Ted Rall takes up a theme I’ve been sounding here (and elsewhere) since November 2001: The president of the United States now claims the right and power to arbitrarily designate anyone on earth an "enemy" and have them seized without charges, held indefinitely without trial — or simply killed outright. As we’ve often reported here, George W. Bush asserted these dread powers by executive order — and as Rall notes, Barack Obama has not only not rescinded them, he has made energetic use of them, particularly in his death-by-drone assassination program in Pakistan.

As Rall notes:

Simply put, no one man–not even a nice, articulate, charismatic one–ought to claim the right to suspend a person’s constitutional rights. Not in America. Certainly no one man–not even a young, handsome, likeable one–should be able to have anyone he wants whacked. Even in dictatorships, the right of life and death is reserved for judges and juries operating under a system purportedly designed to support impartiality and a search for the truth.

But that’s not the case here in the United States. In 2002 Scott Silliman, director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University asked: "Could you put a Hellfire missile into a car in Washington, D.C., under [the Bush] theory? The answer is yes, you could."

Nothing much has changed since then. Obama has eliminated the use of the phrase "enemy combatant," but The New York Times reported that the change is merely meant to "symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies." The words may have changed, but Obama attorney general Eric Holder’s definition of who can and cannot be held, said the Times, is "not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration."

These days, Obama has ramped up the assassination of political opponents of the U.S. and the U.S.-aligned authoritarian regime in Pakistan, deploying more Predator drone plane attacks than Bush. But that’s just for now. Obama could still personally order a government agency to murder you.

Rall’s conclusion is also one that we’ve drawn here time and again: No one seems to give a damn that their own liberties and lives are now forfeit to the whims and agendas of unaccountable leaders wielding vast, almost unimaginable technologies of repression and violence. A truly extraordinary — or as Rall puts it, perhaps more accurately, "weird" — situation. 

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