Point Blank

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By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor/Columnist

Over the past four years, conservative activists have gone to desperate and often deranged lengths to implicate President Obama in some kind of scandal.  
First there was the birth certificate nonsense, where supposedly Obama isn’t qualified to be president because he was secretly born somewhere other than Hawaii.  Despite having no validity at all, it gained a lot of traction among a small segment of the right who are predisposed to believe everything bad about him.  
Then they tried to stick him with the “secret Muslim” thing, conveniently ignoring that a) the Constitution protects everyone’s freedom of religion, not just Christians’, and b) if he’s really a secret Muslim, he’s not doing a very good job of it, what with going to Christian church services for most of his life.  
And lately some nutjob has accused him of being secretly gay.  You know, because everyone who’s been married to the same woman for years and has two daughters must be gay.  Or something.
The latest “big scandal” is, of course, the Benghazi incident in which four Americans were killed in anti-American riots at our consulate in Libya.  Tragic as the event was, and any death is a tragedy, there is no evidence of a cover-up or any other nefarious activity.  The worst anyone is guilty of is being a bit misinformed about the cause.  It’s interesting to note as well that for all the hand-wringing on the right about Benghazi, if you mention the lies the previous administration told to justify the Iraq invasion that eventually killed nearly 6,000 American troops and left tens of thousands more maimed for life, you hear nary a peep of outrage.
But lately something new has come to light that may be a scandal truly worthy of the name.  I’m talking about the secret “kill lists” the administration has built as part of its counterterrorism strategy.  Often these lists are used to plan airstrikes on suspected terrorists, to be carried out via remotely-piloted vehicles (“drones” in popular parlance).  Sometimes they’ve been used to target Americans suspected of terrorist activity for extrajudicial assassination.
These aren’t new.  If you go back through the news archives, you’ll find articles and discussion about drone strikes from a year ago and older.  And to some degree, the Obama administration policy on drone strikes is just an extension and expansion of similar Bush-era policies.
Even so, this raises serious questions about what kind of society we have become.  The justification for the war on terrorism and the actions taken in prosecution thereof is that somewhere out there lies a grave threat to our survival, so we have the right to protect ourselves by any means necessary.
Legal memos from the Obama Justice Department attempt to support this notion.  In a rather brazen attempt to co-opt Bush-era rationalizations regarding waterboarding, the Obama administration has advanced the argument that drone strikes are legal because they’ve authorized them, and they wouldn’t do anything illegal.  Trust us, in other words.
This is wrong.  As a nation, we have the right to defend ourselves.  We do not, however, have the right to kill at will anyone we perceive as a possible threat.  This is simply too much power to be concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and hidden behind walls of secrecy.  Have we become so inured to presidential abuse of power that we now tolerate murder in our name?  
The first thing we usually learn as children is that the ends don’t justify the means.  It’s too bad our elected leaders often forget those childhood lessons.

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