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The disposition matrix

[ 211 ] October 24, 2012 |

Pursuant to LGM’s official policy* of not criticizing the administration until after the election, I’ll merely link to this article rather than comment on it.

*Joke#

#Sort of^

^Yes Romney would no doubt be just as bad on the issue of targeted “disposition.” (I almost reflexively wrote “even worse,” but what would “even worse” look like?).

Comments (211)

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  1. Pathman25 says:

    I like you Paul. You get it.

  2. c u n d gulag says:

    Even worse might mean drone attacks here in the US.

    There are probably many, many Conservatives and Republicans in this country who would cheer if a drone “accidentally” hit certain parts of NYC and/or SF.

  3. “…what would “even worse” look like?”

    This?

    To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: “The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.”

    Obviously, nothing other than the election of Barack Obama has happened since 1998 to change this dynamic. An people actually insist that Greenwald isn’t a hack?

    • Paul Campos says:

      9/11 changed everything.

      Freedom isn’t free.

      • So your contention is that the median voter’s opinion on “killing (suspected) terrorists” hasn’t changed at all since 9/11 then?

        In any case, it certainly doesn’t change the fact that ignoring it altogether while arguing that Obama is worse than Bill Clinton when it comes to dropping bombs on people is, in fact, unbelievably hackish.

        • david mizner says:

          Is that how you arrive at your morality — you base it on the median’s voter opinion? Median voter morality — nice!

          • Who gives a flip about morality? To wit, I never even said I think it’s good policy (I think it’s a tremendous waste of money, if nothing else), but the fact that there’s overwhelming support for it and that a President who refused to prosecute such a war would be dead in the electorally relevant is a touch relevant here.

            But sure, go on blaming politicians for everything under the sun while totally ignoring the fact that the American public at large has a strong preference for a lot of moral barbarism. Maybe you and the wingnuts who think America is just yearning to get rid of Medicare and Social Security can have a barbeque in the unusually warm January weather soon!

      • 9/11 changed everything.

        A Congressional invocation of its war powers changed the legal environment.

        Shouldn’t a law professor understand the difference between being at war and not being at war? At least from a legal perspective?

  4. Informant says:

    what would “even worse” look like?

    Killing people purely for making public statements that could be deemed “anti-American” or “anti-Israeli”? I’ve certainly seen that advocated by fairly mainstream conservative blogs over the past several years.

  5. Helmut Monotreme says:

    Even worse looks like every taser-happy, over armed police department in America getting armed drones.

  6. david mizner says:

    No, Romney would be “even worse” when it came to threatening and/or and/or entering and/or starting a conventional war.

    In terms of targeted killing and covert, dirty wars, Romney couldn’t be worse.

    • david mizner says:

      Oh, and on a related note, Joe Klein says we need to kill their children before they kill ours, and Robert Gibbs blames Al-Alwaki’s 16-year-old son for picking the wrong father.

      Fucking monsters.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/joe-klein-morning-joe-drones_n_2006224.html

      http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/10/23/obama-adviser-robert-gibbs-blames-denver-teens-terrorist-father-for-his-drone-death/

      • Anon21 says:

        I know we’ve kind of moved past this, but christ, what a complete fucking misrepresentation of what Gibbs said. Here’s the quote:

        QUESTION:It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.

        GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

        Okay, so the “you should have” part kind of sounds like it’s “advice” to the minor. The rest of the comment completely refutes that interpretation, and shows that he simply misspoke when speaking off the cuff. He’s blaming the father for his son’s death, which seems to me to be exactly right.

        How do you expect convince anyone if your assessments are founded on such obvious, flimsy deceptions?

        • Joe says:

          Yes, Chris Hayes tweeted on this to point out how horrible it was. It was a stupid thing to say and it might lead to a bit of empathy when “they” say certain stupid things. Still, in context, you are correct.

          The questioners were trollish too, implying that the son was specifically targeted. As someone noted, he was an unfortunate victim of an authorized strike akin to someone killed when we bomb a military base and perhaps a civilian is present.

    • daveNYC says:

      You have a small imagination.

    • Malaclypse says:

      In terms of targeted killing and covert, dirty wars, Romney couldn’t be worse.

      You might want to look at the history of, say, Guatemala 1954, Iran 1954, or Chile 1973, before making the statement that things cannot be worse.

      • DrDick says:

        Not to mention all the other things the CIA was doing 1945-1975. The major difference now is that we are more open about doing this stuff than we were then.

      • wengler says:

        Considering a number of his initial investors in Bain Capital ran death squads in Central America, I’m sure he could be much worse.

        The issue here is that drones have made killing so easy and politically tenable that no politician is going to run against it.

        • rm says:

          Let’s be fair and accurate. A number of Romney’s initial investors had close relatives who financed death squads in Central America. It’s a TEN PINOCCHIO PANTS ON FIRE LIE to claim that they themselves ran death squads.

      • Jameson Quinn says:

        To be honest, the actual actions in Guatemala 1954 were clearly not worse. Encouraging a coup and funding an unopposed mercenary invasion (the people would happily have fought back if the acmy hadn’t supported the invaders, but it did) and some grenades dropped from a private plane… The horrors here in Guatemala started later. Direct consequence, but later.

    • PSP says:

      Oh yes he could. Think of Cambodia and Laos, and then imagine Dan Senior picking targets.

      I think Greenwald and others criticizing drone strikes are missing an important point. The likely alternative is not sending in police, arresting people, and having a trial. The most likely alternative is sending in the BUFFs and blasting the entire village out of existence.

      • Zooming out a bit, the alternative to waging war on al Qaeda is…well, we just lived through George Bush’s alternative to waging war on al Qaeda.

        Just to put things in perspective, it would take roughly 1000 years for as many civilians to die from drone strikes (as carried out by the Obama administration) as died in the worst three years of the Iraq War.

    • In terms of targeted killing and covert, dirty wars, Romney couldn’t be worse.

      Wow. Could you be any more naive?

    • Willard's Mittens says:

      In terms of targeted killing and covert, dirty wars, Romney couldn’t be worse.

      That sounds like a wager to me! Care to make it interesting?

    • Lyanna says:


      In terms of targeted killing and covert, dirty wars, Romney couldn’t be worse.

      Generally speaking, it can always get worse.

      Is there any evidence that Romney wouldn’t be worse? Doesn’t he listen to, and follow the viewpoints of, a lot of people who advocate worse?

      • Cody says:

        Judging by his advisers, Greenwald might get his wish. We may be lucky and Romney will stop drone strikes.

        After all, who needs drone strikes when you’re invading all of these nations anyways?

        You’re welcome Glenn!

  7. SatanicPanic says:

    Gonna skip the Glenn Greenwald. No thanks.

  8. Anon21 says:

    I’m a liberal person. I think Guantanamo and the whole policy of indefinite detention is the greatest threat to the rule of law in America of our time. I do not support unlimited executive powers.

    I also basically have no problem whatsoever with targeted killing, a “disposition matrix,” or whatever they’re calling it this month. Presidents order military force used all the time. If you’re a pacifist, I can see having a problem with this, but if you’re not, I don’t get the objection. Is it that normally, they order military force used against a big group of people, and in this case, they are targeting specific people? I have a hard time getting exercised. Surgical drone strikes mean fewer civilian casualties; and yes, despite frequent claims or insinuations to the contrary, drones are much better at getting their target while minimizing or eliminating innocent casualties than any current or formerly available technology, save for troops on the ground. Is the idea that we should really be sending soldiers to Waziristan? I doubt it.

    People like to talk a lot about the lack of due process for these targeted killings. The whole concept is out of place here. Due process applies to people who are willing to submit to it, or who have been forced to submit by being captured. It absolutely should be understood to forbid letting prisoners rot in your secret island prison until you decide to let them out.

    Due process does not apply to people who are armed, dangerous, and refusing to submit to capture. The police don’t need to get a court order to shoot the spree killer at the mall. We don’t hold a trial before authorizing a sniper to kill an armed hostage taker. Due process is the promise that if you are not an active danger, we will not treat you arbitrarily. If you decide to use force to prevent lawful capture, you don’t get those protections.

    And yeah, people hiding out in remote regions ordering terror strikes on U.S. interests are armed and dangerous, and they won’t submit to capture. If Anwar al-Aulaqi had surrendered at a U.S. Army post and then been shot in the back of the head, that would be a violation of due process. More importantly, it would be murder. But al-Aulaqi had no intention of ever submitting himself to trial in any court, and as a result, he had no right to a trial or similar process before being violently attacked.

    I’m not here to troll anyone. I want to hear the best argument that I’m wrong on this. Too many times, people like Greenwald just assume you’re on their side, and forget to make an argument beyond vague allusions to “due process.”

    • Do you want a legalistic response or a policy one?

      • Anon21 says:

        I would like a legalistic response. I can’t see how one would even construct a sound legal argument that targeted killing is illegal (even as applied to an American citizen), so I’d be interested to see someone attempt it.

        On the policy side, I think I can anticipate and even agree to some extent with the response. I would hope it would focus on civilian casualties.

        My response would be: most people would acknowledge that there are national security priorities important enough that some level of civilian casualties are horrible but an acceptable price to pay to accomplish. It’s obviously not fair that Barack Obama makes the decision about the acceptable level of civilian casulaties while impoverished farmers in the tribal areas pay the price, but someone does need to make the call if we’re not going to say that people like al-Aulaqi are off-limits.

        Again, I think there is little dispute on the facts that drones are much better at killing the people they’re meant to kill and not killing people 1km away than any previous technology. (Indeed, in a perverse way, that precision, along with the references to controllers’ running the drones like they’re playing a video game, seems to have become part of the argument against drones’ widespread usage.)

