Wherein the New York Times Describes President Obama’s Role as Drone War Kill List Decider-in-Chief

The New York Times has a pretty lengthy piece on the President’s role in the waging of a drone war over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, which serves to highlight some of the differences between the way President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror was perceived and how President Obama’s continuation and expansion of that war on terror is perceived today. George Bush, for example, got a lot of grief for characterizing his job as being that of “the decider.” Here’s the Times explaining how Barack Obama, too, is a decider:

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

The Times marvels at the president’s decision-making abilities in the war on terror, drone edition:

When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

The justification for ordering the assassination of an American citizen is buried towards the end of the article:

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.

Internal deliberations! How reassuring. This aggressive approach in the drone war isn’t all sunny, though, even according to the Times:

Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said.

The Times explains President Obama’s deft maneuvers immediately after his 2009 inauguration, and how the president worded his executive orders on Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition to seem like they comported with campaign pledges while leaving enough room for his policies to evolve back to George Bush form:

A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the Times papers over the very real “collateral damage” of U.S. drone strikes overseas:

Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ “ a top White House adviser recounted.

In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.

The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush.

As a reminder, President Obama has already ordered 5 times the drone strikes George W. Bush did in eight years in office Only after official assurances of utmost protection of innocent life and “near certainty” of no civil deaths in any planned drone strikes does this get mentioned:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Guilty until proven innocent. The CIA even has the authority to target mere likely suspects. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald noted even before that new authority the CIA was already targeting rescuers and mourners of previous targets. It’s just “simple logic.” The Times again:

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.  

The doctrine sounds remarkably like the one espoused by Mayor Bloomberg to justify the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, where police officers enter largely minority neighborhoods to stop largely young black and Latino males and frisk them for guns (pretty much illegal in New York City). Though the left may deny the connection between foreign policy and domestic civil liberties it made to critique President Bush’s war on terror, that connection undoubtably remains. As then Senator Barack Obama wrote in 2007, “the security and well-being of each and every American depend on the security and well-being of those who live beyond our borders. The mission of the United States is to provide global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity.” Despite that:

The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.” But he has found that war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision.

The Times explains, too, how the kill list is fashioned:

It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia.

The video conferences are run by the Pentagon, which oversees strikes in those countries, and participants do not hesitate to call out a challenge, pressing for the evidence behind accusations of ties to Al Qaeda.

“What’s a Qaeda facilitator?” asked one participant, illustrating the spirit of the exchanges. “If I open a gate and you drive through it, am I a facilitator?” Given the contentious discussions, it can take five or six sessions for a name to be approved, and names go off the list if a suspect no longer appears to pose an imminent threat, the official said. A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes.

The Times goes on to explain how Congress’ reticence on closing Guantanamo Bay caught the president off-guard:

Walking out of the Archives [after a May 2009 speech on national security], the president turned to his national security adviser at the time, Gen. James L. Jones, and admitted that he had never devised a plan to persuade Congress to shut down the [Guantanamo] prison.

“We’re never going to make that mistake again,” Mr. Obama told the retired Marine general…

It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

Apparently Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder were willing to go to Capitol Hill to defend the closing of the prison at Guantanamo, but Rahm Emanuel nixed it, placing healthcare reform first. Now the president just says he can’t wait for Congress, and when it comes to the war on terror, or war in general, he just doesn’t ask.

And, finally, your obligatory Vietnam comparison:

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.

Reason on the drone wars

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  • ||

    Obama's so dreamy when he's ordering extra-judicial killings.

  • Trespassers W||

    Using judicial system to prosecute accused terrorists: waste of time.

    Using judicial system to prosecute drug users: THAT'S WHY WE HAVE A CONSTITUTION.

  • gaijin||

    ...it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

    And that is the crux of our move from a the rule of law to the rule of men.

  • Alex||

  • gaijin||

    Interesting read. I think the professor assumes a greater depth of the 'ideal of ROL' in his argument than I do...which is that political decisions involving life and death no longer require even the facade of legal due process.

  • ||

    Obama's so dreamy when he's ordering extra-judicial killings.

    I know; I'd certainly fuck him...just something about that mighty Robo-Pen...SWOON!

  • Loki||

    It's like he's the ultimate bad boy. Some people think dealing drugs or getting fights is "hard"? Pffft. Obama orders extra-judicial killings with no due process. Now that's "hard".

    You know what else is hard? Jo Becker's clitoris and Scott Shane's boner.

  • sarcasmic||

    Will someone give him a Piece Prize for ordering people to be blown into little pieces?

  • rts||

    Your joke's bad and you should feel bad.

  • ||

    Agreed on both; Sarc needs a Yemena.

  • ||

    Only winner to have his own kill list!

    Or maybe one of only 3 winners? Hm. Someone should research this.

  • sloopyinca||

    There is no justification whatsoever for these killings. They are unconstitutional, unethical and uncalled-for. The sooner we stop them and try every person involved for murder and war crimes, the better. It will put an end to the madness that is driving every nation in the middle east further into the arms of the Islamists.

    I am sick to my stomach reading the contortions people go through to justify murder in the name of freedom. Our founders wrote a Bill Of Rights to keep us from becoming a tyranny. It looks like they have failed in that respect.

  • ||

    "And the so-called sovereigns, in these different governments, are simply the heads, or chiefs, of different bands of robbers and murderers."

  • o3||

    it aint murder to kill our enemies. and those "civilians" are in the entourage accompanying the HVTs.

  • sloopyinca||

    and those "civilians" are in the entourage accompanying the HVTs.

