If This Ain’t Cause For Impeachment, Then What Is?

by lizard

Obama is in flagrant violation of the constitution, and articles of impeachment need to be filed by some brave congressional person immediately.

If articles of impeachment can be brought for committing perjury about receiving presidential fellatio, then surely the constitutional crisis on display this week, with story after story breaking about drones and targeted assassinations, should necessitate some kind of action by Congress.

Compare this (from second link):

On September 9, Independent Counsel Starr submitted a detailed report to the Congress in which he contended that there was “substantial and credible information that President William Jefferson Clinton committed acts that may constitute grounds for an impeachment” by lying under oath in the Jones litigation and obstructing justice by urging Ms. Lewinsky “… to file an affidavit that the President knew would be false”.

to this (first link):

The disclosure, by NBC, of a so-called “white paper” by the White House offering the legal justification for the executing of American citizens solely on the authority of the executive branch and the president exposes a White House so blatantly in violation of the Constitution that it simply demands such a hearing.

As Juan Cole explains clearly in an essay in Informed Comment, there are five ways that the white paper authorizing executive execution of Americans violates the Constitution. These, he explains, are:

1. There has to be an actual crime for there to be a punishment, and this paper authorizes execution without any crime.

2. If, as the letter suggests, the president’s authority to order executions without trial derives from the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the Congress, that would constitute a so-called bill of attainder, which he explains is a declaration that a certain person or class of people (i.e. terrorists in this case) are prima facie guilty of a crime. But as he notes, the Constitution specifically outlaws bills of attainder, saying in Article 1, Section 9, “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed…”

3. The letter violates the separation of powers, according the president the powers of executive, legislature and judiciary.

4. The letter violates the Sixth Amendment in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” Needless to say, an execution ordered by the president skips all of this.

Reliance on the AUMF for presidential executions such as that of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son means that President Obama, like President Bush before him, is claiming that the whole world (including the US) is a battlefield, and that he therefore has the absolute authority as Commander in Chief, to kill anyone , anywhere in the world, that he deems to be an enemy or a threat. But such a concept is a complete violation of international law and sovereignty as defined by the UN Charter, a solemn treaty to which the US is a signatory, making it a fundamental part of US law.

Too bad no one in Congress wants this fight.

Both Republicans and Democrats are probably more comfortable letting gun control simmer. For the right, the constitutional crisis appears contained to the perceived erosion of the 2nd amendment, fueling fear that the foundation for public disarmament is being established.

For what constitutes as the left in this country, it’s much easier to ridicule gun-worshipers than hold the president they elected accountable to his constitutional oath.

It’s been an intense week for Obama’s illegal, immoral, counterproductive killing of “militants” absolutely anywhere this lawless administration claims to find them.

First, Michael Isikoff drops his memo bomb on the Maddow show (cool kids call them white papers).

Then we get a suspiciously delayed reveal by the Washington Post about a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia, a story they sat on for quite some time.

You know, like the NYT dragging out Bush’s warrantless wiretapping after his reelection. We wouldn’t want our media to let these awkward stories loose before the presidential office they grovel for is secured, now would we?

Of course, the way this insider tells it, it was high level Bush administration officials doing the groveling. Let’s take a quick side-trip down memory lane for a little reminder on how worthless our media have become. Continue reading for that, and much more.

*

For 13 long months, we’d held off on publicizing one of the Bush administration’s biggest secrets. Finally, one afternoon in December 2005, as my editors and I waited anxiously in an elegantly appointed sitting room at the White House, we were again about to let President Bush’s top aides plead their case: why our newspaper shouldn’t let the public know that the president had authorized the National Security Agency, in apparent contravention of federal wiretapping law, to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants. As New York Times Editor Bill Keller, Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman, and I awaited our meeting, we still weren’t sure who would make the pitch for the president. Dick Cheney had thought about coming to the meeting but figured his own tense relations with the newspaper might actually hinder the White House’s efforts to stop publication. (He was probably right.) As the door to the conference room opened, however, a slew of other White House VIPs strolled out to greet us, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice near the head of the receiving line and White House Counsel Harriet Miers at the back.

