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The Jehoshua Novels


So Now We're Killing Americans?

I’d say, “I told you so,” but you already knew something like this would happen:

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said.

How long until more Americans, say leftists who are working in Latin America against US corporate interests are branded ‘terrorists?’ The slippery slope is getting ever more slippery every day.

Glenn Greenwald comments:

Just think about this for a minute. Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests.” They’re entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations. Amazingly, the Bush administration’s policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges — based solely on the President’s claim that they were Terrorists — produced intense controversy for years. That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution. Shouldn’t Obama’s policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind — not imprisoned, but killed — produce at least as much controversy?

33 comments to So Now We're Killing Americans?

  • someofparts

    So I take Ian Welsh’s advice and retire to Buenos Aires. Then I settle in, make friends and get known as the liberal gringa critical of the U.S. Next thing you know, Obama’s Republican successor puts me on their kill list.

    I would make a further joke here about fleeing to Mars to escape the long reach of U.S. fascists, but now that NASA is being privatized I guess that option is out too.

  • BuddhaSixFour

    What’s the alternative? Do we limit any operations possibly involving American nationals to “capture only”? Do we implement some sort of legal process to declare an American citizen to be a legal enemy combatant in advance and give them a token opportunity to refute the charge? Do we say that you void your constitutional rights when engaging in military activities against the United States outside of its borders? (I bet that’s the actual legal reasoning.)

    As for someofpart’s concerns, there is a big difference between targeting someone actively engaged in military actions against the United States and someone who is friends with people with leanings contrary to US policy. If they pick up weapons, though, it would behoove you to move on, if only to prevent being collateral damage.

    It used to be that wars were fought largely along nationalistic lines. That doesn’t always apply now. While I’m uncomfortable with the potential slippery slope, I’m not going to give an enemy combatant a tactical advantage to kill Americans because they themselves are, too.

  • Sean Paul Kelley

    bogus argument, as Glenn lucidly puts it:

    if U.S. forces are fighting on an actual battlefield, then they (like everyone else) have the right to kill combatants actively fighting against them, including American citizens. That’s just the essence of war. That’s why it’s permissible to kill a combatant engaged on a real battlefield in a war zone but not, say, torture them once they’re captured and helplessly detained. But combat is not what we’re talking about here. The people on this “hit list” are likely to be killed while at home, sleeping in their bed, driving in a car with friends or family, or engaged in a whole array of other activities. More critically still, the Obama administration — like the Bush administration before it — defines the “battlefield” as the entire world. So the President claims the power to order U.S. citizens killed anywhere in the world, while engaged even in the most benign activities carried out far away from any actual battlefield, based solely on his say-so and with no judicial oversight or other checks. That’s quite a power for an American President to claim for himself.

    And here:

    Who knows what the truth is here? That’s why we have what are called “trials” — or at least some process — before we assume that government accusations are true and then mete out punishment accordingly. As Marcy Wheeler notes, the U.S. Government has not only repeatedly made false accusations of Terrorism against foreign nationals in the past, but against U.S. citizens as well. She observes: “I guess the tenuousness of those ties don’t really matter, when the President can dial up the assassination of an American citizen.”

    This was a power the founding fathers rightly kept out of the hands of the president.

    “Sí che dal fatto il dir non sia diverso.”

    -Dante

  • JustPlainDave

    …has pretty much no meaning against a skilled adversary using asymmetric strategies. Rely on that as the factor defining whether you can kill an adversary and you hand him or her a tremendous advantage.

    “Lose the initiative, lose the fight.” ~ not-Richard Haass

  • Sean Paul Kelley

    …has pretty much no meaning against a skilled adversary using asymmetric strategies. Rely on that as the factor defining whether you can kill an adversary and you hand him or her a tremendous advantage.

    “Sí che dal fatto il dir non sia diverso.”

