Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If You Vote For Obama Are You Voting For A War Criminal?

Obama's continuation of many of the Bush administration's war on terrorism actions are troubling - torture, the right to kill American citizens who are terrorists, the continued war in Afghanistan, etc.

Shannyn Moore posted a loooong conversation between John Cusack (the actor, who is also, clearly someone who thinks) and Jonathon Turlock a law professor and expert for various media.

Basically, they ask the question - Can you really vote for a president who violates the constitution and commits war crimes because "he's better than Romney" or because "I like his social programs?"

My personal rational has been that if a Republican appoints the next two Supreme Court justices, the chance to save democracy will be postponed another generation. 

There is also the assumption they make that Obama is in fact a war criminal.  It seems that they are guilty of convicting him without a trial, the same crime they accuse him of with his powers to assassinate people like Osama bin Laden, and worse, American citizens.  It's seriously disturbing, and that's why the media should cover it so there can be a full blown debate and the facts and interpretations can be examined.

Crossing the Rubicon is the metaphor they use repeatedly - is there no point past which Obama could go before you wouldn't vote for him? 

The alternatives to voting for Obama aren't nearly as well developed as the argument that he is a war criminal.  
“Look, you’re not helping Obama by enabling him. If you want to help him, hold his feet to the fire.”
Turley: Exactly.
If, like me, you live in a strongly red state, you can vote for a third party candidate as a protest vote.  No matter how I vote, it won't cost Obama any electoral votes.  People in blue states run the risk of too many people protesting and giving electoral votes to Romney.  When people voted for Nader in 2000 they were blamed for losing the election and the mainstream Democrats didn't get the message that people were protesting Clinton's moving so far to the right. 

So, I guess now we need to be sending messages to Obama that we are voting for one of the third party candidates unless he pledges to change his ways.  USA Today reported that there would be five third parties that will be on the ballots in more than five states:

Here are some excerpts from the conversation between Turley and Cusack:

Some of the charges against Obama:

Turley: Well, President Obama outdid President Bush. He ordered the killing of two U.S. citizens as the primary targets and has then gone forward and put out a policy that allows him to kill any American citizen when he unilaterally determines them to be a terrorist threat. Where President Bush had a citizen killed as collateral damage, President Obama has actually a formal policy allowing him to kill any U.S. citizen. . .

Cusack: Does that order have to come directly from Obama, or can his underlings carry that out on his behalf as part of a generalized understanding? Or does he have to personally say, “You can get that guy and that guy?”
Turley: Well, he has delegated the authority to the so-called death panel, which is, of course, hilarious, since the Republicans keep talking about a nonexistent death panel in national healthcare. We actually do have a death panel, and it’s killing people who are healthy. . .

Turley: Well, the framers knew what it was like to have sovereigns kill citizens without due process. They did it all the time back in the 18th century. They wrote a constitution specifically to bar unilateral authority.
James Madison is often quoted for his observation that if all men were angels, no government would be necessary. And what he was saying is that you have to create a system of law that has checks and balances so that even imperfect human beings are restrained from doing much harm. Madison and other framers did not want to rely on the promises of good motivations or good intents from the government. They created a system where no branch had enough authority to govern alone — a system of shared and balanced powers.
So what Obama’s doing is to rewrite the most fundamental principle of the U.S. Constitution. The whole point of the Holder speech was that we’re really good guys who take this seriously, and you can trust us. That’s exactly the argument the framers rejected, the “trust me” principle of government. You’ll notice when Romney was asked about this, he said, “I would’ve signed the same law, because I trust Obama to do the right thing.” They’re both using the very argument that the framers warned citizens never to accept from their government. . .
On the lack of media coverage:

Cusack: Oscar Wilde said most journalists would fall under the category of those who couldn’t tell the difference between a bicycle accident and the end of civilization. But why is it that all the journalists that you see mostly on MSNBC or most of the progressives, or so-called progressives, who believe that under Bush and Cheney and Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez these were great and grave constitutional crises, the wars were an going moral fiasco’s — but now, since we have a friendly face in the White House, someone with kind of pleasing aesthetics and some new policies  we like, now all of a sudden these aren’t crimes, there’s no crisis. Because he’s our guy? Go, team, go? . . .
It seems to me that there was media coverage about the Bush administration because there were lots of Democrats opposed to what Bush was doing.  But there isn't any noticeable Republican opposition to torture or assassination so there is no opposition and the press doesn't cover it. 