    [citation required]

  • Restoras||

    C'mon sloop. Entourage = Guilty!

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    it aint murder to kill our enemies. and those "civilians" are in the entourage accompanying the HVTs.

    So guilt by association then, nice to know.

  • ||

    That friend of yours sure has a funny sounding name. It would be a shame if something should happen to him and then you.

  • ||

    "It would be a shame if the same piece of shrapnel tore through him and then you."

  • John||

    No. Not guilt by association. It makes the people we are hunting guilty of using human shields.

  • sloopyinca||

    So it's OK in your book to blow up an innocent person because someone is using them as a human shield? It's not as if these people are free to travel where they want at any time, John. They are dirt poor and just trying to survive day to day.

    If a known "terrorist"* was known to be in a school full of kids, would it be OK to drop a bomb on that school?

    *Assuming the evidence that he is a terrorist is not manufactured, hidden or manufactured by our government.

  • John||

    It is a balance. If the terrorist was in a school, no. But if the terrorist is with four or five people who know who he is and choose to be with him anyway, then such is the fortunes of war.

  • sloopyinca||

    What if those four or five people are children who lack the concept of terror? And as I stated before, a lot of these people lack the resources to relocate because a bad guy comes in next door. Would it be OK for you if your wife was killed in a drone attack on your neighbor's house because you lacked the resources to move away?

    I'm sorry, but I have to conclude that you place very little value on (much of) human life.

  • John||

    It would suck but it wouldn't necessarily be illegal. And the fault for my death would lay at the terrorist feat who used me as a human shield.

    And you are just living in a fantasy land. These people shelter these fighters because they like them and support them. No one sets up operations in a place like NW Pakistan if the populace doesn't support you.

  • sloopyinca||

    You discount as "just evil" the people that would kill us but merely say killing an innocent person in the vicinity of a terrorist "would suck."

    I'm sorry, John, but you are an immoral person if you condone what we are doing while decrying their actions. IMO, they are pretty similar.

  • Mo' $parky||

    I'm sorry, John, but you are an immoral person if you condone what we are doing while decrying their actions.

    I disagree sloop, John is not immoral, he is evil. I honestly don't think he can be seen any other way. Without turning this into a religious bitchfest, he claims to be a Christian and then espouses actions that are completely against some of the core tenets of Christianity. Seems to me that meets at least the biblical definition of evil.

    I guess you're right John, some people are just evil.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'm sorry, John, but you are an immoral person if you condone what we are doing while decrying their actions. IMO, they are pretty similar.

    IMO you're morally perverted and unfit to be a proponent of freedom. Try to think beyond Disney movies okay?

  • Cytotoxic||

    What if those four or five people are children who lack the concept of terror?

    Terrible, and not at all our moral burden. It is totally the fault of our enemies.

  • John||

    So fine, lets not kill anyone if it creates a danger to civilians. Got it. And when that happens, why then would our enemies just hide in the civilian population knowing they are invulnerable at that point?

  • sloopyinca||

    You do realize that "our enemies" lack the tools, ability or financial means to be a danger to us, right? I don't think sitting in a hut in Yemen talking bad about the west poses much of a threat to the safety and security of the United States of America.

  • John||

    Oh sure. They can't do anything. Tell that to the people in Bali, India and Madrid and the various other places they have managed to attack.

  • sloopyinca||

    How many of those places were attacked prior to their governments meddling in the affairs of the middle east?

  • John||

    So you really think Al Quada would be these peaceful wonderful people if only for the US? That is just stupid. Some people are just evil. It is how life is.

  • Mo' $parky||

    Some people are just evil. It is how life is.

    You have an interesting definition of evil. If these people were just plain evil wouldn't they be killing and destroying things closer to home just because of the ease of access? Or does evil only apply when they attack your home country?

  • Cytotoxic||

    "If these people were just plain evil wouldn't they be killing and destroying things closer to home just because of the ease of access?"

    They are. There are bombings all the time over there. Thanks for playing.

  • Mo' $parky||

    They are. There are bombings all the time over there. Thanks for playing.

    So since America is the paragon of goodness and purity in the world it is our righteous duty to blow those evil fuckers to bits? Fetch me the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch.

  • Cytotoxic||

    No that's not the point. My point was regarding their motivation. Christ you are one mendacious asshole.

  • Mo' $parky||

    My point was regarding their motivation.

    So they don't have the means to actually do anything but if they could they would so we should blow them up before they can. I get it, you like war. You are a bloodthirsty dick. You call people who think you're an asshole liars because that's the best you can come up with. You're morality is horribly skewed and you probably search your underwear for bad guys before you get dressed in the morning. In your world, the great American armed forces should be out blowing all of our potential aggressors to kingdom come before they have a chance to get their shit together.

  • John||

    f these people were just plain evil wouldn't they be killing and destroying things closer to home just because of the ease of access

    They are Mo. Al Queada has killed more Muslims than Westerners. Read the link I gave down thread about what is going on in Yemen. Look at how they terrorized the Suni and Christians in Iraq. Look at what they are doing and did in Afghanistan.

    You people really do live in a fantasy world.

  • Mo' $parky||

    You people really do live in a fantasy world.

    See my comment above about America being the paragon of goodness. Do you believe that it is our duty as Americans to protect the planet from evil?

  • sloopyinca||

    So you really think Al Quada would be these peaceful wonderful people if only for the US? That is just stupid. Some people are just evil. It is how life is.

    I wonder how many people in the middle east are sitting in a hut saying just the same about the United States of America.

