Thursday, February 07, 2013

A cobbled-together post because I'm in a hurry...

So, yeah, the drone thing is in the news. Apparently the MSM is suddenly finding it kinda interesting, now that we're taking applications for CIA Director.

In a discussion on a web forum about drone strikes and US citizens, someone was talking about what evil dudes radical Islamic terrorists were and how much they hated our guts (and I agree that they're bad news) and how some smelly bearded Al Qaeda guy OCONUS shouldn't get to attack U.S. interests and then yell "Olly-olly-oxen-free!" by waving his American birth certificate around in a completely un-presidential manner.

This led to me spending my blog-posting time there, and so I'll just copypasta it here:
That's it exactly. This kind of stuff deserves the strictest level of scrutiny from an involved citizenry because it's the very definition of the banana peel on the top of the slippery slope.

You pull some guy's charred AK-clutchin' remains out of some smoking van wreckage filled with Taliban corpses in the Hindu Kush somewhere, and I'm not going to shed any tears if you find a blackened passport with a blue cover in his pocket; I wouldn't expect Patton's Third Army to stop the drive on Bastogne and call out the lawyers if one of the Jerries in front of them yelled "Hey, Mac, I'm an American!" either.

Too far down this path, however, and I could win the argument in this thread by calling 1-800-RAT-FINK and tell them I had some rock-solid information that [Other Poster] was a... what was the term he used? a "radical Islamist"? ...and I'd win the thread by default, since he wouldn't be able to respond due to the JDAM through his roof.

If all it takes to sign a death warrant for somebody is to hang a label on them, you want to be very careful about how hard you make it to hang that label.
In the long run, it may well will almost certainly turn out that letting the occasional terrorist set off a bomb or hijack a plane would have done far less damage to the fabric of the Republic than we've done in trying to stop them.


KM said...

letting the occasional terrorist set off a bomb or hijack a plane would have done far less damage to the fabric of the Republic than we've done in trying to stop them

Same thing with "mass shootings". Just the price we pay for living in a free society.

20+ dead is a tragedy. The body count that governments rack up in order to "do something" gets into holocaust range.
The fabric of our Republic is in tatters and I weep for our country's future.

Glen Filthie said...

You morons are fucking nuts.

The tree of liberty must now be refreshed with the blood of innocents and civilians...?

Tam said...

I see the Sieg Heil wing has checked in.

Anonymous said...

New York claims it's loss from the 9/11 attack is $95 billion, due to property damage, loss of jobs, clean-up costs, etc. Lets assume a major terrorist attack is rather difficult to carry out and happens once every 5 years. The annual cost is then approximately $20 billion.

Over a 10 year period from 2001 through 2010, hurricane damage in the US totaled $237 billion, or $23.7 billion per year. (

The annual budget for Dept. of Homeland Security is $43 billion ( )

The annual budget for Dept. of Education is $77.4 billion. (

What about the human cost? Total deaths in the 9/11 attack were about 3000. In the US, in the year 2000, 97,900 people died from accidents. Approximately half of these deaths were vehicle related. If you include murder and suicide, about 150,000 people died. None of these figures include death due to disease or old age. ( )

My conclusions are that:
1) we spend more on DHS than on the terrorist attacks they purport to thwart.
2) the human cost of 9/11 is minuscule compared to other sources of death.
3) The entire cost of terrorism could be borne by eliminating the Department of Education.
4) Terrorism is no worse than natural disasters.

“But!” you say, “The Dept of Ed expenditures would have to be made up by the States!” Yep, they likely would. Lets say the Dept. of Ed is 70% efficient; that is, 30 cents of every dollar is blown on administrative costs; this includes federal payroll & rent as well as waste at the state level jumping through hoops to comply with Fed requirements. The elimination of the Dept still nets us a savings of $23 billion, enough to pay for the annualized cost of a 9/11 attack.

Perhaps some of the DHS budget really does work toward making sure terrorist attacks are relatively rare, but given how they feel obligated to manufacture terrorists to capture, I strongly suspect their budget could be reduced by 25% without major damage.

Samsam von Virginia

Comrade Misfit said...

I was discussing the Obama Kill Memo with a rock-ribbed Republican friend yesterday. At one point, he paused and said: "All those people who were complaining about this stuff eleven years ago may have been right, after all."

Stuart the Viking said...

