If you believe the American way is to invade weak nations, thus sustaining endless war, and to punctuate the effort with a “kill list” and a military drone program that murders and maims innocents in the name of combating terrorism, then you can probably stop reading. This is a column about a Congressman who publicly challenges that belief.
Veteran Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)-politically gerrymandered out of his seat in this year’s primary election-is not going to leave quietly. A bold legislator who filed bills to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for war criminality, and who publicly called President Obama’s leading of NATO’s Libya invasion an “impeachable” offense, is again taking Obama and Congress on.
Kucinich, upset with the lack of oversight in the United States’ combat drones program, will hold a Congressional briefing on the secret effort on Friday, Nov.16.
But this is more than a briefing. This is Kucinich plunging one last time into the middle of the ring, and taking his transparent shots at a shady practice he considers both inhumane and un-American. And his timing is masterful, coming just before Thanksgiving and Christmas, two honored holidays when Americans pause to remind themselves of their self-image foundations of democracy, humanitarianism and spirituality. And it comes five days after Veteran’s Day, a time to honor those dedicated to defending the Constitution against–not innocents–but all enemies domestic and foreign.
Kucinich will be reminding them, if the big corporate media will cover it (and they may not since drones are now a multi-billion-dollar industry), that those honored fundamentals are not what the clandestine fly-over kill program is about.
In his press announcement last week, which included the ominous subhead “Massive Death Toll Belies Claim that Drone Strikes are only used in Cases of an ‘Imminent Threat,’ “ Kucinich emphasized:
The Washington Post recently published a three part series on the plans of the Obama Administration to institutionalize the practice of targeted killing by unmanned drones abroad. According to previous and current Administration officials who were interviewed, the institutionalization and expansion of the drone program means that we have only reached ‘the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.’ This means that the targeted killing of suspects by the United States is becoming a permanent feature of our counterterrorism strategy.
Yet the program has thus far been conducted with virtually no oversight from Congress or any other judicial body and absolutely no due process. Congress has even been denied the right to be informed of and view the legal memos which the Administration uses as its basis to justify these killings. Despite increasing calls for transparency and the legal justification from both Members of Congress and a broad range of advocacy organizations, targeted killing is ‘so routine that the Obama Administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain much of it.’
CFR has covered earlier strong criticisms of the drone program: In June of this year, former Nazi war-crimes prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferenzc called the drone attacks “a crime against humanity.” In September, New York University and Stanford law schools issued a joint report challenging the legality of U.S. drone killings in Pakistan.
Kucinich included Pakistan and other countries in his message of concern:
The battlefield has been stretched to include nearly anywhere in the world, making it easier to justify the flouting of international law and the laws of war. But the United States is not at war with Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Such killings are only lawful under a very narrow set of circumstances. We cannot claim to be meeting those narrow circumstances when the number of people killed by such strikes, including innocent civilians, is estimated to exceed 3,000. This number alone demonstrates that the Administration’s claims that such strikes occur only under ‘imminent threat’ is patently false.
Earlier this year, Congress passed and Obama signed legislation which would allow drone flights over the United States. Projections are that the number of drones in America’s skies will number in the tens of thousands. Kucinich also expressed wariness about domestic drones:
The expansion of the use of surveillance drones here in the United States also raises significant concerns about the safeguarding of privacy and what information may be collected without prior authorization. Any government or local law enforcement agency deploying such drones must ensure that the 4th amendment rights and the right to privacy of U.S. citizens are not being violated by the use of this technology.
Kucinich introduced separate bills to impeach Cheney (2007) and Bush (2008). Despite having 22 sponsors for the Bush impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped it, saying the effort would be divisive. No doubt, she also understood that any indictment of a president for war crimes might lead to a later inquisition of Congress, since that body funds the war invasions.