All Politicians Should Talk As Much As Rand Paul Just Did
Yesterday was one of those rare days when you could feel good about something that happened in Congress: Rand Paul stood up just before noon, started talking about drones, and didn’t stop for 13 hours. The point of Paul’s filibuster was to delay the appointment of drone-policy architect John Brennan as the new CIA director and to draw attention to Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to categorically rule out drone strikes on US soil, in response to a letter Paul wrote. There was no real hope of stopping Brennan’s appointment in the beginning, but as the afternoon turned into night, some mainstream Republicans voiced their support (like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), and there’s now a chance that Brennan won’t get confirmed so easily, or at least not until Obama comes out and says, “We’re not going to use drones to kill Americans in America. That’s ridiculous.” The impressive thing about Paul’s effort, though, was that someone spoke in public passionately and at length about something he believes in, which is a pretty rare sight in politics.
There are tons of filibusters in the Senate, but very few are Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style oratorical workouts. Thanks to rule changes adopted back in the 60s, it’s enough for a senator to announce that he or she is filibustering a bill, and the chamber will move along to something else unless 60 senators vote to overrule. A few months ago, there were various reforms proposed to change this obstructionist state of affairs—one idea, from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, would have forced filibuster-happy legislators to do exactly what Paul did yesterday and literally stand up for what they believe in. But those efforts fell apart, since apparently senators are big fans of being able to quietly stall the progress of bills they don’t like. (The Senate is not a great place to get things done.)
Sorry Guys, Americans Love Obama’s Killer Drones
Right now, as you’re reading this, American remote-controlled planes are flying over mountains and deserts in the Middle East, occasionally firing missiles at people who—in the estimation of an “informed, high-level” official—are engaged in some kind of activities that might, conceivably, harm the United States. Sometimes, these missiles incinerate (as in, consume with fire until their bones and flesh are turned to ash) precisely the wrong people. Very occasionally, the missiles kill American citizens. The Obama administration is doing this without declaring war on any nation in particular, without getting the permission of Congress, and without explaining to the public in detail why it’s OK to order the death of pretty much anyone it wants to kill. Just how broad the administration believes its powers to be was revealed in a Justice Department memo obtained byMichael Isikoff of NBC. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen,” Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU told Isikoff.
If you are upset about all this, you’re not alone—there are plenty of people on both the right and left who aren’t happy that the executive branch can now kill whomever it wants. Call them antiwar isolationists or civil libertarians or simply people who don’t like to see other people die for little apparent reason and with no explanation. Whatever their name, they came out in force to attack Touré, the liberal writer and talking head who went on MSNBC, the “lean forward” progressive network, to say, in essence, It’s OK for the president to order the deaths of anyone, even American citizens, even 16-year-olds, since they probably hated the USA or whatever. Those who disagree with Obama’s drone policy are hardly shy about saying so.
The thing is, they’re in the minority, and few people in power have paid much attention to them. Sure, most voters, according to a Fairleigh-Dickinson poll, don’t think that it’s legal to assassinate American citizens abroad (even if you’ve never heard of drones, that’s got to sound like a pretty awful prospect), but take away the “American citizen” part of that question and voters are like, “Oh, sure, kill whoever.” In fact, according to aWashington Post-ABC poll, Americans are perfectly happy with the way Obama is running the war on terror. They like the fact that he’s kept Guantanamo Bay open, even though he said he’d close it—53 percent ofDemocrats feel terrific about him breaking that particular campaign promise. A whopping 83 percent of Americans and 77 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats approve of Obama’s use of drones to kill people. And remember, the administration has refused to discuss its drone policies in detail so these people are supporting a policy they have no way of understanding beyond, Terrorists bad. We kill bad people.
World Peace Update
Compared to last week’s French air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali, this week—world violence-wise—has been a bit of a wash out. If it weren’t for some pissed off Egyptians, Turks, and the never-ending slaughter in Syria, I’d be so bored I’d have probably paid some attention to Obama’s inauguration. Then again, when I think about Obama, I think about drone wars. So that’s always a plus, I guess.
Motherboard, VICE’s website about how the future is super scary but also potentially amazing, has a new look. Go check it out, starting with their great new documentary about drones.
Without further ado, then, we present Drone On, Motherboard’s nosedive into this domestic drone boom. From military weapons expos in Jordan to idyllic SoCal beaches, we caught up with some of those who are building and selling unmanned aerial vehicles all over the world, and even convinced a few companies to let us take their flying spy robots for a spin.
- by Brian Anderson