    -Dante

  • zot23

    They are called “criminals” and sometimes we form “police forces” to go out and arrest them. If they fire back during arrest (as if on a battlefield), they can be killed in self-defense and no sense of moral compromise.

    This line of thinking can also lead to terrorists being downgraded to just criminals and not as a never ending war against a criminal tactic. Be warned!

  • hvd

    Or to put it another way – criminals may be skilled adversaries using asymmetric strategies (the may is there only because of the skilled), but we do not merely go out and kill them even though we are engaged in a “battle” or “war” with them.

    War is a unique event in which the normal rules of behavior do not obtain. Herein lies the danger in redefining anti-social behaviors as war.

  • JustPlainDave

    …where it says that the state can never, ever kill you. Seriously, what’s so special about you guys that you never want to clean up after your own messes? The most likely set of implications historically of American forces passing on an opportunity to take out an American bad guy are that some other allied nation’s nationals are at increased risk of being hit because they’re the more convenient target. At least this one non-American doesn’t think there’s anything particularly special about mutts that happen to have American nationality that they should be protected above potential non-American victims.

    If a citizen takes up arms against innocents in the service of transnational terrorism and you don’t have the option of bringing him in, you take him out. Giving him the benefit of the doubt takes the form of working as hard as you can to make it a capture rather than a kill and busting ass to be as sure as you can, but if you can’t make the capture you make the kill.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • Synoia

    Is another’s freedom fighter.

    Under the US behavior, the UK was entitle to drop guided missiles in New England, or New York pubs, because the Irish Catholics funded the IRA.

  • JustPlainDave

    …subject to lethal force. Take a hostage, place a gun to their head and act in a manner that would give the local constabulary reason to believe that you mean to kill that hostage and they can legally shoot you very, very dead without you ever having threatened them.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • hvd

    You don’t seem to get the point that under the U.S. constitution, proof beyond a reasonable doubt must be elicited in a court of law. This ought to apply to non-nationals as well as nationals.

    One of the distinguishing characteristics of war is that there is an actual battleground, presence on which, absent some distinguishing characteristic such as a red cross, does away with the normal rules of proof.

    I take it that you support, for example, lynchings or wouldn’t mind an executive order to execute a suspected murderer if he were, you know, a mutt.

  • JustPlainDave

    Domestic terrorism, now that’s another matter and I would be far more understanding of a nation privileging its rights above all else were it placing only its own citizens at risk. However, that’s not the situation with al-Qa`eda. Y’all think rights are absolute and want to place your collective neck on the chopping block, have at it – but you don’t get to place everyone else’s there with yours.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • chalo

    The US Government is presumably a legal institution that derives its right to govern from certain agreed-upon operating principles. That was the nature and distinction of the Great American Experiment, at least hypothetically. “A government of laws, not men” and so forth.

    So murdering people by decree, predicated on policies that were not agreed upon or even reasonably consented to, is a naked flouting of due process. You either have due process all the time, or you don’t have due process.

    That’s why we have to treat criminals procedurally as criminals and not psychopathically as “terrists”, no matter how much we hate and fear them. Because respecting the legal rights of our enemies is the only way we can maintain respect for our own legal rights. The same applies to civil rights and, ultimately, human rights. But first things first, and the first thing is to develop a national standard of conduct that is more coherent and ethical than that of an injured rabid dog.

  • chalo

    right down to the local level, deserve to be killed for their flagrant and in many cases lethal abuses of power. But I won’t be murdering them, because that’s not how decent people operate.

    Why can’t we function as decent people on an international level? Decent people don’t shoot until fired upon, full stop. “Preemption” is the philosophy of the criminally insane. We’d better hope that the rest of the world does not decide to apply a doctrine of preemptive violence to us, because there’s no making the case that we don’t constitute an imminent threat.

