Capt. Jerome, USMC: It seems quite obvious, I would think, sir. We must seize the government and make our own negotiations!
Gummere: Seize the government?
Capt. Jerome: At bayonet point!
Gummere: Well, I certainly would like to see that old son-of-a-bitch at bayonet point, huh? But it's ridiculous! It's outrageous! It's lunatic!
Adm. Chadwick: Yes, isn't it though? I think Teddy should love it.
Gummere: But, what about the French? The Germans? The British? Why we're in the shadow of Gibraltar!
Adm. Chadwick: DAMN THE LEGATIONS!
Gummere: You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we'll all be killed?
Adm. Chadwick: Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.
Capt. Jerome: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war!
The men raise their glasses in salute.
Adm. Chadwick: The world at war!
Gummere: A world war. Now that would be something to go out on...
- The Wind And The Lion, 1975
Spot the problem.
This morning Senator Ted Cruz (R-Jesusland) posted this to his Twitter account:
Do you see it?
I mean, can you spot the problem other than our nation is being run by idiots.
Cruz says we must preempt any efforts of those [Americans] who fight with terrorists to reenter the United States and launch terrorist attacks.
I don’t often agreed with Sweaty Teddy, but sure, okay. I might have said we should do our best to capture these people and bring them to justice, rather than just keep them out of our own country and let somebody else deal with them, but okay, sure.
But then we get to this part:
"We must protect our homeland by declaring that Americans that go fight with radical Islamic terrorists have renounced their citizenship."
Take away their citizenship.
Make them, what? Stateless? Force them to become citizens of some other nation, is that it?
Sounds good right? ‘Merica! and all that patriotic flag waving dreck. Sure. Shithead American goes to Terrorist Summer Camp, joins ISIS or ISIL or whatever the current bogeyman is, then tries to come back to America and attack us where we live.
I think we can all agree that’s not a good thing.
So, Senator Cruz suggests we start revoking American citizenship. Why we’ll make them no longer Americans! The dirty Muslim bastards, that'll fix ‘em! That’ll fix ‘em good!
Not to be a wet blanket or anything but before we start revoking citizenship, I have a couple of questions.
First, how big of a problem is this, really?
Sure, there have been a handful of cases where Americans have gone over to the other side, nobody says there haven’t, but how big of a problem is this?
Last year, two American converts to radical Islam, Troy Kastigar and Douglas McArthur McCain, declared Jihad and went to fight with the Islamic State. Both were killed. Now, I suppose you could take away their citizenship, you could take up the court’s time and pay the clerks and banish their ghosts to Jahannam. But, really, they’re dead. As such, they’re unlikely to return to the US and engage in terrorism. The vast majority of Americans have never heard of these two assholes.
So why then does the party of fiscal conservatism want to spend money on an empty gesture?
Anwar al-Awlaki was an America Muslim who became a militant Islamist. He joined al-Qaeda and was killed along with his son, also a US citizen, by an Obama authorized drone strike in the Yemeni desert. A rather large number of Americans, both liberal and conservative, lost their goddamned minds over it. I wrote about that incident, in exhaustive detail, here, in one of the most popular essays I’ve ever penned. Again, the guy is dead. He’s not coming back. We jammed a couple of Hellfire missiles up his colon, is sending a final Fuck You really that important at this point?
Most Americans have long forgotten John Walker Lindt – or Abu Sulayman al-Irlandi as he now calls himself. Lindt is currently rotting in the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana. He pled guilty to joining the Taliban and fighting against American forces in Afghanistan. Now, he’s in a SuperMax prison, in solitary confinement, for the next 20 years without the possibility of parole. His lawyers petitioned the government to have his sentence reduced and that was denied by President Bush on his last day in office. He hates the United States and prays for its destruction every day. So, what? You’re going to take away his citizenship? I’m sure he’ll be all broken up over that. But here’s my real question: And then what? When Lindt gets out of prison ten years from now, and he’s not a US Citizen, what are we going to do with him? He can’t stay here. He can’t go anywhere else because he’s not a citizen of any country. So, once again, the party of fiscal conservatism will have to spend money to negotiate his transfer to … where? Are we going to dump him into Gitmo and just keep him “detained” forever at our expense and in defiance of our law? Or are we going to ship him off to another country. And are we going to keep an eye on him after he’s released, because that would be a whole lot easier (and cheaper) here in the US than in Pakistan or Qatar or the UAE.
There are others. A few each year. But it’s hardly an overwhelming tide.
American airports aren’t full of eager Muslim converts headed out to join the Islamic State.
So, you’ve got to ask yourself, how come the poster child for smaller government and fewer laws and less regulations and reduced spending is proposing another law? One that would apply in only a few cases per year.
One that will cost us unnecessary money.
And one that does nothing.
Worse than nothing actually.
Say today the CIA becomes aware of another John Walker Lindt, another Troy Kastigar, or another Douglas McArthur McCain.
Some white-bread American boy who got a case of the disgruntled Muhammad and went to North Africa or Pakistan and got himself all radicalized.
If you take away his citizenship, then should he attempt to return to the US he'll be forced to use a false identity.
Which bypasses all the intelligence flags attached to his real identity.
So, you’re going to have to hope that the CIA and the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are able to equate the real identity of some heretofore unknown bit player to a brand new false identity created by professionals, and you’re going to have to hope they do in time to flag him at customs. But don’t worry, as history shows, the US Intelligence community is really good at this, right? Probably nothing to worry about. Naw.
But it does sort of make you wonder about the whole point of that no-fly list and all the security apparatus we've had to live with for the last goddamned decade.