        So you can say: 1) we won’t kill foreign terrorists at all; 2) we’ll wait until we have technology that’s even more precise than drones, so precise that it almost always kills just the targeted person or group of persons and no one else (to me, this is just a disguised version of #1); 3) we’ll only kill if we have boots on the ground. For me, none of those are a reasonable response; all of them basically say we either will not kill people who are present threats to the United States, or we will only do so in the context of a full-fledged physical invasion of another country.

        • Joe says:

          we either will not kill people who are present threats to the United States

          The question is what level of threat is necessary here and if killing the persons involved on a total cost/benefit analysis is prudentially and on principle a net benefit.

          Since I can’t say no killings fail this test, an across the board “no” is questionable. And, since statutory and international law also allows certain killings, the same would apply. But, the details is where the devil lies.

        • Well on the legalistic front, I agree that there really isn’t a good argument against them. Most of the ones that are made essentially boil down to pretending that the AUMF either doesn’t exist or is simply meaningless.

          Policy wise, I would certainly say that the threat posed by these “suspected terrorists” does not warrant the response level we’ve given it, and that, at best, it’s a never ending game of whack a mole.

          • mark f says:

            I agree with this completely.

          • david mizner says:

            Even if you accept that the 2001 AUMF gives the United States the right to kill groups and people that had nothing to do with 9-11 (Al Shabbab, for example) or that pose no immediate threat to the United States, it doesn’t give the United States the right to violate international law.

              • david mizner says:

                So you don’t care about morality and you don’t care about the law.

                • Aside from the fact that the Security Council passed a resolution that was basically the same thing as the AUMF, citing international law as a constraint on the countries who wrote is is laughable.

                • Murc says:

                  No offense Brien, but this seems kind of like moving the goalposts.

                  When david brings up moral arguments, you defend things on the legal merits. But then he brings up actually legal ones and you basically blow him off.

            • There is no international law the forbids the use of military force in self defense – such force is explicitly authorized under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

              And there is not international law that forbids the use of a force against a legal foe who is located in a third country that is unable to unwilling to remove the threat itself.

              • david mizner says:

                Sure, but many of the people and groups pose no imminent danger to the U.S. The self-defense defense is bogus.

                • Anon21 says:

                  How do you know that? Foreign Policy articles?

                • Imminence is not part of Article 51.

                  And why are we talking as if we’re discussing an imminent threat, as opposed to one that has already come to fruition? This is like saying that a Japanese ship near Japan in 1944 cannot be struck because those particular crew members do not pose an imminent threat.

                  First of all, the threat is a collective one from the organization they belong to. We don’t have to prove that Private Glock of the 999th SS division personally, in July 1944, is an imminent threat, just that the German military is.

                  And second, the threat from the al Qaeda organization is not just “imminent,” but has already come to pass, and continues to exist.

                  Third, those are standards for declaring war, not waging one that has already been declared. When you go to war legally, you don’t lose that legality because you’re winning and the enemy’s capacity is ground down.

    • Joe says:

      I “have a problem” with the “targeted killing,” but you provide some good stuff here, taking the Koh-esque approach, perhaps.

      • Joe says:

        [it might be acceptable in various respects, but as applied, it has problems, including the lack of suitable oversight in various respects; for instance, if Jack Goldsmith things the legal memoranda justifying the Al-Awali killing should be released, I see no reason why, properly redacted, it should not be.]

        • thusbloggedanderson says:

          One of my main problems with the drone program is that John Brennan, who was already a war criminal in the *last* administration, is helping to run it. That is a big ol’ danger signal.

          • Joe says:

            Some Brennan type [just how bad he is and what sort of "war criminal" he was can be debated or assumed] is going to be in there realistically. Meanwhile, you have Koh, Jeh Johnson and others and ultimately Obama also involved.

            I’m not sure what sort of policy that we could have then. But, yes, the presence of that sort makes any system in the current reality something to be wary of.

    • WhatDragon says:

      This was put way better than I ever could put it.

      I agree with you.

    • david mizner says:

      So many different ways to rebut your POV, hard to know where to start. There are legal problems (violations of international law related to proportionality and distinction), moral ones (collective punishment of populations, killing and threatening children and other innocents) and strategic ones (creating more terrorists than are killed, generating anti-American hatred.)

      More directly to the point perhaps, you accept that we’re “at war.” The U.S. is waging war against people and groups that had nothing to do with 9-11, and that pose no imminent threat to the United States. To believe that the U.S. should be war now is to believe the U.S. should always be at war, and to accept all the damage it entails, costs to our budgets and our democracy and our freedoms.

      I reject the notion that we should be at war.

      • thusbloggedanderson says:

        You’re going to have a hard time on proportionality. Drones are about as proportional as one can get; we can’t drop a SEAL team everywhere we find the enemy.

        The moral and strategic arguments are much better ground for you.

        • david mizner says:

          Well, we don’t know the criteria, because they’ve kept it secret. I’m hoping that their policy of regarding every man in a strike zone as a combatant is for counting and not targeting purposes because otherwise that’s a horrible war crime.

          In any case, the law of proportionality means that the harm to civilians must be proportional to the anticipated military benefits. How many civilians death are worth killing a mid-level AQ militant?

          At any rate, that only scratches the surface of TK’s legal problems:

          http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/31/kill_the_kill_list?page=0,1

          • thusbloggedanderson says:

            Weak article – I’m about to drive to a hearing, but this -

            “The law of armed conflict allows the targeting only of those directly participating in hostilities or otherwise performing a continuous combat function” -

            sounds deeply bogus. Bombing the enemy’s factories, for instance, is a war crime?

      • Anon21 says:

        I do not think war is a necessary precondition to killing terrorists, so I’m sorry if I implied otherwise. Think of them as extremely dangerous criminals who are beyond the effective reach of our law enforcement/legal system and I don’t think the analysis changes.

        I don’t think you can make good proportionality and distinction arguments based on the actual facts about how precise drones are.

        The strategic arguments are really fact-based. I don’t know the facts, but I will admit that I do trust the administration to make a better, more informed assessment of whether killing high-level leaders is worth the reputation and recruitment costs than outsiders.

        The moral objections are serious. But to me, they’re a matter of degree. Many of the people intentionally targeted and killed by U.S. drones would have gone on to kill others. We shouldn’t accept unnecessary civilian casualties just because we don’t see them, but I don’t think a rule of “no possibility of civilian casualties” is a reasonable one.

        • Paul Campos says:

          But obviously they’re only beyond the reach of our “legal system” if the executive branch is considered outside the legal system for these purposes.

          The “this is war” justification is crucial as a legal matter, because without that there’s no difference between this policy and the police dropping a bomb on a house they believe contains a dangerous criminal who is “too dangerous” to try to arrest.

          (I’m assuming no one here who supports the current TK policy would support the latter).

          • Joe says:

            For sake of international law, yes, the executive branch has the power to kill those who are in some fashion imminent threats to the nation, including directly actively from isolated areas leading attempts against our soil and people.

            National self-defense doesn’t require “war” in this sense & Congress has authorized force against Al Qaida and related peoples and the nations that support them at any rate. This IS important & Kill or Capture discussed the weighing before targets were deemed legitimate.

            Thus, some radical in Somalia might not be legit since s/he is outside the battlefield authorized by Congress but if directly immediately a threat, might be a legitimate target if certain criteria are met.

          • Anon21 says:

            There’s a crucial distinction. The Constitution has extremely limited foreign applicability. It only applies to what the U.S. does to its own citizens abroad. That makes part of the case against targeting al-Aulaqi, but he had plenty of warning that he was being targeted, and he declined to surrender himself for trial, and stayed in a place where he knew the U.S. could not arrest him, surrounded by armed men who would prevent any attempt to arrest him. To me, that makes him the same as an American citizen holding hostages in an American school: legitimately subject to lethal force until he surrenders.

            But the big point is that foreigners in foreign countries don’t have American constitutional rights.

            • Murc says:

              nd he declined to surrender himself for trial

              How would he have gone about this, exactly?

              Al-Awlaki was never charged with a crime or indicted or anything. If he’d walked into a police station and said ‘Hello, my name is Anwar al-Awlaki. Do you have a warrant for my arrest? If so, I’d like to surrender’ the only legal response of the cops there would have been ‘No sir, we’ve got nothing on you. You have a nice day now.’

              • How would he have gone about this, exactly?

                Show up for the court case his father filed, so it wouldn’t be dismissed for lack of standing.

                • Murc says:

                  Hypothetically speaking, if I found out the US had me on a kill list, I wouldn’t go anywhere near armed US officials.

                  But let’s game this out. Suppose someone who doesn’t think he’s supposed to be on the kill list finds out that the US is, in fact, trying to kill him. What should he do? What’s the process there?

                  And furthermore, suppose I don’t have the financial wherewithal to make it to continental United States, which is where US courts exist.

                  What’s the recourse here? Regardless of the legality involved, it sort of appalls me that the executive can put people on a kill list and its up to THEM to get off it. It requires a judicial hearing in front of impartial judges to wiretap someone overseas, but to kill someone the standard is LESS than that?

                • Non-hypothetically, he was on a kill-or-capture list, and the US has been capturing and trying terror suspects left and right.

                  Again, can we drop the bullshit “kill list” pretense? RTFA, fer chrissakes, it talks about people on the list who have been designated for capture, and have been captured.

                  And furthermore, suppose I don’t have the financial wherewithal to make it to continental United States, which is where US courts exist.

                  Right, that’s the problem. Anwar al-Awlaki has the resources to go to Yemen and organize sophisticated terrorist attacks involving specialized explosives, but he can’t fly home. Or go to the embassy.

                  It requires a judicial hearing in front of impartial judges to wiretap someone overseas, but to kill someone the standard is LESS than that?

                  Name another war in which targets ever even had the opportunity to challenge their status in court.

                  Why is this so hard for you? When you go fight for the other side in a war, the government treats you as someone who is fighting for the other side in a war. No matter how scarily you phrase this, it will not become wrong.