For more than an hour, we told Bush’s aides what we knew about the wiretapping program, and they in turn told us why it would do grave harm to national security to let anyone else in on the secret. Consider the financial damage to the phone carriers that took part in the program, one official implored. If the terrorists knew about the wiretapping program, it would be rendered useless and would have to be shut down immediately, another official urged: “It’s all the marbles.” The risk to national security was incalculable, the White House VIPs said, their voices stern, their faces drawn. “The enemy,” one official warned, “is inside the gates.” The clichés did their work; the message was unmistakable: If the New York Times went ahead and published this story, we would share the blame for the next terrorist attack.

More than two years later, the Times’ decision to publish the story—a decision that was once so controversial—has been largely overshadowed by all the other political and legal clamor surrounding President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program: the dozens of civil lawsuits; the ongoing government investigations; the raging congressional debate; and the still-unresolved question, which Congress will take up again nextweek, of whether phone companies should be given legal immunity for their cooperation in the program. Amid the din, it’s easy to forget the hits that the newspaper took in the first place: criticism from the political left over the decision to hold the story for more than a year and from the right over the decision to publish it at all. But the episode was critical in reflecting the media’s shifting attitudes toward matters of national security—from believing the government to believing it less.

That last line is really quite amazing, and leaves me wondering if Eric Lichtblau (real last name) actually believes what we writes:

the episode was critical in reflecting the media’s shifting attitudes toward matters of national security—from believing the government to believing it less.

Another story about drones that probably won’t get the attention it deserves describes one particular drone strike that happened last August (NYT):

Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen.

It was a brave gesture by a father of seven who commanded great respect in the community, and it did not go unnoticed. Two days later, three members of Al Qaeda came to the mosque in the tiny village of Khashamir after 9 p.m., saying they merely wanted to talk. Mr. Jaber agreed to meet them, bringing his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection.

As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby.

This man taking a stand against “Al Qaeda” in Yemen was the father of seven kids. Will any of Jaber’s children follow in their father’s moderate footsteps? Or will the hardline jihadists peel a few of them toward their side, toward matching violence with more violence?

The culmination of this week’s news was yesterday’s vetting of Brennan for top dog of the CIA. The same NYT article that led with Jaber’s unintended consequence frames Brennan like this:

From his basement office in the White House, Mr. Brennan has served as the principal coordinator of a “kill list” of Qaeda operatives marked for death, overseeing drone strikes by the military and the C.I.A., and advising Mr. Obama on which strikes he should approve.

“He’s probably had more power and influence than anyone in a comparable position in the last 20 years,” said Daniel Benjamin, who recently stepped down as the State Department’s top counterterrorism official and now teaches at Dartmouth. “He’s had enormous sway over the intelligence community. He’s had a profound impact on how the military does counterterrorism.”

Yes, profound. Profoundly stupid.

So this is where we are at in America. Spineless Democrats allowing Obama to shred the constitution, and Republicans more concerned about their guns than the constitutional protections of US citizens.

What is it going to take for people to understand how serious this is? Domestic drone strikes?

If Obama’s drone program continues unchecked, that reality isn’t far off.


  1. larry kurtz

    Thank you for your concern in this matter, liz: yoga, when used in concert with cannabis, is an effective therapy for SAD.

    Have an ice day.

    • lizard19

      for most of the day it was beautiful, warm, and sunny.

  2. John Brennan’s testimony yesterday was priceless. Also mostly staged except for a few rare moments. From “Democracy Now” transcript: http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/8/jeremy_scahill_assassinations_of_us_citizens

    SEN. ANGUS KING: Having the executive being the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all in one, is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country, and particularly in a situation where there is time. If—a soldier on a battlefield doesn’t have time to go to court. But if you’re planning a strike over a matter of days, weeks or months, there is an opportunity to at least go to some outside-of-the-executive-branch body, like the FISA court, in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.