  • JustPlainDave

    …anyone else’s countrymen should be expected to put their ass on the line for the Constitution of the United States. How Americans run affairs in their country with their countrymen is their business, but when it implicates others it just ain’t a call that one should be so unilateral about. Thinking purely in American terms with an exclusively American frame of reference without any attempt at balancing other interests? That’s what got us all here in large part.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • creativelcro

    “place a gun to their head and act in a manner that would give the local constabulary reason to believe that you mean to kill that hostage”

    Isn’t that redundant? Placing a gun to a hostage’s head for me would be enough reason to snipe the kidnapper.

  • hvd

    Who is putting their ass on the line for our Constitution?

    And who put the U.S. in charge of policing, or fighting with (since you obviously can’t see the value of policing) the world?

    Isn’t it our meddling in the affairs of others that got us (the world) here in the first place?

  • JustPlainDave

    …commanders try to guard against is suicide by cop. We had an incident here in TO a number of years ago where a subject was killed with a gun to a hostage’s head – not because he had the gun to the hostage’s head but because he was heading outside the building where the gun team would lose containment and place potentially hundreds of members of the public at risk. That amount of risk was unacceptable and the subject was shot twice in the head at close range and unfortunately killed.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • hvd

    Let me ask you, if a U.S. citizen that U.S. officials believed was a psychopathic killer was known to be on holiday in Paris, and it was further believed that he had a particular distaste for Parisians, would we be justified in sending in the drones? If a mafia type from Philadelphia was believed to be engaged in the takeover of territory in Italy that would put Italian civilians in danger should we send in the drones? If an Irishman from Boston were bringing some money or guns to IRA sympathizers during the troubles should we have sent in the drones?

    What exactly are you talking about?

  • JustPlainDave

    When one passes up a shot at a known, operational bad guy, one leaves him free to continue to operate. The nature of the business is such that the opportunities to capture or kill are fleeting – pass up an opportunity to take someone down and there is a very real possibility that you may not get another opportunity before they pull off an op.

    Historic trends indicate that the victim of any given op is much more more likely to be a non-US national, due in large part to the difficulty of striking against the US mainland. When you deny the possibility of unilateral lethal action against a US citizen, by virtue of that citizenship and the associated Constitutional rights you are privileging those rights, enjoyed by you and the bad guy, above the risk imposed on people who are not part of that social compact (i.e., who do not enjoy those same rights). It’s one thing to say that US citizens should be subject to that risk in the service of their Constitution – it’s quite another to say that non-citizens should be as well.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • dot_txt

    The Belgrano was sunk outside the 200-nautical-mile (370 km) total exclusion zone around the Falklands. However, exclusion zones are historically declared for the benefit of neutral vessels; during war, under international law, the heading and location of a belligerent naval vessel has no bearing on its status. In addition, the captain of the Belgrano, Hector Bonzo, has testified that the attack was legitimate (as did the Argentine government in 1994).

    i.e. If they are so inclined, oblige them.

  • Celsius 233

    with Greenwald and someofparts. I am out of the states and regularly savage the government (ours) and I’m just old fashioned enough to despise drone warfare and targeted killings and seeing a nation of men not laws. We’ve strayed far and dangerously; possibly fatally.


    “We’re all of us children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell God’s name with the wrong alphabet blocks.” ~ Edwin Arlington Robinson

  • JT

    Dave, I’m with you all the way. Just like the Woody Harelson character in Natural Born Killer, I know you can eat a bunch of mushrooms and then just know who the good guys and the bad guys are. All it takes for me is one look in their eyes and I know.
    And all that pc pussy bs stuff about due process and constitutional protections…that’s just bs slowing things down. Just gitter done. Lead, follow or get out of the way.
    How could anyone think a US justice officer could ever make a mistake? God talks to them directly and they are never wrong.
    You gotta break a few eggs to make omlets. Collateral damage is just the cost of doing business. Jeesh, so you waste a few innocents gettin the job done. I’m with you all the way. USA rules…Texas justice!
    Whew, that felt good!
    Sorry about that SP.