                • Murc says:

                  First of all, I moved on from talking about al-Awlaki specifically to a hypothetical. Yeah, al-Awlaki had the resources to get home.

                  Suppose some expat living in Yemen or in the hinterlands gets put on the kill list (and I will continue to refer to it as a kill list because that is, in fact, what it is; the fact that we will also capture people on it if we deem it convenient doesn’t change that). What exactly is he supposed to do about that? Because under your rubric if he walks up to the Embassy and one of the Marines on guard recognizes his face from the security briefing and puts him down because he might be carrying a bomb, that Marine done good.

                  Why is this so hard for you? When you go fight for the other side in a war, the government treats you as someone who is fighting for the other side in a war. No matter how scarily you phrase this, it will not become wrong.

                  Hold on. are we talking legalisms or morality here?

                  Legally speaking, it seems to be the case that we are indeed at war, and that the government is going to treat anyone it designates an enemy combatant the same way it would treat guys in a foxhole wearing uniforms on a traditional battlefield.

                  But you didn’t say ‘legally’. You said ‘wrong.’ I’ll quote you again:

                  No matter how scarily you phrase this, it will not become wrong.

                  You know what I find to be wrong? I find to be wrong the fact that a nearly ten-year-old not-even-declaration-of-war can continue to be used as a justification for the executive branch to put people who may or may not even be members of the ‘organization’ that the ‘declaration’ was aimed at originally on kill lists and treat them the same way we treat uniformed soldiers in nation-states that we’re at war with.

                  I will put this as plainly as possible: I find the fact that we’re still ‘at war’ against cave-dwelling criminals half a world away to be contemptible. I find the idea that the executive can unilaterally declare anyone it wants to be to be a legitimate target of this farcical war without any review or method of redress from those so declared to be contemptible. I find people who carry out these policies behind the fig lead of legality it provides to be contemptible despite the fact that they’re not criminal. As an American, I demand due process for everyone in the world, even our sworn enemies, and think we should go out of our way to provide it even at risk to ourselves, if such risk does indeed exist and isn’t ridiculously overblown.

                  You have made a strong case both today and many other times that this whole song and dance is legal. I’ve been more than convinced of it for quite some time.

                  That doesn’t mean I think its right, or find the fact that it IS legal galling.

                • As an American, I demand due process for everyone in the world, even our sworn enemies

                  I don’t believe you.

                  I don’t believe you want judicial due process for a single Taliban soldier being shot at by Marines in Kandahar Province.

                  I don’t believe you wanted judicial due process for a single Special Republican Guard during the fight for Baghdad – and you didn’t even support that war.

                  I don’t believe you would want court hearings for battalions of VC in 1968, and I know how you feel about that war.

                  But you insist on judicial due process for al Qaeda commanders, and the sole reason seems to be that they operate more like war criminals than like traditional soldiers.

                  If you don’t like the war against al Qaeda, fine, argue that. Don’t push this phony baloney procedural argument about needing a court order to shoot the enemy – from a strictly moral perspective, of course – but only for those wars you don’t approve of.

                  A killing in an unjust war doesn’t become moral just because a judge signs off, and a killing in a just war doesn’t become unjust because that novel procedure isn’t being followed.

                • Murc says:

                  But you insist on judicial due process for al Qaeda commanders, and the sole reason seems to be that they operate more like war criminals than like traditional soldiers.

                  I want this for them because I believe they ARE CRIMINALS. Period. They’re not soldiers, no more than McVeigh was a soldier or the Unabomber was a soldier or the guys at Ruby Ridge were soldiers.

                  And frankly, it’s less about them than it is about us, and I’m actually way less concerned about Al-Qaeda dirtbags than the fact that were are, inevitably, going to get our identification of who is and isn’t an al-Qaeda dirtbag wrong.

                  I don’t believe you want judicial due process for a single Taliban soldier being shot at by Marines in Kandahar Province.

                  … what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

                  Dudes operating in their home country as resistance fighters against an occupying force are, you know, combatants. They’re entitled to the same due process all combatants are within the laws of war.

                  And if someone in Kandahar were to insist he was not, in fact, a combatant, and that American troops had no right to harass, detain, or shoot at him because of that, I would demand he receive a fair hearing.

                  Don’t push this phony baloney procedural argument about needing a court order to shoot the enemy – from a strictly moral perspective, of course – but only for those wars you don’t approve of.

                  Now I’m just confused.

                  My argument is that this ‘war’ is farcical, and the people maintaining it and prosecuting it are doing so in ways I find deeply morally problematic. I don’t believe we should be treating criminals as soldiers, and I don’t believe the executive branch should have unlimited unreviewable power to decide who lives and who dies. I’m not sure what that has to do with court orders and suchly beyond the fact I was using them as examples; criminals are afforded protection of the rule of law precisely because we don’t trust the executive to always get things right.

                  Basically I just don’t buy that we can legitimately, from a moral perspective, be making ‘war’ on a tiny, nebulous gang of criminals half a world away. The game doesn’t seem worth the candle to me.

              • Anon21 says:

                I don’t see why an indictment is necessary; it’s certainly not necessary to make an arrest. (Nor is a warrant, by the way.) And your hypothetical seems to be either turning on the fact that he’s turning himself into a local police department for some reason (after getting into the country how?) or to just be completely nuts. You really think that if he showed at a U.S. base and surrendered, they’d let him go?

                • Murc says:

                  What grounds would soldiers at a US base have to detain him if he strolled up to them?

                  Serious question. I’m a US civilian with no criminal charges or warrants against me. I walk up to a US army base or embassy somewhere and introduce myself. What grounds do they have to detain me?

                  I am aware that cops don’t need a warrant to arrest someone, but they do need cause. If a cop sees me jacking a car, he can arrest me. But he then has to arraign me. He has to prove he has a right to hold me.

                  If, on the other hand, a cop sees me jacking a car and I run away from him, he then has to go and get an outstanding arrest warrant, yes? He can’t just put out the word to his buddies that they should arrest me if they see me, he has to go to a judge and say “This guy needs to be arrested for X reasons.”

                • Hogan says:

                  What grounds would soldiers at a US base have to detain him if he strolled up to them?

                  If he’s surrendering, why would they need to detain him? He’s there voluntarily.

                • What grounds would soldiers at a US base have to detain him if he strolled up to them?

                  He is a combatant on the other side in a war. How is this even a question?

                • Anon21 says:

                  If, on the other hand, a cop sees me jacking a car and I run away from him, he then has to go and get an outstanding arrest warrant, yes? He can’t just put out the word to his buddies that they should arrest me if they see me, he has to go to a judge and say “This guy needs to be arrested for X reasons.”

                  No, that’s incorrect. An arrest warrant is only required if you want to arrest someone in their home and there are no exigent circumstances. (And incidentally, that’s because of the Fourth Amendment; it has nothing to do with the due process clause.) Law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest any person whom they have probable cause to believe has committed a felony. That probable cause need not, and usually is not, based on first-hand knowledge of the kind you posit in the auto theft hypothetical.

                  Assuming U.S. soldiers operating abroad are subject to even the probable cause threshold for detention(which I doubt), they’d have had probable cause to arrest al-Aulaqi for material support of terrorism, at the very least; probably also conspiracy to commit murder (or whatever more aggravated version of that would be appropriate) given his implication by the Underwear Bomber (discussed down-thread).

                • Murc says:

                  No, that’s incorrect. An arrest warrant is only required if you want to arrest someone in their home and there are no exigent circumstances.

                  My understanding is that you need an outstanding arrest warrant to pick someone up who is otherwise minding their own business.

                  I mean, how would that work otherwise? A cop can’t just stroll up to me and say ‘You’re under arrest for all those carjackings you done’ if I’m standing around not jacking cars. He has to be able to say something like ‘I recognized him from when I saw him jacking cars’ or ‘there’s an outstanding arrest warrant with his name on it for those cars he jacked.’

                • Janastas359 says:

                  I mean, how would that work otherwise? A cop can’t just stroll up to me and say ‘You’re under arrest for all those carjackings you done’ if I’m standing around not jacking cars.

                  This would be covered under “No exigent circumstances.” You would of course need an arrest warrant for that, if the police didn’t directly witness you committing the crime.

                • Anon21 says:

                  To be clear: “exigent circumstances” applies to the home. No exigent circumstances are needed to arrest a person whom a police officer has probable cause has committed a crime if the officer encounters that person in a public place.

                  Probable cause can be derived from many sources. It could be from the arresting officer’s firsthand observations, or the observations of a colleague relayed to the arresting officer. It could be a tip from a reliable confidential informant. It could be implication by an informant (or alleged co-conspirator) of unknown or questionable reliability, corroborated by the suspect’s attempt to flee the jurisdiction, which is generally taken to be evidence of consciousness of guilt. It could be entirely circumstantial.

                  So no, the cop doesn’t need a warrant or firsthand observations to arrest you if you’re standing around minding your own business. All he needs is probable cause to believe you’ve committed a felony. And actually, in some states, probable cause to believe you’ve committed a misdemeanor will do.

          • rea says:

            But obviously they’re only beyond the reach of our “legal system” if the executive branch is considered outside the legal system for these purposes.

            Outside the reach of the legal system in the sense that we can’t use the court system agaisnt them. Compare Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2 (1866).

          • The “this is war” justification is crucial as a legal matter, because without that there’s no difference between this policy and the police dropping a bomb on a house they believe contains a dangerous criminal who is “too dangerous” to try to arrest.

            Well, there’s the difference between domestic vs. overseas activity – which is not merely a legalistic one. In the United States, the police can surround the house and wait the suspect out. In the Northwest Frontier Province, not so much.

            • Murc says:

              By this argument, it would be perfectly legal to send drone to strike criminals who are being harbored in nations that refuse to extradite them. We can’t send police to surround Roman Polanski’s house and force him to answer for his crimes, because France and/or Switzerland won’t permit it, so its okay to send a drone, right?