I haven't had the time to read the whole thing, but the part that I read is talking about drone strikes on foreign soil. I agree that the President having the power to direct such strikes, without oversight, against American citizens (on foreign soil) needs to be seriously scrutinized. American citizens do not lose their rights when they exit American soil.

However, people running around in a huge drama panic crying that Obama is going to start drone strikes on Americans on American soil any day now are making it hard for the rest of us to keep from getting written off as paranoid, tin-foil-hat-wearing lunatics when we try to make that argument.

Is there mention of drone strikes on American soil in that document that I haven't gotten to yet?


Brad K. said...

The part of the thing that caught my attention -- was lack of Congressional, let alone public, scrutiny and review of deployments of drones, let alone individual missions.

SEALS, CIA and other covert ops (for the post part) fall under various review criteria and Constitutional limits. Drones, especially under the "stonewaller" in chief? Not so much.

Where is the Congress that passed (and cared about) the War Powers Act? Sending in the drones is just as much about sending in American shooters as any uniformed or clandestine unit -- up to and including a main battle tank or three.

Frank W. James said...

Here's where I'm having some trouble; since the First Bush there was a Presidential order the USA could NOT target foreign leaders for assination, but NOW we can drone strike them? Even if they are Americans? When was this policy change discussed? Either in the press or silly me in the Halls of Congress?

I feel that with TSA, The Patriot Act and even drones circling over our cities, plus Pres. Unicorn's war on the 2nd Amendment and the above situation that the "...fabric of the Republic..." is pretty well ripped and tattered beyond repair...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Robb Allen said...

"In the long run, it may well will almost certainly turn out that letting the occasional terrorist set off a bomb or hijack a plane would have done far less damage to the fabric of the Republic than we've done in trying to stop them."

I believe, with every fiber of my being, that Osama Bin Laden knew this. His type of radicalism understood that America is like the Death Star - Completely impervious to external attacks. The trick is to get a small, tiny explosion through a hole not much bigger than a whomp-rat and America would tear itself apart from the inside out.

So far, it's working as planned.

Bram said...

Ala - I agree wholeheartedly with the links and particularly your last sentence.

Shocking how fast armed drones have gone from a battlefield weapon system to a substitute for a foreign policy and a law enforcement tool.

Bram said...

I remember the 80's when terrorist attacks were far more common than the past decade.

We didn't have security theater in the airports, cops carrying sub-machine guns on city streets, or a Department of Homeland Security. Somehow we won the Cold War without tearing up the Constitution.

Yrro said...

@Robb This has been the point of terrorism since its inception. Terrorism depends on the supposed morals of modern states to function.

You can't use terrorism against a totalitarian dictatorship, because they will search house to house until they find you, then hang your ball-less and head-less corpse from the city walls.

But you can't do that in a democracy that respects human rights. The entire point of terrorism is to force the supposed modern and civil rights respecting government into actions that will turn them into something unrecognizable... and then tear themselves apart as the populace realizes that maybe they're not so happy about living in this new totalitarian-esque regime.

Hell, even from a pure monetary standpoint - how much has the US spent on the wars to find al qaeda? And how well is our budget doing these days?

staghounds said...

There were plenty of American citizens in Hamburg, Tokyo, and the Nazi army.

Bubblehead Les. said...

What I'm worried about in the Memo is the part where a Drone Strike can be authorized by a "High Level Official."

The ATF Director and Waco sprang to mind.

Oh, but they know they are treading on Thin Ice, because they said "Don't let a Judge know about this!"

So, it's BAD to capture a Terrorist, take him to a Foreign Hell Hole, cram a Swimming Pool down his Throat, then send him to a Warm, Sunny Tropical Island to stand in front of a Judge, who could send him to the Pen.

But it's GOOD for the Assistant Deputy Deputy Assistant to play "Call of Duty" and take out Achmed and the surrounding Village full of Women and Children.

Who would have guessed that a Flying Unicorn had the ability to launch Hellfire Missiles from it's Hooves?

Anonymous said...

There is also the whole problem of drone strikes by the US in countries which the US has not actually declared war on. I am fairly certain that if Iran launches a drone to take out an Iranian citizen who they consider to a terrorist but who is living in the US, we would consider it an act of war even if we agreed that the individual was a terrorist. Sovereign territory and all that.

Is there any reason why the governments, such as they are, and the population of the growing list of countries subject to drone strikes shouldn't consider the US to be an aggressor? Why they shouldn't regard the US to be an international bully with no regard for either international law or US law?

Stuart the Viking said...

