5 Ways America Is Betraying Its Best Values in Conflicts With Rest of the World
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Meanwhile, the drumbeat for war with Iran continues to build. Faced with the prospect of an Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic, the Obama administration has refused to definitively back away from the prospect of becoming part of that war.
"Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment,” the president said. “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."
In fact, the urge to stop a potentially disastrous confrontation, which could seriously affect the price of oil and the global economy, has sent high military and civilian officials winging from Washington to Israel with warnings against an attack on Iran. Still, war continues to be treated by diplomats and others almost as a fait accompli.
The news then is certainly grim, and moving in one clear direction -- the use of the law, or at least the Justice Department’s version of the law, to justify whatever acts the government feels are necessary against whomever they deem to be the enemy. Attorney General Holder summed the situation up tellingly in his defense of the al-Awlaki killing.
In significant detail, he explained that the killing of an American citizen (and terror suspect) was lawful, despite the fact that it brought into question the guarantee of due process under the Fifth Amendment, and despite the guarantees offered by the laws of war. “Due process,” he declared, “is not judicial process.” It was a startlingly honest admission of something new under the American sun: due process is now what the president and his closes advisors decide it is, a constitutional rethinking of the first order to justify the “targeted killing” of an American citizen.
To sum up, the legal gray zone Washington has, over the course of a decade,plunged us into -- and everything that goes with it, including punitive measures, attempts to bypass constitutional guarantees, the spread of secrecy and surveillance, a growing distrust of American citizens, and straightforward killing -- isn’t something we will soon put behind us. The move away from the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution and the law is very clearly the way of the American future in our new age of enemies.
Karen Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, as well as the editor ofThe Torture Debate in America. Adam Brody, Rebecca Kagan, and Sasha Segall contributed research to this article. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Greenberg discusses a new American state of “legal limbo,” click here, or download it to your iPod here.