March 10, 2013

"What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by 'engaged in combat'?"

That's the unanswered question underlying the question that Holder answered, which was "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?"
The extraordinary secrecy of this White House makes the answer difficult to know....

If you put together the pieces of publicly available information, it seems that the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has acted with an overly broad definition of what it means to be engaged in combat. Back in 2004, the Pentagon released a list of the types of people it was holding at Guantánamo Bay as “enemy combatants” — a list that included people who were “involved in terrorist financing.”...

In a 2010 Fox News interview... Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that “we have gotten closer because we have been able to kill a number of their trainers, their operational people, their financiers."...

[S]weeping financiers into the group of people who can be killed in armed conflict... is not the only stretch the Obama administration seems to have made. The administration still hasn’t disavowed its stance... that military-age males killed in a strike zone are counted as combatants absent explicit posthumous evidence proving otherwise.
ADDED: In what order do they make these decisions? Consider these 4 permutations.

A:
1. They want to kill X.
2. They arrive at the decision that X is an enemy combatant.
3. They kill X.
B:
1. They want to kill X.
2. They kill X.
3. They arrive at the decision that X is an enemy combatant.
C:
1. They arrive at the decision that X is a enemy combatant.
2. They want to kill X.
3. They kill X.
D:
1. They kill X.
2. They want to have wanted to kill X.
3. They arrive at the decision that X is a enemy combatant.

What do you think is happening?
  
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108 comments:

edutcher said...

What, indeed?

Somebody make sure the smoke detector at the Reichsta..., I mean, Capitol building is working.

jr565 said...

People are confusing the Presidetns war Powers, versus civil society's protections under law. They are different.
The constitution does not limit the presidents war Powers. And in fact presidents have suspended habeus corpus in this country entirely. Not to mention drop nukes.

As Andrew Johnson wrote:
it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.

James Pawlak said...

You might look into the Federal massacre of innocents at Waco (The Branch Davidian compound) and Ruby Ridge. (If in doubt, look them up)

The Drill SGT said...

The irony is that if Obama had lost the election, he and his minions were prepared to document and publish a set of policies that if followed, restrict Romney's use of drones. But since teh Won, Won, not so interested in limiting the Executive. Some on the left, including the author of the article recognize that what goes around comes around.

Matthew Sablan said...

If financiers can be killed, can be propaganda people be killed? If so, would the man who made Death of a President be a valid target?

The Drill SGT said...

On the topic of whether a terrorist money guy is a enemy combatant? yes. Just like an Army truck driver or finance officer is a combatant.

You can shoot them in a combat zone, and should take them prisoner anywhere, if it doesn't compromise your mission or men.

should you shoot them on the streets of Paris? Not unles the Frogs have changed sides. In the GWOT, the Frogs may bad mouth the US in public, being Frogs, but they know who the good guys are :)
so no.

On the streets of Laredo? Never.

I want the bank acct numbers.

Chuck Currie said...

For every infantryman with a gun on the front line, there are at least seven military personnel in support positions - including payroll clerks. Is the author saying that these support personnel are not allowed to be targeted and killed.

The obvious thinking of one who has never served in combat.

Cheers and bombs away

jr565 said...

Andrew McCarthy wrote:
So, assuming the administration is simply trying to protect the president’s institutional turf, it has made the error of conflating the theoretically limitless power the Constitution could potentially vest in the president if a threat were dire enough with the finite authorization Congress has actually given the president for the use of force in this conflict.

The presidents authority is bound not by the constitution, but by Congress.
Also from McCarthy:
Now, after 20 years, it is probably safe to say there is no need to have our armed forces on alert for this contingency. If the executive branch has enough intel to know who and where this sheikh is, the FBI can arrest him, just as the FBI arrested José Padilla as he disembarked from a plane in Chicago in 2002 — every bit the enemy combatant, though not yet acting on his mass-murder plot. That is how war power has always worked under the Constitution: Having the technical law-of-war justification to kill José Padilla does not require you to kill him. You do what is sensible under the circumstances.

Matthew Sablan said...

The question, I think, is whether or not we could say, bomb the suburban home of John "Terrorist Money Giver" Doe on the president's say-so.

MayBee said...