              • so its okay to send a drone, right?

                Roman Polanski never posed an imminent threat.

                In the absence of a legal state of war, there needs to be an imminent threat in order for the use of force to be legal. If you swap out Polanski with a terrorist who poses an imminent threat, and France won’t arrest him, then yes, it would be legal to use force against him.

                • Murc says:

                  Roman Polanski never posed an imminent threat.

                  Who makes this determination?

                  I am uncomfortable with the fact that the executive can do this both secretly and unilaterally. The executive has to prove, openly and before a judge, that I’ve done something (or at least, present evidence that I’ve done something) before they can even approach France and say ‘Hey, this guy is a crook, can you arrest him?’

                  But if they decide I need to die, they can just pull the trigger?

                  I mean, if they need to do something as simple as wiretap me, they have to go to the FISA court and say ‘Hey, we deployed a wiretap against this guy, and here’s why.’ There’s at least a possibility of a judge saying ‘you guys are insane, stop the tap and destroy the tapes.’

                • Yes, Murc, when there is an immediate danger, the police don’t have to get a warrant. If you are waving around a pistol in a mall, they can shoot you.

                  Is there anything, other than the scary scary phrase “decide I need to die” that makes this blindingly-obvious doctrine inappropriate if you are in Pakistan?

                • Murc says:

                  Uh… yes?

                  Unless he controls an ICBM of some sort, I’m curious as to how someone in Pakistan can be an immediate danger to the US.

                  Let me define terms here. Suppose I’m a civilian sitting in my home in a foreign country that is at peace with the United States. I have not been charged with any crime either by the US or the country I am living in. Under what circumstances do you consider it legal for the government of the United States to have me killed? Who do you think should be making that determination, and what review process should be in place?

                • Unless he controls an ICBM of some sort, I’m curious as to how someone in Pakistan can be an immediate danger to the US.

                  Wow.

                  It’s 2012, and you’re writing this.

                  Modern telecommunications, connected networks across the globe, hierarchies, and you can’t figure out how someone in another country could be an imminent threat.

                  OK.

                  Suppose I’m a civilian sitting in my home in a foreign country that is at peace with the United States. I have not been charged with any crime either by the US or the country I am living in. Under what circumstances do you consider it legal for the government of the United States to have me killed?

                  You pose an imminent threat to the United States, and the host country cannot or will not detain you. (BTW, if you are engaged in an activity, like carrying a bomb or directing others who are carrying bombs, that poses an imminent threat, you are probably not a civilian. You may be disguised as a civilian, but you are a combatant who is hiding his arms and identity).

                  Who do you think should be making that determination, and what review process should be in place?

                  The Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces or his designees, reviewing the intelligence and finding with a high level of certainty that you are an imminent threat, with multiple levels of review and appeal, including an in-house “devil’s advocate.” Unlike a criminal charge against someone in the United States (or within the reach of a responsible foreign government), the Constitutional process for the use of force against a foreign national security threat is internal to the executive branch. Always has been, always will be. This is why it is important to elect people who demonstrate a high degree if judgement and restraint – because the POTUS has extensive powers, and the abuse of those powers can have serious consequences.

                • Murc says:

                  Wow.

                  It’s 2012, and you’re writing this.

                  Modern telecommunications, connected networks across the globe, hierarchies, and you can’t figure out how someone in another country could be an imminent threat.

                  well, explain it to me, joe, because apparently I’m dumb.

                  I suppose its theoretically possible for someone sitting in another country to be able to remotely detonate a bomb, or some other such thing. Or for him to give the OK to a bunch of people somewhere who will do it for him.

                  Aside from that, no, I don’t really see it. If these guys had the kind of infrastructure a modern nation-state did, where we can have drone controllers in the continental United States blowing stuff up half a world away, maybe.

                  But I’m open to being convinced. Walk me through how someone sitting in the hinterlands in central asia can be an imminent threat.

                  BTW, if you are engaged in an activity, like carrying a bomb or directing others who are carrying bombs, that poses an imminent threat, you are probably not a civilian. You may be disguised as a civilian, but you are a combatant who is hiding his arms and identity

                  By that definition neither Timothy McVeigh nor the Unabomber were civilians.

                  If you’re trying to bomb targets in the US, and you aren’t the agent of a foreign power, you are probably a criminal. Most criminals, not all, but most, are in fact civilians.

                  the Constitutional process for the use of force against a foreign national security threat is internal to the executive branch. Always has been, always will be.

                  Let me understand this. You’re saying that its always Constitutional for the Executive Branch, using whatever methods it wants, to determine when the use of force against a foreign national on foreign soil is appropriate, and that the other two branches cannot interfere nor hold them accountable?

                  I’m not saying you’re wrong, but if you’re right, then our constitution has some SERIOUS problems.

                • You’re not dumb, Murc. You get it right here:

                  Or for him to give the OK to a bunch of people somewhere who will do it for him.

                  Murc, meet Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar, Murc.

                  By that definition neither Timothy McVeigh nor the Unabomber were civilians.

                  Good point. They were acting as individuals, not part of a group. Give me 1/3 of the country supporting the Unabomber, with a couple million people actively carrying out attacks, and you’ve got the Civil War.

                • You’re saying that its always Constitutional for the Executive Branch, using whatever methods it wants, to determine when the use of force against a foreign national on foreign soil is appropriate, and that the other two branches cannot interfere nor hold them accountable?

                  I’m not saying that last part at all. Congress can always put limits on the executive’s use of force through both its warmaking powers and its powers of the purse. It would be unconstitutional for the executive to go beyond any limits the Congress sets – limits that the courts can enforce – but if Congress chooses not to do so, then the executive has broad discretion to act on its own.

                • Murc says:

                  Murc, meet Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar, Murc.

                  How are we defining ‘imminent’ here exactly?

                  If al-Awlaki was sending dudes to blow things up, he was a danger to the US, but not an imminent one, unless we’re defining things very broadly. I mean, if I make up my mind to shoot someone, but first I have to go and buy and gun, and then learn to use it, I’m a threat to them, but not an imminent one, and that person can’t just pre-emptively blow me away and claim self defense, right?

                  Good point. They were acting as individuals, not part of a group.

                  We call groups of criminals ‘gangs.’

                  Give me 1/3 of the country supporting the Unabomber, with a couple million people actively carrying out attacks, and you’ve got the Civil War.

                  … that’s a terrible analogy.

                  The Confederate States met all the criteria to be a real nation-state with a real army. Treating al-Qaeda the same we treated them is roughly the equivalent of treating John Browns gang of yahoos as if they’d been a real army.

                  It would be unconstitutional for the executive to go beyond any limits the Congress sets – limits that the courts can enforce

                  I’m curious, what limits do you think currently exist that the courts can enforce?

                  Let’s say I’m a guy who, like Mahar Arar, finds myself targeted by the US government for no good reason, and I learn of this before they manage to have me killed or kidnapped. What should I do to ensure this doesn’t happen? And what should the consequences be if the US government DOES manage to have me murdered before I manage to clear my name?

              • david mizner says:

                Certainly Julian Assange could be killed — he’s aided the enemy.

        • david mizner says:

          Well the administration is using the rules of armed conflict to guide its battle against terrorism.

          If you do not accept that that we’re at war, then you can support the U.S. killing suspect without due process unless you’re willing to ignore both international law and domestic law (the 5th Amendment.)

          This just give me the creeps.

          I do trust the administration to make a better, more informed assessment of whether killing high-level leaders is worth the reputation and recruitment costs than outsiders.

          • Anon21 says:

            As above, the domestic law component only applies to American citizens. As to them, I agree that what needs to happen is a warning/demand to surrender themselves, and if they refuse to do so within some reasonable time, they should be considered subject to killing.

            I’m not entirely certain that international law provides the correct framework, either. My understanding is that Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries where drone strikes have been made have privately authorized the U.S. to make the strikes, while publicly condemning them.

            If it’s true that the relevant sovereigns have agreed, I don’t know that international law should supply the rule of whether or not the targeting is legal, although I accept it may have legitimate weight in determining whether a particular technique is sufficiently proportional.

            • david mizner says:

              No, the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, not just American citizens.

              And there are many, many legal questions beyond national sovereignty.

              Put perhaps more simply:

              the United States is targeting to kill individuals overseas who do not pose an imminent threat to the United States and who are not directly participating in hostilities against Americans. That’s a violation of international law.

              http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/31/kill_the_kill_list?page=0,0

              • This is ridiculously silly. At the most, due process protections would apply to any enemies in U.S. custody. The idea that you can’t kill a military target you haven’t captured without having a trial first is absurd on its face.

              • Anon21 says:

                No, the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, not just American citizens.

                The Bill of Rights applies to everyone present in the United States. Thus, the police can’t drop a bomb on a legal permanent resident’s* house in Milwaukee because they think he robbed a bank. The Bill of Rights applies to all American citizens, regardless of where they’re located. That’s why I think it is necessary and important that the government give even al Qaeda-affiliated American citizens living abroad a genuine opportunity to surrender and face trial before actively starting to kill them. As I understand the al-Aulaqi situation, that did happen.

                The Bill of Rights does not apply to foreigners in foreign countries.

                The FP question is begging the question of whether these individuals pose an imminent threat. Pointing a gun at someone’s head is not the only way to pose an imminent threat. That’s why I think most people would agree that if the U.S. had decided to just level Osama bin Laden’s compound rather than sending in a strike team, that would be killing an imminent threat.

                *Or, for that matter, an illegal immigrant’s house.

                • Anon21 says:

                  FP article is begging the question, I meant to say.

                • rea says:

                  The Bill of Rights does not apply to foreigners in foreign countries.

                  Yes, it does. It’s just that the limits of US soverignty usually mean that the Bill of Rights isn’t relevant to what’s going on among foriegners in foriegn countries.

