Rand Paul probably thinks every confederate casualty at Gettysburg was the victim of an extrajudicial targeted killing. Filibustering the nomination of John Brennan today, Kentucky’s teapublican senator spoke for the Lost Cause, insisting that a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder this week is an unconstitutional slippery slope:
“When I asked the president, ‘Can you kill an American on American soil,’ it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding an unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, ‘I haven’t killed anyone yet.’ He goes on to say, ‘And I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.’ Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that?”
Holder’s letter admitted the hypothetical possibility that armed drones might conceivably be used on Americans at some uncertain future time:
Paul, who had threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director over secrecy about the U.S. drone program, said in a statement that Holder’s “refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening — it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
No president has ever lacked recourse to lethal force, or the threat of lethal force, against American citizens who endanger the Constitution (see: Whiskey Rebellion). That is why the armed forces oath of enlistment requires uniformed personnel to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The Constitution has never limited the lethality of this power, either.
Abrahan Lincoln did not shirk from using the most lethal weapons at hand, and in fact both sides sought to improve their means of murder over the course of the war. Had Joshua Chamberlain enjoyed control of a drone, he would have used it in his defense of Little Round Top, which was not characterized by Miranda warnings. And remember, habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War, too.
So it is hypothetically possible for some group of American citizens, or a locality within the United States, to turn against the federal power with violence one day, and if such an insurrection came to pass, then we might expect drone strikes to be involved in suppressing it. But that future is not inevitable, just as the Civil War was not inevitable.
Listening to Rand Paul appeal to the drone hysterics, we might imagine a level introduction for “Assassin’s Creed XVIII:”
2047 AD: the New Confederacy attacks the outskirts of Washington, DC. As hovertanks smash one another to bits, a hyperkinetic battlefield turns outlying suburbs into death zones. Miniature nukes kill one million civilians.
But at least there are no drone strikes.
Thanks to the courage of Rand Paul in 2013, the President of the United States is still prevented by law from defending Washington with drones. The risk of incurring extrajudicial civilian casualties while dispatching the onrushing Clone Army of the New South is adjudged too high.
And so the rebels press onward with their destruction all the way to the National Mall while the government evacuates to Chicago. Your task is to slay the Clone Army with hand weapons to prove that honorable warfare should be personal.
The red Thorium pills you got from the merchant on the previous level will allow you to cross radiation zones safely.
Kidding aside, I don’t think Rand Paul is serious. He doesn’t actually think the United States Government should not avail itself of technological superiority if a hypothetical future enemy of the Constitution is American. Of course, since UAVs are a completely democratized technology, Rand understands that his imaginary future traitor would probably use a drone themselves. And I imagine that, like Brennan, Rand would rather see drones shift back to the military and out of the hands of the CIA.
This filibuster is not about policy, or Constitutionality. It’s about Rand Paul. You can tell because he’s doing it Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style. He has chosen drone hysteria as his spotlight, appealing to the libertarian demographic, the paranoid fringe, and the pacifist. All are highly reactive to the topic. Many progressives also naturally reward those who channel their concerns about war.
This stance is more popular than, say, Rand’s views on the Civil Rights Act, or the 14th Amendment, or abortion, or a dozen other civil rights issues where he stands on the wrong side of history. So for however-long he keeps talking, Rand Paul is standing up for civil rights. See how that works?