Should you shoot them if you think they may be at a food stand in Shabwa? Eve if they aren't, and dozens of others are killed?

Do war pores extend the president the ability to command the CIA to kill anyone, anywhere? Especially if you can be declared a combatant after the fact?

Matthew Sablan said...

(Not, can we kill the man physically ferrying money to a terrorist camp, who is obviously a legitimate target.)

Chuck Currie said...

Do you think these brainiacs ever give thought as to why terrorist attacks against Russia have become few and far between - if nonexistent.

Certainly isn't because Putin and the terrorist got together, held hands and sang Kumbaya.

Cheers

dreams said...

So Obama has already been killing innocent people (males of combat age) but its ok because he's a Democrat.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

By their lights, Bill Ayers was engaged in combat, so his living room was a battlefield.

And that would make Obama braver (or more foolish) than I would have thought.

jr565 said...

It's funny how libertarians who are steadfast against the govt being able to kill Americans without trials, have no problem with the idea of being able to own a gun to protect yourself.

Let me first say, I agree with their position, so I'm not arguing this as an anti gun zealot. But, on a practical level, the right to defend yourself may involve killing someone who may be attacking you or in defense of your house, absent a trial. The trial will come later when you are judged for your actions, but when you actually kill the person invading your house, you are doing so without them getting the benefit of due process.
Underlying this is the right to self defense. But a president war power is predicated on the same idea. The president has the power to defend this country from attacks both foreign and domestic. Why then would a presidents ability to defend this country be shackled by due process arguments?
War powers are not reliant on due process.

Hagar said...

Thw Weatherman and al Qaeda are both civilian terror organizations that have declared "war" on the United States.
There are differences of scale - the Weatherman did not have either the resources or the imagination and skills of al Qaeda - and national origin, Bill Ayers being a native U.S. citizen and bin Laden a Yemeni with a Saudi passport, but otherwise similar in aims and tactics.

Just where is the line between "criminal" and "enemy combatant"?

jr565 said...

The question, I think, is whether or not we could say, bomb the suburban home of John "Terrorist Money Giver" Doe on the president's say-so.

Why not? Abe Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, and Grant burned farms to the ground to decimate the South's ability to fight a war. Granted these were in times of war, but that's the whole point.
Congress would be the one to reign in the presidents powers, not the consitution. And even having the power, doesn't mean that a president would or should use that power.

wyo sis said...

All very good reason to be very careful about who you vote for for president.
"Because he's black." or "Because she's a woman." are not very good reasons.

MayBee said...

From Matthew Sablan's link in the previous thread:

"And as Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald has reported, the Pentagon and many mainstream media outlets used the term "militant" to describe Abdulrahman Awlaki, an innocent 16-year-old boy from Denver killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen two weeks after a similar attack killed his terrorist father."

Compare that to the current reporting that they never would have targeted the son, were targeting someone else, and had no inkling he was a militant.

Eustace Chilke said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master that's all."

jr565 said...

But having said that we COULD in theory bomb someone's house, the president has the CIA and FBI at his disposal, so Id imagine he would use other resources at his disposal before making the decision to bomb someone in this country. It would have to be a pretty drastic scenario for a president to even fathom the idea of bombing someones house in this country.

dreams said...

I can remember when our psychopathic president BJ Clinton would bomb the serbs or whoever to take the heat off of his intern problems. Of course, there would always be collateral casualties but I'm sure those unfortunate folks would feel good if they could to know that their deaths were not in vain for it all work out okay in the end.

jr565 said...

"And as Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald has reported, the Pentagon and many mainstream media outlets used the term "militant" to describe Abdulrahman Awlaki, an innocent 16-year-old boy from Denver killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen two weeks after a similar attack killed his terrorist father."


Why are they using the word "innocent" to describe this boy? Is that the authors opinion or based on some verifiable facts. And were these facts known at the time that a drone strike was issued.
The Pentagon can bomb anyone with a drone strike, so if the kid was in fact innocent, its not a restricion on the power to wage war by itself.
But if people like Glenn Greenwald can muster enough outrage people might be held accountable for the action.
Assuming Glenn Greenwald is right about his innocence.
Drone strikes are made all the time. How many people killed collaterally are "innocent" that we never hear about?

