War on Terror

GOP Candidates (Except Trump) Promise Not to Kill Families of Terrorism Suspects (Intentionally)

It's come to this.



The Republican candidates at last night's debate went on the record on the issue of targeting the families of terrorism suspects, an idea first floated by Donald Trump, who defended it at the debate. The other candidates opposed it.

This is what the debate on the war on terror looks like 15 years after 9/11—with the Republican frontrunner promising he will order the military to commit war crimes.

Well, first, Trump insists, he'll make such actions legal.

"Now, we have to obey the laws," Trump told the debate audience in Miami. "But we have to expand those laws, because we have to be able to fight on at least somewhat of an equal footing or we will never ever knock out ISIS and all of the others that are so bad."

Trump continued: "We better expand our laws or we're being a bunch of suckers, and they are laughing at us. They are laughing at us, believe me."

Asked whether he would pursue a policy of targeting the families of terrorism suspects, Marco Rubio said it wasn't necessary. Instead, he claimed U.S. intelligence agencies had been "hamstrung" and that unleashing them, as well as spending more money on the military, would "defeat terrorists." No specifics on what that would entail from Rubio.

Ted Cruz also rejected the idea of targeting families of terrorism suspects. "We've never targeted innocent civilians and we're not going to start now," he said, before offering empathy for the people who support such a position.

"But listen, Jake, I understand," Cruz said, referring to debate moderator CNN's Jake Tapper. "People are scared and for seven years, we've faced terrorist attacks and President Obama lectures Americans on Islamophobia. That is maddening."

Cruz then pivoted to the Iran deal, claiming Trump supported Hillary Clinton and John Kerry's efforts, and finally to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, claiming Trump comments about being "neutral" in the conflict were actually anti-Israeli.

Unfortunately, Cruz wasn't asked how rejecting the idea of targeting families comports with his "make the sand glow" approach to destroying ISIS. Carpet bombing can catch plenty of innocent civilians with or without explicit acknowledgement of that.

Last week, Glenn Greenwald observed that many of Trump's "policy proposals" aren't contradictory to the U.S. mainstream but an "uncomfortable reflection of it." Trump's desire to kill the families of terrorism suspects fits into that—drone strikes are estimated to have killed about 5,000 people, and up to 1,000 of them may have been civilians. The numbers could be even higher, with the Obama administration working on releasing kill numbers for the drone only in the twilight of its term.

The U.S. often doesn't know the identity of who its killing; "signature strikes" rely on profiling. The U.S. has bombed wedding parties and emergency responders arriving at the scene of earlier strikes. Plenty of families have been killed already. These realities even inform our action movies. London Has Fallen revolves around a Paris-style terrorist attack targeting Western leaders over a drone strike that killed the family of a gun-running terrorist but not the terrorist himself. It includes a scene where the vice president (played by Morgan Freeman) and the terrorist leader exchange accusations over who sells weapons to bad guys. The U.S. is the number one arms merchant in the world.

Ted Cruz bemoans the president's rhetoric on Islamophobia because people are scared of terrorist attacks. Yet Obama's rhetoric on Islamophobia is also maddening because it doesn't acknowledge the role U.S. counterterrorism policies play in encouraging Islamophobia by overstating the threat of Islamist terror.

When the U.S. killed 150 Somalis last weekend, the military insisted they posed an "imminent threat" to U.S. forces in Somalia. U.S. foreign policy often contributes to the metastization of terrorist threats around the world. That contributes to Islamophobia and acclimates Americans to the idea of killing the families of terrorism suspects, creating the room for Donald Trump. When the U.S. killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, both U.S. citizens, Robert Gibbs, a former Obama White House press secretary, said the boy should've had "a more responsible father."

Of course, President Obama says he has nothing to do with the rise of Trump either.

NEXT: Donald Trump's Plan to Preserve Social Security by Eliminating Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Doesn't Even Come Close to Adding Up

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  1. Reason has all the important shit covered of late.