    I guess in answer to your question: we'll never know, because our government is too hell-bent on world domination to leave them alone long enough to find out.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I wonder if you have a real argument.

  • sloopyinca||

    I wonder if you have a real argument.

    I wonder if you have a moral compass.

  • sarcasmic||

    It looks like they have failed in that respect.

    I don't think they expected the Judicial branch to become a (except in extremely rare cases) rubber stamp for the rest of the government.

  • John||

    How are they unconstitutional? The Congress gave the President the power to hunt down and kill Al Quada? How is this any different than the US Navy hanging pirates at sea? Weren't "extrajudicial killings".

    And sure try them for war crimes. Good luck because there are not any war crimes. What would those "war crimes" be?

  • sloopyinca||

    The Congress gave the President the power to hunt down and kill Al Quada?

    That doesn't exactly make it Constitutional, John. They pass laws all the time that are struck down.

    How is this any different than the US Navy hanging pirates at sea?

    How about a little context here? Were they pursuing pirates, or were they defending themselves or American merchants and captured the pirates in that defense? Were the pirates on the land or ship belonging to a sovereign nation?

    And sure try them for war crimes. Good luck because there are not any war crimes. What would those "war crimes" be?

    True. It's hard to have war crimes when there is no declaration of war.

  • John||

    That doesn't exactly make it Constitutional, John. They pass laws all the time that are struck down.

    Because Congress has the power to make war. And it did just that when it passed the use of force authorizations against Al Quada. Just because you don't like something doesn't make it unconstitutional.

    How about a little context here? Were they pursuing pirates, or were they defending themselves or American merchants and captured the pirates in that defense? Were the pirates on the land or ship belonging to a sovereign nation?

    They were hunting down and killing pirates just like we hunt down and kill terrorists today. They also routinely hung people making mischief on a battlefield while not wearing uniforms. That is how terrorists and partisans were handled until after World War II.

    True. It's hard to have war crimes when there is no declaration of war.

    There is a declaration of war effectively and a UN Security Council authorization. And these strikes are happening in Yeman and Pakistan. Pakistan is providing safe heaven to fighters who are making war on the lawful government of Afghanistan. And we have perfectly within our rights to go after those fighters with drones or planes or knives if we so choose. Al Quada is also making war on the government of Yemen who is perfectly free to invite us in to kill the Al Quada members we find there.

  • sloopyinca||

    Because Congress has the power to make war. And it did just that when it passed the use of force authorizations against Al Quada.

    Can you link to that declaration of war, please? And declaring war on a vague and undefined enemy shouldn't be able to pass constitutional scrutiny. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't.

    As for the pirates, Letters of Marque were issued. The comparison is not accurate at all...especially in light of the territorial differences in an open sea and a sovereign nation with borders.

    And are you really going to trot out a UN Resolution as a permission slip to drop bombs on people in sovereign nations without a trial?

    And has Yemen invited us to help them out? Have they sent an official request to kill certain people within their borders? Please provide a link to the document formally requesting our assistance in murdering people within Yemen's borders.*

    *And if Russia asked us to kill a bunch of people in Chechnya they called terrorists, would that give us the moral or legal right to murderdrone whoever we wanted within their borders?

    Have you any concept of morality, John?

  • Cytotoxic||

    The War On Terror, stupid as the name is, is well understood as a War on AQ. Thin gruel of whine of an argument this be.

  • sloopyinca||

    It may be "well-understood." That doesn't make it legal or moral.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    The actual language is:

    all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups

    And that is a open-ended mandate. No matter how it is "understood" by the people, the government will always choose the broadest interpretation of authority that it can. It was an unwise decision then, and it remains one now.

  • John||

    Then Nerfherder what would you have done after 9-11? Sent them a harshly worded letter?

    I would say it was a good decision. We have totally destroyed Al Quaeda. We have killed their leaders and they are completely unable to attack us beyond getting the odd nut case to do something stupid. Where would we be if the Taliban still ran Afghanistan and Bin Ladin were living there openly bragging to the world about the strong horse?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I'm not arguing for doing nothing. I'm arguing that we should have strictly limited the scope of war. We blew our wad before we knew what was going on.

    Notice that it is an indefinite declaration? There's no Afghanistan in that statement, no Al Qaeda. We freaked out and declared war without even knowing who we were declaring war against. This gave the Executive Branch all sorts of leeway that they would not have had otherwise. Leeway that they are now using to fire drones off into sovereign countries without any review from Congress.

  • John||

    I'm arguing that we should have strictly limited the scope of war.

    To what?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    To a definite target, a nation-state. Declaring war against unknowns was a stupid move on our part and we are paying the price. It was an unending blank check.

    And declaring war against a non-state actor is not within the bounds of the Constitution. The authority given to the President by the Declaration of War could be readily interpreted as an authorization of the use of force against our own citizens. It's a slippery slope and we're headed in the wrong direction.

    When do you think the President will declare the war officially over? What President is going to give that authority up when the language was written so broadly as to enable an endless effort?

  • T||

    The authority given to the President by the Declaration of War could be readily interpreted as an authorization of the use of force against our own citizens.

    That ship sailed in '05, my man. Bush DOJ argued that in court, and the Obama admin ran with it.

  • sloopyinca||

    We have totally destroyed Al Quaeda. We have killed their leaders and they are completely unable to attack us beyond getting the odd nut case to do something stupid.

    Then why the fuck are we still over there killing people? And why do you support the continued killing?

