Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Wingnut Conspiracy Theory Has a Point

This might be a good rule of thumb for presidential policy: if the factual truth of what you are doing is so gob-smackingly ridiculous that it makes whacko conspiracy theories about it sound reasonable, it's probably bad policy.


I suppose it was inevitable:
What do you get when you combine the president's ability to secretly kill American citizens and the recent push to restrict gun access? One of the most bizarre anti-Obama conspiracy theories ever—and it takes a lot to win that prize.

Various tea party activists, libertarian websites and other conspiracy-minded Obama haters are claiming that Russian security forces have discovered that Obama is about to unleash "death squads" across America to assassinate defenders of the Second Amendment. According to, one of the sites perpetuating this latest story, Russian intelligence has outlined the whole nefarious plot in a memo for President Vladimir Putin, detailing the Obama's administration's dispatch of "VIPER teams...which is the acronym for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Team, a programme run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and whose agents terrify millions of Americans with Nazi-like Gestapo tactics on a daily basis at airports and who report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)." (run by a Florida tea party leader), which echoes the theory promoted by similar sites, maintains that these teams—800 of them, to be precise—are set to "disperse throughout his country in preparation for what Russian intelligence analysts are predicting to be a series of high-profile killings of dissident Americans set to begin as soon as February 22nd." Obama has apparently been emboldened to launch such an operation by the recent federal court ruling upholding his right to kill American citizens with drone strikes without explaining why.
It would be a lot easier to marginalize these guys if the Executive branch wasn't actually asserting the right to unilaterally decide to kill American citizens. As nutty as they are, you have to admit that they have at least some theoretical basis for being concerned. When the government declares it has the constitutional right to kill Americans at its own discretion, unpopular people are not entirely wrong to worry. Right now the enemy is this loose knit terrorist group called Al Qaeda. But it could be something else tomorrow.

This is where the rule of law really helps. It doesn't soothe the real kooks, but there are probably some people who are going to see this and wonder if it could happen to them. And there's no way to logically reassure them. If the President can assert this power here there's really no reason he couldn't assert it anywhere. Personally, I'm quite sure that President Obama is not doing anything like this Russian rumor says. But I'm certainly not sure that any other president wouldn't. Legalizing it for Al Qaeda is a step toward normalizing the concept.
Ten years ago, no one outside Dick Cheney's circle of sociopaths would have believed that Americans would come to accept torture as just another interrogation technique, yet here we are.

Ten years from now, how many Americans will the president have assassinated under a policy no one finds outrageous any more?

1 comment:

tsiya said...

Loyalty isn't a characteristic of government, no matter who they're killing today, no matter what side you are on, tomorrow they may be killing you. Government is always on government's side.
We've given government too much power as it is, why do liberals want to give them more?