Hagar said...

We need to get some standards set for this kind of halfway "war."

Every country that can are building drones now, and those that can't are buying them from Toys-R-Us or wherever and jury-rigging them with weaponry. And that also goes for the "militants" whose "country" only exists in their minds.

Original Mike said...

"What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by 'engaged in combat'?"

Given that the Republicans are engaged in a war on women, if I were Boehner I wouldn't be out in the open where I could be spotted by a drone.

MayBee said...

So people don't have to flip back and forth between posts, here is how the NYTs today describes the killing of the 16 year old

"Then, on Oct. 14, a missile apparently intended for an Egyptian Qaeda operative, Ibrahim al-Banna, hit a modest outdoor eating place in Shabwa. The intelligence was bad: Mr. Banna was not there, and among about a dozen men killed was the young Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who had no connection to terrorism and would never have been deliberately targeted."

Compare that to the admin previously calling him a militant, as described int the earlier yahoo article (above). Or as Robert Gibbs said, "he should have had a better father"
How, indeed, do we define "in combat"?

dreams said...

Being a Democrat politician means you never have to say you're sorry.

Hagar said...

And, jr,

The general problem is assassinations of secret "hit lists" made up by we do not know who.

And note that though the Israeli and the Palestinians have been killing each other since the inception, the Israeli did not kill Arafat, and the Palestinians did not kill Sharon, though both easily could have.

bpm4532 said...

But, but, but, this historic president has led an historic administration to historic levels of openness and transparency. The notion that it has done otherwise is racist.

Maguro said...

And just think, if the evil Bush were still in office, Abdulrahman Awlaki might have been waterboarded.

St. George said...

I would ask Obama if he thinks King George should have ordered the assassination of Ben Franklin or Tom Paine.

One of those killed in the al-Awalki drone strike was American citizen (and N.C. resident) Samir Khan whom the NYT today describes as "the creative force behind Inspire, the militant group's English-language Internet magazine."

By that standard, Professor, if you went abroad and penned pro-al-Qaeda pieces on this blog, you would be a legitimate target for drone assassination.

Am I missing something here?

(Speaking as a former magazine editor, I'd be interested to see the actual contents of "Inspire" to see what percent was mundane spiritual uplift pieces and what percent was political. Conceivably, if you toss one anti-U.S. government article into the Christian magazine "Guideposts," its editor would qualify for the death sentence.)

Professor, I sure do hope you have never advocated armed or violent resistance to authority in this blog. We'd hate to lose you.

Maguro said...

Who wouldn't be honored to die in a shwarma stand missile strike personally authorized by a Nobel Laureate?

Lem said...

I voted for A clusterfuck of A, B, C, and D. because the other choices were giving me a headache... and how could I pass up a chance to extol the virtues of the word...

Wait a minute... oh shit.

jr565 said...

"Then, on Oct. 14, a missile apparently intended for an Egyptian Qaeda operative, Ibrahim al-Banna, hit a modest outdoor eating place in Shabwa. The intelligence was bad: Mr. Banna was not there, and among about a dozen men killed was the young Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who had no connection to terrorism and would never have been deliberately targeted."

Compare that to the admin previously calling him a militant, as described int the earlier yahoo article (above). Or as Robert Gibbs said, "he should have had a better father"
How, indeed, do we define "in combat"?

In combat is in a combat zone. If the details in this article are how it played out it says nothing about the presidents ability to wage war, but it does suggest that a mistake was made with targeting the wrong house.

virgil xenophon said...

RE: bombing someone's house in America vs alternate means. People have short memories, doesn't anyone remember the 1985 bombing in Philadelphia of the black militant org "MOVE's" townhouse by the city's first black mayor in which the resultant fire was allowed to burn and an entire block was razed? The police dropped a satchel charge full of explosives from a helicopter on the roof trying to get at some resisting cop-killer self-styled "revolutionaries." Was labeled a "spectacular police failure." Law-suits are STILL going on over the innocents killed and burned out of their homes--and this all pre-dated WACO by eight years. Can't happen here, eh?

Where's whoresoftheinternet when I need him to say "enjoy the decline morons?"

MayBee said...

