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Phil-osophically Speaking

Old Wine In New Bottles

We’re hitting them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen and wherever else we find those committed to waging war on the United States.  President Obama has escalated the use of un-manned drones equipped with Hellfire missiles to take out suspected terrorists wherever Jihad is being harvested, even if the targets include American citizens. This is a policy, with a few pertinent reservations, I generally endorse.

I endorse it because any American who takes up arms against his country forfeits his rights of citizenship. I endorse it because the United States is at war with a shadowy enemy taking refuge in lawless territories and hell-bent on mass murdering as many Americans as possible. I endorse it because it has been effective in destabilizing the leadership of Al Qaeda. I endorse it because collateral damage from these high-tech strikes is limited and does not expose American pilots to enemy gunfire.

Some conservatives have turned pale over Obama using his Constitutional war powers to act against American citizens without due process of law. They can’t be serious; do they expect the president to take out a warrant for their arrest? Does anyone believe that they would adopt such a position if George W. Bush had instituted it? The Supreme Court has said on numerous occasions that citizens who declare war upon the United States have no constitutional protections. As commander in chief it is reasonable and prudent that such decisions, with qualifications, rest in the hands of the president who is accountable to the voters and Congress for his decisions.

Nevertheless, one can understand the bitterness that conservatives feel about Obama’s pirouette on national security. When President Bush exerted similar muscle, candidate Obama and his future Attorney General Eric Holder flayed the president alive for trashing the American Constitution while using national security as a pretext. Obama and Holder charged that Guantanamo was an American gulag, lambasted the flagitious use of wiretapping and waterboarding and blatantly accused the Bush White House of war crimes. This brand of moral preening is an even more noxious odor when one recalls that Holder, while a senior partner in his law firm, filed an amicus brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, an American citizen turned al Qaeda operative plotting an act of terror on American soil. By this brief, Holder sought to try Padilla not as an enemy combatant but as a criminal defendant. Now Holder has the chutzpah to send out a Justice Department memo essentially justifying the killing of American citizens overseas with no judicial oversight! Wasn’t this the same guy who accused Bush of being a modern day Torquemada conducting his own personal inquisition?

It seems like a case of old wine in new bottles. True, the Obama Administration has dispensed with waterboarding and replaced it with drone strikes. But is this more humane, more just, more law abiding? The journalist Jonas Goldberg took his own, admittedly, unscientific survey, asking people if they would rather be water boarded by the CIA or incinerated by Hellfire missiles. Thus far, the response is unanimous for waterboarding. So exactly what are these humanists in the Administration thinking? I suppose the answer could only be reality: Al Qaeda is real, immensely dangerous and must be dealt with harshly if American lives are to be spared.

Even more galling than the Administration pretending that there remains a grave moral difference between their policy and that of their predecessor is the mainstream media’s subdued reaction to this highly charged memo. Having voted overwhelmingly for the president, it is hardly a revelation that a double standard is sitting there licking its chops. Oh, there were a few arched eyebrows, pursed lips and some uncomfortable body language, but nothing like the pandemonium of censure that greeted Bush’s controversial measures to fight the war on terror. 

But while these contradictions cannot be ignored, political leadership must not nurse grudges. The threats facing our nation and the civilized world are too vast for endless disputation. I understand that every president, in order to govern effectively, has to in some degree overcome principle. This, however, is not a license for the Chief Executive to ignore the Constitution whenever he perceives a mortal threat. Some of the language of the Justice Department’s memo summarizing the legal basis of drone attacks upon American citizens is open to broad interpretation and their definition of “imminent” threats appears, at least to this writer, to be incautiously elastic. Both the wording and the breadth of this Executive missive needs to refined and tightened.

The way to approach contentious issues involving national security is with transparency and scrutiny via congressional committees constituted for the purpose of oversight. This appraisal should also include the Obama Administration annulling counterinsurgency operations in favor of drone attacks. Though these measures can be messy and potentially morally compromising, interrogation can elicit valuable intelligence and, frankly, it’s less likely to offend moderates in the Arab world than missile strikes within their borders. A tactful combination of both should be our first line of defense.

Balancing security and American values is a delicate task. It can never be done perfectly. Both parties must realize this in times of peril. It’s necessary to give the commander in chief cover and latitude to act decisively, but without going so far as to sanction an imperial presidency. 

News

The Sewanhaka Central High School District selected Brentwood-based Park East Construction as its bond construction management firm last week. The group will oversee the $86.6 million in improvements coming to the district. Park East will analyze school architect Wiedersum Associates’ plans before applying for New York State Education Department approval.

 

“They are going to make sure the [firms that win district contracts] do the work right,” District Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said. “They’re going to make sure [the engineer’s] drawings are right before they are sent up to New York State. [Park East] reports directly to the architect and the Board of Education to make sure what we say we’re going to do is done well.”

The Sept. 18 meeting of the Herricks Board of Education covered a range of issues, from the district’s overall performance to the sudden death of a student to fiscal and personnel issues—even to the loss of maple trees. 

 

National Ranking 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Bierwirth announced that the district’s high school had achieved an impressive level of distinction in a recent national survey that measured scholastic achievement; in fact, a great deal of Long Island made the cut, he said.


Sports

Seniors Daniella Ford and Margie Londono highlight a Sewanhaka Indians girls soccer team vying for its second straight winning season. 

 

Ford, who is in her fourth season as starting goalie for the Indians, netted a season-high 24 saves in a 3-1 loss to Valley Stream Central. 

 

“She’s a stud back there,” said Sewanhaka third-year coach Eric Premisler, whose team is 0-3 as of press time, after going 8-3-1 last season. “If we can stop a team from taking five shots because of good defense, Daniella is going to stop another 15 shots. And we’re going to have a chance to win every game.”

The Sewanhaka Indians continue to let their presence be felt in Nassau Conference II. 

 

The Indians played their second game as members of the conference on Saturday, Sept. 21, against the Long Beach Marines, topping the south shore squad 51-30. 

 

On the opening drive, the Indians relied on running back Brenton Mighty’s legs to get them into the red zone. On first and goal from the 15-yard line, quarterback Elijah Tracey hit

Michael Parasconda on a screen pass for the first score. 


Calendar

Exercise Class - September 24

Silver Sneaker Fitness - September 25

Live Music - September 26


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com