The Kill List and The Choice

Some conservatives seem baffled that I’m not signed up for the Good Ship Romney yet. I’m not “undecided.” I’m waiting to see if he asserts or rejects the right–claimed by Obama–of creating a kill list that includes American citizens, without even providing evidence of their crimes. I’m waiting to get some flicker of a sense from Romney that our drone war is illegal and immoral. Just a little something.

Although I’m hoping Romney gives some indication before election day that he thinks this is wrong, I doubt it’s going to come. He seems firmly cast in the neo-con Empire-builder mold, which is an utter betrayal of bedrock conservative principles.

This post by Jason Kuznicki has been circulating on Facebook today, and it catches the problem quite well:

Barack Obama has a kill list.

Its legal justification is a secret. Its contents are secret, too. You don’t get to see who’s on it. Nor do any members of Congress. Nor any federal judges. Basically no one does.

How does someone end up on it? Obama decides. He decides with a small group of people, all of whom hold their jobs at his pleasure.

Whatever methods they use, they’re secret, too. The evidence — you guessed it — is secret. If there even is any.

We don’t know much about the kill list, but we do know a few things. We know it can include American citizens. That’s already happened. We know it can include American citizens who are minors. That’s already happened, too.

We know that the kill list is valid anywhere in the world: Obama claims the authority to kill these people wherever they may be, including within the United States. Including children sleeping peacefully in their homes.

We know that no one gets to review his decision. Ever. The ones who might do it have all abdicated the responsibility.

If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.

Do not tell me that I need to vote for him… because you are afraid that he will lose. He deserves to lose.

And worse. He deserves to walk onstage not to cheers, but to hisses, boos, and a shower of rotten vegetables. He deserves a place in presidential history somewhere far beneath Warren Harding or Richard Nixon, both now counted rank amateurs when it comes to subverting the republic. Obama deserves the reputation of a Catiline or a Hipparchus, if only we remembered who they were.

No, I don’t think Romney would be better. For the next four years, government by kill list is baked in the cake. Romney’s been mum about the whole thing, and that’s just what we would expect from someone who thinks himself worthy of the power, and who hopes to enjoy it come January.

Read it all. He’s right, and that phrase–government by kill list is baked in the cake–is a keeper. This is what precedent does. No one gives up power. Even after Caesar was given 23 pokes with a dagger, we still got Nero. The power clings to the office, not the man, and it only grows, and overgrows. In a garden, if you leave something to grow too long, it will eventually burst and rot. As with tomatoes, so with power.

I’m sorry to see the rotting phase in my country in my lifetime. I don’t know how to turn it back. We really are faced with only two choices in this election, and both of them are unappealing options. I have no real illusions here: the ruinous policies of the last four years must end. But being complicit with a grave evil isn’t high on my list of things to do, and delivering death on Pakistani wedding parties and Afghan funerals (and all for the most dubious strategic and tactical ends) is a grave evil if there ever was one. I’m fortunate that my state–New Jersey–is irrelevant in the national election: it’s all blue all the time. I could write in Rand Paul (who I can support without hesitation) and be perfectly satisfied with my choice, and not cause a ripple in the results, but that’s a cowards way out.

I already know what Obama will do: kill them all, and let God sort them out. There’s some hope Romney will be different. I may just cling to that slender thread and pull the “R” lever. I just want Mitt to give me something to justify that other than “NotObama.” His debate performance gave me hope that he can be a decent president. Now I want him to give me hope that he can be a decent man.

At some point, I need Romney to show that he understands our problems are here, in America, and not over there, in the sandbox. They have to find their own way and solve their own problems. Or not. As a wise man once said, we accomplish nothing when we “fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt.”

Except the tent isn’t empty, and we’re not hitting a camel. We’re hitting them:

Are you okay with that?

Because I’m not.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.