              • UberMitch says:

                No, the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, not just American citizens.

                This is just plain incorrect, see e.g., United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990).

                • rea says:

                  Like I said, “It’s just that the limits of US soverignty usually mean that the Bill of Rights isn’t relevant to what’s going on among foriegners in foriegn countries.” Thus a search of a Mexican in Mexico with the permisssion of Mexican authorities is okay.

              • the United States is targeting to kill individuals overseas who do not pose an imminent threat to the United States and who are not directly participating in hostilities against Americans. That’s a violation of international law.

                If this was true, then it would be a violation of international law to bomb a wartime enemy’s supply lines – tanker trucks bringing fuel to the front, for instance. Obviously, it is not.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Many of the people intentionally targeted and killed by U.S. drones would have gone on to kill others.

          So the position here is the Minority Report? That we’re in the pre-crime business? Okey-dokey.

          What appalls me is that I really don’t believe that most of the people defending the Obama Administration here would have defended the Bush Administration for the same actions. That’s a counterfactual, of course, and everyone defending the Obama Administration will say “Nunh-Unh, would too have defended the Bushies on this!” But I really don’t believe them. The tendency to rally behind [leader of your preference] and attack [leader you don't like] is very strong.

          • Well, conversely, a lot of people criticizing Obama now were probably happy to tout the “Iraq is bad because it’s taking resources away from the GOOD war” line circa 2002-08.

          • Anon21 says:

            I don’t know how I can answer that. I believe that I would have been okay with it if Bush did it. My rationale actually goes back to the whole fight over the Guantanamo detainees and whether the AUMF authorizes indefinite detention. AUMF definitely authorized killing or wounding people and even capturing them and holding them during a battle. My view has been that at some point, you’ve held them long enough that due process kicks in, and you have to charge and try them or release them.

            I think that chain of reasoning, more than any partisan-motivated rationalization, is what has made me skeptical of at least the legal case against targeted killing. But I can’t really respond to the charge that if Bush had been doing more drone strikes, I’d have changed my mind.

          • What appalls me is that I really don’t believe that most of the people defending the Obama Administration here would have defended the Bush Administration for the same actions. That’s a counterfactual, of course,

            You are wrong, of course.

            It is factual that these strikes were conducted under Bush, and the only people who denounced them are those who denounce them under Obama as well.

            When the drone strike described in the link took place in 2002, my response was, “Good, I wish Bush would go after al Qaeda more, instead of war-mongering for an invasion of Iraq.”

            You started with the conclusion you want to believe, and then filled in imaginary facts to support it.

            • In fact, there is a great deal more of an outcry from Democrats and liberals now than there was under Bush. Just like opposition to the Afghan War is much higher among Democrats under this Democratic President than it was under Bush.

      • UserGoogol says:

        The United States has been “at war” for most of its existence, when you add up the various Indian Wars, and conflicts of the Cold War, and various other skirmishes. That’s not a good thing, but it’s not as novel as it might at first seem. What is novel (and problematic) is having one particular “war” you can use to justify all sorts of miscellaneous killings, but it’s a fairly incremental move.

      • There are legal problems (violations of international law related to proportionality and distinction),

        The tactics/weapons used in these targeted strikes are more proportional than anything else we have available to strike these targets, and the ability drones provide to loiter and observe have given the strikes a higher level of distinction than any other military actions we have ever taken.

        moral ones (collective punishment of populations, killing and threatening children and other innocents)

        There is no collective punishment of populations. You are making that up. Every child and other innocent killed has been accidental – there has been zero effort made to kill children and other innocents, and a great deal of effort made to avoid civilian casualties – an effort that has succeeded far beyond any other war we have ever fought.

        and strategic ones (creating more terrorists than are killed, generating anti-American hatred.)

        As you agreed already, the clam that military strikes create more terrorists is bogus. Of all of the 9/11 hijackers, and the high command of al Qaeda, there have been zero (0) figures from countries against which the US has conducted military strikes. They all come from undemocratic countries which are US allies, and which the US has never been at war. No Iraqis, no Afghans, no Iranians – but a whole lot of Egyptians and Saudis, as wall as Kuwaitis, Yemenis, and Emiratis.

        More directly to the point perhaps, you accept that we’re “at war.” The U.S. is waging war against people and groups that had nothing to do with 9-11, and that pose no imminent threat to the United States.

        Sort of like Italy in the 40s, or Austria-Hungary in the teens? Yes, as the AUMF says, we are at war with al Qaeda, but also with its allies.

        • david mizner says:

          Most people here are swallowing whole the government’s propaganda about drones oh-so-humane and surgical.

          No collective punishment?

          Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.

          http://livingunderdrones.org/report/

          • Most people here are swallowing whole the government’s propaganda about drones oh-so-humane and surgical.

            Most people here have a far higher level of knowledge about military affairs than you, and can actually compare the level of collateral damage from this war to that from other wars.

            No collective punishment?

            Nope. War is scary, no doubt. Living in a war zone is no fun. Do you think we were engaged in collective punishment against the Dutch when we had bombers, tanks, and artillery striking targets in that country, and scaring the hell out of (and killing, in much higher numbers than anything that has happened in the war against al Qaeda) people in Arnhem in 1944?

            You keep using big words improperly, like “international law” and “collective punishment,” to try to dress up a weak argument (sometimes something bad happens, which is a war crime) like so much colored crepe paper in a shabby Legion hall.

            • david mizner says:

              You seem to be missing the fact that I reject fully the view that the United States should be at war; in other words, the war the U.S. is waging is unjust.

              Yes, drones kill and terrorize few civilians than carpet-bombing would. That fact tells us nothing about the morality, legality, or wisdom of U.S. drone warfare.

              • david mizner says:

                In the rare case of a just war, there are things — threats to civilians — that may be acceptable legally and morally. This isn’t a just war.

                Killing civilians while trying to kill a number-three leader of a group loosely tied to a decimated AQ.

                Killing a 16-year-old son of a AQ member?

                World War II this ain’t.

                • Your opinion of whether a war is just is completely irrelevant to any legal question.

                • rea says:

                  Killing a 16-year-old son of a AQ member?

                  This is just a dishonest argument, David, and you well know it. Nobody targeted the poor kid–he put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

                • Killing civilians while trying to kill a number-three leader of a group loosely tied to a decimated AQ.

                  Killing a 16-year-old son of a AQ member?

                  World War II this ain’t.

                  Of course it’s not World War II. In World War II, we killed many tens of thousands more civilians, than we have in this war, and, unlike this war, in which every single civilian death was accidental, we killed many of those civilians deliberately.

                  Nope, this sure isn’t World War II. It isn’t any other war this country has ever fought. It is much more moral, and much more of an effort is being made to avoid civilian casualties.

                • Jesse Levine says:

                  Why waste your time? All you get is the Democratic version of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders who talked tough in support of Bush.

                • Jesse’s comment is what someone writes when they can’t hold up their end in an argument.

                  I call it the Breakfast Club dodge. “I don’t want to get into this with you, man!”

              • rea says:

                drones kill and terrorize few civilians than carpet-bombing would. That fact tells us nothing about the morality, legality, or wisdom of U.S. drone warfare

                Well, in fact, the laws of war require combatants to make reasonable efforts to minimize civilian casualites, when possible. So, use of drones does indeed tell us something about “the morality, legality, or wisdom of U.S. drone warfare”

                • david mizner says:

                  A pistol kills fewer people than a nuclear bomb; you can still use a pistol illegally — and immorally.

              • You seem to be missing the fact that I reject fully the view that the United States should be at war; in other words, the war the U.S. is waging is unjust.

                No, I understand that just fine. In fact, I keep writing that you should be making this argument, as opposed to the factually- and logically-deranged pretexts you keep ginning up about these particular actions violating the laws of war. Proportionality and distinction, for instance, are standards a party must abide by under the laws of war, when fighting a perfectly legal war.

                • rea says:

                  Assume it’s 1945 and we’re dealing with SS guerrilas hiding the in Alps and intermittantly attacking Allied occupying troops. Would drone warfare tactics be illegal then?

                  Give some thought to the logical structrue of your arguments, for crying out loud. If your problem with the drone war is that it doesn’t qualify as a “just war,” then make that argument and don’t drone on about tactics.

                • david mizner says:

                  As I’ve said, we shouldn’t be at war and, according to international law, we’re not.

                  BUT–

                  If if ones accepts the premise that the U.S. at war — under international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) — certain things the U.S is doing withing this war are illegal.

                • If your problem with the drone war is that it doesn’t qualify as a “just war,” then make that argument and don’t drone on about tactics.

                  I see what you did there.

              • david mizner says:

                We don’t know why the U.S. killed Al Alwaki’s son – that’s part of the problem; the government doesn’t have to show cause either before or after the kill.

                • The government has never had to “show cause” for its target selection in any war.

                  War powers are, indeed, extensive and scary.

                • david mizner says:

                  But given that we all agree, war should be the absolute last resort, make the case for it. Why should the U.S. be at war when Bin Laden is dead and the core of AQ is decimated?

                  And when should this war be over? What circumstances would trigger it?

                • Tell you what, david – I’ll try to make that case, if you will acknowledge that it was legitimate to go to war against al Qaeda in the first place, when bin Laden was alive and al Qaeda was at the height of their capabilities.

                  Otherwise, there is not point. It is pointless to try to make a case that the circumstances make the waging of this war legitimate, if you define it as illegitimate regardless of circumstances.

                • david mizner says:

                  The case for war was stronger (less weak) in 2001, but I would have never supported the dangerous broad 2001 AUMF.

                  No, eleven years later, the case is so weak you don’t even dare try to make it.

                • Actually, david, I’ve made that case more times than I care to count. I must have made that case a hundred times just on this site, just in the last year alone.

