Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 7, 2013

Shott missed the mark on drones

— Smokey Shott’s column of March 12 indicated that the president could use “a drone on U.S. soil to kill a U.S. citizen who was not posing an immediate threat.” Perhaps Mr. Shott simply wasn’t paying attention to what Attorney General Holder actually wrote in his letter to Rand Paul. Holder indicated that there may be some hypothetical circumstance, such as another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor type event, in which the president could authorize the use of military force within the boundaries of the U.S, but that such a scenario was unlikely and that the president “has no intention to” utilize drones to attack anyone on U.S. soil.

This ultimately should be a non-issue. It is, as the conservatives like to say, just common sense. The president, as commander-in-chief, holds authority to utilize military force against U.S. citizens (or foreign combatants) in certain extenuating circumstances. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that knows their history. George Washington himself sent armed troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion during his administration. Vice President Dick Cheney ordered Flight 93 to be shot down during the 9/11 crisis (though the plane reportedly went down before the order could be carried out).

Rand Paul’s obstructionist grandstanding on the floor of the Senate was, in reality, prompted by a misinterpretation of Holder’s response. Paul asked in his initial letter if the president could, without a trial, order a military strike on a U.S. citizen. Holder stated that yes, in certain circumstances, when law enforcement was unable to respond to an event, the president could potentially use military force in such a manner. Paul read that, for whatever reason, as “Obama can kill any American he wants with a drone.” Holder, in a second letter to Paul, wrote:

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Perhaps Mr. Shott simply hadn’t followed the story. Perhaps he had, and simply wished to mislead the people in this area in a desperate attempt to give the Obama administration a black eye. Either way, his column was poorly researched and misleading.

There are plenty of reasons to complain about the drone program, such as the bizarre manner in which targets are chosen, the fact that it amounts to state sponsored preemptive assassination, and that the collateral damage often involves dead children. Rand Paul and, subsequently, Smokey Shott have chosen to ignore the real issues at hand. Instead, they tilt at windmills and hope that the ignorant will buy into their fanciful assertions that President Obama  is some sort of “third world” dictator.

I implore Mr. Shott to put his mock outrage aside and discuss the real issues surrounding the drone program. We as a society should direct our indignation at the mounting pile of dead children created by men who sit in safety behind electronic screens and drop bombs from remotely controlled aircraft.

John M. McCormick

Athens

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