Tag Archives: american federal government

Drone On

To much fanfare, President Obama announced that the Federal Government will scale back the use of drone strikes, with new restrictions on “deciding whom to kill.” Targeted killings have been carried out in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and other far off lands (away from American citizen’s concern) for the last decade in a generally secretive manner. The objective is to kill suspected terrorists and as few other people who have nothing to do with terrorism as possible.

The war in Afghanistan, which has no legitimate objective and now exists only as an agenda item to give the military as we know it legitimacy, is scheduled to conclude by the end of 2014. The fact that one can even schedule the end of a war so far in advance (or at all) proves the war exists because someone scheduled it into existence in the first place.  And while the President and his people are brainstorming and graphing out the most convenient time to end this war (and plan the next one), they managed to come up with clever new bullet points about whom to kill and whom not to kill.

Gee, I’m glad they could fit it in.

Foreign Interventionism continues as the de facto method of American interaction with the rest of the world, and despite their arguments about whom to kill, the two largest parties are still arguing over quantities of deaths and who started it in the first place. No one is questioning the deeper issue of whether we should be involved at all, as fingers continue to point, always at others. President Bush started using the drones, but President Obama has continued the practice with generally increasing intensity over the successive years. Still, the Democrats try to project an image of respectability with their timetables for withdrawal and commitment to target terrorists “only when children are not around,” as Secretary of State John Kerry compassionately pointed out (a clever distraction). Mr. Kerry also says that his team has thought about their actions good and hard, so mistakes are rarely made. Republicans like John McCain, who by no means represents his entire party, and probably doesn’t spend much time thinking good and hard, would like to use more force (without a schedule or timetable) – a position that moves bonus points over to President Obama simply by the existence of such an idea. All the President’s has to do is frown and disagree.

The President’s party will applaud his commitment to peace, and using the “least destructive way to fight people…who are conspiring against the United States.” But there are so many things wrong with a government that tries to make itself look good by pointing out how few people it has killed compared to the other faction of the same government, especially when the opposite may be true. Motives can blind us from the truth when we’re told that killing conspirators saves lives.

At the end of the day the President has suggested that using drones to target and kill suspected terrorists is probably not a good idea, and we should have some stricter guidelines in place. He wants the government to be more responsible, and even though he has the power to stop the practice like a bad habit, he’s going to keep droning on with his global assassination campaign anyway. At least we now know he has a conscience to reject.

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Eminent Domain and The Keystone Pipeline

Get ready for the next great land grab! You might be surprised at the beneficiary and the accomplice.

The beneficiary is none other than Canada, our unassuming large friend to the north.  While not actually Canada itself,  the Canadian company TransCanada is looking to put up a nice tidy oil pipeline through the heartland of the United States. Based in Alberta, this corporation wants to build the next leg of the Keystone pipeline, extending thousands of miles south of the border to Texas. Once President Obama signs the appropriate paperwork, all they have to do is acquire the land and start digging.

But who does the land belong to, and how does the Government acquire such land? The answer is eminent domain. How does a foreign corporation acquire land that absolutely does not belong to it? It uses the American Government to manipulate the meaning of the Constitution and Natural Law, so the answer is still eminent domain.

Imagine a scenario where the humble Canadian businessman knocks on your door. He seems like a nice guy, but alongside him is his hired muscle the American Government. The frowning accomplice offers you a sum for which he thinks your property is worth, lettuce garden and all. He demands to buy your land and hand it over to his friend the Canadian businessman because there is some money to be made for everyone. Do you feel resistant? It’s for your own good, Citizen. The common good.

There may be valid arguments for eminent domain, as the practice is an inherent attribute of state sovereignty. Whether the state is Oregon, Ohio, Oklahoma, or the Federal Government, they all lay some claim to this privilege. However, Canada should not be in a position to meddle in the middle of Oklahoma.

The Constitution and judicial precedent lay the groundwork for ways in which the government may take the land of a private citizen; providing there is just compensation, and that the land be used for the common good. Over the years, the Fifth Amendment and the common good has become such a broadly interpreted position that it is now good enough that one person simply wants the land because the grass is greener there and everyone should be able to enjoy green grass. They do not recognize that if the owner does not want to sell, no matter the end use, eminent domain simply is theft by force.

