George Graham

Why Talk about Drones when the Sequester Looms?

Why are the TV pundits – and some members of Congress – so obsessed with drones when there’s a real and present danger lurking in the silent shadows?  I can’t deny that the drone strikes are troubling. But the CIA has been doing troubling things for generations. And the moral issues involved in CIA activities won’t be solved by the likes of Chris Matthews.

Indeed, the issue that so many TV types are obsessing over – the execution of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (photo above) – is being examined in a much more legitimate arena – the US court system. Relatives of the victims filed a civil lawsuit last summer against Leon Panetta, then secretary of defense, David Petraeus, then director of the CIA, and two military commanders of for authorizing and directing the killings. It’s up to the courts to decide whether the drone strikes were unlawful and violated the victims’ constitutional rights by not affording them due process.

I can’t tell whether the lawsuit has been settled from the reports I’ve found on the web, but it looks as if it’s still going on. The American Civil Liberties Union is also suing U.S. officials over the al-Awlaki execution, and the courts have yet to rule on that case.

The U.S. courts might well find al-Awlaki’s targeted killing unconstitutional . But that would be a shame. Traitors like Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico but moved to Yemen to plot terror strikes against his country, deserve summary execution. Of course, as I’ve observed in earlier blogs, there’s no excuse for the sloppiness that results in innocent civilians being killed in the process.

This is a knotty issue, both morally and legally, but all the chatter in the world – on TV and in those John Brennan hearings – won’t straighten it out. There’s too much that’s unknown, too much that will never be known, too much that cannot be known if America is to be protected from terrorists.

Furthermore, al-Awlaki was tried in absentia by a Yemen judge, who ordered him captured “dead or alive.” It remains to be seen how much standing the Yemen courts have in American jurisprudence, but I haven’t heard this fact mentioned by the TV pundits, who seem all too ready to exploit a new “scandal” – especially as it was triggered by a “leaked” Obama administration memo.

Meanwhile, a deadly “sequester,” which would surely cripple the American economy and cause widespread misery and hunger, looms only weeks away. Why aren’t the TV pundits yelling that the sky is falling?

I know, the word “sequester” sounds like a big yawn.  But it’s vitally important to you and me.

Congress agreed to the dangerous deal back in 2011 as the price they would pay for rejecting the budget recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles committee. So, here it is February 9, and sequestration will be upon us March 1.

From what I’ve read, Tea Party types in Congress are primed to block any compromise that would head off the drastic budget cuts that sequestration would inflict on America.

We’re talking about austerity here, the kind of austerity that recently brought the United Kingdom and other European countries to their knees.

According to a Congressional Budget Office report, at least a million jobs are likely to be lost if the sequester cuts go into effect. That would mean goodbye to the struggling economic recovery now underway and hello to double-dip recession.

Why aren’t we yelling our heads off about that?

Read about sequestration here.

More on the lawsuit.

More on the ACLU’s involvement.

More on targeted killing.

More on the Brennan hearings.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for