Senator Rand Paul filibustered yesterday for 13 hours against John “Drone Man” Brennan’s nomination to run the CIA. This outraged the Wall Street Journal.
Give Rand Paul credit for theatrical timing. As a snow storm descended on Washington, the Kentucky Republican’s old-fashioned filibuster Wednesday filled the attention void on Twitter and cable TV. If only his reasoning matched the showmanship.
It was great showmanship indeed. He delayed the nomination. He also got enormous national publicity for a key issue: a statement by Attorney General Eric “Fast and Furious” Holder that he sees no reason why drones should not be used to kill Americans inside the borders of the United States.
The Wall Street Journal sides with Holder.
Holder tried to weasel out of the government’s position.
Senator Paul had written the White House to inquire about the possibility of a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil. Attorney General Eric Holder replied that the U.S. hasn’t and “has no intention” to bomb any specific territory. Drones are limited to the remotest areas of conflict zones like Pakistan and Yemen. But as a hypothetical Constitutional matter, Mr. Holder acknowledged the President can authorize the use of lethal military force within U.S. territory.
The Journal is unconcerned. It’s all a tempest in a tea pot, we are assured.
Calm down, Senator. Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn’t explain the law very well. The U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else. What it can do under the laws of war is target an “enemy combatant” anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant. The President can designate such a combatant if he belongs to an entity—a government, say, or a terrorist network like al Qaeda—that has taken up arms against the United States as part of an internationally recognized armed conflict.
Who decides who is to get himself “droned”? The President. To whom does he answer? Nobody. Who is to say who is guilty or innocent? The President. What if he’s wrong? Tough bananas.
Such a conflict exists between the U.S. and al Qaeda, so Mr. Holder is right that the U.S. could have targeted (say) U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki had he continued to live in Virginia. The U.S. killed him in Yemen before he could kill more Americans. But under the law Awlaki was no different than the Nazis who came ashore on Long Island in World War II, were captured and executed.
No different? Really? Those spies were captured, tried, and executed. Not all of them were executed. The government appointed seven generals to try the case in a military court. (The accused had initially come ashore in military uniforms.) There were 3,000 pages of trial transcripts. Two of the eight were given prison sentences. They were released early.
Yet the supercilious writer for the Wall Street Journal insisted that there is no difference between this and the President’s ordering an assassination by a drone — a drone that will probably kill innocent bystanders, as American drones usually do in the Middle East.
Wedding party, anyone? Watch your invitation list. It could be a killer. It is in Pakistan.
Yet the supercilious hack who wrote the editorial thinks he scored big.
The Wall Street Journal, compared to the influence of Matt Drudge, is a backwater. Here was Drudge’s lead headline this morning.
The Wall Street Journal is an Establishment outlet. Its influence, minimal now, will fade.
Four decades ago, I wrote book reviews for the Journal. It was an influential newspaper back then. Today, it is a struggling shell of its former self. It has not brought its paper-based profits with it in the transition to digital. For this, we should rejoice.