Universal Rights

Matt TaibbiMatt Taibbi wrote an interesting article about civilian drone killings, At Least We’re Not Measles: Rationalizing Drone Attacks Hits New Low. The article generally is an attack on all those (including an embarrassing number of liberals) who have been apologizing for these attacks. In particular, he goes after Michael Kugelman, who argues that we shouldn’t worry about drone deaths because more people in Pakistan die each year from measles. Great argument, huh?

But late in the article, Taibbi gets to an issue that is very close to my heart: universal rights.

This whole thing is crazy. In our own country, we don’t allow the government to torture criminal suspects and/or kill people without trial—because it’s wrong. If it’s wrong here, it’s wrong in Yemen or Iraq or Afghanistan; if it’s wrong to do it to an American citizen, it’s wrong to do it to a Pakistani. Our failure to recognize that and our increasingly desperate attempts to rationalize or legitimize this hideous program gives the entire world an automatic show of proof of American bigotry and stupidity.

I read the entire Constitution of the United States recently. What I found was that there are a total of 22 references of “citizen.” And pretty much without exception, these references have to do with voting: who can be president, senator, representative, and who can vote for them. I bring this up because back a while, I heard some people talking about how only citizens have rights of Habeas Corpus. This is what the Constitution says about this in Article I Section 9: “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” You see: no “citizen” there. Conservatives like to claim that the Bill of Rights is just about citizens. It isn’t. This goes back to the Declaration of Independence (and further), where Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” That’s “all men” and not “all men who just happen to be born in a particular place.”

This is all about natural rights. Either these rights are universal, or they aren’t real. As a nation, we can’t run all over the world forcing other countries to treat their people by our standards of universal rights. But we also can’t deny those rights by running all over the world killing people without due process of law. Claiming that it is all okay because we are at war is just an apologia. We are always at war and so can always claim that. It is the same as claiming that we can kill anyone we want to because we are America. And if you scratch the surface of arguments like those of Michael Kugelman, that’s all that you’ll find.

This article was based in part on a prior article.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Universal Rights

  1. By ‘all men’ that includes all homo sapiens. And it would be great if no one went around killing for any reason.

    Regarding drones, I had a disagreement with my husband because he was directing our son, 10 btw, to a "really cool" show about drones.

    I was pointing out, sarcastically, how drones were good because you can kill people even more efficiently than with the drones we had before. My husband was arguing that drones are used for more than killing. My intelligent response was "not much."

    I wish I had some facts to back my position, but when I just now went to look up "drones percent not used for war," the sample I got was all about drones and war. If you can find some statistics about drones not used for war, I would appreciate it.

    Anyway, to my husband’s defense, I think he has a misguided loyalty to his brother who is a rocket engineer.

    Final word, I didn’t know what Matt Taibbi looked like. He’s kind of hot!

  2. @Morwalk – New rule: no talking about how hot Matt is! Actually, I think he’s better looking in other photographs. He definitely has it going on.

    I don’t know what the percentage is, but I’m not keen on anything drones do. They don’t fly over roads looking for stranded motorists. They fly around spying or they fly around killing. That’s about it other than research use.

    Here’s a good article on the various uses:


    Of course, the problem isn’t drones. We have lots of ways of killing civilians from afar. Although, as Taibbi notes, the drones distance us from the killing ever more. And this allows us to more easily justify the practice.

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