                  No, what I don’t “dare” do is waste my time playing the “You can’t make me say it” game with you. Because you’re right, I can’t.

                • david mizner says:

                  No, I’ve never seen you make the case for war. All I’ve seen you do is defend the war by saying we’re at war.

                • Wow.

                  You’ve never seen me make the case for war against al Qaeda.

                  That’s the kind of honest clarity that really makes me want to engage in a serious discussion with you.

          • rea says:

            No collective punishment. People who live in war zones are going to suffer adverse consequences from their proximity to the war–that’s not collective punishment.

    • bradp says:

      Due process does not apply to people who are armed, dangerous, and refusing to submit to capture. The police don’t need to get a court order to shoot the spree killer at the mall. We don’t hold a trial before authorizing a sniper to kill an armed hostage taker. Due process is the promise that if you are not an active danger, we will not treat you arbitrarily. If you decide to use force to prevent lawful capture, you don’t get those protections.

      “Armed, dangerous, and refusing to submit to capture” are extraordinarily vague characteristics that could easily be a result of being placed on a kill or capture list, rather than the actual cause.

      • Anon21 says:

        I’m betting most people don’t actually get an official warning (or any warning at all) that they’re on the kill/capture list, with al-Aulaqi being a notable exception. That makes your suggested direction of the causal arrow a little hard to credit.

        Is the idea that we should announce that they’re wanted for some specified crime, give them a certain amount of time to surrender peacefully, and then if they refuse, we can kill them? Do we need to send soldiers to where we think they’re at to confirm that they are armed and dangerous? I’ll be frank: I think the administration is justified in using available intelligence to make an inference that a particular person hiding in a remote part of a foreign country where U.S. law enforcement has no reach is going to refuse to submit themselves to trial in an American court.

    • I think you’re thinking about this wrong.

      The equivalent to Anwar al-Awlaki isn’t a guy in a mall who won’t surrender. It’s Admiral Yamamoto.

      When we are legally in a state of war, we get to shoot at the enemy. The arguments Greenwald and the like put forward are merely pretexts for their opposition to being at war with al Qaeda. They know the likelihood of success when it comes to arguing that we shouldn’t use military force against a terrorist group against whom we are at war, and who are at war with us, so they do everything they can to try to frame the argument in a way that obscures the central legal, moral, and policy reality – the state of war.

      • david mizner says:

        No, Greenwald and others are quite about the fact that we shouldn’t be at war with AQ.

        More than that, we’re not at war:

        Under international law, an armed conflict can only exist if such “associated forces” have a level of organization that would allow them to assume their obligations under international humanitarian law and if there are ongoing hostilities against the United States of sufficient intensity and duration

        http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/31/kill_the_kill_list?page=0,1

        Can’t have it both ways – can’t say the core and leadership of AQ is decimated and continue to say we’re at war.

        • Anon21 says:

          I don’t have a strong opinion on whether or not it’s possible for us to be “at war” with al Qaeda under international law. As above, it doesn’t change my view; dangerous criminals who refuse to submit to criminal law processes are, in my view, legitimate targets of lethal force. But this just has to be wrong:

          Can’t have it both ways – can’t say the core and leadership of AQ is decimated and continue to say we’re at war.

          On that theory, we ceased to be at war with Nazi Germany when Hitler killed himself and the leadership went into disarray on April 30, 1945, and not when German commanders agreed to surrender their forces on May 6/7. Disorganization of the enemy’s leadership and depletion of their ranks can’t be the determinant of whether a state of war exists–it has to be an agreement to cease combat or the actual cessation of combat. By that measure, whatever relationship we were in with al Qaeda seems to continue to the present day, despite the fact that we’ve killed many of their leaders and fighters.

          • david mizner says:

            You keep advocating for a perpetual war. Or let me pose it as a question — under what circumstances should the war on terror be ended?

            • Anon21 says:

              Again, I don’t even know that we are at war in the international law sense. If you look at it from the perspective of an ongoing campaign against a group of international criminals, I think the answer is “never,” or at least “not until terrorists cease trying to strike at us.” Same thing goes for when we should end “the war on bank robbery”–just as soon as people stop robbing banks, I guess.

              • david mizner says:

                If you agree that the United States is NOT at war, then there’s no way that the killing of suspects without due process is legal.

                The alleged legality of the kill list rests on the shaky claim that we’re at war. Without it, the kill list certainly can’t survive the constitution, among other things.

                • Anon21 says:

                  Again, this is just wrong, for all the reasons I’ve already gone into. The two major ones are that the Constitution does not protect foreigners in foreign countries, and also that people who are armed and dangerous and refuse to surrender themselves for lawful prosecution are not entitled to any due process.

                  And just for the record, I still haven’t conceded we aren’t at war. I’m just saying that I don’t know about international law (which is what you seem to be relying on) to make an informed judgment one way or the other, and that it ultimately doesn’t matter to my analysis.

        • No, Greenwald and others are quite (open) about the fact that we shouldn’t be at war with AQ.

          They say this, that we are at war with al Qaeda, out of one side of their mouths, but then turn around and argue legality as if we are not at war, the legal environment is that of a criminal suspect. When they make the latter argument, they are playing hide-the-salami as I described.

          Can’t have it both ways, indeed.

          Can’t have it both ways – can’t say the core and leadership of AQ is decimated and continue to say we’re at war.

          If that was the case, then it would have been illegal to wage war in Germany after about March 1945.

        • rea says:

          an armed conflict can only exist if such “associated forces” have a level of organization that would allow them to assume their obligations under international humanitarian law

          That can’t be right. Al Qaeda doesn’t get off the hook for committing atrocites simply because it’s too disorganized to do otherwise.

          can’t say the core and leadership of AQ is decimated and continue to say we’re at war

          So, if we’d killed Hitler, the war would have been over automatically?

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I can’t find anything to back that up and, as people pointed out below, it seems rather incoherent.

          People in the comments at FP didn’t seem to notice that bit.

          I’m not even sure where to look!

      • Gepap says:

        Some talib foot soldier walking around in Waziristan is in no way comparable to a High ranking officer in the armed forces of a State we have a declared war going on against.

        • Anon21 says:

          I don’t think they’re going after many lone “foot soldiers,” except as incidental to killing higher-level targets. Do you have sources that suggest otherwise?

          And in any event, does it matter what level the target is at? Generally, people who are active threats, refuse to surrender or abandon their threatening conduct, and can’t be safely captured are subject to lethal force. I don’t see why it matters if that person is a leader/organizer versus a grunt.

        • He is comparable in his legality as a target of military force. You can shoot privates just as legally as generals.

          As a matter of policy, it’s probably not worth it to organize a drone strike against any old Taliban foot soldier – but, then, that’s not what we’re doing.

    • MikeJake says:

      There’s a legal tension when we’re talking about the al-Aulaqis of the world, because he was an American citizen. Hamdi held that if captured, he was entitled to contest his status as an enemy combatant before a judge, that the government couldn’t just let him rot in Guantanamo indefinitely. I find it difficult to reconcile the idea that it would not be okay to detain him indefinitely with no due process with the idea that it would be okay to kill him with no due process.

      Obviously, the President is going to have lots of leeway in prosecuting his role as CiC, and we’re not going to require judges to sign off on everything the military wants to do. But the AUMF is not a blank check. It does not entitle us to kill whomever we want. The people we target have to be, in a legal sense, “the enemy”, as defined by the AUMF. The President gets to make that determination. But what if he’s wrong? If al-Aulaqi discovers that he’s being targeted as an enemy combatant, is there any way for him to challenge that status? Where could one go besides a court? If you recall, al-Aulaqi’s father and the ACLU tried to challenge that status on his behalf, and the court dismissed their case. Which means all we’re left with is the word of the Executive, and his anonymous intelligence sources, as to who is a legitimate target.

      On the other hand, you could also make the argument that al-Aulaqi, broadcasting anti-American propaganda from Yemen, was on the battlefield, and due process wasn’t a concern. Fine. But what’s a battlefield? Isn’t it simply wherever the enemy is? Doesn’t that mean the entire world is potentially a battlefield?

      And I still don’t know what made al-Aulaqi’s teenage son a legitimate target.

      • I find it difficult to reconcile the idea that it would not be okay to detain him indefinitely with no due process with the idea that it would be okay to kill him with no due process.

        Think about the Geneva Conventions. You can shoot, bomb, stab, shell, and burn alive an enemy who is at large, out of your custody. But once he’s in your custody, you can’t so much as give him a kick in the ass unless you first put him on trial, with due process.

        Which means all we’re left with is the word of the Executive, and his anonymous intelligence sources, as to who is a legitimate target.

        Do we have anything else in the selection of targets in any other war?

        And I still don’t know what made al-Aulaqi’s teenage son a legitimate target.

        He wasn’t. It looks like he picked the wrong day to go to an AQAP facility, in which several legitimate targets were doing their thing, and we happened to hit it that day.

      • rea says:

        Hamdi held that if captured, he was entitled to contest his status as an enemy combatant before a judge, that the government couldn’t just let him rot in Guantanamo indefinitely. I find it difficult to reconcile the idea that it would not be okay to detain him indefinitely with no due process with the idea that it would be okay to kill him with no due process.

        No, it’s simple. If he surrenders or is taken alive, he gets a trial. If we can’t apprehend him without using deadly force, well then, deadly force is what he gets. That’s all the process he’s due, and it’s not much different even in criminal law.

        • MikeJake says:

          But that doesn’t speak to whether someone is a legitimate target.

          It does no good to argue that the ATF had no choice but to kill the guy locked in his armed compound if they had no probable cause to go after him in the first place.

          All we know for certain about al-Aulaqi is that he was posting anti-American videos on YouTube. I don’t see that as a legitimate basis to mark him for death.

          • All we know for certain about al-Aulaqi is that he was posting anti-American videos on YouTube.