  • John||

    1. You don't understand what a letter of Marque is. A letter of Marque is the authority to pirate the other guy's ships during war. It has nothing to do with hunting pirates. And even if it did, would you feel better about this if we issued Letters of Marque to private companies to kill Al Quada members?

    The Congressional authorization for the use of force passed after 9-11 is declaration of war. Get over it. You may like it but that is what it was. And Al Quada is a perfectly legitimate target of war. Just like we used to authorize the Navy to kill pirates where they found them, we can authorize the military to kill Al Quada members where they find them.

    And are you really going to trot out a UN Resolution as a permission slip to drop bombs on people in sovereign nations without a trial?

    Yes. it is called warfare. That is what you do in war, you go to other countries, meet new and exotic people and kill them. And when your war is authorized by the UNSC, your war is legal.

    As far as Yemen, here is your link

    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/.....index.html

    Al Quada is trying to overthrow the government.

    My concept of morality is that Al Quada is a bunch of murderous lunatics who need to be hunt down and killed before they have a chance to kill more people than they already have.

  • sloopyinca||

    So you'll be OK when Chile calls the WH and says there are people in the Andes hiding that they would like us to firebomb and get rid of? You'll be fine with it, because we were asked by their government?

    The government of Yemen is a corrupt cesspool of bad men. Doing their bidding makes us no better than them...actually, it makes us worse because we should know better.

  • John||

    If Chile were fighting an insurgent force bent on taking over the country an imposing some kind of murderous rule and they asked the US for help, yes I would be fine with the US giving it to them. And regardless, that assistance would be legal.

  • sloopyinca||

    Would you also support it if the request came from North Korea?

    Do you not see where this leads?

  • John||

    Chile is not North Korea you half wit.

  • sloopyinca||

    I'd wager the government of Yemen is more like that of the Norks than that of the Chileans.

    Would you please compile a list of nations we would do this for and a list of nations we would not do this for. Please list your reasons why it's ok/not ok for each nation. Thanks.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'd be fine with it if those insurgents were part of a larger organization that TRIES TO KILL US.

  • sloopyinca||

    But upthread, John states that we have totally destroyed AQ. So what "organization" are you talking about? And them trying to kill us is one thing, but if they lack the tools or the weaponry to do so, then aren't we just murdering people?

    I can think of anti-government factions in the US that want our government overthrown. Some of them have advocated for violence. Should we be free to drop bombs on them as well? (Bill Ayers comes immediately to mind)

  • John||

    If arresting them and throwing them in jail were not an option, yes. What if Bill Ayers formed a communist army and started operating out of the Rockies. Do you really think we would be wrong to use bombs and military force to deal with him?

  • sloopyinca||

    If Bill Ayers did that, he could be tried or at least charged in a court of law. We are granting none of our victims in the drone war that courtesy...even the American citizens we are killing.

  • Cytotoxic||

    But upthread, John states that we have totally destroyed AQ. So what "organization" are you talking about?

    Leftover branches like AQAP.

    And them trying to kill us is one thing, but if they lack the tools or the weaponry to do so

    They clearly have the tools and weaponry it is not that hard. To think otherwise is delusion.

  • Rasilio||

    "would you feel better about this if we issued Letters of Marque to private companies to kill Al Quada members?"

    Actually yes.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Hilarious! Privatize the military response and all the BS is gone. I like it to...if it gets y'all to shut up.

  • tarran||

    Sigh... The Navy was only allowed to execute pirates in circumstances where the commanding officer can carry out executions: at sea, out of contact with senior officers (or the president), where there is no reasonable means to get the prisoners to a court without imperiling the ship.

    These rules applied to any capital offence, from piracy to desertion and mutiny. The assumption was that if a trial was possible, they got a trial, only otherwise could a captain order a summary execution.

    After a captain executed some midshipmen whom he had credible evidence were planning to mutiny and take up piracy, where the ringleader happened to be the son of the secretary of the Navy, the Congress greatly restricted the ability of naval officers to execute people without a court holding a trial. Those limits have not been repealed.

    During my officer training we considered these rules a curiosity, since the existence of radios and aircraft had eliminated circumstances where by custom and statute such summary executions could be carried out.

  • John||

    The fact remains, the Navy hung pirates where they found them. And they also attacked and killed them where they found them. And it was perfectly legal.

  • John||

    And one other point, if our enemies didn't hide amongst civilian populations and fought conventional wars, there wouldn't be a danger to civilians would there?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Geez John. If you weren't such a neocon you'd know how to ask them nicely.

  • R C Dean||

    How is this any different than the US Navy hanging pirates at sea?

    In former times, pirates were universally recognized under Western maritime law (predating the Constitution, although incorporated, in effect, via the Supremacy Clause, if memory serves) as hostis humani generis, and what passed for international law authorized summary justice.

    That is all in the distant past, of course. Now, British ships are directed not to take pirates hostage, lest they claim asylum. No one can take action against piracy without the blessing and approval of the local sovereign and/or the UN, so you can guess that this involves, not a quick end, but increasing their standard of living.

  • ||

    Letters of Marque are Constitutional and have precedent, invading countries without a declaration of war not so much. The sea is international territory, Yemen, Pakistan, et.al, are not. False analogy.

  • John||

    Except that in the case of Yemen we have been invited by the government. So sovereignty is not an issue. And in Pakistan, they are sheltering fighters who are making war against us. We have every right to act in self defense and go after those fighters there.

    And Pirates are a fine analogy since it was legal to hang them on site. And it was also legal to attack any port or country who harbored them.