In combat is in a combat zone? Then most of these guys have not been killed in combat.

As Hagar says, we need answers if we are going to wage a sort-of war. Especially one with few borders.

MayBee said...

Jr- do you see that a public place (not a house) was targeted, innocent people were killed, and the pentagon and media sources and zRober Gibbs described the person killed accidentally as a militant?

Does at least the dishonesty not bother you, given that the administration is very secretive about their plans and rationale?

virgil xenophon said...

***should have said: "...from a helicopter onto the roof..." The helo was hovering..

MayBee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

"Engaged in Combat"?

Oh Obama and Holder means if you disagree view the official views then you are undermining his presidency and harming the American People and thus 'engaged in combat'.

So off with their heads!

edutcher said...

Went with D on the first poll and D for the second is, "Any combination of A, B, C, and D that lets them get away with it".

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

By their lights, Bill Ayers was engaged in combat, so his living room was a battlefield.

And that would make Obama braver (or more foolish) than I would have thought.


Or the traitor we all know him to be.

PS Don't swear, Ann. In this case, Charlie Foxtrot isn't the right word anyway.

Is there a noun form for "finagle"?

jr565 said...

Maybee wrote:
In combat is in a combat zone? Then most of these guys have not been killed in combat.

Define a combat zone then.

Paul said...

And you have got to understand about 'collateral damage'.

During the Vietnam war many times civilians were caught in the crossfire and killed.

The standard reaction was, "dinks are the bad guys and if they are dead then they are dinks."

Yes many times civilians were killed and labeled as VC.

That is the nature of war.

How many of the Koresh do you think were really engaged with the ATF at WACO that Janet 'babykiller' Reno ordered?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The issue is that IF the Government can define terrorism or a terrorist in any way shape or form that it wants.....and then KILL that defined US Citizen defined as a terrorist without any evidence of actual terrorist activities....we are all in great danger.

They have already attempted to classify a person belonging to the Tea Party as terrorist for the mere fact of going to a Tea Party rally or signing up for a Tea Party newsletter. Belonging to the NRA? Joining the Jarvis Tax Payer Association?

Does the act of printing pamphlets for these types of organizations qualify as engaged in combat? A NRA member stocking up on ammo? Does this qualify as getting prepared for combat?

Anything that the current dictator....I mean President or powers that be feel is a threat to their own power, can be named terrorist or lumped into combat categories. Then the Government can kill you, lock you up or send you to a re-education camp or Gulag. Sound familiar???

Only our Constitutional rights have so far protected us from the above scenarios. We are on a razor's edge right now economically and socially and could so easily fall into a tyrannical government and lose all the freedoms that our predecessors have died to maintain.

CWJ said...

Regarding the reporter's knee-jerk Bush did it first spin in the embedded quote:

I take it that holding financiers in Gitmo is exactly like summarily executing them.

jr565 said...

Paul wrote:
Oh Obama and Holder means if you disagree view the official views then you are undermining his presidency and harming the American People and thus 'engaged in combat'.

So off with their heads!

So then you could show all the critics of the President who have been wiped off the map due to their terrorist activities or who are accused of being engaged in combat.
Look, I don't like the guy any more than you do, but we dont have to engage in hyperbole to find fault with his governance.

jr565 said...

Dust Bunny Queen:
The issue is that IF the Government can define terrorism or a terrorist in any way shape or form that it wants.....and then KILL that defined US Citizen defined as a terrorist without any evidence of actual terrorist activities....we are all in great danger.

Adam Gadhan. Terrorist or non terrorist? Can you call him one without getting him back to the states and putting him on trial for terrorism?
Because that would seem to be a pretty tall order.

MayBee said...

Define a combat zone then.

A place wher the US military is engaged in combat

Not any street where the CIA or Pentagon decides to drop a bomb.
Although that would be the perfect circular reasoning for what's happening here.

It could go like this:Anyone hit by a drone is a militant. How can you tell? They were in a combat zone. How do you know it's a combat zone? Because a drone hit there.

jr565 said...

Dust Bunny wrote:
They have already attempted to classify a person belonging to the Tea Party as terrorist for the mere fact of going to a Tea Party rally or signing up for a Tea Party newsletter. Belonging to the NRA? Joining the Jarvis Tax Payer Association?