Anon 10:30, I'm sure the argument will go something like "oh, those are only the little countries that don't matter"; but when does it stop? Where is the line? Do we do a drone strike in France? or Italy? What if the "suspected terrorist" is living in a city in Canada, and the Canadians aren't convinced of his guilt, or don't believe he will get a fair trial in the US, so they refuse to let us have him? Do we do a drone strike there? These are all places where congressional or judicial oversight would help to make sure that the right decision was made.

Then, of course, there is the case of what happens if this or a future President goes off his rocker. What then?


Stuart the Viking said...

oops, supposed to be Anon 10:13

Anonymous said...

Stuart -

During the height of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, the point was often made that if the same standards were used that we apply to "insignificant" countries, Great Britain would be justified in attacking some parts of Boston because of the local support for terrorist activities.

Chuck said...

It's hard to get excited because some jihadi jackass who just happens to hold a US passport gets smoked. What I do care about is that the executive branch has magically granted itself the power to execute US citizens without due process.

[And, oh by the way, with this unique method of execution, unlike say, the electric chair or gas chamber, it's okay if you smoke a few bystanders in the process. Oh, well, if you want to make an omelet you gotta break some eggs...]

Why do I care? Because I am a US citizen. And one who happens to fit many of the DHS criteria for "right-wing extremist" (white, gun owner, veteran, have more than a week's worth of food in my pantry, etc.)

They cynically assume (correctly for the most part) that most Americans won't care because the current target set is AQ and some vaguely defined supporters. The problem with this is now that the gov has decided it has this power and if Congress and the judiciary let it stand, what's to stop them from expanding the list of who they can execute at the whim of some faceless bureaucrat? And if it's legal to do it with drones abroad, what's to stop it from being done at home? And who says it has to be done with drones? Why not snipers or hit squads? Why not just contract it out? We are way past the slippery slope.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think we're going to find out (sooner than we'd like) the implications of said memo for drone strikes on U.S. soil.

And they're going to use the hardcore Republicans to help push the camel's nose under the tent. To wit, the first drone strikes on American soil will be against suspected Mexican cartel members attempting to enter the U.S. through the southern border. The cheering from the border enforcement contingent will be deafening.

Before you know it, we'll start seeing drone strikes in Peoria, against suspected "anti-government militia" radicals (a la Waco). No more messy, politically embarrassing sieges or stand-offs. A Hellfire missile and it's done. The children will be "collateral damage", and the same sheep that are now bleating about Newtown won't even bat an eye when it happens then.

Goober said...

Staghounds your point is irrelevant because those were active, declared war zones at the time and assassination of us citizens without due process wasn't the primary mission.

Matthew said...

Glenn Reynolds had a nice list of "high level officials" this could have applied to in the Bush Whitehouse.

At the top was Cheney. Some wag noted that post 2008 such a list could have included Sarah Palin.

Steve Skubinna said...

Anon 10:55, P.J. O'Rourke related a conversation he had in the UK after we hit Ghadaffi. Some Brit said that using that logic they could hit IRA sympathizers in the US, and O'Rourke agreed, thus (from memory):

"Damn right. Any dumb Mick that brings that ancestral quarrel to the New World deserves a British laser guided bomb targeted on his favorite South Boston pub. That is, if the Brits have LGBs, and if they could launch a trans-Atlantic strike without our help, which they couldn't."

Anonymous said...

Now do you understand why the Census 2010 workers wanted to get the GPS location of everybody's front door?

Ken said...

Winning the Cold War may not have torn up the Constitution, but it die-cut 'er for easy dissasembly, like the counter sheet of an SPI board game.

As for Samsam von Virginia's thoughtfully made points at 8:35, yep. That's the aim of asymmetric warfare in a nutshell. The standing record in that line, of course, is still held by Gavrilo Princip and the Black Hand: for about $75 American (circa 1913), they bought the whole rest of the 20th Century.

Pakkinpoppa said...

Drones. Frikken Drones. What, did they run out of black paint for the choppers?

Hellfires are I guess we'd better make sure we're not worth that expense from now on.

Chuck said...

Pakkinpoppa said:

"Hellfires are expensive..."

Didn't Zero say we don't have a spending problem?

Bram said...

Yes - Don't tempt them to fire a stimulus missile at you.

Kristophr said...

"Stimulus missles" ... ok Bram, you win.

Seriously ... I would like to see congress authorize using drones strikes on terrorists ... and at the same time, remove the exceptions added to posse commitatus for drug running and terrorism.