    I understand you guys object to making war against Al Quada. But that is a policy position. Stop confusing, "I don't agree with that" with "that is illegal". Two different questions.

  • sloopyinca||

    We have every right to act in self defense and go after those fighters there.

    Do you not see the hilarity in that sentence?

  • John||

    It is only hillarious to you sloopy because you are being stupid. We are in Afghanistan. The fighters in Pakistan are making war against us and the Afghanistan government. Pakistan is doing nothing to stop them. That gives us the right to go after them even on Pakistani soil.

    Sorry but "I don't think you should be there" doesn't change the legality of the situation.

  • Cytotoxic||

    What would Sloopy have if not splitting hairs and 'funny'?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    We have every right to act in self defense and go after those fighters there.

    I'm assuming that involves acts of war on the soil of a sovereign nation that we have not declared war against. It's Cambodia all over again. And we all remember how well Cambodia turned out after the Vietnam War.

  • John||

    It only turned out badly because we listened to people like Sloopy and abandoned them.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    That's ignoring the argument that we shouldn't have been there in the first place.

  • John||

    That is because it is not an argument. Whether we should or should not be there is a policy argument not a legal one. Say you don't support the war. Just don't throw around terms like war crimes.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    If it's a policy argument then it is a moral one as well.

    And I say that what we are doing in these various countries is immoral just as it is immoral for us to be shooting pregnant women in Honduras to protect our borders from drugs.

    We will face a backlash in Pakistan just like in Cambodia, except this time, the revolution is going to have nukes in addition to the moral and political argument against a Western power blowing up their citizens.

    And who said anything about war crimes?

  • sloopyinca||

    John's logic: Once you start killing people in a sovereign nation, you should continue until you have killed them all.

    The thought of not going there in the first place never even occurs to him.

  • ||

    Shorter John: We needed to destroy Cambodia to save Cambodia.

    Even though the effect of the bombing campaign on the Khmer Rouge victory is, in my opinion, over-stated, it still galvanized support for Pol Pot and encouraged greater North Vietnamese intervention in that country. The Khmer Rouge would have won anyway, the US just made it easier for them to take over by scaring the population into supporting them.

  • John||

    Shorter serious man, the best way to deal with murderous lunatics like the Khmer Rouge is to surrender and let them kill you because defending yourself or others just makes them stronger. Got it.

    The Khmer Rouge didn't take over Cambodia until April of 1975. It would have taken very little US effort to keep them from doing so.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It would have taken very little US effort to keep them from doing so.

    Say what?

  • John||

    We abandoned the place to the worst regime in world history. And we did it in the name of peace!!

  • ||

    Shorter serious man, the best way to deal with murderous lunatics like the Khmer Rouge is to surrender and let them kill you because defending yourself or others just makes them stronger. Got it.

    You're right. Right after taking Phnom Penh Pol Pot and the KL were going to march on Washington and take over America. Honestly John, you're nearing Tony-levels of stupidity today.

    The Khmer Rouge didn't take over Cambodia until April of 1975. It would have taken very little US effort to keep them from doing so.

    We carpet-bombed the shit out of that country and killed at least 600,000 people in the process. What more could we have done? Nuked them? Again, you sound like we should have destroyed Cambodia to save Cambodia. Better dead than red, right?

  • John||

    What could we have done? Not cut off arms and they could have defended themselves. The Khmer Rouge only won after the Watergate Congress cut off all aid. We didn't need to send a single soldier, just give them to guns to defend themselves.

    This is why people don't take Libertarians seriously.

  • ||

    By the time of Watergate the Khmer Rouge had grown from a small party to a coalition of 70,000 strong. There was simply no stopping them since after a decade of violent civil war and foreign interventionism that left thousands of innocent people dead, the people of Cambodia wanted a stabilizing power that would bring peace. Of course they didn't know what was in store for them, but that's a consequence of the US terrorizing a country's population by making it a pawn in a Cold War proxy war.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    And I suppose we should have defended the Ukraine against Stalin and the Chinese populace against Mao. It's only a difference of scale.

  • Pi Guy||

    Letters of Marque are specificlly mentioned in the Constitution and, therefore, by definition are, uh... Constitutional. So, you might know what a LoM is but you don't seem to know it's source. If you did, you'd not have tried to equivocate the two matters.

    Can you identify the part of the Constitution where the Exec Branch is given authority to kill an American anywhere without due process? Since you're here frequently, I assume this isn't Team Blue Fellating. So does that really mean that you're down with just taking out 5 or 6 close associates who are in the wrong place at thhe wrong time?

    Sloop's right for taking you on. I think, much like with the cops, it's getting harder and harder to clearly identify Team Good and Team Evil. When we do stuff like this, we've doffed the White Hat and have donned the Black one.

    But, at least you and the Prez can figure out who's who. I trust you both.[/not]

  • John||

    Killing Al Walaki was a real problem. The fact he was an American citizen is a terrible precedent. But the rest of this is not unconstitutional or illegal. I don't like Obama. But I am not going to change sides on this issues. Legal is legal regardless of who is President.

  • T||

    Nopers. According to the AUMF, Al Alwaki was legal. He was determined to have aided those who attacked us, so fuck him.

    And that, right there, is the problem.

  • John||

    And our founders slaughtered the Indians, and hung pirates on site. So do me favor and take your case of the fucking vapors elsewhere.

  • ||

    John's war boner sure is hard today.

  • John||

    and your stupid boner is hard. But sadly it is every day.

