Imagine if at some point during the 1990s or 1980s the President of the United States had given a speech.  And this was his speech:

My fellow Americans, I’ve been regularly shooting missiles into people’s houses in several countries.  I’ve wiped out families.  I’ve killed thousands of people.  Hundreds of them have been little children.

I’ve killed grandparents, wives, daughters, neighbors.  I’ve targeted people without knowing their names but because they appeared to be resisting an occupation of their country.  I’ve killed whoever was too near them.  Then I’ve shot another missile a few minutes later to kill whoever was trying to help the victims.

I don’t charge these people with crimes.  I don’t seek their extradition.  I don’t even try to kidnap them.  And I don’t do this to defend against any imminent threat.  I don’t make you safer by doing this.  It goes without saying (although the people in the countries I target keep saying it) that I’m generating more new enemies than I’m killing.  But I urge you to remember this: All but four of the people I’ve killed have been non-U.S. citizens.

So here’s what I’m going to do for you: I’m going to start applying the same standards I use for killing U.S. citizens to my killing of non-U.S. citizens, at least in certain countries, at least after another 18 months or so goes by.  Sound good?  I know, I know: what do you care? These are not even U.S. citizens we’re talking about.

So, let me tell you about the four U.S. citizens.

One of them we didn’t actually know who we were shooting at, and he turned out to be a U.S. citizen.  Hell, for all I know a few other bodies could belong to U.S. citizens too — It’s not as if we know all the names and backgrounds.

A second one of the four we got because he was with the one and only U.S. citizen we targeted.  So, that was a two-fer.  We saved enough on missiles on that one to pay for a school or whatever it is people keep whining about wanting money for.

A third one was a 16-year-old American kid.  He was the son of the one and only U.S. citizen I targeted.  I hit him two weeks after killing his father.  Sheer coincidence.  I don’t have any good explanation for it, but you’ll just have to trust that I meant to take out a bunch of innocent non-American teenagers, and there happened tragically to be an American among them.

Fourth is the one U.S. citizen I meant to kill.  I’d like to ask you to ignore certain facts about this one for the moment.  Actually forever.  Let’s ignore the fact that we tried to kill him before any of the incidents that I now claim justified his killing.  Let’s ignore that my attorney general said back then that we were killing him for things he’d said, not for anything he’d done.  Let’s forget that we never charged him with any crime, never indicted him, never tried him, never sought his extradition, never appealed to U.S. or foreign or international courts.  Let’s forget that we’ve never made any evidence against him public, nor explained why we can’t.  Let’s forget that nobody else has produced any evidence against him.

Now, let me tell you this: I only killed him because he was responsible for planning and executing violent attacks on the United States, was an imminent threat to the United States, and could not possibly have been captured.  Got that?  Write that down.

Now, it’s true that courts and the legislature and the public are left out of this.  But you’re going to have to trust me.

There is not a single domestic or international law that permits the killing of human beings by someone who invents criteria for himself to meet and then claims on the basis of secret evidence to have met those criteria.

But, what do you care?  You’ve already forgotten that for all but one of the people I’ve killed I don’t claim to have met any criteria at all.

Now clap, you morons!

Some speech.

What would the response have been to this some decades back, as compared to last Thursday?

I think there might have been some outrage.

Instead of outrage, we’re going to have more wars.

This memorial day, see if you can remember what it was like to object to giving presidents the power to murder us.

Image by qthomasbower under Creative Commons license