Chuck Norris' column on World Net Daily is a perennial source of right-wing insanity mixed with healthy doses of paranoia and fear-mongering. His latest column, entitled "Obama's U.S. assassination program? Part 1" discusses - in the broadest possible sense of the word - President Obama's expansion of existing Bush-era assassination programs as part of the War on Terror. Before Norris goes completely off the deep end, however, he raises a salient - if ignorant, bigoted, and xenophobic - point.
And it's the gravest nightmare of U.S. citizens and abandonment of our Constitution to date: A presidential assassination program in which U.S. citizens are in the literal scopes of the executive branch, based upon nothing more than allegations of terrorism involvement as they define it.
Of course, the CIA has executed covert assassinations of foreigners for decades. But, tragically, Obama is now expanding this program to include American, non-Islamic, stateside, homegrown terrorists.
That's right. No arrest. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just a bullet.
Assassination is a difficult topic politically speaking and, while the Left frequently wants to say it's a terrible idea, the simple tactical reality of the matter is that once we've designated someone to be an enemy of the state and engaged in combat operations against the United States, we must be willing to strike at that person wherever the opportunity arises.
It would be ideal to say that we can drop bombs on an isolated cave in Afghanistan and call that a "surgical strike" rater than an assassination but the simple fact is that it's the same thing - in every meaningful sense - as putting a bullet into someone's head in Kabul, Dubai, or London. While we are prepared to engage in the former as an "act of war," however, the latter strikes us as more reminiscent of the tactics we are supposed to be fighting against than those we would laud in ourselves.
Ignoring the wisdom of declaring war on an abstract noun for a moment, the United States is engaged in a war against an amorphous and non-national enemy. There are no borders to cross, cities to capture, or fortifications to topple. We seek to kill and capture people who hide amongst innocents and, thanks to the politics that informs our doctrine, we don't want to kill those innocents.
A stance against assassination thus puts the United States in an intractable position wherein our enemies can hide with impunity behind human shields we stand paralyzed by our politics.
This is unacceptable and thus, we must either brook such tactics, despicable as they may be, or resign ourselves to military impotence in this regard.
Yet the problem carries itself forward yet further when we address the issue of radicalized Americans. While it is one thing for the United States to lash out against a specific foreign national, it is altogether another for our government to kill its own citizens without due process or recourse.
Norris cheapens what should have been a worthwhile comment when he includes the phrase "non-Islamic" as if a person's faith has any relevance to this problem. Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan, Atheist, or Hindu, the target's faith is irrelevant; it is his (or her) citizenship that raises the hard questions.
If terrorism against the United States is truly a military matter - a threat to national security of such enormous severity that only the armed forces can meaningfully stand against it, then the assassination of even an American citizen engaged in such an activity must be tolerated. Assassination is itself objectionable, but it is ultimately the treatment of American citizens as military enemies of the United States that leads us to that end and there already exists a precedent for such treatment in the prosecution of the American Civil War in the 1860s.
If, however, terrorism is anything less than a matter left solely to the apparatus of state security and the armed forces, then assassination can not be tolerated. If we are to treat terrorism as a crime rather than an act of war then the accused must be due certain rights and immunities - particularly in the case of a radicalized American Citizen, captured at home or abroad.
Thus this, like almost every other discussion of terrorism and hate crimes, goes to the heart of what constitutes terrorism: the attacker's motivation and intent. What distinguishes a mass murder - the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, for instance - from a terrorist attack like that at Fort Hood if not the killer's motivations?
In ruling a terrorist attack a military matter we must, in essence, declare a person's intent sufficient to move a case from criminal to military jurisdiction and that sets a dangerous precedent, functionally allowing government to arbitrarily deny citizens their civil liberties based upon something that, by definition, is immaterial and unprovable.
The only alternative thus remaining is a distasteful one. If we are to address terrorism as a military matter, we must tolerate the assassination of foreign nationals while simultaneously forbidding the assassination of American Citizens engaged in identical activities.
Norris is right; it is "tragic" that the CIA might assassinate "American... terrorists." Yet, the ellipses in that quotation conceal the words that belie the D-list celebrity's ignorance and bigotry. The US Constitution does not exempt Muslims nor does it stop at our national borders.