  • ||

    You're so unbelievably tedious, John. I'm so glad the taxpayers pay you to goldbrick your war boner all over this site every day.

  • John||

    This from the clown who screams Red Team Blue Team every day. Seriously, when is the last time you made a point on here Epi? You used to make them. Somewhere along the line you stopped.

  • Cytotoxic||

    You're so unbelievably tedious

    PROJECTION MAN strikes again.

  • Tulpa the White||

    There's plenty of tedium to go around, boys.

  • sarcasmic||

    His so-con is showing. Again.

  • sloopyinca||

    When isn't it showing?

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. It's not like he makes any effort to hide it.

  • John||

    I know sarcasimic, it sucks when you don't have any responses to arguments you don't like. Better to just scream NEOCON!!

  • sarcasmic||

    Are you sure you're not Tony?

    "when you don't have any responses to arguments you don't like" is something Tony would say.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Bbbbut ...NEOCON!

  • sloopyinca||

    Some of our founders also had slaves. Would that justify our government sending ships to Africa so we could bring back boats full of blacks? Have we not evolved?

  • sarcasmic||

    Have we not evolved?

    No. We're three steps out of the cave with some really neat toys.

  • John||

    Sure we have. But don't sit around and whine about the founders this and the founders that. Make a point.

  • sloopyinca||

    I think I did, you stupid bastard. But you're too busy pissing in your pants in fear of them damn, dirty Ay-rabs coming here that you failed to see it.

  • Cytotoxic||

    They are members of a group at war with us. It is completely constitutional.

    It will put an end to the madness that is driving every nation in the middle east further into the arms of the Islamists.

    Citation and logic please. Show your work.

  • sloopyinca||

    You really don't think the terror attacks on 9/11/01 were in response to our meddling in the affairs of other nations, especially the middle east? Have you never Have you never once read the transcript of the interviews of AQ leaders? Have you never once seen the interviews of the people on the street over there saying if we would leave them alone they would do the same?

    My citation is the history of the middle east. They did not start attacking our interests until we started forcing ourselves into their conflicts, their affairs and their way of life. Any idiot can see that. Add to that they are constantly telling us that they only attack us because we won't leave.

    I believe it is logical to assume that since we went in there we've been getting atacked, so if we would leave, as they have persistently requested, the attacks would cease.

  • John||

    You really don't think the terror attacks on 9/11/01 were in response to our meddling in the affairs of other nations, especially the middle east?

    No. I will take Bin Ladin's word over yours. And Bin Ladin said he attacked us in hopes that we would go home and let him make war against the Saudi Royal Family.

  • sloopyinca||

    bin Ladin had been saying for years that if we left they would leave us alone. He said it before the USS Cole, he said it before WTC Part I, he said it after the first Iraq War.

    If you're going to start taking him at his word, you should take his entire body of work as opposed to one solitary quote that has never been corroborated.

  • John||

    And once he took over Saudi, he would have lived in peace. Sure.

  • sloopyinca||

    And once he took over Saudi, he would have lived in peace. Sure.

    What was he going to take it over with? KSA has a modern army with modern equipment. OBL had a bunch of guys with AK47's and two countries to get through before he even got to KSA. Thinking for a second he wouldn't get his ass kicked is beyond naive.

  • ||

    But this whole "let's leave everyone alone" contradicts the "America, Fuck Yeah" attitude that people like John get hard over.

    It's basically Vietnam syndrome: we couldn't stand losing to those dirty Gooks, so now we got to relive that experience killing A-rabs.

  • John||

    You are on a roll of historic stupid today Serious Man.

    Islamic extremism is a world problem. If it were about the middle east, places like Bali and Norway wouldn't be the victims of terrorst.

    And you and sloopy are the American narcissists, not me. You are the ones who think every action in the world is somehow the result of and all about America. In your silly and juvenile view, America can live at peace and control the actions of the entire world if it chooses to. Yeah right.

  • Cytotoxic||

    And you and sloopy are the American narcissists, not me. You are the ones who think every action in the world is somehow the result of and all about America. In your silly and juvenile view, America can live at peace and control the actions of the entire world if it chooses to. Yeah right.

    THIS TO THE POWER OF THIS

  • ||

    While Anders Breivik's crimes are rightly described as terrorism, I hardly think that blowing up some jihadist in Yemen would have had any deterrent affect on them.

    Frankly, I'm not entirely sure who you would seek out for a drone attack to prevent any Anders Breivik copycats imitating him.

    I can't offhand think of any terrorist attacks on Norway by Muslim jihadists. Correct me if there are actual gaps in my knowledge here.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Thanks Dr. Phil we really needed your diagnosis.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Osama bin laden and others have repeatedly stated in communiques that they are in favor of global Islamic rule. That's why they want to kill the Danish cartoonists, bombed Danish embassies, kill other Muslims, bomb Turkish Synagogues, etc while NEVER giving a shit about France's neocolonial project in the ME.

  • sloopyinca||

    How many times did they go after anyone outside of the muslim world for a likeness of Mohammed? His likeness has been in the Supreme Court since it was built, and wasn't even brought up until 1997. (It's still there, btw)

    They never said anything about westerners drawing Mohammed until they latched onto it as an excuse...in retaliation to us meddling in their affairs.

  • John||

    They kill more Muslims than Westerners. Read the link about Yemen.

  • sloopyinca||

    That just plays into my point, dumbass. They left us alone for decades for things they punished their own people for. Now we start meddling in their affairs and they use those antiquated (but local) laws as an excuse to attack western interests.

