Very Real Death Panel
by Anthony Gregory: A
Bloody Decade of Fear and Vaunting
The American dystopia is here. Obama administration officials
admit that the CIA assassination program that snuffed out Anwar
al-Awlaki last Friday is guided by a secret panel that decides who
lives and dies. According to Reuters:
militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture
list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which
then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.
no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel,
which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council,
several current and former officials said. Neither is there any
law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which
it is supposed to operate.
Let that sink
in. The U.S. presidency, supposed leader of the free world, has
a clandestine committee that chooses American citizens to assassinate.
This from the administration that promised unprecedented transparency
and a ratcheting back of Bush-era civil liberties abuses. This from
the president who vowed to restore habeas corpus and subject executive
war powers to judicial scrutiny. This from the Nobel Peace Prize
striking, however, is the deafening silence. Sure, the ACLU opposes
all this, as do a smattering of public voices. Yet it seems for
everyone expressing proportional concern about this, there are a
thousand leftist protesters whining about the top one percent, and
a thousand conservatives whining about the leftist protesters.
that the presidency that Tea Partiers accused of planning to convene
death panels to handle health care rationing has openly admitted
to having created such a panel whose declared purpose is not simply
to withhold socialized medical resources, but to direct the cold-blooded
murder of citizens who are sufficiently bothersome enemies of the
regime. Yet in a majestic irony, many of the conservatives who feared
Obama’s life-and-death bureaucracies are cheering on his most explicit
and frightening seizure of dictatorial power in all his presidency,
and perhaps one of the greatest of all presidential power grabs
in the sweep of U.S. history.
Obama’s millions of supporters still think the idea that this man
is a fascist, a tyrant, a threat to liberty, is hysterical hate
speech and itself a danger to American democracy. Yet Barack Obama
appears dedicated to out-Bushing Bush when it comes to shredding
the Bill of Rights and sticking his middle finger at the very idea
that he ought to be accountable to anything but his own power.
Make no mistake.
We are witnessing a defining moment in America’s transformation
into a totalitarian nation. Not because the murder of al-Alwaki,
or even the death panel that sealed his fate, is some sort of anomaly
in terms of morality or even presidential power. The U.S. presidency
has already sentenced millions to death with its wars, its sanctions,
its bombings, its terrorism, its covert ops, its torture chambers.
The nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to take a couple of famous
examples, long ago revealed the awesome and murderous power of the
Oval Office, whether or not these bombings were as "illegal"
as the offing of al-Alwaki. And the families of thousands of innocent
Afghans and Pakistanis killed in drone strikes had no doubts about
Obama’s imperial touch, even before this latest atrocity.
But the circumstances
surrounding this particular hit job, and the death panel behind
it, deserve more than a footnote. There is the brazenness of it
all – the audacity, as a younger Obama might say – of the administration
just coming clean about its mysterious council that serves as judge
and jury behind closed doors. There is the frank admission of its
existence with all else being kept secret. There is also the precision
– the fact that this program is one focused on offing political
enemies, rather than just bombing neighborhoods in an ad hoc attempt
to weaken another government in a war. There is also the open-ended
nature of this conflict, a war on terrorism that can last even longer
than the clash with the USSR, a war whose immortality seems even
more possible now that Barack the law professor is in charge, rather
than George the rancher.
this is just the kind of creepy atmosphere befitting of a total
state, a Communist or fascist government or a nightmarish bureaucracy
contrived in the mind of a Cold War-era novelist imagining what
America would look like in the 21st century after taking
one too many wrong turns. It is almost as if the administration
is trying to preempt the conspiracy-minded by giving them something
that would be unbelievable only fifteen years ago, but is today
easily taken for granted because of course the president has
a secret death panel that deliberates on the secret, unchecked executions
of American citizens, to be conducted by robots flying in the sky.
say, anyone who defends this, especially if given the opportunity
to think through the implications, is surely no friend of liberty,
whether they be fair-weather "civil libertarian" liberals
who would rather cheer for their president than wake up and smell
the fascism, or conservatives who claim to distrust government except
when it exercises the most lethal powers in the most lawless way
imaginable. We must recognize that the movement for freedom and
against true oppression is clearly no majority, regardless of what
Tea Party Republicans and Wall Street occupiers might say.
There is a
more fundamental lesson to be learned, however, and one to remember
for the ages: This is the nature of the state. It is, by its institutional
nature, always and everywhere seeking to expand power in any way
it can. To claim and practice the power to kill on its own unreviewable
prerogative is simply the fulfillment of its very design. At times
of crisis, especially concerning national security, states almost
always tend toward aggrandizement toward their realization as totalitarian
For all who
find Obama’s death panel frightening – and all of us should – let
us remember that this is simply what governments do when they can
get away with it. We are only now seeing the American state achieving
its maturity. At the founding of the Federal Government, the Framers
unleashed a monster that could never easily be restrained, even
creating a presidency with all too much power over military affairs.
Then came Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, LBJ,
Nixon, Bush and Obama, each one building on the horrible precedents
of past American despots, each reaching further toward the ideal
of a completely unencumbered presidential hand, one that could snap
its fingers and order death to anyone anywhere on the globe.
There is a
silver lining, however, albeit one circumscribing a large and dark
cloud indeed. A government can develop and come of age, but it is
a mortal institution. As it grows it puts strain on the public ideology
it requires to live, wrecks the economy it feeds on, and alienates
the allies that allow it to be a global empire. To be a total state
is the dream of all regimes, but it is an unsustainable reality,
and certainly so at the size the U.S. government has become. The
more the U.S. presidency and American nation-state morph into an
Orwellian version of themselves, the closer they will come to finally
expose themselves as being no different from the tyrannies that
have enslaved mankind for millennia. For generations much of the
world has been under the spell of the lie of American democracy,
the propaganda that the brutality of power politics can be tempered
through elections and an eloquent piece of parchment. We can hope
that the day this great lie is universally seen as a tragic joke,
the true significance of Obama’s CIA death panel will be remembered.
Gregory [send him mail]
is research editor at the Independent
lives in Oakland, California. See his
webpage for more articles and personal information.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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