In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.
Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.
1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”
Based on some of my discussions with people who tend to support U.S. foreign policy in general and the drone policy in particular, there seems to be a lack of empathy for those who have been victims of errant bombs (I’m told these people “hate us for our freedoms”). I think sometimes we Americans have no idea what it must be like to live anywhere in the third world as opposed to a superpower. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live any place the U.S. is hunting terrorists with soldiers or drones. Would I be worried that my friends or family might be killed by mistake?
This isn’t to say that the U.S. should not hunt terrorists, drones or otherwise, but I do think it’s time for a serious debate about when and how drones should be used. The drones in of themselves are not the problem, it’s the drone policy. What is the cost/benefit of using drones in targeting these people? Can this be done without harming innocent bystanders? Are drones being used when less destructive means are available? Is this policy counterproductive in “winning the hearts and minds” of people who might otherwise fight against Islamic fundamentalists?
The video clip below is from the testimony of one individual who has experienced the reality of U.S. drone policy first hand. Despite this, Farea al-Muslimi is otherwise grateful for his experiences with America, Americans, and American generosity. His heart and mind seems to be on the side of America. His testimony offers a perspective we would all do well to consider when thinking about these questions.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, many people throughout the country are bracing. Yes, they got the alleged perpetrators, with one in custody and the other in the morgue, but now they brace for the inevitable legislative push that will result in nothing but a loss of liberty for people who had nothing to do with the bombings.
Sounds a lot like gun control, doesn’t it?
Memes are flying fast and furious in the wake of the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, many joking about what Congress and the White House will try to ban. They’re generally meant humorously, but I’m not so sure.
Over this week, we’ve heard about pressure cookers being suggested as bomb housing by such diverse sources as The Anarchist Cookbook and an al-Qaeda guide on making IEDs. As such, could they be the likely target of Washington’s ire?
Even now, statist forces are trying to decide how to keep us safe my taking away our freedoms. Just as they have done with meth, it’s entirely possible that those forces will look at regulation of how many pressure cookers one can buy in a given time frame as a way to curb would be terrorists.
In reality, almost no one buys several pressure cookers over a short period of time…unless they’re building bombs. The fact that multiple publications call for such to be used as housing is really a good reason in some people’s eyes to restrict them in some way.
Of course, there are a few things that will make this more difficult. For one, Sudafed doesn’t exact have a resale value, while used pressure cookers do. Of course, that’s not exactly a deterent for many in Washington, now is it?
The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.”
Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?
In the aftermath of the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday, a lot of information came out, and less than 36 hours we now know that most, if not almost all, of that information was incorrect. As Elizabeth Scalia (@TheAnchoress) tweeted yesterday:
Phones weren’t shut down, other explosives were not found, there is no suspect in custody. Beyond “there was explosion” most MSM info wrong
— Elizabeth Scalia (@TheAnchoress) April 16, 2013
Every time something big happens, particularly if it is tragic, the media reports a lot of things that just aren’t so. You’ve heard the saying “if it bleeds, it leads?” Well that is completely true, and every news outlet wants to be the absolute first to report every detail. When things are happening quickly, news outlets report whatever information they have, with no time to fact-check the details to make sure that what they report is accurate. In the 24-hour news cycle, every broadcast news outlet is competing for ratings, so being right, but second to report, does not help. Being wrong, but first to report, can help a broadcast station because they get the reputation as “the first on the scene,” but there is no accountability later for being wrong. After all, it’s a chaotic scene, so how can you blame them for being wrong?
Erick Erickson, master of the conservative blogging site RedState.com, has just penned a FoxNews column where he says we should just totally skip the drone debate and just kill the terrorists before they kill us. He goes through a series of so-called “justifications” for this terrible idea, before ending with this very chilling conclusion:
Just kill them before they kill us. At some point, we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of Al Qaeda from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe.
Frankly, it should be American policy that any American collaborating with Al Qaeda is better off dead than alive. Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney should be proud.
First off, let’s get one thing straight—Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney are not people to celebrate or emulate. Nixon engaged in dirty, underhanded tactics to keep his presidency, tactics which when exposed led to the largest case of political corruption in modern American history. And Cheney, well, he’s just a jerk. A jerk who was beholden to his old company, Halliburton, and was not exactly in line with the Constitution on several issues. Erickson should not be looking to either with praise and approval, but the exact opposite.
In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious. It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.
As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens. The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.
President Obama just had to do it. After all, the freedom loving people of Libya wanted out from under the boot of Muammar Gaddafi, and we should use our military force for such noble purposes, right? So, we risked US personnel to support the rebels in Libya. They won, and I wasn’t really sad to see Gaddafi dead. But was it worth it?
Initially, some thought it would be by buying us some much needed “good will” in the Middle East. By supporting anti-dictatorship rebels, there was supposedly a chance that we would be able to start mending a few fences with non-terrorist Muslims.
Yeah, that worked out great, didn’t it? The United States Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of the embassy staff were killed Tuesday. Stevens was reportedly a key player in the effort to oust Gaddafi.
I don’t think anyone wanted to rebels to lose. As I said earlier, I wasn’t a fan of Gaddafi and was glad to see him taken down. I also happen to believe in self governance and love seeing people take their nations back from psychotic dictators that make Bond villians seem sane and rational.
However, American military personnel were put at risk. It was yet another example of American adventurism, and just like our other most recent examples, it’s netted us jack.
When will the powers that be understand that all of this nets us nothing? While we were fortunate to not lose Americans during the Libyian operations, the risk is there for any combat operations, and what has it gotten us? Clearly, nothing.
Written by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Virulent identity politics are swirling across post-revolutionary North Africa, as seen on full display in Libya and Egypt. Some reports now point to a pro-al Qaeda group or other extremist elements as responsible for the attack in Libya, planned in advance and unrelated to the anti-Islam video. The protestors in Libya may have been acting separately. There are still many unknown details.
But the idea that a derogatory and clownish internet video justifies mob violence or murder can only be described as barbaric.
The U.S. government should make crystal clear to its Libyan and Egyptian counterparts that if they wish to have any relationship, let alone a functional relationship, with the United States in the future, we expect the perpetrators of these acts to be brought to justice swiftly and for sufficient measures to be undertaken to ensure they cannot be repeated. Apologies are not enough.
For its part, the United States needs to figure out what went wrong in terms of operational security, and how the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed and the Cairo embassy overrun. The past 10 years have blurred the line between warfighters and diplomats, but this experience is a reminder that the two are still distinct.
From the New York Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan – The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.
The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack.
Whatever you think about the war in Afghanistan, there is no disputing that this is recruitment fodder for terrorist organizations. In a region where objective information is scarce, the narrative that America is an evil empire is easily spread unchallenged, and when your family is killed by Americans, you seek vengeance. Events like this only serve to aid those we are truly at war with.