    1. Yeah, because killing people without due process is a total non-issue.

    2. As opposed to all those other candidates who totally want to put a stop to killing people without due process. Reason is the same site that bashed Rand Paul and lumped him in with other hawks in half their stories on him because he dared to not be dovish enough for them.

  2. “Expand those law”…

    I mean, he kind of has a point (though I doubt he realizes what it is).

    The United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court. We are free to change our definition of war crime to not include “killing innocent family members of terrorist suspects” and that won’t be adjudicated anywhere ever.

    1. When I was a young boy I was very puzzled by my grandfather’s opposition to the war crimes trials for the Nazis. I get it now. That opened a hell of a can of worms for us.

    2. Oh, the ICC can adjudicate us all they want, but we’d ignore that. Where it would get sticky would be if they handed down an indictment of a US official, and someone arrested that official on foreign soil.

    3. We can’t change the meaning of what Thomas Jefferson called “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

  3. London Has Fallen revolves around a Paris-style terrorist attack targeting Western leaders over a drone strike that killed the family of a gun-running terrorist but not the terrorist himself.

    I already saw that cliche in Homeland season 2. The one where Claire Danes fucks the ginger dude.

  4. Please stop using the bullshit leftist term “Islamophobia”. Don’t be trained parrots for CAIR.


  5. Interesting developments happening on the other side of the aisle. I can’t wait for the endless articles.

    1. It’s kind of tough to work Trump into that story.

      This investigation boggles my mind, really. The bitch has broken a good dozen federal laws that the feds charge people with on the regular, especially under Obama. Yet the media is still out there repeating Hillary’s defense that it’s unclear what crime she broke.

      1. *law.

      2. Honestly, it’d boggle my mind if they turned on her over mere points of law. Especially when there’s a fascist (Cruz, Trump, Rubio – WDATTDIM) on the other side being voted in to oppose her.

        1. They already know she is lying, corrupt, incompetent, and criminal. They just don’t care, and will continue to support her. Note the polls that show something like well over 80% of Democrat voters think she is untrustworthy, yet they vote for her anyway.

          1. They already know she is lying, corrupt, incompetent, and criminal.

            Based on my conversations with some intelligent, well-informed Dem partisans, they are in deep, deep denial about this. When I observed that there was no question she had committed multiple felonies under a strict liability statute that made her defenses irrelevant, they said “I don’t want to hear about it.”

            They literally don’t hear the facts about what she has done.

    2. You’re not fooling me, Lucy. I know you’re going to pull the ball away.

      Hillary being indicted would be the first thing that gives me the slightest glimmer of hope for this country in many years…..and that’s how I know that it will never happen.

    3. What’s the big deal? I mean, Snowden mishandles classified documents and gets the Noble Prize, but when Hillary does it, people want to string her up???? Hipocrysy much????

      1. That is some grade A sarc.

        Well done.

    4. I will be shocked if that clumsy fool Pagliano doesnt stumble and bang his head on a bullet.

      1. Even outwardly happy people can have unknown demons and commit suicide from time to time.

        -James Carville

    5. Faux News.

      *waves hand dismissively*

    6. The ongoing conservative faith that Hillary will ever face consequences for breaking the law would be kind of touching if it weren’t so naive.

      1. Yeah, it really is laughable that some people think that a Justice Department under Democratic control would actually go after Hillary Clinton no matter what she did. That’s why she can laugh at the thought of actually being indicted and call it absurd.

        1. Yeah, it really is laughable that some people think that a Justice Department under Democratic or Republican control would actually go after Hillary Clinton no matter what she did. That’s why she can laugh at the thought of actually being indicted and call it absurd.


          No one named Clinton will ever be indicted of anything ever in my lifetime. Why even George Clinton could tear the head off of a puppy on the white house lawn and walk.

      2. Unlike you they love America.

      3. Why just conservatives? I know lots of libertarians and many real liberals that would like justice to prevail here, and believe it ultimately will. You know, it’s called being principled.

        What I find appalling is the number of people that hope she escapes justice because they don’t like the person that might win the presidency if she ends up indicted.