With abuses such as this proposed land grab in their pocket, the interpretive ponderings of the American Government toward the use of eminent domain may grow deeper and wider than previously imagined. The Government can take your property away from you and give it to a corporation in another country. We’re not talking about building an irrigation ditch so local farmers have access to nearby river water. We’re not talking about tearing down dangerous slums to build a tree-filled city park. We’re not even talking about building a strip mall to liven up the neighborhood to attract more consumers with fat wallets. This is a situation where a company in Canada can lay a pipe through your lettuce garden to make it easier to move oil.

When a government feels entitled to take what does not belong to it, it can succeed through politics, strong marketing, and fear. We’ve heard about “the public good.” Now we’re hearing cries for “critical energy security,” and “strengthening the American economy.” Other excuses include the claim that someone else will build it if we don’t, and that we’re being as careful as anyone possibly can be, and that the construction of the pipeline is a job creating extravaganza! Who could be against that?

This is not to say foreign individuals or companies should not buy property in this country, but only that they should not benefit from the use of eminent domain. A private company should negotiate with individual land owners to purchase the properties with free will exercised on both sides.

There is plenty of pipe already in the ground. It carries oil to every conceivable corner of the country. This particular pipe is enjoying fifteen minutes of fame as it violates our natural rights for the sake of the common good. Sure hope it doesn’t leak.

The American War Policy

“Wars not make one great.” – Yoda

The greatest indiscretion of the American Federal Government may be our War Policy. To varying degrees, most Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly support a foreign policy of interventionism and perpetual war. Our government is entrenched in the practice of using force. Ever since President Woodrow Wilson announced his intention to, “make the world safe for democracy,” and launched us into the first World War, our nation has sustained a continuous military presence over the planet, facing but a breeze of opposition from a libertarian leaning minority. We have bases and troops in at least 150 countries and are constantly engaged in voluntary combat. Additional forms of War, though more abstract, are fought domestically as the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, and the War on Christmas. In all cases, the War is simply the use of legalized force against the object selected for destruction by the majority.

When it comes to actual fighting wars, the Constitution requires that Congress declare war, but this power has passed more tightly into the grasp of each successive President. The last Constitutional war was declared in 1942. Since then, American presidents have ordered seemingly endless “conflicts” and “operations” which send troops to distant nations which pose varying degrees of debatable threat. You know them as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and more.

Former Congressman Ron Paul has called these illegal wars “unwinnable” because, when there is no legitimate cause for involvement, there can be no path to victory. This is not just an American problem, it is an essential element of non-defensive wars that lack clear reason.

The disorganized nature of war in the crumbling post-Soviet fighting between Georgia and Abkhazia is described in Eight Pieces of Empire by Lawrence Scott Sheets; “We (the fighters) didn’t even have a specific goal, and we started looting villages along the way… As a result, in the span of a month, we manged to make enemies of out of the entire population… With such sage military planning (more driven by testosterone than strategy), the end result of the War That Nobody Started would be predictable.”

The most recent maturation of the American War Policy is Barack Obama’s use of predator drones to carry out offensive strikes in the Middle East. Though in use prior to his administration, the drones have been more frequently used by the CIA for covert operations, and though targeting “threats,” have been blamed for civilian deaths and stirring up hostility against the United States. Obama is comfortable enough with this policy to joke about it, but generating blowback is no laughing matter. Retired General Stanley McChrystal said drones exacerbate a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.’”

Even if legitimate threats are targeted, we have gone way beyond anything approximating acceptable behavior. This week, a drone attack killed eight militants in Pakistan. There is no reason for American drones to be present in that country except as the part it plays in the War on Terror, a never ending story which doesn’t have an achievable goal and only amounts to an excuse to kill a handful of suspected terrorists today so that two handfuls can spring up tomorrow. Without precise goals, the success of a vague war which basically relies on the principle of “button mashing” is subjective, politically motivated, and can’t easily be stopped. When the White House announced that they are considering withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan by 2014, they might as well have said 2015, 2016 or 2095, since they don’t even know what they are trying to achieve between now and then. Just waiting for the next war.

I doubt we will remove “all troops” from that country, as we still have about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan, a country that surrendered almost 70 years ago, and whom the United States considers to be one of its closest allies.