The most persuasive argument against the U.S. government’s drone assassination program and its sanctions program on Iran is that they simply wrong in a moral sense. It’s morally wrong to murder people through assassination, and it’s wrong to inflict economic devastation on the citizenry of another country through sanctions.
Another persuasive argument is that such programs are not authorized by the Constitution, the document which sets forth the powers of the president and the rest of the federal government. One searches in vain for any mention of a power to assassinate people and to impose sanctions or embargoes against other countries. To make sure federal officials got the point, our American ancestors enacted the Fifth Amendment, which expressly prohibits the federal government from depriving people, citizens and foreigners alike, of life, liberty, and property without due process of law.
But there is another point that Americans need to ponder. That point is that the U.S. government’s assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere and its sanctions program against Iran might well lead to “blowback” in the form of another major terrorist attack on American soil.
Why ponder that possibility now? Because if such a strike comes, we’re going to experience the same sort of fear, panic, and irrational thinking that we experienced after 9/11. We’re going to hear the same nonsense we heard then about how the terrorists just hate us for our freedom and values and about how the U.S. government has innocently been minding its own business. U.S. officials are also going to use the crisis as an opportunity to expand the powers of the military and the CIA over the American people. We’re going to see more widespread emergency infringements on or suspensions of civil liberties.
Thus, now is the time to ponder the possibility of blowback from the government’s assassination program and its sanctions program. In that way, people are less likely to be led astray by falling for all the government hype that is certain to follow a terrorist strike.
Why is another terrorist strike on American soil possible? The answer is simple: the U.S. government is doing the same sorts of things to people in the Middle East and Afghanistan that it was doing prior to the 9/11 attacks. And those things are causing the same anger and rage that the government’s pre-9/11 foreign policy was producing.
Consider the drone assassinations. Every day, we hear about how the feds have assassinated more people with their drone attacks. That includes people who live in countries against which there isn’t even a formal declaration of war, which the Constitution requires. The killings include not only people who are suspected of being terrorists but also innocent bystanders.
It’s obvious that the people in those countries have no means of defending themselves against the drone assassinations. It’s also obvious that anger and rage in that part of the world is beginning to boil owing to the assassinations.
At the same time, the sanctions on Iran are causing untold economic devastation on the Iranian people. They are also contributing to the illnesses and deaths of people. That sort of thing has a tendency to make people frustrated and angry, especially when there is nothing they can do to defend themselves from it.
That’s precisely what was happening prior to 9/11. The U.S. government was killing untold numbers of people in Iraq, especially children, with its brutal program of sanctions and its illegal no-fly zones. Every week, people in the Middle East would read or hear about more Iraqi children who had died as a result of these programs. The estimates of how many children died number in the hundreds of thousands.
Compounding the problem was the same callous indifference to the death and destruction in Iraq that is manifested by U.S. officials today toward the death and destruction in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iran, and elsewhere. That mindset of callous indifference to the lives of foreigners was best exemplified by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, who publicly stated that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.”
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, all too many Americans didn’t want to hear any arguments over what had motivated the attackers to commit such a horrific act on American soil. Themselves overtaken by tremendous anger and rage, all that such Americans wanted was revenge and retaliation. There was little rational thinking taking place after 9/11, which, again, is a good reason why we should engage in it now.
We mustn’t forget that anti-American terrorism didn’t start with the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Recall that in 1993, there was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. There were also the terrorist attacks on the USS Cole and on U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Every time the terrorists explained why they had done it, they pointed to the U.S. government’s interventionism in the Middle East, including its killing of people in Iraq. In fact, it was U.S. foreign policy that Osama bin Laden himself pointed to when he issued his pre-9/11 fatwa against America.
All the anti-American terrorist strikes and, indeed, the attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, have one purpose: no, not to conquer the United States and deprive Americans of their rights and freedoms, but rather to rid their part of the world of U.S. troops, sanctions, assassinations, and other U.S. governmental interference with that part of the world. That’s what the fighting and killing is all about — not to defend the lives and freedoms of the American people but rather to defend the authority of the U.S. government to interfere in the affairs of other countries.
The most powerful arguments against the assassinations and sanctions rest on moral grounds. But Americans would be wise to ponder an argument against them based on grounds of self-interest. Such programs are likely to subject Americans to more terrorist attacks, followed by heavier and more widespread infringements on their rights and freedoms at the hands of their own government, the government whose very own policies are motivating foreigners to join the ranks of anti-American terrorists.