  • JustPlainDave

    …and good ones at that. The issue with regards to the guys on the “death list” is a lot more restricted. It is reasonably foreseeable that there will be a scenario where the choice is reduced to the binary of kill or let go, without any in between measure being possible. Given that the decision to grease guys standing beside them without the advantage of US citizenship wouldn’t [and hasn't to the tune of hundreds of times] merit a second thought, what is it about that citizenship that’s so magical? Why does that privilege them so? My view, if one draws hard binaries and says that there’s no situation in which the USG could legitimately kill a US citizen engaging in that activity, while other nationalities do not enjoy that protection, I think one is engaging in the type of reflexive exceptionalism that’s kept America so firmly mired in this mess and has dragged a good many other parties along with them. Part of getting out is realizing that we’re all in this together and that no one’s sacred cows are above being gored now and then.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • JustPlainDave

    …everyone else gets lead? I don’t think you guys are going to have the most painless adjustment to the multipolar world.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • Celsius 233

    “We’re all of us children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell God’s name with the wrong alphabet blocks.” ~ Edwin Arlington Robinson

  • pihwht

    did Anwar al-Aulaqi do? All we know from the post is that he was “thought” to be meeting with “al-Qaeda leaders.” U. S. intelligence thought he might be talking to someone? Many years ago, when I was in the Water Dept. here in Kansas City, I spoke regularly to a fellow who was described as an organized crime figure. I didn’t know who he was until after he was blown up, but I sure talked to him every time I ran by one of his properties to do something about the water. I am very glad that they weren’t applying the Anwar al-Aulaqi standard back then.

  • pihwht

    did Anwar al-Aulaqi do? All we know from the post is that he was “thought” to be meeting with “al-Qaeda leaders.” U. S. intelligence thought he might be talking to someone? Many years ago, when I was in the Water Dept. here in Kansas City, I spoke regularly to a fellow who was described as an organized crime figure. I didn’t know who he was until after he was blown up, but I sure talked to him every time I ran by one of his properties to do something about the water. I am very glad that they weren’t applying the Anwar al-Aulaqi standard back then.

  • hvd

    As I said, and as you ignore, the same protections ought to be provided regardless of the nationality of the target of our police attention.

    Whether you like it or not they are our police and they damn well better live up to our ideals.

    If you feel so strongly that the “mutts” should be exterminated then why don’t you start encouraging your nation to get into the mutt extermination business and let us get out of it.

  • JustPlainDave

    …you believe that the best course of action is to go into, say, North Waziristan and arrest tier 1 al-Qa`eda personalities so that they can be subject to the full benefit of due process. I’m thinking that’s not a high probability of success plan – lifespan on the ground would be a period best measured in hours. The entire sordid set of circumstances is about what you do when you can’t take policing approaches – doesn’t mean that they’re not preferable when you can take them, but non-policing viable points on the continuum do exist.

    As it happens we’re fairly deep into the whole mutt extermination business – largely because you guys screwed the pooch on a scale and over a period pretty much unprecedented in modern history. We’re generally not what you’d call real grateful. One of the manifestations of that ingratitude is that some of us are impolite enough not to agree without question that the things that are absolutes for you really should be, particularly when they don’t do anything for us. Also means that we see shades of grey that you don’t.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • hvd

    Again, I’m not sure what it is you are attempting to blame us for. If, by screwing the pooch you mean our largely covert and sometimes overt set of screw ups in that region, well I agree with you. But you don’t dig your way out of a hole. Doing the same set of stupid things tends to yield the same results. Doing more gets you more of the same.

    It is because we felt freed from the restraints that characterize our system at its best that we engaged in the sort of illegal activities that created this mess in the first place. There is no reason for the sort of clandestine crap our CIA engaged in for all those years. And there is no reason for us to continue

    Finally, I’m not exactly sure what it is that you seem to feel threatened by. I live within sight of the WTC, I travel a lot by air, and, having checked the numbers don’t particularly feel threatened by this small band of misguided zealots. I do not believe that they constitute anything approaching an existential threat to me or my way of life.

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