Last week, Chuck Hagel’s nomination for the Secretary of Defense hit a roadblock in the Senate floor. Fifty-eight senators voted yes and forty voted no to his nomination. Obviously, these days a simple majority does not mean much in the Senate floor! The majority leader Senator Reid of the Democratic Party was one of those who voted against so that he could use parliamentary rules to quickly reconsider the nomination.
Congress is in recess next week. So, the next vote may have to wait until Tuesday, February 26. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2016, who has tried to promote himself as a more traditional realist on foreign policy, wary of too much interventionism, could have been the deciding vote to clear the way for Hagel’s confirmation, but instead he opted to vote no. He told CNN that he would back a filibuster of Hagel, relying on the most spurious of pretexts: the charge, raised by senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), that Hagel is in the pay of foreign powers and that Hagel needs to “prove” that he is not in league with foreign governments or sympathetic with terrorists.
In a few short months in office, Cruz has already earned the notoriety as an Israel-firster and as one of the most McCarthyite members of the GOP, someone happy to use lies and innuendo to destroy opponents. Even senator John McCain had to call his allegations against Hagel as being “over the line.”
And now for Rand Paul to endorse Ted Cruz’s bogus claims shows his greatest lapse of judgment. Already he has proven himself to be very unlike his more popular father – Congressman Ron Paul — respected by many, who sought the GOP nomination in 2012. His excessive pandering towards Israel on a recent trip there where he offered an entirely unnecessary security guarantee to Israel, combined with an unfathomable obtuseness about the occupation of the Palestinian land, plus his vote for cruel sanctions against Iran have already made him an embarrassment to many of his antiwar conservatives and libertarian supporters. His vote against Hagel was like the final straw for many who like to see him emerge as a viable leader of a realist foreign policy tendency within the GOP, and as a presidential candidate in 2016. If he persists on going demagogic on Hagel, his supporters may not be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His father’s reputation will not be able to salvage his political hara-kiri.
Many in America are tired of the American foreign policy, which hitherto has rewarded criminal regimes and put the country on a collision course with others that was either unnecessary or avoidable. They also distaste President Obama’s drone policy, which has killed thousands of innocent civilians, including children and elderly. In recent years, that policy has also contributed to the assassination of American-born citizens without any trial.
In his interviews with David Frost, (late) President Nixon famously said, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Unlike the latter-day trigger-happy presidents that lived in the White House, Nixon was not talking about targeted assassinations and drone attacks, but he was talking about wiretaps and covert entries to protect lives and safeguard national security in a cold war era. Compared to these war criminals Nixon was a saint, or, so it seems!
In the post-9/11 era, under the pretext of global war on terror, President George W. Bush approved illegal crimes like the waterboard, torture, rendition and hold enemy aliens in indefinite detention at Guantanamo. Under President Barack Obama, who once taught constitutional law at the prestigious University of Chicago, we have a “kill list” from which the president selects individuals to be executed abroad. Where are we heading to?
According to a Justice Department “white paper,” anyone can be in the U.S. president’s ‘kill list.’ To be included as a target, it only requires, an ‘informed high-level official’ to decide that so-and-so “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” The salient point of the memo is this: It allows the president to bypass the traditional constitutional requirements governing how American citizens are treated judicially. Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union has precisely pointed out that “This is a little bit like assuming that the defendant is guilty and then asking whether it’s useful to have a trial.”
This is a far cry from the checks and balances mandated in a constitutional democracy to stop the abuse of power, and the fundamental notion within the American judicial system that espouses innocence of everyone until proven guilty.
Patrick Buchanan recently wrote, “As killing a U.S. citizen is a graver deed than waterboarding a terrorist plotter to get information to save lives, Obama, who bewailed Bush’s detention, rendition and interrogation policies, appears guilty of manifest hypocrisy.”
In the “Smiley & West” radio program, Professor Cornel West of Princeton University took on the administration’s drone policy and said, “The chickens are coming home to roost.” “We’ve been talking about this for a good while, the immorality of drones, dropping bombs on innocent people. It’s been over 200 children so far. These are war crimes.” West called Bush and Obama “war criminals,” adding that “They have killed innocent people in the name of the struggle for freedom, but they’re suspending the law, very much like Wall Street criminals. The law is suspended for them, but the law applies for the rest of us.”
President Obama has nominated John Brennan to be the Director of the CIA. If approved, the bombs and missiles, like the rain, will continue to fall on the good and the bad, the innocent and the guilty, the deserving and the undeserving individuals alike. As the U.S. law makers decide on Brennan, let them ponder on the question — Are we creating more terrorists than we are killing? As rightly noted by Buchanan, “For if these drone strikes that kill innocent and guilty alike are creating new millions of sympathizers for al-Qaida, and recruiting new thousands of volunteers willing to dedicate their lives to taking revenge against us, we have entered upon a war that may never end.”
Is that the legacy that president Obama wants to leave behind? Already, the capital city of the USA looks like a barricaded city with its great buildings and monuments enveloped in concrete barriers. Passengers are forced to submit to invasive searches before boarding planes, which add to their ticket prices and wastage of valuable time. They can’t event carry a water bottle! How long will such mindless safety measures continue, and at whose behest and at what cost?
Patrick Buchanan fears that if we do not end this drone war, this war will one day bring an end to the freedom for which the founding fathers of the USA fought. We may end up living in a garrison state!
And the latest episode with vigilante, fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner’s killing spree (when he chose to become the plaintiff, jury, judge and executioner – much like what President Obama has been to his drone victims) and his suicide after a standoff with police shows that Buchanan may be right. As already noted by Professor West, parroting what Malcolm X had said nearly five decades ago soon after the assassination of President Kennedy, “The chickens are coming home to roost.”
We forgot that message and need to be reminded of the wisdom behind those seven words. We need a paradigm shift with our immoral policies at the top to avoid the catastrophic showdown at home.