    JOHN BRENNAN: Senator, I think it’s certainly worthy of discussion. Our tradition, our judicial tradition, is that a court of law is used to determine one’s guilt or innocence for past actions, which is very different from the decisions that are made on the battlefield as well as actions that are taken against terrorists, because none of those actions are to determine past guilt for those actions that they took. The decisions that are made are to take action so that we prevent a future action, so we protect American lives. That is an inherently executive branch function.”

    Wow! He actually says that trial stuff with a judge and all is for past crimes. He doesn’t need no stinking badges and judges for future crimes. This is soooo “Minority Report”. So don’t any of you be thinking about anything untoward.

    • larry kurtz

      Levin seems intent on getting to the bottom of the alleged Atta meeting in Prague. Bush admin people will not like that.

      RT @jeremyscahill

      • larry kurtz

        curious which part of the unitary executive escapes you.

        • lizard19

          I’m curious who you are talking to. it’s the other larry k. that comments on his own comments.

          • larry kurtz

            go figure: we are twin sons of different mothers.

  3. Watching MSNBC hosts tie themselves into intellectual knots to avoid having their worldview crash upon their heads has been interesting, to say the least.

    Personally, I don’t care if Adam Gadahn gets a bomb dropped on his head. I think there should be some sort of system in place to take guys like him out when it is self-evident they have crossed over and are operating outside the U.S. Would I like him to primarily be tried for treason and executed? Sure. (Actually, I’d prefer hard labor smashing rocks.) But if he’s in some weird tribal region and it would be impossible to get him out without taking losses, drone away. Just be crystal clear with the American people what’s going on. They will pass judge accordingly.

    You are correct that, as it stands, what President Obama is doing is incredibly scary and sets the stage for all sorts of nightmarish scenarios to unfold. Having “imminent threat” mean … basically anything the White House wants it to mean is at the top of the list.

    Obama has relied heavily on drones instead of crafting a real counter-terrorism strategy. What happens when terrorists hide in heavily populated urban areas? Do we drone them if the governments can’t (or won’t) help us out? I don’t think Obama knows.

    Regardless, while I disagree with many of your posts, I do respect your philosophical consistency.

    • lizard19

      what would killing Adam Gadahn really accomplish? martyr him to prove what? that we are a nation of hypocrites who only throw constitutional tantrums when gun-pacifiers are being threatened?

      America is going to be a target for a long time, and therefore myself and my family will be less safe, because this country has launched two wars of occupation resulting in the violent death of over a million people, displacement of hundreds of thousands more, and we regularly bomb over a half dozen countries.

      you’ve criticized me at your place for appealing to people’s emotions, but if you don’t empathize with that brave man who stood up to Al Qaeda in Yemen, then got killed by a drone strike, then you won’t understand how truly counterproductive remote drone killing is.

      that man has 7 children growing up in a dirt-poor country now without a father. the message of radical Islam probably sounds a little more appealing when your father has just been blown up.

      now multiply that by hundreds of thousands of people who trace the misery in their lives directly to America’s military involvement in the Middle East.

      thankfully, after a decade of war, I think more and more people in the States are starting to understand the cost of US imperialism is going to be the dismantling of the New Deal and the continued expansion of the police state.

      and it’s getting done by a Democrat who one the Nobel Peace prize.

      • Like I said, I’d rather have Gadahn smashing rocks for the rest of his life.

        Do you really think soldiers want to be in the s**thole that is the Middle East or parts of Africa? Radical Muslims have been killing each other and causing problems for “infidels” for ages. You see conflict in the world and your first instinct is to think, “What did we do this time?” And that’s fine … but sometimes the answer is that culpability lies much more with the other guy. I also find it odd when people hold more disdain for their fellow Americans than subhuman Shariah Law practicing thugs. I usually find such individuals on those occasions when I’m forced to watch cable news, although in the past I found them on college campuses.

