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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013
DRONING ON ABOUT DRONES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Thanks a lot, Rand Paul. Now that your filibuster went from frivolous publicity stunt to raising the serious question about deadly use of drones against Americans in America, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out the National Rifle Association will get one of its toady congressmen to sponsor legislation that would allow all of us to carry Stinger missiles. Instead of just packing heat, we could be packing heat seekers.
Think of this as your “50 Monkeys at a Typewriter” moment, Senator. Suddenly, a lot of people who usually consider your politics to be at home on derange are congratulating you for sounding the alarm about lethal attacks on the homeland when national-security officials gone wild decide someone needs to be taken out. And it wasn’t even Dick Cheney who forced the issue.
Instead, it was that relatively mild-mannered Attorney General Eric Holder. By hemming and hawing about whether a president theoretically could order such an attack under extreme conditions, he gave Sen. Paul the chance to do his Mr. Smith imitation, which, of course, we in media covered like a blanket. The guy probably would still be talking had he not had to go potty (sorry if the rough language offends anyone). Apparently, he’s never heard of Depends.
Until nature’s call became irresistible, he and a small supporting cast were filibustering the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director. Actually, Brennan is the appropriate foil, since he has been intimately involved in the drones program. Besides, let’s be honest: Brennan comes across as a movie version of the hard-nosed, Mr. Mean intelligence chief, so he is an easy target.
He’s also the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The day after Paul took his potty break, the Senate approved Brennan. The vote came after members were threatened by something they regarded as worse than a drone attack. They were told that if they delayed, they would be held for the weekend. Presto: CIA Director John Brennan.
They left Holder behind to reflect on his really crummy week. Not only did he jump-start Paul’s credibility by acknowledging the obvious, which is that “extraordinary circumstances” could in fact justify a domestic drone attack, but he stumbled big-time on other turf. He tried to defend the paltry number of criminal actions against big banks whose massively greedy flouting of the law has brought the economy to its knees. The bankers’ lack of legal accountability has caused a widespread bitterness over a “too big to jail” mentality. That cynicism was reinforced by Holder when told a committee hearing that “if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” That from the nation’s chief law enforcer.
Perhaps the bad guys need to be forcibly removed from the banking system. Maybe we should call them what they are, economic terrorists, and pursue them accordingly. That would not, by the way, include the use of drones. When Rand Paul warns of their dangers in the wrong hands, it’s not just abusive national defense officials we should worry about. We need to be extremely wary of these unmanned planes in the hands of law-enforcement officials, ever anxious to abuse their authority. Evidence that Paul has hit on a legitimate issue is where it hit a nerve. Criticism came notably from Senate colleagues John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the two leading members of the warmonger caucus. McCain: “He needs to know what he’s talking about.” Graham, meanwhile disparaged the whole debate with “I do not believe that question deserves an answer.”
Apparently Holder decided he’d better come up with a better answer: so he followed up with “no, the U.S. government doesn’t have the authority.” None of this provides much reassurance, either about drones, or those who decide how they are used.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.