            Actually, Abdulmuttalab, the Underwear Bomber, told the FBI after his capture that al-Aulaqi was acting as an operational commander, and had helped put together the attempted mass murder.

            • MikeJake says:

              I know you’ll reject this counter, but I don’t feel that the FBI is to be trusted to be entirely forthright when it comes to terrorism-related issues. Before connecting him to the planning of the underwear bombing, all they had on him is that he was corresponding with various terrorists, which al-Aulaqi claimed was for spiritual guidance.

              So again, you’re left with nothing but the government’s word. If the government is wrong? It seems there’s no recourse.

              • Anon21 says:

                I guess I’m wondering what you see as the alternative. In our system, you cannot try a person in absentia. Now, maybe that rule should bend when the alternative is killing the person without trial, but… how much value would people ascribe to a trial in which the accused has no input?

                And is it reasonable to hold the government to the beyond a reasonable standard when all the government really wants to do (as a first cut) is get the guy off the battlefield? For an arrest, they’d only need probable cause, but arrest is impossible in these cases.

                And then there’s the time issue–say the government discovers evidence that a person is an imminent threat, and they know his location now, but also know he moves around a lot. Do they need to do some kind of trial, even if that takes months, during which time the target will go to ground?

                I am not saying that giving a U.S. citizen believed to be a terrorist who is holed up in some inaccessible location no process whatsoever is the best policy. I do think it’s probably permissible. For those who advocate more process–and again, I’m not necessarily opposed–what would that look like?

                • MikeJake says:

                  For those who advocate more process–and again, I’m not necessarily opposed–what would that look like?

                  That’s a tough question to answer. I can imagine a venue similar to the FISA court, a non-adversarial hearing where the government lays its cards on the table and a judge decides. But that would introduce problems of its own. What standard must the government meet for the judge to approve a targeted killing? Could this court issue an injunction? What’s the penalty if the injunction is violated? And do we really expect a judge to stand in the way if the President promises dire consequences if such and such a person isn’t eliminated?

                  I won’t argue that these are easy problems to solve. I just wish people wouldn’t be so willing to cast aside whole areas of due process protection because it’s convenient to the executive.

                • No one has “cast aside whole areas of due process.” There has never been judicial-style “due process” in the selection of targets in a war.

                  The issue here is about whether to expand the realm of judicial or quasi-judicial due process into an area it has never applied before. There is certainly an argument to be made that we should do so, because our capabilities have expanded into areas which they, too, have never been before.

                  But that brings us right back to the WaPo article, which describes actions by the Obama administration to create a standard process for these actions. Are they the right ones? Should we take the novel application of due process even further, and involve the civilian courts in wartime target selection?

                  These are serious questions, and they deserve a hell of a lot better than Glenn Greenwald’s dishonest demagoguery. I wish Campos had linked to the actual story; we might have had a more productive discussion, instead of a thread dedicated to once again knocking down his bullshit.

              • I know you’ll reject this counter, but I don’t feel that the FBI is to be trusted to be entirely forthright when it comes to terrorism-related issues.

                Isn’t that convenient.

  9. thusbloggedanderson says:

    Dispiriting as usual, though The Disposition Matrix is a great title for a novel. Or, alas, a work of nonfiction.

  10. DanMulligan says:

    Wish you had not highlighted this. I already sucked it up, held my nose and voted for the incumbent. Stick to your policy.

  11. Joe says:

    Kill or Capture by Daniel Klaidman was worthwhile & answered my question as to the one off the traditional battlefield capture referenced in a recent article. The name then eluded me again.

    For instance, it notes the effort provided to pick who could legally be killed, “barely suspects of anything” not the only requirement there. But, that might require recognizing there are standards other than “Obama thinks so.”

    “Worse” might be the 100K+ killed in Iraq or something translated to Iran. Anyway, Link TV had a debate with four third party candidates. Maybe, they talked about this issue with GG nuance.

    • mpowell says:


      “Worse” might be the 100K+ killed in Iraq or something translated to Iran. Anyway, Link TV had a debate with four third party candidates. Maybe, they talked about this issue with GG nuance.

      This is what I would say. 9/11 did change things in a major way. What the Obama administration has done, primarily, is discredit the Bush process of launching land wars in large countries as an anti-terrorist tactic. Obama gets the terrorists and the fall out is measured in hundreds of civilian deaths a year with negligible impact to infrastructure. You may not like the new status quo compared to 1998, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what we had circa 2004. Invading Iraq has probably caused over 2M excess civilian deaths by now, not to mention the enormous reduction in living standard for the entire Iraqi populace.

      • david mizner says:

        Yes, Obama is better than Bush. We’ve come a ways from Hope and Change.

        Now it’s a) invasions and occupations of Muslim countries v. b) covert, dirty wars in Muslims countries relying on special ops, drone attacks, massive secrecy, and no Congressional oversight.

        I vote for none of the above.

        • mpowell says:

          I think you overstate the case when you describe these as covert, dirty wars. The US has a history of that in places like Central America and what that generally entailed was arming nasty militia groups that would run around terrorizing local populations for extended periods of time. I think the level of civilian casualties in that case is at least an order of magnitude higher than what the drones are doing. And at least we maintain control of the drones.

          • david mizner says:

            Reagan’s secret wars in Central America are actually a pretty good analogy. Have you see what’s happening in Nigeria, for example?

            http://news.antiwar.com/2012/10/08/us-backed-nigerian-military-kills-30-civilians/

            The truth is we only have a tiny idea of what’s going on. Special Ops are now in like half the countries in the world, gonna get super-ugly.

            • That’s not really the same thing at all, but okay.

            • rea says:

              “US backed Nigerian military kills 30 civilians” means the Nigerian military killed 30 people it claimed were armed terrorists (but some others claim that’s not true), and that the US, without any particular involvement in this specific incident, has generally given military aid to the Nigerian government

            • mpowell says:

              This is a terrible example. The US is supporting the internationally recognized government of Nigeria. That’s worlds different from arming a militia group. And throwing out a statement like “Special OPs are now in like half the countries in the world” is both wrong and irrelevant. And it makes you look silly to say it.

        • Janastas359 says:

          I was under the impression that Obama is continuing occupations left over by the last administration and has been withdrawing (Or planning to withdraw) from these occupations.

          Tell me again which muslim countries Obama has invaded?

        • Yes, Obama is better than Bush. We’ve come a ways from Hope and Change.

          Speak for yourself. The change from the bogus, illegal war in Iraq to the necessary, moral, legal war against al Qaeda was one of my greatest hopes for this administration. It was the central element of the foreign policy he ran on.

  12. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    Glenn called this “the most extreme powers a government can claim”… obviously he didn’t much study Nazi Germany.

    • mark f says:

      Omg Godwin you just proved Glenn Greenwald doesn’t say hysterical things.

    • david mizner says:

      It’s talking about the government’s claiming the authority to kill someone without due process, which is more or less the same authority that Hitler claimed. We can be reasonably sure that an American president wouldn’t and couldn’t take it to an extreme but this doesn’t make the authority he’s claiming any less extreme.

      Killing citizens without due process and indefinite detention are cornerstones of a totalitarian society.

      • Yemen and the Northwest Frontier Provinces are in our society?

        One could just as accurately note that Truman “claimed the authority” to order the use of artillery bombardments against North Korean forces “without due process,” which is just like Hitler.

    • rea says:

      Obviously, he didn’t study the US Civil War, either.

    • Gepap says:

      Wouldn’t his claim be that we claim the same powers they did?

  13. rea says:

    (1)I’m not horribly shocked that the administration is developing procedures for detemining who to attack with drones, rather than doing it on an ad hoc basis. It sounds like an improvement to me.
    (2) As long as people are in arms against the US in locations the US can’t reach through legal process, use of military force against them, including drones, is appropriate and legal under US and international law.
    (3) Several examples of the same old nonsense in this thread and in the linked articles. Drone use in Afghanistan and Pakistan in support of US military operations is repeatedly conflated with strikes against terrorists. Al-Alwaki’s 16-year-old son was not targeted, but made the mistake of visiting an al Qaeda headquarters in the hills of Yemen. There has not been the slightest hint of a suggestion that drones (or other use of military force) is appropriate in the US, or anywhere else where the targeted person is subject to legal process.

    • (1)I’m not horribly shocked that the administration is developing procedures for detemining who to attack with drones, rather than doing it on an ad hoc basis. It sounds like an improvement to me.

      This story is like the ginned-up horror about the story that there are roughly 100 people involved in the discussions about who to target with these strikes. Before that story came out, the critics were all wailing about how terrible it is that one man – one man, the President! – was deciding all on his own who to hit. Then that story came out, and the same people started babbling about “death panels,” because having a panel of people deciding such things is blah blah blah.

      It’s all a pretext. They should just drop the bullshit administrative and procedural arguments and argue what they actually believe – that it is wrong to use force against al Qaeda, even if we are at war with them.

  14. Joe says:

    This is just plain incorrect, see e.g., United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990).

    What the ruling specifically holds given what Kennedy (the fifth vote) interpreted to mean (and what he said in Rasul etc., involving non-citizens) is somewhat unclear, but the Constitution surely applies to “non-citizens” — the issue there was the application of the 4A to a search in Mexico. As Kennedy noted “I do not mean to imply, and the Court has not decided, that persons in the position of the respondent have no constitutional protection.”

    Also, regardless of the persons involved, the power of the U.S. government is also at stake here. A person might not have a ‘right’ to bring to court (this arises in the context of treaty protections, e.g.) but the U.S. government also might not have a ‘power’ to do something.

    • Anon21 says:

      The Constitution applies to non-citizens only if they’re in the United States or in U.S. custody abroad. (Actually, that last one is probably not legally correct; I doubt the courts would entertain a Bivens action for deprivation of the fundamental right to life or execution without due process of law by the survivors of a combatant summarily executed after surrendering by U.S. forces operating abroad. But I think that they should.) It does not apply to foreign citizens in foreign countries.