        • lizard19

          the Middle East is not a shithole populated by subhuman thugs, though I’m sure you’re correct that US soldiers predominantly think so. it’s a diverse region populated by different cultures—and I hope by saying that I don’t trigger your personal disdain for college campuses.

          you seem to completely miss the point I was trying to make in my response to you. if you don’t want radical Islam to spread and threaten America, then you should be opposed to the use of drones, because these drone strikes make more terrorists than they kill.

          I wish more Republicans were capable of opposing Obama’s drone program for the right reasons, but instead most of what I’ve seen from Fox news and other rightwing media outlets is delight over liberal hypocrisy. you, Doug, did the same thing in a tweet when you said:

          It’s fun watching the news. Guys who melted down over Bush defending ‘O’ like ‘W’ never existed.

          the constitution is more than just the 2nd amendment; it’s a document that ensures a separation of powers to keep our fledgling republic from becoming a totalitarian state presided over by a dictator.

          • No, I completely understood your point, but I just think you’re fundamentally wrong. Have you ever watched any of their little Wayne’s World video-gripes? They include everything under the sun. Essentially, the only way they’ll be happy is when … we’re gone. Or they’re in charge. Or we convert. So it doesn’t matter what we do, their long-term plans remain the same.

            So then the question becomes, how do you deal with them when they exists in countries that are technically sovereign, but can’t (or won’t) deal with the problem? That’s what Bush struggled with. That’s what Obama struggles with. And that’s what you would struggle with.

            It’s easy to say “Obama is just like Bush,” but … he’s not. In fact, I’m sure it really annoys him that some of this stuff is taking place, but he’s seen the intelligence briefings and he doesn’t have an answer. He knows he has to protect Americans (including his daughters) but the threat he’s up against doesn’t lend itself to the Ron Paul-ian “Let’s just go into our turtle shell and they’ll leave us alone” foreign policy model.

            • lizard19

              yes, I ‘ve been labeled an unreasonable “Ron Paul-ian” non-interventionist before.

              I think your depiction of the Muslim world fundamentally discounts the moderate/secular movements that exist, even in places our Imperialists demonize, like Iran.

              but if you want to dehumanize an entire region, like you’ve done, I guess that makes it easier to deal with the hundreds of thousands of deaths our country is responsible for.

              you are certainly not alone, Doug.

              • The U.S. also churns out enough food to feed all its own people and a huge chunk of the rest of the world. It leads the way in the creation of new life-saving vaccines. The advances in technology spearheaded by American entrepreneurs and businesses — and yes, government research — have raised the standard of living (and saved the lives of) millions.

                You tend to focus on the skeletons in our closet, while downplaying those of other nations. We’re not perfect, but in terms of political and economic freedom, human rights, etc. … we put the Islamic world to shame.

  4. I forget to ad a link, just for the heck of it.

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/msnbc-host-defends-liberals-who-trust-obama-with-drones-would-you-trust-bush-with-nuclear-codes/

  5. larry kurtz

    pppphhhhttttt, Shavasana. Namaste.

  6. lizard19

    I’m going to post Chris Hayes’ full statement from this morning’s show, because he’s one of the few on the left who seem to get it. How America Kills:

    Over the last 17 months that we’ve been on air, we’ve talked quite a bit about the Obama administration’s secret program of targeted killing of suspected terrorists. A small number of those targeted and killed have been American citizens, while some unconfirmed number of those killed in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere have been innocent civilians: mothers, children, young and old men in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    People in the administration have told reporters that they have implemented an extremely rigorous screening process inside the White House to decide who ends up on the list, that the president himself approaches his responsibility to administer the program with solemnity and care, and that the policy has been efficient and effective in decimating al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorist groups. A senior U.S. official said as early as 2009, ”The enemy is really, really struggling…These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we’ve seen in several years.”

