S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Why civil liberties should still matter -

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...President Obama's Inauguration.  Image via Wikipedia
South by Southwest is an old political blog I began in 2005.  For whatever reason, I focused on the subject of constitutional civil liberties almost from the beginning.*  Perhaps it was my belief that the Republican Bush administration began riding roughshod over the Bill of Rights' First and Fourth Amendments almost immediately after the 9/11/01 attacks on the United States.

Fast forward to January 2009 when the current Democratic Barack Obama administration began.
It became apparent to me over time that not that much changed under our Constitutional Law professor president. 

The U.S. recently confirmed that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a military drone strike.  And almost from when this news became known, there was a debate between civil libertarians and the rest of the country over the justification of the U.S. military action in northern Yemen.  In its news article today's New York Times points to the President's dilemma.  To quote,
The strike was the culmination of a desperate manhunt marked not only by near misses and dead ends, but also by a wrenching legal debate in Washington about the legality — and morality — of putting an American citizen on a list of top militants marked for death. It also represented the latest killing of a senior terrorist figure in an escalated campaign by the Obama administration.
. . . There had been an intense debate among lawyers in the months before the Obama administration decided to put Mr. Awlaki on a target list in early 2010, and officials said that Mr. Khan was never on the list. The decision to make Mr. Awlaki a priority to be sought and killed was controversial, given his American citizenship. The American Civil Liberties Union, which fought unsuccessfully in the American court system to challenge the decision to target Mr. Awlaki, condemned the killing. 
Commentators on television, the blogosphere and social media soon raised questions about the legality and morality of the "assassainations" or war combatant targeting of two United States citizens.  So I am not alone with my discomfort.  That view is not widely held beyond the members of the left. But it does give many of us pause. Michael J.W. Stickings, my longtime blog friend at The Reaction, wonders whether President Obama is "a disaster for civil liberties."  He mirrors my own ambivalence, saying:
Though I remain, for the most part, a supporter of the president, I cannot disagree 
[with legal scholar Jonathan Turley, whom Stickings quotes extensively].
While I would argue that he has done a lot of good thus far in office, this remains the major blot on his record.
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*Just a  few of my previous posts related to civil liberties over the years:
Civil liberties should still matter.  Even if I can understand or even argue for the killing-of-a-terrorist view, the next questions are the real ones.  What happens when another president (not so competent and trustworthy) is in charge?  Where is the line for him/her?  Does it make a difference where the killing happens?  Could it be legally done in the United States as well as Yemen?  How strong was the evidence?  Was there due process?  What does the law of war demand?  What qualifies as the "imminent threat" posed by the citizen/combatant?  What if innocent people are also killed?

Posted on 10/1/11 - from Texas:

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