    Does that not say to you "if we left them alone they would do the same"? The proof is in the entire history of Western-Islamic relations.

  • John||

    Yeah, if we just left the animals alone, they would only attack each other. I wish you were right. But the entire history of Western Islamic Relations proves otherwise. Islam has always been an aggressive religion at war with its neighbors.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Islam has always been an aggressive religion at war with its neighbors.

    There's a couple of other religions like that, too. Can you think of one?

  • Trespassers W||

    It's war-boners all around today.

    They are members of a group at war with us. It is completely constitutional.

    It's baffling, then, how hard it is to convict people in the Mafia. I mean, they're in the Mafia, right? They're members of a criminal organization. Why do we even need a trial?

    As long as we're sticking people on a list and having serious deliberations before remotely executing them constitutionally, let's really get some leverage out of it.

  • John||

    That is a good question. This is harder than the mafia because they are harder to capture. What do you do about a guy sitting in NW Pakistan? To capture him you would have to invade the place. That is a bit hard.

    Yemen is a bit different. But, to try them, you have to reveal a whole lot of intelligence. And Obama doesn't want to do that. The solution to that is to capture them and bring them before military tribunals. But everyone had a stroke about those. So, Obama's solution is to just kill them.

    And that is something that civil libertarians ought to consider. We are not just going to let these guys go. So given that, wouldn't it be better to have military commissions than just having the President whacking people? Sorry but, capture them all and give them a trial where they might get off in US District Court is never going to happen.

  • Tulpa the White||

    So your argument is that, assuming your position is the only viable one, we should agree with your position.

    You're ignoring the root of the problem, ie WHY ARE WE CONCERNED WITH A GUY SITTING IN NW PAKISTAN.

  • John Thacker||

    the Times peppers over the very real

    "Papers over," surely? This eggcorn brought to us by what, AutoCorrect?

  • Ska||

    I read it as peppers, similar to bullet spray or shrapnel.

  • Ed||

    thanks, i'll chalk it up to esl

  • sloopyinca||

  • Pro Libertate||

    What's the point of the UN now?

  • sarcasmic||

    To take money from poor people in rich countries and give it to rich people in poor countries.

  • sloopyinca||

    What's the point of the UN now?

    To Un-Nazi the world...duh!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, there is a stunning lack of Nazis these days. Maybe I'm being too hard on the UN.

  • R C Dean||

    While there may not be many Nazis, there are plenty of (crypto)fascists, many of whom can be found living large at the UN.

  • ||

    RC happens to be correct, here. The UN building itself seems to house most of the these fascist-types in one, discrete, convenient little building. Kind of like a bunch of vapid celebrities on a SpaceX launch, all right together in one handy place.

    Not that I would suggest anything tragic happen to either conveniently huddled and conglomerated group. Surely, I would never do that! Surely!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I meant old school Nazis. The new kind are everywhere.

  • Pi Guy||

    Now this, I feel, is a suitable target for a drone strike.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You're not being positive enough about the Blues Brothers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's impossible for me to be more positive about Jake and Elwood.

  • Restoras||

    I thought the point was to make a point? Excuse me while I go flake some chert.

  • ||

    What's the point of the UN now?

    There is this little thing about regulating the Internet and imposing "Medical care as a human right." Wealth redistribution is always high on the laundry list of chores at the UN.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe it served some purpose during the Cold War that I can't quite articulate, but I don't see any purpose to it at all, now.

  • ||

    As a forum for argie-bargie I have no problem with the UN. For all of the pointless debate, every so often a real conflict is resolved to the beefit of everyone.

    I am less sanguine about the activities of the various international bureaucracies which aside from working mischief on various thirdworld countries appear to exist mainly to provide comfortable sinecures in romantic European cities for well off graduates of various top tier Western universities.

    Even when they are out "in the field" UN agency officials are the modern day successors and upholders of the grand colonial tradition.

    And The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should more properly called The Universal Declaration of Human Entitlements.

  • ||

    while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.

    Holy fucking shit. This needs to get thrown in the face of every liberal you know who is blindly supporting Obama. How the fuck can due process be satisfied by private deciding someone should die? They would be absolutely up in arms about this if Bush were still in office doing the exact same thing.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government's sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects' biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

    Giving new meaning to Death By Committee

  • sarcasmic||

    Death Panels!

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I'm envisioning the American Idol judging panel, just with more spangles.

  • Trespassers W||

    “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Progressive of the United States.

  • T||

    So, because something bad happened in the past, we shouldn't be able to complain about bad things happening now, John?

    In no particular order:

    A Navy officer who hung pirates presumably a) kept records of it and b) was still answerable to the Department of War. Who's BO answerable to, John? Where's the oversight?

    Oh, that's right, there isn't any.

    Similarly, the AUMF is questionably constitutional (argument elided here for brevity) but in any event contains no provisions for oversight. The president can have people go shoot who he determines is a problem. Gee, that's an awfully broad grant of power to the executive and again, unreviewable. Nice checks and balances, guys!

    But hey, if we have a problem with how this was done, we want the terrorists to win and Americans to die!

    Or maybe we expect that we're the most powerful country on earth, we're under no existential threat from goat farmers who hijack planes, and we can take a little extra time and do it right. We can either try to live up to our principles or we can jettison them the moment they become inconvenient.

    It's pretty fucking obvious which side of that line you come down on, John.

  • John||

    Who is the oversight in any war? Roosevelt ordered Germany bombed. Truman ordered the atomic bomb. Where was the oversight?

    The oversight is the electorate. You don't like making war on Al Quada, fine. Don't vote for Obama.

