provides no exception for war -- is the sort of tedious legalism that shouldn't interfere with the excitement of drone strikes).

There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance. But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process -- far from any battlefield, not during combat -- is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that it's hard to convey in words or treat with civility.

How do you even engage someone in rational discussion who is willing to assume that their fellow citizen is guilty of being a Terrorist without seeing evidence for it, without having that evidence tested, without giving that citizen a chance to defend himself -- all because the President declares it to be so? "I know Awlaki, my fellow citizen, is a Terrorist and he deserves to die. Why? Because the President decreed that, and that's good enough for me. Trials are so pre-9/11." If someone is willing to dutifully click their heels and spout definitively authoritarian anthems like that, imagine how impervious to reason they are on these issues.And if someone is willing to vest in the President the power to assassinate American citizens without a trial far from any battlefield -- if someone believes that the President has that power: the power of unilaterally imposing the death penalty and literally acting as judge, jury and executioner -- what possible limits would they ever impose on the President's power? There cannot be any. Or if someone is willing to declare a citizen to be a "traitor" and demand they be treated as such -- even though the Constitution expressly assigns the power to declare treason to the Judicial Branch and requires what we call "a trial" with stringent evidence requirements before someone is guilty of treason -- how can any appeals to law or the Constitution be made to a person who obviously believes in neither?

What's most striking about this is how it relates to the controversies during the Bush years. One of the most strident attacks from the Democrats on Bush was that he wanted to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. One of the first signs of Bush/Cheney radicalism was what they did to Jose Padilla: assert the power to imprison this American citizen without charges. Yet here you have Barack Obama asserting the power not to eavesdrop on Americans or detain them without charges -- but to target them for killing without charges -- and that, to many of his followers, is perfectly acceptable. It's a "horrific shredding of the Constitution" and an act of grave lawlessness for Bush to eavesdrop on or detain Americans without any due process; but it's an act of great nobility when Barack Obama ends their lives without any due process.

Not even Antonin Scalia was willing to approve of George Bush's mere attempt to detain (let alone kill) an American citizen accused of Terrorism without a trial. In a dissenting opinion joined by the court's most liberal member, John Paul Stevens, Scalia explained that not even the War on Terror allows the due process clause to be ignored when the President acts against those he claims have joined the Enemy -- and this was for a citizen found on an actual active battlefield in a war zone (Afghanistan):

The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive. Blackstone stated this principle clearly: "Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty: for if once it were left in the power of any, the highest, magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper … there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. … To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom." . . . .

Subjects accused of levying war against the King were routinely prosecuted for treason. . . . The Founders inherited the understanding that a citizen's levying war against the Government was to be punished criminally. The Constitution provides: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort"; and establishes a heightened proof requirement (two witnesses) in order to "convic[t]" of that offense. Art. III, §3, cl. 1.

There simply is no more basic liberty than the right to be free from Presidential executions without being charged with -- and then convicted of -- a crime: whether it be treason, Terrorism, or anything else. How can someone who objected to Bush's attempt to eavesdrop on or detain citizens without judicial oversight cheer for Obama's attempt to kill them without judicial oversight? Can someone please reconcile those positions?

One cannot be certain that this attempted killing of Awlaki relates to the bin Laden killing, but it certainly seems likely, and in any event, highlights the dangers I wrote about this week. From the start, it was inconceivable to me that -- as some predicted -- the bin Laden killing would bring about a ratcheting down of America's war posture. The opposite seemed far more likely to me for the reason I wrote on Monday:

Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden -- and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders -- can easily rejuvenate that war love. . . . We're feeling good and strong about ourselves again -- and righteous -- and that's often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.
The killing of bin Laden got the testosterone pumping,the righteousness pulsating, and faith in the American military and its Commander-in-Chief skyrocketing to all-time highs. It made America feel good about itself in a way that no other event has since at least Obama's inauguration; we got to forget about rampant unemployment, home foreclosures by the millions, a decade's worth of militaristic futility and slaughter, and ever-growing Third-World levels of wealth inequality. This was a week for flag-waving, fist-pumping, and nationalistic chanting: even -- especially -- among liberals, who were able to take the lead and show the world (and themselves) that they are no wilting, delicate wimps; it's not merely swaggering right-wing Texans, but they, too, who can put bullets in people's heads and dump corpses into the ocean and then joke and cheer about it afterwards. It's inconceivable that this wave of collective pride, boosted self-esteem, vicarious strength, and renewed purpose won't produce a desire to replicate itself. Four days after bin Laden is killed, a missile rains down from the sky to try to execute Awlaki without due process, and that'll be far from the last such episode (indeed, also yesterday, the U.S. launched a drone attack in Pakistan, ending the lives of 15 more people: yawn).
Last night, in a post entitled "Reigniting the GWOT [Global War on Terrorism]" -- Digby wrote about why the reaction to the killing of bin Laden is almost certain to spur greater aggression in the "War on Terror," and specifically observed: "They're breathlessly going on about Al Qaeda in Yemen 'targeting the homeland' right now on CNN. Looks like we're back in business." The killing of bin Laden isn't going to result in a reduction of America's military adventurism because that's not how the country works: when we eradicate one Enemy, we just quickly and seamlessly find a new one to replace him with -- look over there: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the True Threat!!!! -- and the blood-spilling continues unabated (without my endorsing it all, read this excellent Chris Floyd post for the non-euphemistic reality of what we've really been doing in the world over the last couple years under the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner).

A civil liberties lawyer observed by email to me last night that now that Obama has massive political capital and invulnerable Tough-on-Terror credentials firmly in place, there are no more political excuses for what he does (i.e., he didn't really want to do that, but he had to in order not to be vulnerable to GOP political attacks that he's Weak). In the wake of the bin Laden killing, he's able to do whatever he wants now -- ratchet down the aggression or accelerate it -- and his real face will be revealed by his choices (for those with doubts about what that real face is). Yesterday's attempt to exterminate an American citizen who has long been on his hit list -- far from any battlefield, not during combat, and without even a pretense of due process -- is likely to be but a first step in that direction.

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