Targeted Assassinations Abroad Could Lead to a Police State at Home

09/22/2010 12:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How ironic it will be if historians blame Barack Obama, a liberal who used to teach constitutional law and became the first black man to be elected president of the United States, for turning our democracy into a police state because he provoked terrorist attacks on our homeland by authorizing so many assassinations abroad.

I think attacks on our vulnerable country in retaliation for assassinations Obama authorized are a chilling but real possibility. To combat such attacks, American citizens would lose freedoms they now take for granted, such as the ability to move throughout the United States without carrying identification papers to show police day and night.

I hope some congressional committee or subcommittee will delve into the cause-and-effect relationship between White House-approved assassinations abroad and retaliatory attacks here at home. After all, the Founding Fathers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gave Congress, not the president, the powers to "provide for the common defense" and "to declare war." So the House and Senate, no matter which party controls them next year, have every right to ask whether Obama's authorized assassinations are indeed helping "the common defense" or sowing the seeds for our own destruction as a democracy.

The New York Times revealed in its lead story on Aug. 15 what it termed

"the Obama administration's shadow war against al-Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries -- from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife -- the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic aircraft and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

"Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged in contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan," the Times reported."For example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed."

An armed drone drops its bomb on a group of suspected terrorists to assassinate them from the air while commando teams, often operating in the dark, do their assassinations on the ground. If the strikes were revealed, Obama and his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, would almost certainly defend them as the United States exercising its right of self defense. The families of the victims, especially the innocent ones, would almost certainly consider the killings murder and seek revenge.

I don't think most Americans understand how long a memory would-be avengers have, especially in a tribal society. I certainly didn't until I was humping around with a Green Beret team in Bosnia as a correspondent in 1996. A Bosnian saw me with the Green Berets, suspected I was a Western news correspondent and came running out the front door of his home to talk to me. In halting but understandable English, he described to me how the men buried under the crosses on his front lawn had been murdered. He said their throats had been cut. I was taking notes furiously because I thought he was talking about murdering by the Serbs in the recent ethnic war. I stopped taking notes when the distraught man revealed that he was talking about murders committed on his front lawn in the previous century.

Without using the word assassination, Brennan opened the kimono a bit on the White House rationale for it in a little noted speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies on May 26: "To deny al-Qaeda and its affiliates safe haven, we will take the fight to al-Qaeda and its extremist affiliates wherever they plot and train. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond, we are not only delivering severe blows against the leadership of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, we are helping these governments build their capacity to provide for their own security, to help them root out the al-Qaeda cancer. . .

"We often need to use a scalpel, not a hammer. When we know of terrorists who are plotting attacks against us, we have a responsibility to take action to defend ourselves -- and we will do so. . .

"As a result of our actions, we have subjected the core of al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden, to unprecedented pressure. In the last 16 months alone, hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed. We have inflicted significant damage on their capabilities. Today it is harder than ever for this network to move, raise funds, recruit, train and plot attacks, all of which makes the American people safer. . . "

Is this "scalpel," to use Brennan's term, that Obama and his designated hitters are reportedly using increasingly on al-Qaeda going to do America so much more harm than good that a latter-day Defense secretary will say, like Robert McNamara did about the Vietnam War, "We were wrong, terribly wrong?" Congress owes it to itself and the rest of us to find out how extensive Obama's approved assassinations have become and the likely consequences to our homeland.

This post originally appeared at Neiman Watchdog.