        1. Well y’all can be as principled as you like, but Washington DC doesn’t run on principles. It runs on connections, and Hillary’s got ’em. Even if people hate her personally, they would never risk their careers/reputations trying to take her on. Even the Republicans will dither around on this until the clock runs out and she’s dedicating her presidential library.

          1. I disagree. The current head of the FBI comes across as pretty principled. If DOJ doesn’t indict after the FBI recommends it, there’s no way in hell she survives the bureau’s leaks and onslaught by the GOP candidate and the myriad super PACs.

            1. The current head of the FBI comes across as pretty principled.

              I guess we’ll see. And I bet she would survive if DOJ ignores a recommendation to indict. Don’t underestimate the power of having the media on her side.

  6. TL;DR?

    Basically, the article describes the should-be-criminal record of the current administration, which the leading Dem candidate supported in word and deed…and proceeds to use it to bash the current GOP candidates.

    Of course, if the article is followed up closely by one explaining Hillary being for unlimited drone bombing and the extrajudicial killings of American citizens, I’ll happily apologize. But I’ll hold my breath on that happening.

    1. So, they note that Obama has already killed accused terrorist’s family members? Like Anwar al Awlaki’s teenage son and his teenage cousin? Who by the way were American citizens?

      1. Yeah, one whole sentence. And they don’t even mention Hillary’s position on those killings or the other ones she was a cabinet member during.

        One whole sentence, and hardly a throaty condemnation. Just a note that it might ::gasp:: create room for Trump. As if the killings aren’t abhorrent, just that they might result in a blowhard getting into office who might, maybe, continue indiscriminately killing…with no mention of the other major candidate that was a cheerleading SecState while the killings were going on.

      2. He should have had better parents. /Eric Holder

    2. Oh, this is huge. Or perhaps ‘UUUUUGE. And were it anyone else under investigation I’d bet they would be convicted and spend years or decades behind bars. But given that woman’s demonstrated capacity to shrug off scandal, and the complacency of the lapdog media, this isn’t going anywhere.

      I wish I was wrong. I really do.

  7. Random wedding-goer in the middle east: “So what they’re really discussing here is the meaning of intentionally, right?”

  8. These discussions are useless. We are not in a war on terror, we are just fucking around endlessly half-assing it. Well, not even half. This will never end. Next election cycle for choosing a new CnC we will still be discussing the same things with different names.

    We should have gone into Afghanistan in 2002 and gone after the Pashtoons. The Taliban is nothing more than the warrior class of the Pashtoon tribe and their campaigns there are attempts to dominate the other tribes. They fucked up by allying with Al Qaeda and we should have made it clear that harboring and assisting our enemies would result in death. Do this shit again and we will exterminate you entirely.

    Mercilessly hammering them into the dirt until they were feeble and few and made into slaves by the other tribes would have sent a message. Then we should have packed up our shit in 2003 or 2004 and gone home. There would never have been an Iraq war and possibly no Boko Haram, ISIS, etc. The casualties, the damage, the ill will…all of it would now be exponentially less.

    If you have to get into a fight don’t fuck around, go in big and get it over with.

    1. Yup, a punitive expedition makes sense. The endless nation-building bullshit does not.

    2. I’m only wondering who the GOP will put up to unseat Hillary in 2020.

      1. You mean 2024. I’m sure in 8 years the rule of law will be so far gone that the 22nd amendment will be ignored or re-interpreted just like all the rest of them.

      2. Jenna Bush?

      3. 2020? Then you’d mean President Castro. Because if Hillary doesn’t get indicted and survives the Trump email onslaught that would happen in the general, her chances of physically surviving the first four years without having a stroke are pretty slim.

    3. I used to watch Pashtoons every Saturday morning.

  9. Seriously Ed….aren’t you supposed to be the Foreign Affairs guy or something?

    is there really nothing at all worth talking about except “POLITICIANS PROMISE TO PROECT BABIES AND TRUMP SAYS NUH UH”? The Norks are lobbing missiles into the sea, the Turks are now trying to undermine the judiciary, the Chinese are declaring sovereignty over the ocean, the ECB has launched a negative interest-rate policy, and Canada is promising to kill its energy-export industry to please Obama over dinner.

