Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has drawn both plaudits and vitriol for his 13-hour filibuster March 6 in opposition to the confirmation of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paul’s opposition was rooted in the unwillingness of the Obama administration to rule out the killing on U.S. soil via drone strikes American citizens not engaged in combat. This the administration was forced to admit fell outside of the legal standard following Paul’s marathon speech, although “engaged in combat” is another of those relative terms the Obama administration uses to extend the killing authority of its drone program.
While concerned only with the issue of U.S. citizens being targeted, Paul’s filibuster drew further attention to the killer U.S. drone program and the secrecy surrounding it. The administration has yet to address the issue of “signature strikes” that target unknown individuals who simply appear, using spurious metrics, to be “terrorists.”
Further, the filibuster drew attention to the dubious legal rationale the Obama administration has constructed to justify its drone war, revealed through document leaks and "summaries" it has released. The rationale includes changing the meaning of “imminence” and reflects a complete disregard for the sovereignty of other nations.
Paul, a Tea Party champion, was joined in his filibuster by two other hard-right senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. Paul was also joined by fellow Tea Party darling Marco Rubio, other conservative Republicans and one Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon. Paul was assailed by the two leading Republican foreign policy voices in the Senate, John McCain and Lindsay Graham.
McCain called Paul’s questioning of the drone program a “stunt” that would lead him not to be “taken seriously.” Graham called the action “ill-informed” and then voted to confirm Brennan as an explicit show of support to the murderous drone warfare program.
Whither the liberals?
It is revealing that only one Democrat came to the floor to support Paul. The Democrats have instead been in lockstep behind the president every step of the way, offering only token, rhetorical and lukewarm criticism. It clearly shows that the Democrats can in no way be relied on to protect either civil liberties or to stand up to the ruthless imperialist military machine using drones to expand its neo-colonial agenda.
In fact, it shows the bankruptcy of the political system that the only real opposition to the confirmation of John Brennan, who was part of the Bush-era torture regime and a key player in the drone assassination program, came from the far-right. These are the same people who live and breathe to shred the social safety net, gut Social Security and Medicare, eliminate regulation of private business, and turn America into a tax-free zone for Big Business and the super-rich.
These forces support a system that requires war and militarism while posing as anti-war and complaining about the use of drones in some circumstances. We can no more place our hopes in them than in the Obama administration or the Democratic Party. This underscores the importance of the April 13 demonstrations demanding "U.S. Imperialist Drones out of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Everywhere!"
The only true defender against the murderous drone warfare program is a powerful movement against the imperialist forces behind it. For all those who are sickened by endless war and escalating use of killer drones, there is no more important place to be on April 13 than in front of the White House.