Obama Administration's memo on using drones to kill U.S. citizens: Disturbing or justifiable?
Have you been following the story of the leaked Justice Department memo that seeks to provide legal cover for the killing of U.S. citizens, if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" for al-Qaida or an "associated force" -- even lacking evidence that they're engaged in an active plot to attack the United States?
In a way, this is NOT shocking: It merely gives the legal justification for the Obama Administration's escalating use of drones against al-Qaida suspects. And doubtless, to many Americans, the ends justify the means: Drone strikes, even if against Americans without intelligence of an imminent threat, can be justified if they keep America "safe".
The strategic, bottom-line (but unanswered question): Do drone attacks ultimately undermine our goals by creating even MORE Islamist militants bent on revenge against the United States?
Yet, it's shocking - but really not surprising - that the issue has not bubbled up to become a key topic on talk shows, letters to the editor, or in ordinary conversation. At least in theory, the escalating use of drones, particularly against U.S. citizens without any review, should energize folks on the Right and the Left, Libertarian or just plain middle-of-the-road.
More generally, I believe the use of drones is a "sleeper" issue in American politics: Even if most Americans currently feel psychologically removed from the use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, & Somalia, just wait as more and more drones are employed over U.S. soil by national and local law enforcement (even media) for surveillance. Wait for the furor when a drone accidentally hits a civilian airliner or a building, or our enemies eventually harness drones against us. Sooner or later, wait for the drone issue to explode.
From POLITICO, a story about political fallout (or relative lack thereof) from the Obama Administration's legal justifications for drone strikes on U.S. citizens...
This is really much a non-issue. If Al-Qaeda leaders are planning attacks against Americans, we kill them. No rules, no restrictions. Doesn't matter if they're Saudi, Syrian or San Franciscan. End of story.
Mike from Delaware
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 8:48am
This is sort of like George Orwell's "1984", but on steroids. Big Brother's cameras could see and hear the public and seemed to be everywhere (just the idea of that was pretty awesome in 1948 when Orwell wrote the book as television was in its infancy).
However, today with these drones, they aren't just sight and sound, they can launch bombs or shoot bullets. So Big Brother can eliminate anyone who they see on their viewscreen immediately: Spy, cop, judge, jury, executioner, all in one handy device. A robotic law enforcement system. Hey, Republicans might like this as look how many government employees we no longer need. Just one person to operate the drone. OK, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you get the point - heh heh.
Kind of reminds me of an other novel that became a great movie in 1951 "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (The remake didn't deserve to use the same title). The outer space society that came to visit earth (Klato was the ambassador), used those gigantic robots, (Gort) to keep the public in line. You broke any laws and Gort or one of his co-robots zapped you with that death-ray and you were vaporized.
This is kind of scary. Do we really want Delaware or the Federal government flying those things over our heads? As Allan said, it doesn't sound so bad when they're used in war overseas, but the feeling changes greatly when that same drone is going to be used against American citizens. Last time I checked, every American citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law of our peers.
Why isn't Obama arresting these suspects and throwing them into Gitmo? He campaigned he was going to shut-down Gitmo, but I'll bet no one thought he meant that he'd instead use drones against Americans, especially when he lacks proof of their guilt. There's something very wrong about all of this, that maybe even the media haven't been able to ferret out yet. Allan's right, this is a sleeping giant.
Of all the stuff Obama and company have been accused of doing, these drone attacks on Americans should upset and anger us the most.
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 10:10am
One thing we have learned over the years of the U.S. and its military is that the intelligence gathered is extremely suspect. Is it better to kill those 'suspected' of planning, or try to capture them to learn who it is they are planning for? Like M said in Casino Royale "Exactly, one bomb maker...we're trying to figure out how an entire organization is financed."
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 12:55pm
Like any weapon, the issue depends upon in whose hands it lies. An AR 15 in the wrong hands ... well, do we then remove them from all hands?
We have evolved into a nation ruled by law. That makes for some interesting legal situations to arise. If an American citizen fighting against his country gets killed by an American weapon, should this country be allowed to be sued because due process was not followed? Most of us would say, of course not, Enemies get treated as enemies. But without these tweaks in the law, taking out an American citizen opens the door for just that legal possibility... This type of regulation closes that option and makes it clear that enemies of the United States will be treated as enemies of the United States, and their survivors who live over here, will have no legal recourse for damages....
Before, we never worried about these legalities, as shown on all our spy-thrillers, of taking-out our enemies. Goldfinger was a US citizen. (Card-carrying Republican in fact: Voted Barry Goldwater).. We just took them out.
