The Big Think

February 6, 2013

Moral Urgency: Changed

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:56 am

“During his presidential campaign, Republican Rep. Ron Paul criticized the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, saying: “Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. … But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad…

…“I don’t really necessarily agree with some of the things Anwar said against the United States, but does that mean they should kill him outside the law?” asked Nassar al-Awlaki….

The Obama administration has remained mostly mum regarding Abdulrahman’s death, and at times has struggled to explain it.”

I’ll bet.

American drone deaths highlight controversy

Ah, now that we’ve experienced that good old fierce moral urgency of change! I guess this stuff is okay now. At least the Right People are in power.

I’ve come to the decision that if someone protested against the trampling of Constitutional protections under the Bush presidency (renditions, Guantanamo, war, secrecy, deficits) and used those things as a reason to demand change, but then haven’t been shouting from the housetops for the last four years, then their previous complaints were based on just wanting Their Team to be in power. It was never about principles and you’ve just torpedoed any future legitimacy you may have had. Want to convince me otherwise? Start by being as vocal about the way things are now as you were in 2008. Otherwise you’re just a partisan hack.

Related: Your Government Can Kill You If…

Update: a related article here.

During the 2008 campaign and much of the early part of his presidency, Barack Obama obsessively argued that waterboarding all of three individuals–September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and senior al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri–was a violation of human rights and a grave moral offense. Here’s the thing, though: unlike Mr. Obama’s drone strikes, no American citizens, no terrorists and no innocent children have died due to waterboarding. Yet the president’s press spokesman is defending Mr. Obama’s policies as “legal,” “ethical,” and “wise.”

Which leads me to two conclusions. The first is that it’s not always easy to navigate the murky waters of law, morality, and war and terrorism, at least when you’re in the White House and have an obligation to protect the country from massive harm. (After they were revealed, I had several long conversations with White House colleagues trying to sort through the morality of waterboarding and indefinite detention.)

The second is that it is true that there is a serious argument to be made that during wartime targeting terrorists, including Americans, with drones is justified [without due process, I disagree]. But that justification probably best not come from someone who has spent much of the last half-dozen years or so sermonizing against waterboarding, accusing those who approved such policies of trashing American ideals and shredding our civil liberties, and portraying himself as pure as the new-driven snow. Because any person who did so would be vulnerable to the charge of moral preening and moral hypocrisy.

Powered by WordPress