Now, certainly, there's nothing to prevent this theoretical homegrown terrorist from using a false identity even if you don't take away his citizenship, but by revoking his citizenship you've closed the door on the easy option, the low hanging fruit, and made it just that much harder for Immigration/Homeland Security to pick this guy out of the crowd.
The better bet is to pretend you aren't watching him and let him believe he's safe. That's basic intelligence work. If you’re a cop on stakeout, you don’t sit in front of the suspect’s house in a black&white with the flashers on and the siren going.
And while we’re on the subject: if you make this guy not-American, what are you going to do if he doesn’t come home?
Ah, didn’t think about that, did you?
Al-Awlaki, Lindt, Kastigar, McCain, these guys, none of them tried to come home. Now, I’m not saying they might not have attempted to return in the future, but they all were caught or killed fighting overseas.
Three of them, Lindt, Kastigar, and McCain, were killed or captured in active warzones.
But al-Awlaki wasn’t.
It's one thing to drone-zap an American citizen engaged in terrorist activities in the middle of a Yemeni desert - sure, the legalities are open to some debate, but you can take those secret clauses in the various patriot acts and the fact that the foreign government asked us to clean up our own mess and roll them right up into a get out of jail free card. You will note that despite all the various protestations regarding the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by the US government on foreign soil, there's been no legal action by us or by foreign nations or by the international court.
Because it was legal.
Because al-Awlaki was an American.
And he was our responsibility.
But it's an act of war to kill a non-US citizen on foreign soil outside a combat zone.
If the target isn’t an American, and he's not in a combat zone, and he's not actively engaged in terrorism right at that very moment, and America drops a Hellfire on his head on foreign soil, then we're breaking all kinds of international treaties.
Remember the international and domestic outcry about this very thing when we went after Osama bin Laden inside the borders of one of our allies? And that was Osama bin Laden. And it was sort of kind of in the warzone - sort of, if you squint your eyes. And it has caused us all kinds of grief since, particularly in Pakistan.
But so? So what? Right? We're America. We can damned well kill whoever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want, right? Damn the legalities! Damn the treaties! Damn the legations!
You're probably going to need to rethink using the term "rogue state" though.
But what if we don’t catch up to him?
What if somebody else does?
Say this guy, this former-American, this terrorist, is captured by foreign forces. Alive.
How you going to extradite him? He's not an American anymore.
If he didn't commit a crime on US soil or against US assets, what's your legal standing in international law to bring him back here to face justice?
Or are we Americans just going to shrug and say, hey, not our problem, he’s not an American anymore, you deal with it.
Is that the kind of people we’ve become? The kind of asshole whose dog craps in somebody else’s yard and we pretend it’s not our responsibility?
But all this is just window dressing.
Have you figured out the real problem with Senator Cruz’s statement?
Well then I’ll tell you: The problem is that a Harvard educated lawyer who is now charged with making the laws of our country and who bleats endlessly about the Holy Constitution, doesn’t seem to know very much about the goddamned law.
While it is possible for a naturalized U.S. citizen to have his or her citizenship revoked through a process called "denaturalization," a natural-born U.S. citizen may not have their citizenship revoked against their will.
The government does not have that authority.
A natural born US citizen may renounce their citizenship, but the government cannot, repeat can not, force someone to renounce their citizenship or do it for them in their absence.
More than that, suggesting that the US Federal Government should be able to revoke citizenship from an American is the ultimate hypocrisy for an outspoken advocate of individual rights, liberty, freedom, and small government.
Cruz seems to be suggesting that the government should have the power to revoke citizenship.
Think about that. Think about it real hard.
Who decides? The Court? The Military? Homeland Security? The Senate? The President? Is this a power you really want the government to have? The ability to make you a non-citizen? Really?
So, do we vote on it? Because, hey, no mob mentality or room for error there, oh no. Especially when it comes to terrorism, right? Just go ask Richard Jewel.
And where exactly does this end?
First we revoke the citizenship of radical Muslim terrorists, right? Sure that’s okay, we hate those sons of bitches and who doesn’t?
Then maybe less-radical Muslims. Cruz said “preempt” did he not? We’ve got to get ahead of terrorism. Deport ‘em before they become radical radical. Because really, radical, less-radical, they’re all terrorists aren’t they? Isn’t that what people like Ted Cruz have been telling us? Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim. Right? Right?
Then maybe other religions we don’t like. We’ll get rid of the Sikhs next, can’t tell them from Muslims anyway. And the cults, sure. Oh, and the Jews! Heck, there’s even a precedent for making Jews non-citizens, isn’t there? Hmmm, give me a minute, I’ll remember the details, something about America for Americans and all that, dontcha know. And the Jews can hardly complain, after all if you check in with the modern Jewish state, you can find a precedent for making Muslims non-citizens too, so there’s that. Fair’s fair, I guess. And hey, at least Jews have a homeland they can fuck off to.
Who’s next? Political ideologies? Sure, it’s not like Ted Cruz and his political party haven’t been accusing the rest of us of being shitty Americans – but no, now I’m just being silly, no way rational people like Ted Cruz would abuse this power to banish liberals and progressives and conservatives who don’t toe the party line. Nooooo, that would never happen.
Gays? No gay people, no gay marriage. How about the poor? We’ll use the Hawaii model and just export them somewhere else. Problem solved! No more welfare, no more food stamps. It’ll be a Koch Brothers paradise!
And the sick, don’t forget the sick, we can banish them too and why not?
Oooh, wait, I know! How about people who are only half American?
Yeah! You know, say like they were born in Canada?
But, look out there. Look out into the world. Look into the past. Genocide. Atrocity. Totalitarianism. Disenfranchisement. Terrorism. All the horrors of our past.
People always ask, how could it happen?
How could it happen? Well you see, it begins just like this.
And with the best of intentions.