Dr. Dawg

On ideological hit lists

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Anwar al-Awlaki will be missed about as much as Clifford Olson, which is to say, not at all. The latter was a vile and unrepentant serial child-rapist and killer; the former was an American citizen who embraced violent jihad, and a top al-Qaeda official. But unless we think “the end justifies the means” is an acceptable ethical substitute for the admittedly contorted notion of “due process,” his execution by Presidential order should concern us all.

Glenn Greenwald lays it all out here. When the leader of the so-called free world can simply order a hit on one of his own fellow-citizens—and in fact, there appear to be others on his list—the US has crossed the Rubicon.

It’s not OK if you’re a Democrat. It’s not OK at all. The number of Constitutional violations involved here is astronomical, but it seems to matter not a whit. If the President says, “You’re dead,” that’s it for you, buddy. What makes anyone think that in future years this would be confined to terrorists?

Take Bernie Madoff, and the Wall Street banksters presently under siege by a few brave souls risking injury and death at the hands of the New York police. Seldom have the complexities of class struggle been so perfectly distilled.

Seriously, indulge yourself. How about a few well-placed and apparently legal hits ordered against people who have done far more damage to ordinary Americans than Anwar al-Awlaki ever dreamed of? Better he should have gone into finance and joined a good investment firm.

Then ask if you really want a society run like that, a society where the bad guys and gals can get snuffed by executive order, sparing the time and expense of trials where, as we all know, expensive lawyers win out against justice more times than not. What if someone decides that progressives need to get whacked? Oh, wait.

But this egregious case is only one example of authorities using state power to kill people, innocent or guilty, simply because they can and think they should.

The world watched in horror as Troy Davis was legally lynched in Georgia just a few days ago. He had his “due process,” certainly, but of a kind that, in the estimation of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, may safely ignore the matter of mere innocence. Think of due process in the US as akin to Russian roulette if you happen to be poor and Black, and you won’t be far off.

Closer to home, the attempt of the Conservative government to shut down a safe injection site in Vancouver was slapped down hard by a unanimous Supreme Court. In a nutshell, the SCC said, at least in effect, that it was not OK to let addicts drop dead to satisfy an ideological whim.

The Globe and Mail has a good editorial today on that subject. I wish they had used their print-edition hed, though: “The lives of addicts deserve protection.” That sets the matter out squarely—there are too obviously those who think exactly the opposite.

The government, in fact, went to unprecedented lengths to suppress evidence, to the point that the RCMP was ordered not to produce the substantial amount of it that they possessed. Ideology, no matter the collateral damage, trumped mere facts, as it always has under Conservative rule. But at least the abolition of the long-form census will not create fatalities, although mandatory minimum sentences will certainly claim its share of casualties.

The struggle over human life—when it’s supposedly appropriate to take it, what process if any might justify it, whether it’s acceptable to let people die when we have the power to prevent it—has been the subject of a complex series of debates that are millennia old. Those debates are currently being waged at full voice in the most “civilized” of nations.

Although there are many sides in the debates, there are two discernible poles. At one are those who believe the moral default position should be that killing one another is always wrong. At the other are people who defend killing in a wide variety of circumstances defined by category: killing enemies, for example; killing the “unfit,” if only by deliberate neglect; and, ironically, killing killers, or people who might be killers.

Those at the latter pole are victorious down south, at least for now. They just suffered a setback here at home, but aren’t likely to concede gracefully.

Yet there is reason to be optimistic. Doug Saunders had a fascinating column this morning advocating the counter-intuitive notion that we are living in the most peaceful period of the past 15,000 years.

It’s worth a read, especially for the number-crunching that Professor Steven Pinker has undertaken. But it says even more than it appears to say.

The forces ranged against war and violence are stronger than they have ever been. In other words, we progressives seem to be winning the debates, if perhaps through circumstances more than persuasive power.

Against this backdrop, the actions of Barack Obama, the defectiveness of the US “justice” system and the moral deafness of the Stephen Harper government are merely reactionary echoes. That’s no cause for celebration just yet, especially from the victims’ perspective, but it gives us hope nonetheless, and a reason to persevere.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 1, 2011 5:51 PM.

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