"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mr. President: Law or Lawlessness???

Dedicated peace activist Brad Lyttle wrote the following letter to President Obama after hearing the most recent news of his unseemly, active pursuit of targeted killings.  Beyond the direct questions asked here, Brad asks an even deeper and fundamental question of not only Obama, but also of each and every one of us - If we do not stand against this reprehensible practice, what is to become of our collective spirit???  Is this not just one more step toward the abyss?  At what point is there no return?


June 1, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White Hosue
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

The recent article in the New York Times maintaining that you study and approve lists of people that the CIA and other “intelligence” services recommend for assassination, is deeply disturbing. The report reminds me of Lavrenti Beria’s practice of submitting “liquidation” lists to Stalin for his approval and signature. I hope that you are not approving the assassination of anyone. I do not see how such killings, completely outside of, “the rule of law,”can make the world a safer place.

Consider the situation in Chicago. Chicago has had a high violence level this spring. Just last weekend about 20 people were shot. Several died. Suppose that Chicago judges tried to reduce this violence level by studying lists of suspects submitted by the police, and then ordered that certain people be summarily executed. If judges did that, I do not think that what is left of civil society in Chicago would last long. To maintain civil society, it is always necessary to proceed against suspected criminals by means of due process. Everyone accused of a crime should have his or her day in court, the right to counsel, and a public and fair trial. That method of resolving conflicts is one characteristic of a democratic, workable, society.

I believe that you should do everything that you can to create and strengthen international processes for resolving conflicts that at least suggest the rule of law rather than the rule of arbitrary violence. Two days ago, the Special Court of Sierra Leone sentenced Charles Taylor to 50 yeas in prison for crimes against the people of Liberia. That is a step in the right direction. Shouldn’t we try to bring those we regard as terrorists to trial in U.N. sponsored international courts, rather than assassinating or summarily imprisoning them? If the United Nations had just put Taylor in prison for 50 years without giving him his “day in court,” would we be closer to peace and more secure?

The condition of war tends to obliterate all processes of justice. World War II may have begun with national leaders proclaiming limits to their use of violence. Almost all stated their opposition to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. However, before the war ended, there do not seem to have been any restraints in regard to the use of violence on the part of anyone. Nazi Germany was operating extermination centers like Treblinka and Auschwitz. The U.S. fire bombed Dresden, Tokyo, and other Axis cities, and annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs. The bombings were justified on the grounds that they hastened the end of war, but had dreadful implications for everyone. Thousands of hydrogen bombs are now aimed at cities. No national leader maintains that civilians are illegitimate targets. This is not progress in security and civilization.

The “War on Terror” contains the danger of a similar “progression.” It may have begun with the assumption that we would not torture and assassinate people, but we now find ourselves doing these things. We may kill many of our enemies, but we can’t kill all of them, and what kind of world society results from such activity? It is a society where there is no “law,” only the power to kill that can be used arbitrarily by anyone who has the means. The President of the United States should take the lead in trying to create a world society based on law and justice, not arbitrary violence.


Bradford Lyttle
Chicago, IL

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