      Now, to be clear, I don’t think Verdugo-Urquidez resolves this, because it takes pains to make a textual distinction between “the people” to whom Fourth Amendment rights are secured and “persons” whom other amendments (like the Fifth) protect. But I think that the no protection for foreigners living abroad approach is correct on the merits, and certainly there’s no case going the other way.

      • Joe says:

        It does not apply to foreign citizens in foreign countries.

        I was responding to something that appeared to suggest that only citizens could be protected. As to the rights of non-citizens, I think custody is the test. A FBI agent torturing a person in van in France should meet the test. The Bivens action might not be applied in that sort of battlefield scenario, but I don’t think the person has no constitutional rights at all.

        Also, as Kennedy notes in V-U “the Government may act only as the Constitution authorizes” — that is the bottom line. This goes beyond “rights” of specific people. The President’s war power is limited w/o authorization, e.g., whatever the rights of the targets.

  15. Why not just link to the WaPo story instead of filtering it through Glenn Greenwald?

    I’m sure that anyone who wants to can up with their own bullshit misrepresentations of the facts in the story. Why spoon-feed us his?

  16. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    Let’s ask a different question. Let’s suppose Osama bin Laden or other clear-cut enemy had been spotted in an isolated house in the countryside of Paki/Afghanistan, and we determined that we could not capture him. Then, following pretty normal procedures, let’s say the special forces get on the radio, and the compound is bombed by a jet at 20,000 ft. Several civilian casualties who happened to be hiding with OBL.

    Then imagine the same scenario, but with a Predator drone and missiles taking the place of the bomber and special forces.

    Why is it that the former scenario, which the US mil has been doing, more or less, for 65 years, illicit little reaction, but the latter is suddenly the worst thing ever that a state can do? Is this some nonsense ick-factor with drones? I mean we used to firebomb civilians. Why wasnt that the worst possible thing a president can do? Truman nuked Japan twice! Why is this much more surgical military action so much worse than nuking a city?

    I wholly agree that we should not be killing any innocents i war or otherwise, but I think this hand-wringing has gotten a little over-wrought.

    • Janastas359 says:

      I agree – something about the fact that we’re talking about drones seems to cause extra rancor. I wonder what the response would have been if Bin Laden had been killed with a drone?

    • Anon21 says:

      I completely agree, and I will frankly admit I don’t even get the mindset. I sometimes get intimations that it has something to do with making the use of force “too easy” (and you often hear people tie this in to drone operators killing people like it’s a video game). That could either mean that we should always have to risk Americans getting killed when we use force, or that we should always use weapons so big that they’ll probably kill some civilians by accident, so that we think long and hard about the consequences of deploying force. Either version of the argument seems really awful to me.

      All this just to say that I’d be interested to hear drone opponents’ answers to Jeffrey’s questions here.

      • wembley says:

        I sometimes get intimations that it has something to do with making the use of force “too easy” (and you often hear people tie this in to drone operators killing people like it’s a video game).

        That’s exactly it. I don’t have a real-world solution, because you’re right — there are less civilian (and military) casualties this way. From a purely utilitarian place, this is surely better than Bush’s invasions. And yet, I find drones creepy as fuck for exactly the reason you mention. It’s too easy. It’s dehumanizing.

        If you think life is sacred — that it means something to make someone’s cognitive functions stop, forever, that it means something to make sure someone never thinks or feels or breathes again — even if that person is a total sack of shit — then it feels like the only moral answer is to have one of the powerful dudes making the decisions to go and shoot the guy personally, staring him in the face. To have to grapple with it head-on, rather than ordering someone under you to kill from a distance. This makes no goddamned sense, but that’s the gut feeling.

        Irrational bullshit makes terrible policy, right? Irrational bullshit about fetuses and the sanctity of life and an invisible sky god* causes a bunch of dudes to try and make laws that are all about forcing me to carry through a pregnancy that I don’t want. Irrational bullshit about sex keeps girls from getting Gardasil shots and keeps teens from learning how to keep themselves protected during sex. Irrational bullshit about gays creates laws like Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Irrational bullshit about the second amendment and liberty and delusions about personal safety gives us a country where mass shootings are de rigeur.

        And yet, I can’t let go of this particular piece of irrational bullshit. It feels important. I don’t know.

        *okay, really all the pro-life positions are about lady-hate, but it sounded good.

      • Nathanael says:

        The drones make people in Pakistan live in fear and have nightmares. As a result, they will be ready to destroy the evil drone-killers (the US) for the rest of their lives….

        ….whereas other sorts of assassinations don’t create the same climate of fear. Don’t ask me why, but it seems to be deep psychology. (Yes, firebombing is just as bad as drones.)

        Therefore on a purely pragmatic scale, using weapons which guarantee a lasting hatred of the US — that’s a mistake. Big mistake.

    • Joe says:

      The nature of the conflict matters (WWII was a world war against Germany & Japan, e.g.) and we have a much adapted view about killing people. These days, firebombing or nuclear bombings of that type would probably appall many more people than occurred then.

      To suggest an example, someone who was horrified at killing OBL kept on telling me that one of his wives was shot in the leg. If THAT horrifies people, we really moved on, on some level thankfully, as to use of violence.

      Drones also are seen as creepy though as you say firebombing etc. is too and various classic literature can be cited on the point.

  17. Paula says:

    Jesus, it’s like the conservatives’ version of good old morally pure America, except with self-styled pacifists who don’t know history before 1989. Yes, Americans have killed people and justified it monstrous ways, and not only recently. Yes, Virginia, you live in a militarist country with a barbaric streak.

    I actually agree with JfL. If GWB HAD spent his time targeting AQ with drones rather than invading Afghanistan, I’d have been cheering. Because the invasion was a terrible idea — but it actually happened and did so with the full support of Congress and the American people. Drones in THAT case would have been a lesser evil.

    I’d love to have people be required to reveal their opinions about invading Afghanistan directly after 9/11 before they opine about drones. If you supported the invasion (and there were quite a few liberals then and now who supported the invasion), then the drones are part and parcel of that whole bit. So the idea that Greenwald now objects to this particular aspect of imperial war that he was apparently supporting as late as 2005 is not particularly impressive to me.

    I actually followed the damn links in GG’s Alwlaki articles, and YES, the Bush Administration DID manage to kill an American associating himself with AQ. He didn’t even make videos or anything — he was just a dumb dude who decided to join. Where was the outrage then?

    You’re worrying about drones now because you don’t actually have to worry about a full-scale military invasion. That’s what “even worse” looks like. God forbid you re-elect drone-happy Obama so that in 2024 you can elect an anti-drone person who is later criticized for being too aggressive in shutting down civil liberties in the name of cyber-security. And that’s being optimistic.

  18. From the article:

    Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix. They pointed, however, to the capture last year of alleged al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame off the coast of Yemen.

    Can we please – I’m talking to you, Glenn – stop the bullshit about the “capture” part being merely formal. Both the right and the far-left have decided, for their own reasons, to pretend that the administration isn’t capturing people.

    Oh, and the disposition of that particular individual? Transfered to the civilian legal system and charged in federal court by a United States Attorney.

    • Joe says:

      That’s the guy I asked about in a former thread. To be honest here, ONE person being captured is not exactly a winning argument. Other them him, and it might be the case by now, who are these “people”?

      His capture was tricky. He was put on a ship. According to the book I cited, he in effect willingly talked in such a way that punishment was possible in civil court.

      What happens if he didn’t? After all, a major problem with the remainder in Gitmo are things like mistreatment making such convictions problematic. As is holding them for trial because of bipartisan (cowardly) efforts to block transferring people to domestic sites for trial.

      The article also has this notable tidbit:

      In a series of speeches, administration officials have cited legal bases, including the congressional authorization to use military force granted after the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as the nation’s right to defend itself.

      I thought the only standard was that Obama woke up one day and said “my gut told me so.”

      • What happens if he didn’t?

        What happens if any criminal suspect doesn’t talk after being arrested?

        After all, a major problem with the remainder in Gitmo are things like mistreatment making such convictions problematic.

        It’s a good thing we don’t have that problem with the people captured after January 20, 2009. You know, career Justice Department people warned Bush about that problem ten years ago. He just didn’t care – that would be someone else’s problem.

        • Joe says:

          The criminal suspect is often released. The Obama Administration doesn’t want to capture someone and have to release them & recapture is harder in this case too while a criminal suspect is more easily captured when another opportunity arises.

          W/o similar involvement of the defendant, torture might not be an issue, but proving the case or some other issue (such on how to detain the person or what evidence is entered) can arise.

          Bottom line, capture really hasn’t seemed to be their policy in part because the problems with capture is one reason the kills are justified in certain cases in the first place.

          • Bottom line, capture really hasn’t seemed to be their policy

            There is no actual evidence of this. In fact, the WaPo article provides evidence of precisely the opposite.

            in part because the problems with capture is one reason the kills are justified in certain cases in the first place.

            There is no evidence for this, either. The evidence is that the administration uses targeting killings against people who cannot be captured, because they are somewhere – the Pakistani frontier, Somalia, the badlands of Yemen – far out of our or the local government’s reach, and surrounded by large numbers of armed men who would turn any attempt at capture into a bloodbath.

  19. Total says:

    even worse

    Brad DeLong’s formulation comes to mind:

    “WORSE THAN YOU IMAGINE, EVEN AFTER TAKING ACCOUNT OF THE FACT THAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS WORSE THAN YOU IMAGINE”

  20. Nathanael says:

    If things actually get even worse, we’ll be well on our way to full-scale armed civil war. The people in power seriously overestimate how much crap people are willing to take. People are willing to take a lot of totalitarian crap — but there are limits. Why are the people in power trying to find those limits? It can’t work out well for them.

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