    You’d think there’d be at least something worth a few words other than the meaningless rhetorical posturing of Trump.

    1. Shut the fuck up, yokel. Just because cocktail parties don’t interest you doesn’t mean everybody else should give up their social life in the name of equal reportage.

      1. Reason seems to be trying to Out-Salon Salon itself in its breathless, 24/7 diaper-wetting over Trump.

        In fact, Salon seems to be more content-rich, at least today = they have something (cross-posted from Alternet, natch, and probably way-retarded) titled, “We are witnessing the decline of Saudi Arabia as a major power

        which is probably at least 1-50th *true*

        Other than that 1 piece, you could pretty much swap all the Trump-related headlines here w/ theirs, and you’d never know the freaking difference.

    2. It’s only 100% immoral when Americans do it. For other countries, % immorality is based on how closely their government is aligned with America.

    3. If you don’t want to talk or read about Trump, you’re in love with him. Or something

    4. You left out the best one:

      The Iranians are testing nuclear-capable missiles, in violation of Barack’s Awesome Deal, and are refusing to allow inspections, in violation of Barack’s Awesome Deal. They’ve already got their money, because Mr. 3D Chess fronted it, and now they are threatening to just cancel the rest of the deal.

      Here at Reason? I don’t remember seeing a single article or Links bullet.

      1. they’ve already got their money

        Well, they already got about $150bn in cash-equivalents which they immediately funneled into trade deals with people like Italy, France and Russia….

        … the bet being that they can rely on these people to block any further new sanctions now that most have been lifted.

        The 3D-chess-playing was being done by Iran. By getting the US to lift its demand for everyone else to comply with strict sanctions, the US will never be able to put the lid back on that jar again. They’ll get *some* sanctions, sure. Mostly preventing US companies from doing business w/ iran. or preventing sale of iranian assets in US-linked markets. But the tight-net of the old-regime is gone and aint coming back, no matter what Iran does. Which is partly why they flaunted the “deal” almost immediately after it was signed. Why bother pretending?

  10. Well if you kill any of the women, their not going to care anyways. Now if you kill their favorite sheep or goat gomba…

  11. GOP Candidates (Except Trump) Promise Not to Kill Families of Terrorism Suspects (Intentionally)
    It’s come to this.

    It’s been here for a while.

  12. Perhaps it would be more realistic for Trump to state that he will tell his supporters and goons to not beat up people at his rallies. Baby steps.

  13. “claiming Trump comments about being ‘neutral’ in the conflict were actually anti-Israeli.”

    US-Israel relations are weird. Anything other than gleeful, absolute support for Israel and billions in free money is seen as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic.”

    1. It’s the Fundies. The Old Testament said that the Jews were the Chosen People, and that’s good enough for Mr. and Mrs. Flyover. Also, the Jews having their own state is one of the signs of the End of Days, and you do want Armageddon, don’t you?

      1. Armageddon to too important to leave to God.

        1. God makes the rules, it’s up to us to implement them. You don’t want to make him angry.

      2. Most fundamentalists I’ve known could barely stand Catholics, let alone Jew’s. Just sayin’.

        1. And how many have you known? Or are just stereotyping religious people = racist?
          The ones I’ve known, and I grew up in an Evangelical church, were big supporters of Israel because chosen people and rapture.

  14. “Unfortunately, Cruz wasn’t asked how rejecting the idea of targeting families comports with his “make the sand glow” approach to destroying ISIS. Carpet bombing can catch plenty of innocent civilians with or without explicit acknowledgement of that”

    It is easy to mock the idea that it’s worse to *purposefully* kill civilians than to kill them as the side-effect of something else.

    But a policy of purposeful killing will mean *more* dead civilians than we’re getting now.

    So I’m going to say that this is a relevant distinction.

  15. good effort.

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