As I write this, Senator Rand Paul [R-KY] is still standing on the floor of the Senate, filibustering against the appointment of John Brennan as head of the CIA. Surprisingly, I agree with Sen. Paul on the need for more transparency regarding American policy on the use of drones. I’m in good company there, as even a progressive like Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] is calling for more openness about how our country views the use of drones.
But when Sen. Paul insists on holding up Brennan’s appointment until Attorney General Eric Holder promises that drone attacks will never be used against a U.S. citizen on American soil, he’s gone too far.
That’s a promise no president can make.
Putting drones aside for the moment, I’d like Sen. Paul to answer this question: Has the U.S. government—more specifically, agents of the U.S. government, such as FBI agents or U.S. Marshalls—ever used any type of lethal weapon against a U.S. citizen on American soil? Have state and local government agents used lethal weapons? Of course they have. And tough-on-crime Republicans have applauded law enforcement in many of these instances. I’m not fan of guns, and I do not welcome the recent hyper-militarization of American police forces, but even I can imagine circumstances in which the only course of action is to use lethal force—against a U.S. citizen on American soil.
It’s no more realistic to exact a pledge of no-drones against Americans than it is to prohibit law enforcement from doing its job when necessary. Would a Senator in the 1930s have demanded that Eliot Ness and his newly formed FBI not use machine guns against the gangsters [they were American citizens] of the Prohibition era, just because machine guns [as automatic weapons were known back then] were the most advanced weapons of the time?
A few days ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] tried to convince us that it doesn’t make sense to ban assault weapons—citing the supposedly reassuring fact the he owns an AR47 himself. That’s going to make us feel better? Graham said that, if America experienced a major cyber attack in which we had food shortages and no electricity, it might be a good idea for citizens like him to have assault weapons. For what? To protect ourselves against marauding hordes of fellow, desperate U.S. citizens on American soil? He didn’t go so far as to mention a zombie apocalypse, but it’s pretty interesting that he wants to protect his right—and that of other survivalist citizens—to get violent against one another, while prohibiting the U.S. government from stopping anarchistic or terrorist activity with the most advanced technology available.
Where were these guys when Bush and Cheney used weapons of mass deception against American citizens on U.S. soil? If there was a filibuster demanding a pledge not to use torture during the Iraq invasion/occupation, I’m not aware of it.
Sen. Paul’s point seems to be that perfectly innocent citizens, like himself, could be sitting in a café having a latte when, poof, out of nowhere they are vaporized by a drone attack launched by our own government. Hasn’t it always been illegal in the U.S. for government to attack innocent citizens—no matter what the weapon of choice of the day? But, silly me, I forgot that Sen. Paul is a Tea Partier and a conspiracy theorist whose main theory is that the U.S. government is conspiring to take over the United States.
Anyway, between the time I started writing this post and now, Sen. Paul’s filibuster publicity stunt droned on [pun intended, of course], flew way off course into delusional territory, and finally came to an end when the Senator declared that he needed to go potty. Also, Eric Holder issued an answer to Sen. Paul’s main question: The President is not legally authorized to use a drone attack against a non-combatant American on U.S. soil. The Senate confirmed John Brennan as head of the CIA. Rand Paul has been excoriated by more rational members of his own party [including John McCain!]. And the talking filibuster appears to be back in fashion.