Public support for Rand Paul yesterday and last night was overwhelming enough to garner a response from the Obama administration today. If you haven’t heard, Senator Rand Paul started a fillibuster in the Senate – that kept going for over 13 hours – to object to the use of drone strikes on U.S. citizens within the U.S.
Senator Paul had requested information from the Obama administration three times. He had repeatedly asked whether the president believes he has the power to authorize the killing of a U.S. citizen by a drone – with no trial, no jury, and no due process:
The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.
After receiving unclear and less than satisfactory answers, Senator Paul chose to fillibuster to bring public attention to a possible violation of Americans’ civil rights. And while he was forced to end his fillibuster not long after midnight, Senator Paul achieved his stated goal: President Obama (or rather, his attorney general) has assured Americans that he does not have the power to unilaterally execute an American citizen on American soil who is not “engaged in combat.”
So-called drone warfare is controversial in and of itself. In “Robot warriors: Lethal machines coming of age,” the BBC takes an instructive look at the two different sides. Some believe that drone warfare saves the lives of soliders; others believe that it will take too many innocent lives. While this is a debate worth having, Senator Paul was drawing attention to something else entirely: can the president of the United States order the killing of a citizen on American soil without due process?
This issue is something that Americans on both sides of the political aisle care about. Last night, the fillibuster became bipartisan when Democrat Senator Ron Wyden joined with Rand Paul. As a National Journal writer put it:
… Sen. Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour old-school filibuster on drone warfare exposed this jarring irony: A constitutional scholar who rode his antiwar views to the White House stands defiantly to the right of the GOP — and probably on the wrong side of history.
What’s up with President Obama?
What’s abundantly clear is that Americans don’t like the idea of one person – president or not – being permitted to kill another American without any exercise of the targeted person’s rights. Such a policy is unjust, Americans seem to agree. As one of the many #standwithrand tweets explained, “[h]e was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn’t get to decide who[m] we execute.”
Indeed. There’s just something unjust about a person losing his rights simply because one person or the majority says so.
And the only reason millions of unborn children have been executed in the U.S., right here on American soil, is because the majority on the Supreme Court said so. Because the majority of American citizens say so by their failure to act on behalf of the unborn. Because the majority of voters in many states say so when they vote for pro-choice politicians. Because the majority of legislators say so when they reject pro-life laws.
But just because the majority says so doesn’t make it just. Just because one person – a mother – says that her innocent child can be targeted and killed doesn’t make it constitutional. True, an unborn child isn’t a citizen. Yet if you’re familiar with the Constitution, you’ll realize that the right to life was recognized not only for American citizens, but for persons; for human beings; for each individual within our borders.
And that’s where Rand Paul, drone strikes, and unborn children come together. No human being on American soil ought to ever be targeted for death – by the decision of one person or by the decision of the majority – without a full exercise of the targeted person’s rights. It’s unjust and un-American. And like Senator Paul, we ought to stand up on this issue and “speak until we can no longer speak.”