The US military should not be allowed to engage in combat in the US unless the US is invaded.

Kristophr said...

Stuart the Viking: ,i.Then, of course, there is the case of what happens if this or a future President goes off his rocker. What then?,/i.

Drone strikes would be the least of our worries if we didn't have the votes to impeach a nutter.

A truly off-his-rocker President could run death squads by periodically giving the JBTs in them Presidential Pardons.

Anonymous said...

Any chain of command that has a slot for (name redacted) government official is just waiting to be abused or co-opted.


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Anonymous said...

Staghounds said: "There were plenty of American citizens in Hamburg, Tokyo, and the Nazi army."

Richmond, Atlanta, and Chattanooga too.

docjim505 said...

Remember when we were assured that "the terrorists had won"?

Kristophr said...


The American Civil War was about slavery, and the South's unwillingness to obey the Constitution they had all signed in the 1790s.

The Mason-Dixon Compromise, and the bloody guerrilla wars in Kansas and Missouri were not about interpretations of the 9th and 10th amendments.

No amount of libertarian revisionism will change that.

About the only innocent victims here were the majority of North Carilinians, who had voted AGAINST secession, and the Unionist majority in Northern Alabama ( who are still being punished to this day by the state government ).

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that your slippery path quip (1-800-RAT-FINK, heh) scares the bejeebus out of me, and not just for the hunt for T's.

But this: "In the long run, it may well will almost certainly turn out that letting the occasional terrorist set off a bomb or hijack a plane would have done far less damage to the fabric of the Republic than we've done in trying to stop them."

That's the great unknown. No more WTC's, and what would have been next, and next, and next? Talk about slippery paths, no telling where passivism would have led.

It's not like a decade of the most wasteful, misdirected, mismanaged warfare in the history of mankind was the *only* path. We hired the fucktards that ran and run this thing. We -a nation of namby-pamby dole-sucking half-wits- did this to ourselves. In matters of self defense and preservation of freedom and liberty, we are our own worst enemy.

Robin said...

The key point I make is that I have no problem with the President's authority to comand our armed forces. And in the context of the battlefield, when our forces encounter armed combatants and kill them - that's great. If we discover that among the dead are US passports, so sad.

The boundary where I start to raise my hackles is where we have the President not ordering: "Go kill combatants found in your operational area" but instead the President saying "Here is a list of people I want you to go find and kill".

In other words, the President is choosing by specific identity who to kill. Not by role ie., kill any combatant, but by name, "Kill John Doe".

I think that the latter ought to have some oversight. And I have this position regardless of who does it.

Matthew said...

"In other words, the President is choosing by specific identity who to kill. Not by role ie., kill any combatant, but by name, "Kill John Doe"."

I'm not worried about the bullet with my name on it, that'll come when it will.

I'm worried about the one labeled, "To whom it may concern..."

Crotalus said...

And so, the genocide begins.

mariner said...


Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick!

Your ignorance of history isn't really amazing: you have lots of company.

The revisionism isn't by libertarians.

Anonymous said...

"The American Civil War was about...the South's unwillingness to obey."

Fixed it for ya.

Kristophr said...

And then the Southern Apologists come out of the woodwork.

What a shock ( not ).

The American Civil War was about slavery, period.

The second the Republican Party had the majority needed to amend the constitution, the slaveholders got their men in their legislatures to secede.

Pretending this was about tariffs ain't going to cut the mustard. The reason for the excise tax on cotton was to punish slave holders.

President Buchanan was complicit in the revolt, and had carefully emptied Northern armories, and had all those weapons stockpiled in the South before the war started.

They planed to do this. The only thing the North did to "drive" them to this was to make it clear they were going to outlaw slavery.

I re-iterate: The Mason-Dixon compromise, and the wars in Kansas and Missouri were not about fucking tariffs. And neither was the civil war.

Woodman said...

"In other words, the President is choosing by specific identity who to kill. Not by role ie., kill any combatant, but by name, "Kill John Doe"."

My problem is not an executive order with John Doe's name on it. It's the generic blanket order that I don't approve of. Especially when "higher officials" can fill out the name on the ticket.

Kristopher, read a couple books man. You can even read some that were written a hundred years ago about the causes of the Civil War. If the Civil War was about Slavery, then why didn't the Emancipation Proclamation free all slaves?

Anonymous said...

The Civil War is to slavery as the Revolutionary War is to tea.

Tam said...


