Monday, March 30, 2009


Seymour Hersh was on Terri Gross' interview program today on NPR. Gross asked Hersh asked about his claims that there was a special operations force answerable only to Dick Cheney that went around the world assassinating people Cheney decided were threats to the United States.

One of Terri Gross's first questions astounded me. She asked what the big deal was about because in her view that was the job of special operations, to assassinate "bad guys." How can Gross so cavalierly accept that American military forces sneak into foreign countries and assassinate their targets? How many innocent people are caught up in this nightmare and killed?

Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing before an impartial court, with right to a lawyer and to present a defense including evidence on one's behalf. Now you might respond that this is not a legal right to people not citizens of the United States, at least not in U.S. courts. But I would argue that it is a basic human right belonging to everyone in the world.

The rule of law means that we don't approve of people going around and taking the law in their own hands, by being the judge and executioner. Or are there some including Dick Cheney and George W. Bush who think that the rule of law ends at the borders of the U.S.?

Hersh commented that he did not blame any of the special forces, they were just doing their job. This is just as outrageous as Terri Gross accepting that assassination was the job of American soldiers. Hersh may not blame these special forces but I do. A soldier just can't rely on the defense that he or she is just following orders. There is a decision to be made, is this moral or right? Do I have responsibility for taking someone's life without giving the person the right to speak in his own defense? Just because Dick Cheney says the target is a "terrorist," does that give a right to kill him without more? I don't think so.

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