Who Ya Gonna Vote For?
And so then it gets down to the question, “Well, are you going to vote for Obama?” And I say, “Well, I don’t really know. I couldn’t really vote for Hillary Clinton because of her Iraq War vote.” Because I felt like that was a line, a Rubicon line –
Turley: Right.
Cusack: — a Rubicon line that I couldn’t cross, right? I don’t know how to bring myself to vote for a constitutional law professor, or even a constitutional realist, who throws away due process and claims the authority that the executive branch can assassinate American citizens. I just don’t know if I can bring myself to do it.
If you want to make a protest vote against Romney, go ahead, but I would think we’d be better putting our energies into local and state politics — occupy Wall Street and organizations and movements outside the system, not national politics, not personalities. Not stadium rock politics. Not brands. That’s the only thing I can think of. What would you say?
Turley: Well, the question, I think, that people have got to ask themselves when they get into that booth is not what Obama has become, but what have we become? That is, what’s left of our values if we vote for a person that we believe has shielded war crimes or violated due process or implemented authoritarian powers. It’s not enough to say, “Yeah, he did all those things, but I really like what he did with the National Park System.”
Cusack: Yeah, or that he did a good job with the auto bailout.
Turley: Right. I think that people have to accept that they own this decision, that they can walk away. I realize that this is a tough decision for people but maybe, if enough people walked away, we could finally galvanize people into action to make serious changes. We have to recognize that our political system is fundamentally broken, it’s unresponsive. Only 11 percent of the public supports Congress, and yet nothing is changing — and so the question becomes, how do you jumpstart that system? How do you create an alternative? What we have learned from past elections is that you don’t create an alternative by yielding to this false dichotomy that only reinforces their monopoly on power.
Cusack: I think that even Howard Zinn/Chomsky progressives, would admit that there will be a difference in domestic policy between Obama and a Romney presidency.
But DUE PROCESS….I think about how we own it. We own it. Everybody’s sort of let it slip. There’s no immediacy in the day-to-day on and it’s just one of those things that unless they… when they start pulling kids off the street, like they did in Argentina a few years ago and other places, all of a sudden, it’s like, “How the hell did that happen?” I say, “Look, you’re not helping Obama by enabling him. If you want to help him, hold his feet to the fire.”
Turley: Exactly.
Cusack: The problem is, as I see it, is that regardless of goodwill and intent and people being tired of the status quo and everything else, the information outlets and the powers that be reconstruct or construct the government narrative only as an election game of ‘us versus them,’ Obama versus Romney, and if you do anything that will compromise that equation, you are picking one side versus the other. Because don’t you realize that’s going to hurt Obama? Don’t you know that’s going to help Obama? Don’t you know… and they’re not thinking through their own sort of self-interest or the community’s interest in just changing the way that this whole thing works to the benefit of the majority. We used to have some lines we wouldn’t cross–some people who said this is not what this country does …we don’t do this shit, you had to do the right thing. So it’s going to be a tough process getting our rights back, but you  know Frankie’s Law? Whoever stops fighting first – loses.
Turley: Right.


  1. What is not spoken about here is the general premise of when one "loses" their rights as an American Citizen.

    A good commentary on this subject was done by Stonekettle Station Blog.

    "....They renounced their membership in our society and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. They swore to bring down the United States and her allies and to kill as many of us as they could. Should they have been captured and brought to trial? Sure, in a perfect world. But in the real world it just wasn’t possible, not without risking even more American lives. And I’m going to remind you right here that the people complaining most bitterly about this are the same folks who complained bitterly about risking the lives of US Navy SEALs to capture bin Laden or rescue Rangers. How many more of their lives would al Awlaki have been worth to you?"

  2. The main reason (besides the fact that the alternative is too ruinous to contemplate) I'm voting for President Obama to get re-elected is that I'm counting on his oft-said statement that this is the last campaign he's running, his last election.

    I'm counting on him making every day of his second term count because term limits allow him exponentially greater latitude to do great things than his first term did (knowing he'd need more than a first term to accomplish goals).

    I'm counting on some of the more repugnant things Obama has done in his first term were done pragmatically, politically and cynically, because he will do the more radical measures we all hope for (like rein in Wall Street, close Guantanamo, get out of Afghanistan, end the drone strikes, end NAFTA, etc.) in a less restrained second term.

    I'm hoping he's, indeed, President Obama, not the second coming of George W. Bush.

  3. He is a war criminal. In a rational world, he would be brought up on charges for the killings of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, and serve a term for the rest of his life.

    So was W.

    So was Cinton - over 500,000 Iraqi kids died during his presidency due to our policies of denying that country the ability to rebuild the water treatment infrastructure destroyed during the first Gulf War.

    So was GWI - the first Gulf War was an egregious operation set up by us through giving Saddam the false message that if he invaded Kuwait, we would not intervene.

    So was Reagan - El Salvador being one of the premiere examples.

    I'm not so sure about Carter. Or Ford. In the cases of Carter and Ford, our policies in Latin America during the six years they together inhabited the White House continued to carry on policies begun under Nixon, or earlier.

    Nixon was awful, and a first-rate war criminal.

    LBJ shielded many war crimes committed during his six years.

    Kennedy tried to destroy the power of the military industrial complex Eisenhower had warned him of. The result of Kennedy's efforts was a CIA-led assassination against him.