In trying to canonize our policy into law, this president has simply put on paper so it can be debated and changed later if needed, simply what the common practice has always been.
It used to be done "back in the old days" with Bounty Hunters... Wanted: Dead or Alive. Transport of the dead was so much easier.
Can Michele Bachmann disappear in the middle of the night because of this legislation? Bottom line, she always could have. Whether on paper or is not, it really doesn't impact the power of someone making changes in the dark of night.
What does impact that power, are millions of people screaming over it's misuse. So keep screaming.... till your last breaths...
Despite the conflict over drones, one must remember when in war, there are no rules. Very few of us are historical enough to remember those times back in WWII, America's finest hour, where we firebombed entire cities more or less just for revenge. They had no military targets at all, just women and children and a few old men who couldn't fight.
We could do that back then because the enemy had done the same to us when they bombed London, as well as destroyed entire cities across the landscape of Russia.
So now, when I hear of 14 innocents killed by a drone, I have to say a prayer towards the improvement of our science and technology.
I guess it was TV that really changed the landscape. Images of dead children were now in our living rooms. Overall, considering all attempts to minimize collateral damage that we now take, we are probably much better for having TV...
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 5:57pm
kavips: You speak of WWII. That was back in the days when a president went to Congress and asked for war to be declared. In theory, the C-I-C was asking the public for permission to fight a war.
Today, the C-I-C simply asks for a resolution before destroying another country. Now he also has permission to drop a bomb on a person's head. No reason required. Obama has shown the willingness to go into a country and have a person killed because he thinks that person is guilty of something.
If he will do that when we are NOT at war, just think what else he might do? And remember, our nation has not been in a state of war since WW2. These illegal conflicts since should have resulted in impeachment. Likewise, Obama's use of drones should be enough to remove him from office.
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 10:00pm
Well, it's the Lukashenk-O-bama authoritarian regime doing exactly what I said they'd do. Doesn't surprise me. I knew it all along. To quote the title of Rush Limbaugh's second book: "SEE I TOLD YOU SO!!!"
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Feb 7, 2013 8:13am
Kavips: yes, good point. No TV only grainy black and white newsreels that had to get past the sensors, so only what they wanted us to see we saw. Also very young radio reporters Walter Cronkite and Eric Severoid on CBS Radio reporting from the war zones, but again had to get past the sensors so the reports may not have given us all the details.
But JimH makes a valid point too, at least that was an actual declared war vs the Prez, both DEM and GOP deciding we need to go fight a war and not get Congress' approval.
King Bush Jr took us into Iraq for no solid reason, just a pre-emptive war that included torture of captives. King Obama has done similarly minus the torture(as far as we know), but has added drones where Obama has become Big Brother (spy, cop, soldier, judge, jury, and executioner) in those countries.
Sure can't understand why other nation's might not like us very much. Between Bush Jr and Obama we've become the bully of the world. Throwing our weight around telling other nations what they ought to do.
One thing that has changed since WWII is we as a people are more concerned with civilian casualties than they were back in the 1940's. Their attitude was fire bomb the city, its full of Krauts (German's) or Japs (Japanese), so who cares. They're the enemy. Today we tend to be far more concerned with not hurting civilians, probably because we're getting less sensored war news than those folks did during WWII.
Thu, Feb 7, 2013 9:24am
Quick question: How do you guys get around the votes in Congress for both Gulf Wars when you say Congress did not approve any military action since WWII? I saw them both on TV.
And we've always killed in other countries. We just used things other than drones. We have this thing.. it's called the CIA.... The Brits have theirs, called Bond,... James Bond.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Feb 7, 2013 10:57am
Kavips: You're saying Congress approved both Gulf Wars, but didn't declare war? So in essence they did declare war even if they didn't use those exact words.
Well that sounds like our modern Congress, a bunch of weasels who use weasel words so they can't be blamed for whatever. That sure explains why the approval rating of Congress is below that of used car-salesmen, televanglists, and telemarketers.
Sun, Feb 10, 2013 12:49am
Actually, Mike. I thought they did declare war; that was fully my understanding as I watched the proceedings...
I was trying to get an answer from the right as to the question why someone could state that WWII was the last declared war.....
Did they just forget about those two instances, or is there a secret right wing conspiracy theory that says they weren't declarations of war! They were declarations of hostile military action? lol.
Mike from Delaware
Sun, Feb 10, 2013 6:18pm
I've even heard the mainstream media say those wars were undeclared. I don't think Congress has made a declaration of war since WWII.
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