Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kelly sort of gets it right

When I saw the headline of today's Jack Kelly column"Obama can kill you" , my first reaction was - I might have to agree with Mr Kelly this Sunday. If you have been reading my blog over time, you know that I have been talking about Glenn Greenwald's ongoing columns on Obama's targeting particularly American citizens for literal execution without a trial (in addition to columns about using drones to attack groups that include non-combatant civilians). Mind you (to indulge a brief tangent), it annoys me that an accident of where you were born gives you special standing; I think it ought to be a problem when anyone is killed. But Americans are supposed to enjoy particular constitutional rights from their home country, yet Obama is ordering the killing of suspected terrorists who are also American citizens. Obama (and Eric Holder, Leon Panetta and other high level members of the administration) claim there is a through investigation and review, it's just that none of us ordinary citizens can know about it (but how can have due process if no one can see it?).

This is the issue Jack Kelly takes on today, and in several ways, he gets it right. Americans are being killed abroad, and although we don't know for sure, we have no evidence any kind of judge is involved. Maybe that doesn't even matter, as far as I know judges do not have the power to order the killing of people so much as to examine the legal process involved for (ultimately) constitutionality. We don't know there is not a secret court, but then Americans are really not supposed to be in favor of secret courts, and anyway the administration has not offered us even that degree of reassurance.

I can tell this is a complicated issue for Kelly, however, as he indulges himself in his customary level of over-reach. He has an issue where at least a few liberal journalists agree the President is absolutely wrong, yet he pushes out in several directions and undermines his own credibility. For example, he mentions Anwar Al-Awlaki as the "poster boy for the new policy". But a paragraph later Kelly says "Few doubt Mr. Awlaki posed "an imminent threat of violent attack."", it is just that Kelly does not want the "President alone" to decide to execute this man. Kelly seems to me to insinuate that if a more proper person, such as a military man, decided to kill Al-Awlaki, it would be fine with him. Kelly then mentions due process and the Fifth Amendment in opposition to this program.

Now, I would have liked to see Osama bin Laden extended due process protection, I think a trial in New York City with tremendous amounts of evidence and testimony would have been pretty cathartic for the country. Admittedly, if we had put bin Laden on trial and subsequently executed him, then American citizens would have wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately after (perhaps putting the President in an uncomfortable position with powerful US interests). Meanwhile, I imagine Pakistan might well have objected basedo n bin Laden being taken from Pakistan, and possibly other countries like Iran and Syria, but I suspect most countries would have celebrated the US sense that justice deserves due process (no, I'm serious). But we didn't get that chance, a helpless, unarmed bin Laden was executed in cold blood.

Did Jack Kelly raise the due process issue when he wrote about the killing of bin Laden. No, he quoted a film critic on how clumsy Obama's speech to the country was, and repeated a rumor that the President had held the SEALs for 16 hours. Evidently, Jack Kelly only cares about warrants, judicial review and due process when it suits him.

Kelly actually mentions the very issue of FISA warrants later in this column, although he only frames it in terms of wiretapping foreign terrorists, conveniently forgetting to mention any US end component of George W Bush's wiretapping program. And Kelly describes Obama and Eric Holder as "stunning" hypocrites, not seeing that his own mis-statement (to put it charitably) of the issue and his own dismissal of due process then compared to his calls for it now is pretty spectacularly hypocritical.

Kelly finishes his column with claim that is almost true, but as such shows a pretty stunning lack of research on his part. He complains that "liberal" journalists blasted Bush when he was in office, but are silent on Obama. One journalist who could only be described as liberal has complained loudly about both Presidents. Kelly's conservative, Tea Party type blinders make him prone to wild hyperbole that entirely undermine his message, and turn what should be an important indictment of President Obama into mere partisan whining.

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