    Obama has inherited a legacy of generations of rampant and criminal abuse of power that has no precedence in human history. And at a time when the planet is on the brink of being overwhelmed by the ecological damage our "civilizations" have wrought.

    It doesn't matter who you vote for, because within 50 years, the percentage of spent fuel pools being breached every five years at decaying reactors around the planet will end life as we know it.

    I'm voting for Dr. Jill Stein.

  4. The writings on the wall.

  5. So basically the question is--if you vote for President Obama are you voting for a President who has done exactly what his predecessors have done---but probably with less loss of life? Are you voting for a man with a cold adapted eye who was never a sympathetic socialist? Or did we vote for President Obama because we thought he would fart rainbows and magical dust and tuck us all in?

    I am voting for President Obama and the reason is not just that the alternative would be Romney. My answer is I haven't approved of many of the things people I have voted for have done. But I'm not naive about how ugly the world is and some of our policies have always been. But I have hailed an extraordinary amount of policies THIS President has implemented. I shall be early voting for Barack Hussein Obama. End of comment.

  6. The US has a president whose undergraduate degree was international relations. One thing you learn in this field is that international law is nuanced (and dictated) by that nation or nations currently in superior position. International law is built on treaty of the hopeful and enforcement of the powerful.

    I'm not out to set a paper on this thesis; I'm saying this to submit that the current American president operates within the perquisites of power and unlike Phil's assertion that we have never seen the likes of his abuses before, I would quickly remind all of us that we have -- many, too many times, throughout our human history.

    International dominance is found in what used to be called empire, where men (and occasionally women) exercised imperial prerogative. Empire for our purpose today is found in disputed power proven in combat and commerce to the satisfaction of its imitators. Killing, consequently, is a tool of statecraft, proving station in the community of nations.

    Every single president has been faced with the dilemma of when to use what we call 'hard' power as means to settle disputes. It's intoxicating stuff to the human animal and our international relations student of years ago is quite touched with its exercise, it appears.

    But does this make him a war criminal? Well, maybe; yet he is likely no more criminal in using violence than international law failing to enjoin violence. It is a grim state of affairs.

    But I believe, ultimately, it is America civilisation that is guilty of killing more so than its presidents. The people have built its politics, its business ethic, its armed forces and its religio-economic philosophy of power. Obama is but the last in a line of our country's school for presidents.


  7. Obama is not torturing. While the GOP refusd to close Gitmo, Obama did stop torture. And as far as the rest, Bush opened these doors to executive privilege, and left them WIDE open for the people to follow. I'm sure there are people at the D0J who still think the POTUS should have unlimited power. For a man to step in and reverse all the evil of Bush in one fell swoop is a pipe dream. The country has multitudes of complex problems, not the least of which was the still-imminent threat from bin Laden, a fiscal cliff on several fronts, and the two wars he did not vote for but now was required to lead. While not pefect, I think Obama has done pretty damn well, and the alterbative is not to 'walk away,' but to get him a COngress that is not GOP, which actually likes his drones and wants to stay in Afghanistan AND bomb Iran to boot. We need a progressive majority that will get us out of the war business, not a professor and an actor who whine about what is and whose big suggestion is to dump Obama. For what exactly? The GOP scares the crap out of me, and you KNOW they won't prosecute anybody, and they will expand the Patriot Act until we are in a facist state. I like Turley when he appeared on Olbermann, but I think this is an academic discussion with little basis in the realities of the situation Obama is in.
    Seriously, has Mitt even MENTIONED the wars, other than to pledge ever more dollars for the war department?

  8. I appreciate all your thoughtful comments. I thought it was an important issue that needs to be addressed and I'm particularly pleased that you've kept your comments focused on the issues and raised critical issues.

    I do think more US citizens need to work for ways to create an alternative that gives us better choices and gives the people of the US more power to affect how our Presidents act in our name.

  9. Well for me the Libertarian party seems the best on the list. I hate elections because so far I haven't found a party to which I could vote with full hearth. Unfortunately I am a perfectionist so I am rarely satisfied.

  10. "We need a progressive majority that will get us out of the war business, not a professor and an actor who whine about what is and whose big suggestion is to dump Obama."

    --- Assuming by "professor" you might mean me, I am not supporting Romney. However, I cannot support a president who should be in a docket in the Hague for killing thousands of innocent people for the sake of expedience.

    As an Alaskan, my vote for Dr. Jill Stein will not change the national outcome of this election one bit.

    BTW, in 44 years of voting, I have never voted for the incumbent president.

  11. Phil, not everyone is focused on you. I think 'professor and actor' referred to actor John Cusack and professor Jonathon Turley.

  12. Ropi, I think you also don't like ambiguity, which makes life difficult, not just elections. It's easier to adjust yourself a bit to fit more comfortably in the world than to change the world to fit you. :)


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