    But before any of the specifics of the program’s merits can be properly and fully debated, it has to be brought out from behind the veil of secrecy which now cloaks it. That process started this week when my colleague Michael Isikoff obtained a heretofore secret Department of Justice memo that outlines the administration’s legal arguments for why it believes it has the authority to use lethal force against ”a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force” if an “informed high-level official of the U.S. government has determined” it’s appropriate.

    At Thursday’s confirmation hearings for his nomination to head up the CIA, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, widely reported to be the chief architect of the kill list policy, faced a series of questions about the memo and the program it helps justify.

    No topic that we discuss regularly on the show invites quite the level of backlash on social media as the kill list and drones. Given the constant and often disingenuous criticism and obstruction the president has faced I can understand why liberals, Democrats and others might view with some cynicism some of the outrage and indignation suddenly expressed by conservatives this week, much of which has been more focused on liberals’ hypocrisy rather than the underlying policy.

    I had to laugh to myself when Rupert Murdoch tweeted the following this week: ”How do liberals explain complaints about Guatemala with silence on drone killing, civilians and all, without arrests, trials, etc?” He meant, I think Guantanamo, but autocorrect gets the best of all of us from time to time.

    But when us lefties here on Up have discussed and criticized the secret kill list program, many viewers who’ve responded online or through email accused me of being naive about the true nature of war, or going out of my way to find things to criticize about the president or stoking controversy where there is none.

    And it is true polls show that majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support targeted killing and the drone strikes that carry them out. Partly, I think that’s due to the fact that the public hasn’t been given much information about exactly how the administration has come to the conclusion that it can carry out these killings, even against citizens, and partly because the worst effects of the policy, the collateral damage, or more accurately the children as young as one year old who our weapons kill, are almost entirely invisible to us.

    But it also seems possible to me that even with a full accounting of the program, many, perhaps even a majority of Democrats, even self-described liberals might support the targeted killing policy for, I believe, the same reason a blogger named Lou Siegel gave this week. “Though this might sound like a ‘cold war liberal’ defending CIA-led coups and military interventions,” he wrote:

    “I support President Obama’s drone attacks. And I admit that I’m a hypocrite. If a republican administration were executing these practices, I’d probably join the chorus to condemn them as unconstitutional, authoritarian or worse. But I trust this president’s judgment that the drones are a legitimate way to take out terrorists who would–if they could–kill thousands of Americans. He’s making a trade-off, knowing that a successful massive terrorist attack against us would result in far greater damage to our democratic institutions.”

    I think this is probably the most honest defense of the program you’ll hear from liberals. They trust President Obama to wield broad, lethal executive authority with care and prudence. And besides: it’s war, would you rather, I am often asked by supporters of the kill list, that we have boots on the ground, big expensive, destructive deadly disastrous land invasions of countries like the Iraq war? Isn’t the move from wars like Iraq to “surgical strikes” in Yemen precisely the kind of change we were promised?

    This narrow choice between big violence and smaller violence shows, I think, just how fully we have all implicitly adopted the conceptual framework of the War on Terror, how much George W. Bush’s advisers continue to set the terms of our thinking years after they’d been dispatched from office. Because that argument presupposes that we are at war and must continue to be at war until an ill-defined enemy is vanquished.

    What, people ask, is the alternative to small war, if not big war? And the answer no one ever seems to even consider is: no war. If the existence of people out in the world who are actively working to kill Americans means we are still at war, then it seems to me we will be at war forever, and will surrender control over whether that is the state we do in fact want to be in. There’s another alternative: we can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks.

    The Obama administration quite ostentatiously jettisoned the phrase war on terror from its rhetoric, but it’s preserved and further expanded its fundamental logic and legal architecture. Even after the troops come home from Afghanistan, we will still be a nation at war.

    In 1832, German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz declared that “War is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force….a clash of forces freely operating and obedient to no law but their own.” Much of the history of war and international law in the last century, particularly after the horror of the second world war, was an attempt to prove Clausewitz wrong. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves. We may find ourselves at some point facing a stark choice between the war we are now fighting and the law which we all at least pretend is the bedrock of our republic.

    I say we choose the law.




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