No, don’t skip the drone debate


Erick Erickson, master of the conservative blogging site, has just penned a FoxNews column where he says we should just totally skip the drone debate and just kill the terrorists before they kill us. He goes through a series of so-called “justifications” for this terrible idea, before ending with this very chilling conclusion:

Just kill them before they kill us. At some point, we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of Al Qaeda from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe.

Frankly, it should be American policy that any American collaborating with Al Qaeda is better off dead than alive.  Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney should be proud.

First off, let’s get one thing straight—Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney are not people to celebrate or emulate. Nixon engaged in dirty, underhanded tactics to keep his presidency, tactics which when exposed led to the largest case of political corruption in modern American history. And Cheney, well, he’s just a jerk. A jerk who was beholden to his old company, Halliburton, and was not exactly in line with the Constitution on several issues. Erickson should not be looking to either with praise and approval, but the exact opposite.

Second, how on Earth can you sit there, and with a straight face type “we must trust that the president and his advisers…are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe”? Oh yes, this Administration, which is so totally known for it’s restraint, it only increased the national debt by $6.4 trillion! It only increased spending by 24%—roughly $1 trillion! That’s “restraint”!

Who is Erickson kidding here? Besides himself, I mean?

Let’s take some other examples of Administration “restraint.” First and foremost, what sort of “restraint” did the Obama Administration use when it ordered a drone to kill a 16-year old kid, an American citizen, in Yemen? I wonder if Erickson would still say we should just trust the president and his advisers if it was one of his kids that somehow found his way into the drone’s gunsights?

Or, here’s another example, the infamous “double-tap” approach favored by drone commanders, who launch a second attack at a site just as emergency responders arrive to help the wounded? Would Erickson like drones that attack ambulances, firefighters, and police? Is that somehow “restraint”?

Let us now take a hypothetical. Let’s say it’s the year 2024. A Muslim has become President of the United States, and around the same time, a bunch of radical fundamentalist Christians do something really, really stupid—like the Hutaree, but actually effective. Now let’s say that this Muslim president, building on the foundation that Obama & Co. have laid, uses this memo to just start listing conservatives as enemies of the state targets them by drone. He takes out the future Andrew Breitbart, the leaders of the ACU, conservative bloggers, Stephen Colbert (“An accident,” the press secretary will say, “But one we don’t regret”) and hey, who knows, maybe Erick Erickson, who perhaps by this time will be the nucleus of a major conservative network—or as the president and the media will say, the “terr’ists.” We already have government agencies listing Ron Paul supporters and conservatives as right-wing extremists, as I noted in my 7 on the 7th column a week or so ago. Do we want to start putting them on a terrorist kill list?

Erick Erickson is walking a very dangerous path here. He simply wants to hand over the unilateral power to kill anyone to the president and his inner circle of advisors. No restraint, no questions, no judicial review. And he somehow justifies this by saying that:

The battlefield has shifted over the past two decades.  The president has already killed one American on a battlefield with a drone. His chief role is to keep the nation safe.  In the twenty-first century, in the remote caves of Afghanistan and deserts of the Middle East, it is both impractical and unnecessary to strap a speaker to a drone in order to shout down to an American Al Qaeda operative, read him his Miranda rights, then caution him to step back a quarter mile to wait for his arrest while the drone unleashes hell on all his terrorist friends.

Nope, Erick, it doesn’t work that way. If there’s an actual battle going on, there’s a battle going on. But this isn’t a battle. This is a president putting his finger on random people and saying “Die.” This is not war. This is not combat. This is cold-blooded assassination. And it is hard to see how this makes us any safer. It is hard to see how randomly killing several American citizens, how killing a 16-year old child, is making the United States any safer. I notice Erick doesn’t stop to think that maybe the reason the terrorists are attacking us is because of these drone strikes. Has that thought ever crossed his mind?

Giving more unconditional power to the president—particularly the power to just kill—is not going to make us safer. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson most people only grasp after they find themselves in the crosshairs, not before.

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