Several articles have recently appeared in the news about the legality of using drones to assassinate U.S. citizens and foreigners. The article by Jean MacKinzie at the Global Post (1) recently considered the question, “Are our drone attacks legal?” The article provides insight into the legal justifications or lack thereof. However, as attorneys go, they look mostly at the laws on the books or the precedence or juris prudence. This view certainly has its limits.
The military does not need new laws to allow the assassination of people by drones or by any other clever means. As many times in recent events, the Patriot Act allows the U.S. to capture and/or kill anyone considered a terrorist and without a fair trial, due process of the law, or even solid evidence.
Roll up the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta and bury them in the dust on a dark shelf. These “patriot” laws greatly expand the powers of the president, the military and law enforcement with the ability to assassinate or detain anyone considered associated with terrorism. The laws make it convenient for “authorities” to identify just about anyone as a terrorist by relatively vague criteria and, without due process or evidence, to kill people from a remote control, virtual reality video gaming seat.
This includes the several recent cases in which the FBI coaches and coaxes vulnerable individuals. “Time and again, the FBI concocts a Terrorist attack, infiltrates Muslim communities in order to find recruits, persuades them to perpetrate the attack…only to heroically jump in at the last moment, arrest the would-be perpetrators whom the FBI converted, and save a grateful nation from the plot manufactured by the FBI.” (2)
These dark and dubious FBI sting operations (3) are now being used to trump up justifications to impose sanctions against Iran. For various political reasons, President Obama has jumped on this bandwagon with such casus belli—justifications for aggression. The use of trumped up justifications for U.S. sanctions and military invasions has become a cookie cutter process for presidents throughout American history. (4)
Laws are overwhelmingly made to protect those in power—call it "national interests." Money provides power and power protects those with the money.
U.S. government policies are overwhelmingly skewed to protect the investors and owners of wealth, especially for those dealing in fossil fuels which provide unprecedented returns on investments and even more so as the crude reserves diminish and the profits increase.
Unfortunately, fossil fuel is flagrantly obsolete simply because it causes endless wars for the resources and it destroys the environment on which life depends. Climate change and oil spills cause ecological catastrophes, which in the long, and also in the short run, have begun to destroy the planet. The only way to avoid these lethal and toxic events is to develop alternative technology.
Alas, the country's power elite avoids rapid changes in energy technology because the investments to develop new energy sources, renewable and clean, might require a short-term reduction on their returns on investments. This is a simple rule of capitalism, especially in the "free" and unregulated capitalism in the United States.
If the United States were to develop alternative, renewable, clean energy sources on a massive scale—wind, hydrogen, solar, etc.—and be the first and most advanced in this technology, the investors would gain a huge and global competitive advantage. But this change in technology requires short-term reductions in returns on investments before the profits increase.
While spending trillions of dollars in futile, endless wars in order to control access to fossil fuels, our elected officials ignore the opportunity to invest public resources to develop the renewable energy sources and so too, create more good jobs.
Instead of a national and rational energy policy, our elected officials, motivated by Big Money corporations, cater to the ruling class, which wants to use any type of military actions, drones or otherwise, to defend their access to the highly profitable fossil fuels.
Faceless corporations are ready to stop anyone who stands in their way to harvest the profits from the crude and this applies to any other industry such as healthcare or finance. The owners of wealth—the 1 percenters—are reluctant to reinvest into new energy sources. It's a lot easier to maintain the current and highly lucrative status quo, even when that means the ruling class needs to kill anyone standing in the way of their profits.
The financially powerful ruling class—however irrational their policies—writes the laws that enable the owners of wealth to carry on with their business and maintain their short-term and enormous profits. Or they simply ignore laws such as the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. Their irrational and greedy operations reveal just how short-sighted unregulated, unguided capitalism is. Big Money corporations like Koch and Exxon serve as just one of many examples how the U.S. system favors the rule of powerful men rather than the rule of rational laws that benefit the greatest good of the entire country. Koch and Exxon write state legislation repealing climate change laws.
The purpose of government—at least in a democracy—is to allow rational use of resources for the greatest good of the nation.
Since the Big Oil barons want to control their grip on petroleum no matter where it’s found, the U.S. government's policy, by default, is to support their wishes, despite any democratic process. The simple and obvious truth is that the U.S. government offers the country’s people no rational energy policy for the greatest good of the country. On the contrary, the U.S. elected officials take their commands from the large and financially powerful corporations which, in turn, compensate the elected officials by large campaign contributions.
Since the death of FDR and the New Deal, U.S. elected officials—Democrats and Republicans—have turned their functions away from democracy.(5) The United States has become an inverted totalitarianism—a corporate ruled state—as the government provides services first and foremost to the wants and needs of the 1 percenters, the owners and investors of corporations.(6)
Since the U.S. elected officials—congressmen, senators, president—cater to the wants of the members of their own ruling class instead of the general population, and since the elected officials command the U.S. military, then also the public’s military provides killing services—security or defense—first and foremost for the benefits of the 1 percenters. This New World Order in the United States now resembles a totalitarianism like that of the old Soviet Union, even though it’s called by euphemistic names like “free market.” There’s nothing free about it, especially as the middle class pays the brunt of the taxes to finance these oil-motivated military escapades into endless wars.