"And then the Southern Apologists come out of the woodwork."

You're reading the blog of one.

I don't care WHY the South seceded; the point is that they had the right to. They could have seceded because they decided that they had the right to kill everybody named "Smith" or whatever.

If a state decides it no longer wants to play our constitutional reindeer games, the moral thing is to wave it good-bye, not burn it to the ground and rape its women.

Ratifying the Constitution wasn't joining the Mafia. Any freely-entered agreement may be freely left.

Matthew said...

Waving with one finger and muttering "good riddance" under one's breath given the circumstances of course.

Kristophr said...

Hmmm. The question is tougher than that, I think, Tam.

If some state decides that the bill of rights is null and void for a class of citizens, does the federal government have the duty to enforce the bill of rights on that state government?

Can that state government secede to thwart this?

Can Illinois secede if they need to do that to keep their insane gun laws?

Tam said...


"If some state decides that the bill of rights is null and void for a class of citizens, does the federal government have the duty to enforce the bill of rights on that state government?"


"Can that state government secede to thwart this?"

Yes. The Federal government would then have no more business enforcing the Constitution there than they do in Quebec or Chihuahua.

"Can Illinois secede if they need to do that to keep their insane gun laws?"


Anonymous said...

"Can Illinois secede if they need to do that to keep their insane gun laws?"

More importantly, can states secede to keep their sane ones, and their other chosen freedoms?

We may well have to find out.

Tea, slaves, you grok the connection now Kristophr?

Anonymous said...

The interesting question to my mind is if a state did secede, what would be the effect on its citizens? Would I have dual-citizenship? Would I have to renounce my US citizenship? What about my underage children? Do they have to wait until they are 18 to make that decision?

NotClauswitz said...

And now fugitive alleged (?) homicidal killer Chris Dorner is local-DroneTarget #1.

Goober said...


You honestly seem to be missing the point here, and i don't know whether you are incredibly dense or just so indoctrinated by the school system that you can't stop for a second and see that things aren't really as you see them.

I am not a southern apologist. I try to be a purveyor of truth as much as I possibly can. I think slavery is an abomination that all of mankind should be righteously angry and ashamed of.

i still think that the Civil War was one of blatant aggression by Abraham Lincoln and the North. The southern states decided that they didn't want to be part of the union anymore, WHICH WAS THEIR RIGHT and is the right of any free state to do so (read the Declaration of Independence recently?). Abaraham Lincoln responded to them using their right to secession by invading them, killing them, burning their houses down, raping their wives, and subjugating them with violence.

You can call me a southern apologist all you want.

And the answer to your various questions of "can so-and-so state secede if X..." the answer is "yes". Learn your history.

Brad K. said...

@ Goober,

With the international actions that the US has taken, in support of regions breaking off from states in support of independence, I have wondered since Bush, Jr.'s time what the US would do today, if states started seceding. Particularly if each state seceded, leaving only the District of Columbia. (Maybe they would go, too, and "throw the bums out". Hmm.

Anyway, I believe the Civil War was also a money-driven thing, that interests in the North owned too much property in the South, that they were losing, to let the South go it alone.

And I think those same financial interests would interfere in any state seceding today. Look at the way oil pipelines and electric transmission lines, let alone highways, regional distribution centers, and ACORN cross state boundaries -- and would, each of them, cry for military intervention on their behalf.

Today my state, Oklahoma, has no policy or mechanism in place, to prevent, say, California getting our state "turned off" so they could keep their own industries going. Or letting the Feds do the same thing for New York, or any other state. Heck, we couldn't isolate ourselves and light our lights (if we could) using our own resources, if the Chinese took down the national grid.

There is a *reason* Obama campaigned for an armed military force that, unlike the uniformed services, would be empowered to operate inside the US. Homeland Security has sure made the news, about the number of weapons and ammunition they have amassed, to prevent flooding, I suppose.

Yes, just as the 2nd Amendment provides that the government cannot disarm the citizens to protect itself, states have the right to secede. Still, a citizen (or militia unit) firing on a tyrannical government is against the law, and in the past the US government has acted militarily against states that seceded.

At least, I don't see any pretty answers as long as enough votes (voters?) keep the present special interest and power structures in office.

John B said...

"In the long run, it may well will almost certainly turn out that letting the occasional terrorist set off a bomb or hijack a plane would have done far less damage to the fabric of the Republic than we've done in trying to stop them."

-This is where I insert periodic marriage proposal-