Obama, Philosopher King, Above the Law

John Glaser, November 26, 2012

The greatest political conceit held by those in power is that rules only apply to others, not oneself. President Obama, according to the New York Times, embraces this conceit wholly in his administration of the drone program.

Before Obama won reelection, he was nervous Romney might win and continue administering the drone wars just as Obama has done (i.e., without checks, balances, oversight, or legal sanction). “Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term,” reports Scott Shane, “his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.”

This effort “lost some urgency” following Obama’s victory, according to Shane, because, hey, why impose rules and transparency on oneself? They have another four years to run rampant before they do something like that.

According to the Times report, the administration is “still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.”

In order for a President to use force without Congressional approval, the threat he is supposedly extinguishing must be imminent, that is, an overwhelming threat that allows “no moment for deliberation,” according to a legal memo from the Congressional Research Service. Yet here in the Times it is admitted, once again, that this is a requirement routinely ignored by the Obama administration. It therefore runs counter to both domestic and international law.

Officially, the Obama administration claims it launches drones in response to specific imminent threats and to disrupt ongoing terrorist plots against the US.

But for at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.

In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.

“Unless they were about to get on a flight to New York to conduct an attack, they were not an imminent threat to the United States,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who is a critic of the strikes. “We don’t say that we’re the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but we are.”

The violation of the principle of imminence is demonstrated even more starkly with the example of signature strikes, wherein the administration simply murders young men who happen to look like militants:

Originally that term was used to suggest the specific “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.

There you have it: signature strikes, which represent the bulk of the drone war, are legally questionable and generate blowback. But President Obama retains the right to act outside the law and provoke militancy against the US. Don’t you worry though, this philosopher king won’t let the next scoundrel president get away with just anything.




38 Responses to “Obama, Philosopher King, Above the Law”

  1. All hail Maximus Obamanator. "We who are about to get slaughtered, salute thee!" Ummm, John? Wouldn't our buddy the Obamanator be construed to be a 'warrior king' and not 'philosopher king'? Minor semantic notion but…
    Silly pseudo-intellectual poser certainly loves that killing motif.

  2. Well the thing is they keep painting themselves as "philosopher kings" whenever they talk about the kill list. They can't talk about the kill lists without throwing in Aquainas and so on, EVERY SINGLE new news article on the kill lists they talk about both how moral, religious and how educated and philosophical they are and they drop names.

    That it is an intellectual fig leaf covering an obscenity and offense to all human dignity. Well yea, that's what it really is. So being able to "talk smart" now justifies murder? It's educational credentialism gone completely bat@#$ insane. But they must think pseudo intellectual pap covering murder has some kind of marketing benefit I guess. As long as our killers are smart killers or something (although for some reason that defense didn't even work for Ted Kazinsky, who unlike the rather dumb Obama actually was highly intellegent, and killed far fewer).

  3. Hi jrs:Well said. “Educational credentialism”, that's a good one. Opens up a world of possible graphix applications. Gives me an idea…By the by, excellent comparison as well. Obama/Kazinsky, Dear Leader shouldn't miss that one.

  4. Modern education: Creating people who are smart enough to repeat orders and do exactly what they are told and dumb enough to think that makes them smarter then everyone else.

  5. The next scoundrel president get away with just anything.

  6. O-Bomb-a, the Peace Laureate-in-Chief, is setting the standard for lawlessness. . . .

  7. It is of interest to note that the Spanish High Court named members of the Bush and Obama Administrations as war criminals for both the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. George Bush siad that whereby the Taliban did not wear identifying uniforms they were not therby protected under Geneva and other laws of war. Yet the Northern Alliance, the group of Soviet collaborators who are currently allies of the US have worn and wear precisely the same garb yet have not been cautioned or criticised accordingly. Both the former USSR and the US have insulated themselves from prosecution for war crimes notwithstanding the fact both have committed numerous atrocities ranging from torture to genocide. The haloed Geneva and other Conventions to which the US is signatory have been thoroughly eviscerated by those who "talk the talk but do not walk the walk",

  8. [...] Obama, Philosopher King, Above the Law [...]

  9. [...] Shane’s report in The New York Times, which I blogged about here, has been getting considerable attention for various reasons. The lede of the story was that Obama [...]

  10. [...] Shane’s report in The New York Times, which I blogged about here, has been getting considerable attention for various reasons. The lede of the story was that Obama [...]

  11. Obama is a tyrant

  12. Starting with Bush 2, the corporate mandate for every future president is to violate their constitutional oath of office, and to have more deaths by their hand then the last, and finally to leave us in a state of war in the next transition.

  13. Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.

  14. Scott Shane, “his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.”

  15. Scott Shane, “his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.”

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  26. Thanks Rand for going along with the majority here; however, real "courage" and "integrity" would involve stating the oblivious: that the fake Youtube videos and Ahmed Chalabi equivalent possible "eye-witnesses" simply are not "credible"…and that there is NO "credible" evidence Assad did what seems to be the 'Washington consensus': that he (Assad) "gassed his own people"–I assume to scare away the Al-Qaeda elements doing the actual fighting…or just to kill women and children 'because he can'…as it's being portrayed?

  27. Or did the alleged "satellite photos" capture the launching point, trajectory, and landing of the alleged "chemical weapons"? This is even harder to believe than Saddam hiding anthrax in his own palace as claimed 10 years ago…

    If you have "information" 'we' don't Rand, why not share it?

  28. "I will not vote to send my son, your son, or anyone’s daughter to war unless a compelling American interest is present. "

  29. Rand Paul went on CNN tonight and defined a 'compelling American interest' when asked by Wolf Blitzer as "American business" or Israel (which he stated twice). So this is different than the usual nonsense how? I have zero confidence in someone who claims that Israel and multinational corporations are 'compelling American interests' that requires US military action.

  30. RP also talked as if Assad did order the gas attacks – Blitzer suggested this and RP followed along. Then Paul also said that Assad had killed 100,000 people. Apparently he's killed his own soldiers..? No one but Assad's side has killed anyone..?

  31. Bizarrely Paul didn't question for a moment that this was a 'civil' war. I saw and see no sign that is either understands or is willing to state what is actually going on here.

  32. When this site backs this guy (not to mention Chuck H.) as the great hope for anti-war's future… I dunno. The best we can say is that he's not a war criminal, which these days is I suppose the pinnacle of accomplishment for an American elected official.

  33. The fact that Rand gave the response is a great sign for the antiwar movement. The speech had to be toned down or he would have never been allowed to give it. He was speaking for the whole party. Which means the whole party is moving in an antiwar direction. it was a corporate speech put together by a lot of writers. I am sure he had input but in no way a free hand. Rome wasn't built in a day. This is a great step in the right direction.

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  38. In order for a President to use force without Congressional approval,