Rand Paul's filibuster haunts me. Haunts the nation.
Most of the time, I don't like the guy. I dislike him for the same reason I can't stand libertarians in general: My number one priority is protecting Social Security and Medicare. Unlike all Ayn Randroids, I understand that unfettered corporate rule would result in a dictatorship worse than anything Stalin could imagine.
And, yes, it's obvious that personal ambition
motivated Paul's stunt, at least in part. His presidential hopes appear to be backed by one sector of the GOP leadership -- hence Krauthammer's turnabout
on the drone issue. (Another sector of the GOP has a very different attitude.)
Republican strategists have finally started to understand that all of their usual bullshit ploys, from birtherism to Benghazi, won't find any traction outside of WingnutWorld. They have no choice but to try a line of attack based on non
Now that a well-known Republican has done just that, liberals must face up to one supremely galling fact: Rand Paul got it right
. Even a prominent Kos blogger
admits this infuriating truth.
I think a lot of people (both Democrats and Republicans) have lined up on the drone issue based purely on partisan identification. The endless game of shirts-vs.-skins dictates who stands where, even though politics should
be about ideas and values. The Democratic gutlessness on display here
has no excuse.
Not long ago, the Republicans were the party of the Patriot Act, drone attacks, torture, renditions and wireless wiretaps. Not long ago, liberals opposed all of these indecent assaults on our human and Constitutional rights. Conservatives, not liberals, are the ones who made an industry of Islamophobia. Pam Geller is no Obot. Red state fundamentalists pay good money hear to fake "former jihadis" prattle on about how, in the days before they found Jesus, they conspired to create the dreaded American caliphate.
If the wheel has turned -- if some conservatives
are now telling us that the government uses an endless "war on terror" to justify attacks on our liberties -- then all genuine progressives should swallow their pride and relocate to their Bush-era position, even if, in doing so, they must take a stand against Obama.
Yes, I know full well how infuriating it is to see Rand Paul's filibuster applauded by the same GOP-bots who also applauded Dubya's insane wars. The fact remains: Paul's right.
But not right enough.
He has focused on the idea of the government using weaponized drones within the United States -- a possibility that Eric Holder belatedly addressed in this response
(which offers scant comfort because it contradicts
what he has said before). But we must also look at the drone program as a whole. We must convince our fellow citizens to get beyond the bigoted view that non-American drone victims are subhumans, presumed guilty by virtue of their faith and skin color.
Have drones made us any safer? By what right do we murder foreign nationals on foreign soil without a formal declaration of war? Isn't it true that our anti-terrorism efforts have only made the U.S. government more detested, both abroad and at home?
The word terrorism
encompasses quite a lot of territory -- more than you may realize. In 2009, investigators uncovered a DoD training manual which lists "protests" as a form of "low-level terrorism."
The ACLU deserves the credit for uncovering this document
. (Oddly, most of the sites which mention the document are run by right-wingers who customarily despise the ACLU.) Blogger Dennis Loo later discovered that "low-level terrorism" has become a common designator for protest movements among Defense Department strategists.
I would add that the Benghazi incident probably increased the DoD's perception that a spontaneous protest provides a sea in which terrorists may swim. You can't occupy a park if Uncle occupies the skies.
Let's zoom out for a wider view. The "terror" bugaboo has justified thousands of instances in which a lone "Fox Mulder" type at the FBI has used National Security Letters
to grab hold of your private information.
National Security Letters allow the government to get detailed information on Americans’ finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and has even been reprimanded for abusing them. The NSLs are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and businesses like Google to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more as long as the FBI says the information is “relevant” to an investigation.
National Security Letters are a powerful tool because they do not require court approval, and they come with a built-in gag order, preventing recipients from disclosing to anyone that they have even received an NSL. An FBI agent looking into a possible anti-terrorism case can self-issue an NSL to a credit bureau, ISP or phone company with only the sign-off of the special agent in charge of their office.
What’s more, the lack of court oversight raises the possibility for extensive abuse.
In 2007 a Justice Department Inspector General audit found that the FBI had indeed abused its authority and misused NSLs on many occasions.
Such intrusions would have been considered unthinkable not many years ago. The Orwellian blanket smothers us because we did not recoil from its first glancing touch.
All of which means that the time to discuss drones in the United States is now
. I'm not just talking about weaponized
drones: Your parents would never have tolerated spies in the skies, and neither should you.
And that is why I, a staunch anti-libertarian (on economic issues), must now say -- through clenched teeth and scarlet cheeks -- "Thank you, Rand Paul." Like it or not, he has forced us to have a necessary conversation.
Let me repeat a point made in an earlier post: Do not buy into the infantile right-wing fantasy that we can counter the drone threat by "exercising our Second Amendment rights." In Yemen, fully automatic weapons are almost as common as rocks, yet American drones usually find their targets without hindrance. Guns won't protect you from these machines.
We need laws
We also need to remind progressives to put principle ahead of party. Liberals must regain their old position -- and if doing so means standing against the Obama administration, so be it. Screech at your representatives. Tell them that the issues of drones, privacy and surveillance will play a huge role in how you vote. Protest while you still can.
(By the way: Senator Ron Wyden
gave me brief hope that Democrats could be brought around on this issue -- and then he pulled this
crap. Along with Barbara Boxer!