As it stands then, any American who joins the military thinking patriotically and heroically that he or she is “serving the country" is gravely—no pun intended—mistaken. You join up with the military, you provide protection for large corporations, most of which are not even American (CACI, Halliburton, KBR to which Cheney gave no-bid contracts in Iraq, and this list of war profiteers is long). (7)
To break this down into pragmatic and simple terms, the military, with all its clever toys, like the drones, only serves the interests of the few, extremely wealthy…the 1 percenters. The military, following commands from the ruling class, which includes the elected officials, enables these patricians to pursue their search for greater profits today in the Middle East and tomorrow elsewhere. The Big Oil lords do so with government subsidies and special tax breaks on top of all other services.
The rest of us plebs—the 99 percenters—have all learned to avert our eyes and thoughts about this simple truth. Our democracy is no longer in the hands of the voting citizens. Us 99 cent-ers are mere subjects obeying the demands of corporate fiefdoms.
So, no matter how you parse the legal arguments about drones or other clever killing tools, the answer to such debates carries a foregone conclusion.
The Big Oil lords, the wealthy barons of Wall Street—the ruling corporate class—this small group of elites makes the rules by simple force of financial power. They determine the laws and often act regardless of the laws.
The unjustified, preemptive invasion of Iraq serves as one blatant example of disregard for the laws. And there are many more such examples from Cheney’s war crimes regarding torture to Rumsfeld’s blind military and nation building blunders.
Likewise, the Supreme Court also demonstrates how the highest ranks of the justice system adjudicates not in the interests of the greatest benefits of the citizenry but rather in favor of the interests of their own ruling class by allowing corporations all rights as individual citizens. Big Money corporations are seldom American and most often global and without any national loyalty.
With the 2010 judgment on Citizens United v FEC, we find again how the “authorities” in America give corporations the right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections despite the wishes of 85% of the citizens. (8) The Supreme Court justices give corporations all the rights of individual citizens, such as free speech, even through they are hardly "American citizens," as they are almost all global and mostly based in tax-evading islands, and they are never prosecuted as individuals when they break the laws.
None of these military policies or the energy policies—not to mention the "too big to fail" policies on Wall Street—serve for the greatest good of the nation but rather for the interests of those who possess the billions and millions of financial force. Elected officials—both Democrat and Republican—serve the barons of industry more so now than ever before and to hell with anyone who stands in their way.
Drones are effective tools as they ultimately enable the tycoons in their pursuit of greater profits.
The well-heeled attorneys can debate all they want about the legalities of drones or Patriot Acts or torture or preemptive invasions based on lies or massive fraud in the banking or in the healthcare industries. Our current perversions of the system of justice and of politics, is determined not by rational laws but by powerful barons of industry.
Bigger forces trump the laws.
(1) MacKinzie, Jean. Are our drone attacks legal?, Global Post, Oct. 11, 2011, http://news.salon.com/2011/10/11/are_our_drone_attacks_legal/?source=newsletter
(2) Greenwald, Glenn. The FBI again Thwarts its own Terror plot, Salon blog, Sept. 29, 2011, http://politics.salon.com/2011/09/29/fbi_terror/
(3). Alleged Iranian Assassination Plot Appears an FBI Sting, Real News Network, Oct. 15, 2011. Take a look at this recent report on the Real News Network:
And here is an article explaining how President Obama is running with this dubious FBI sting operation: Feller, Ben. “Obama says Iran must be held accountable for plot,” Associated Press. Oct. 13, 2011.
(4) See my article posted of various blogs: “Church of Later Day Neocons.”
“This is how the American industrial military complex works. It’s become a cookie cutter process for presidents since the Mexican American War when the Thornton Skirmish arose between the U.S. and Mexican military, handing President Polk a justification of war against Mexico in 1846. The sinking of the USS Maine gave Teddy Roosevelt a trumped up reason for the Spanish American War just as the Tonkin incident helped justify the Vietnam War.”
(5) Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton University Press, Feb. 2010.
“Before the war, during the first two terms of FDR’s presidency (1933-41), a substantial attempt was made to establish a liberal version of social democracy. Looking back upon that experience, one has difficulty recognizing an America in which, unapologetically, public debate and discussion centered on matters such as planning; focusing resources on the poor and unemployed; bringing radical changes agriculture by limiting production; regulating business and banking practices while not fearing to castigate the rich and powerful; raising the standard of living of whole regions of the country; introducing public works projects that created employment for millions and left valuable public improvements (libraries, schools, conservation practices, subsidies to the arts); and promoting all manner of participatory schemes for including the citizenry in economic decision-making process.”
(6) Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton University Press, Feb. 2010.
“Inverted totalitarianism, in contrast, while exploiting the authority and resources of the state, gains its dynamic by combining with other forms of power, such as evangelical religions, and most notably by encouraging symbiotic relationship between traditional government and the system of “private” governance represented by the modern business corporation. …that represents the political coming-of-age of corporate power.”
(7) See the short lists on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_profiteering
(8) See the video that explains this: http://storyofstuff.org/citizensunited/