Greenwald’s odd “slip”

September 27, 2010

Glenn Greenwald has been quite properly bashing the Obama administration for its horrific “assassination list”. Indeed, they seem to be striving to make it more absurd and disgusting every month. (This month: Not only do they say that Obama can he order American citizens killed without one of those trial thingies, but without judicial…anything. No review of any kind. This is very wrong.)

But his discussion takes an odd rhetorical turn:

If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn’t he have the power to do?

I appreciate that difficulty of finding the right way to say what should not have to be said (assassination lists are loathsome, criminal, appalling and this argument indicates something deeply, though standardly, wrong with the Obama administration; note, that’s it’s all that when the lists are restricted to non-citizens…the fact that citizenship is no protection is a sign of the lack of any restraint; if Obama can kill citizens, there’s no hope to keep him from killing non-citizens).

However, there’s lots Obama can’t do even if he can do this (both practically and legally).

He shouldn’t be able to do this. Period. No matter what else it allows, even if it allows nothing else.

Yglesias also catches this, but with a different emphasis. His point is that in spite of the Obama’s administration’s assertion that they can kill without review, they are enormously constrained in what they can do (in general).

That’s part of what’s wrong with this rhetorical move. Obama can’t really kill with impunity. As far as I know, they don’t even arrogate to themselves the right to kill arbitrarily (being able to kill without review is not the same as being able to kill arbitrarily even if it tends to support arbitrary killing).

Obama should not have this power. No matter what else it allows, even if it allows nothing else.

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