    And just because a threat is not "existential" doesn't mean it shouldn't be dealt with. We under no existential threat from Pirates, but I still think it was a good idea to do something about it. Hell, we were probably under no existential threat from the Japanese. I am sure they would have gladly taken tribute money to leave us alone. That is a complete fallacy.

    And these people are not goat farmers. They are sophisticated city dwellers who buy into an idiotic set of ideals. And I don't care if they are only capable of killing one American, I expect the government to do something about it. That is its job, to defend its citizens.

  • sloopyinca||

    Hell, we were probably under no existential threat from the Japanese.

    The Japanese attacked us. They sent an entire fleet and attacked Pearl Harbor. I don't understand what you are getting at.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I take it you missed the word "existential".

    The Japanese had no intention of overthrowing the US government or attacking any existing state territory. They just wanted to make it more difficult for us to get in the way of their East Asian empire ambitions.

  • T||

    In theory, the Congress provides oversight. Kind of difficult when they abdicate that reponsibility by an AUMF, ain't it? Saying "go handle it, President(s)!" doesn't leave much room for oversight.

    Extra-judicial drone strikes for murder, John. That's what you just endorsed. Way to go!

  • John||

    It is a war. Therefore the entire operation is 'extra judicial'. Would you prefer that we invade Pakistan so we can arrest these guys? Would that make you feel better?

  • T||

    It is a war. Therefore the entire operation is 'extra judicial'.

    Really? I'll be sure to inform my wife's law school buddy who works for the CIA the whole thing is extra-judicial, so his job is moot. And all those JAG officers can be let go, since there's no law involved. It's all extra-judicial, right?

    We took an activity where there was law, and moved a lot of it into the black world where anything goes and there's no oversight. Kid yourself about this if you want, but we've set a ton of horrible precedents and it ain't going away. Killing American citizens is the tip of the iceberg.

  • John||

    You said "extra judicial". You didn't say "extra legal". Sure the law of war still applies. And this is legal under the law of war.

  • T||

    1 a : not forming a valid part of regular legal proceedings [an extrajudicial investigation]
    b : delivered without legal authority : private
    2: done in contravention of due process of law [an extrajudicial execution]

    Yeah, extrajudicial. If you think this shit comes under the law of war, you're delusional. Attacking a non-combatant in a different time zone in an undeclared war is pretty much the antithesis of the law of war.

  • Tulpa the White||

    They can pull the plug on appropriations for a standing army every 2 years.

  • Loki||

    The oversight is the electorate.

    In theory. In reality Obama is simply picking up where GWB left off, and whover comes after Obama, whether it's Romneybot next year or someone else in 2017 will most likely continue the policy for the forseeable future.

    The politicians and the bureaucrats (who are the ones who really make policy anyway) can pretty much ignore us at this point. IOW representitive domocracy is just window dressing. No matter who we elect the career bureaucrats are really in charge.

  • R C Dean||

    My problem with the AUMF against terrorism is that it doesn't really fit with the definition of "war."

    Wars are conflicts between sovereigns. An AUMF directed at, say, Iraq, strikes me as close enough to a declaration of war. An AUMF against "terrorism" or "Al Qaeda" does not.

  • John||

    There is nothing to say that a "war" has to be an international armed conflict. You think it means that. Good for you. But international law doesn't look at it that way.

  • R C Dean||

    Actually, it does.

    http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/W/War.aspx

    Civil wars, of course, are wars between two putative sovereigns over which one actually is the sovereign. International wars are wars between countries. You can't have a real war without a sovereign (de jure or de facto).

  • Tulpa the White||

    Putative sovereigns are a dime a dozen. Didn't OBL claim to be the Caliph?

    And of course, civil wars can happen where one side has no intention of replacing the other as sovereign. You might have heard of one such civil war.

  • sloopyinca||

    You are confusing The War Of Northern Aggression with an internal conflict. The states seceded in accordance with the founding principles.

    Sorry, but the US Civil War was a civil war in name only.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I heard it wasn't all that polite, either.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I heard it wasn't all that polite, either.

    At least they never said "cunt".

  • Tulpa the White||

    I guess the South's dad never taught it to read the contract before signing it, since the Constitution doesn't say squat about secession. Does talk quite a bit about putting down rebelliions and insurrections, as well as the feds having jurisdiction over property they buy from the states (e.g., Fort Sumter).

  • Tulpa the White||

    The 2001 AUMF was directed at those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and those associated with them, etc. So it wasn't "officially" an AUMF against terror or al-Qaeda, but on a (vaguely) specified group of people.

    I still don't think it rises to the level of a DOW, though.

  • R C Dean||

    Anytime I see a chief executive type working a Blackberry, I think "there's somebody who doesn't understand what their job really is, or how to do it."

    Blackberries and the like are for micro-tactics, quick reactions to routine situations. If your chief executive is handling that, you're all doing it wrong.

  • sloopyinca||

    Shorter Obama (and John and Cytotoxic): We need to kill them to find out what's in them.

  • freeAgent||

    When Bush smoked weed and did "maybe a little blow" it was bad, but when Obama did it, it was cool. That same logic applies to drone killings, rendition, indefinite detention, and torture. They're cool, ok?

  • Tulpa the White||

    “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

    Yeah right. The program is still officially classified and he blames it all on Bush. The tether is short my ass.

  • ||

    John, do you actually ever fucking work? I mean you get paid by the public teat, right? What kind of government job allows you so much time to face fuck Sloopy for having a conscience?

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