Are any of those organizations at war with the US and or bombing American assets? Even if someone describes the NRA as a "terrorist organization" is hyperbole not actionable. THe NRA would have to be at war, or the US would have to declare war with them for the president to start designating them as terrorists.

And if that were to happen it would be a civil war. The NRA types would rightly view the govt as tyrannical and be at war with it. The govt in turn would view those opposing it as being a rebellion, and the rebellion could be quelled through force.

Astro said...

Aside from controlling the media, what part of this administration hasn't been a clusterfuck?

jr565 said...

Maybee wrote:
It could go like this:Anyone hit by a drone is a militant. How can you tell? They were in a combat zone. How do you know it's a combat zone? Because a drone hit there.

Were these drone strikes done here?

virgil xenophon said...

Maybee is closer to the mark than perhaps even he knows, because such circular reasoning is THE hallmark of bureaucratic thinking en grosso mondo.

MayBee said...

Jr- no. Why do you ask? Are you going to claim the whole world besides the US is a combat zone? Or are you trying to back off your assertion that combatant= in a combat zone?

Are you at all bothered by the 16 year old first being called a militant by the admin, when the reporting is now they never meant to kill him and had no evidence he was a militant?

Does that bother you at all?

jr565 said...

Maybee wrote:
Jr- do you see that a public place (not a house) was targeted, innocent people were killed, and the pentagon and media sources and zRober Gibbs described the person killed accidentally as a militant?

Does at least the dishonesty not bother you, given that the administration is very secretive about their plans and rationale?

Of course it bothers me. I'm not a fan of the president. And if you blow up the wrong house and kill innocent people that's a horrible thing to occur.
But those kind of things happen in wars.
If Gibbs is trying to pretend that a mistake wasn't made, then he's an a hole. (assuming that the Times is right in their characterization.
But look at it a different way. We have a right to bear arms and defend ourselves. Sometimes though, mistakes are made. Maybe in the course of defending ourselves an innocent person gets hit in the cross fire. Would that invalidate the idea that we have a right to bear arms.
We can target enemies in war. Sometimes, due to our bad intel we blow up a building that contains people that shouldn't have been targeted. It regrettable, but doesn't invalidate the idea that we can target our enemies.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Maybee wrote:
It could go like this:Anyone hit by a drone is a militant. How can you tell? They were in a combat zone. How do you know it's a combat zone? Because a drone hit there.

"Were these drone strikes done here?"

Not yet. Wasn't this one of the main thrusts of Rand Paul's fillibuster? To clarify this issue. HAS it been clarified?

jr565 said...

Jr- no. Why do you ask? Are you going to claim the whole world besides the US is a combat zone? Or are you trying to back off your assertion that combatant= in a combat zone?

Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. Are we at war with Pakistan? Therefore, the combat zone could be in places we arent' even at war with (this is the problem with dealing with a terrorist organization and not a country). So I woudln't say that the US couldn't be a combat zone. In Israel they target Hamas leaders who are driving down the street. Of course, Israel is one big combat zone. It's not like they're going to a field to kill each other.

virgil xenophon said...

And DBQ is right on target. The SPLC, Homeland Security and the recent West Point study which demonized the "far right" as "terrorists" have ALL attempted to paint ANYONE political that is even barely right of center as a "potential terrorist" ass in an attempt to, im(NS)ho to "prep the battlefield" in an attempt to mold public opinion by framing the issues to accept both limits on political speech and the use of extremely oppressive federal measures to control the "right" as urgently necessary.

jr565 said...

"Were these drone strikes done here?"

Not yet. Wasn't this one of the main thrusts of Rand Paul's fillibuster? To clarify this issue. HAS it been clarified?

But many of you are arguing as if it had, and further conflating drone strikes made overseas with drone strikes here against civilians.

jr565 said...

Maybee,
During 9/11 the President called up jets to blow flight 93 out of the sky. Could he do that? Knowing that to do so meant killing american civilians.
During the Civil War, Abe Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, and engaged in scorched earth warfare, meaning destroying the souths economy and ability to grow crops by razing farms to the ground. Could he authorize that?

Absent the extraordinary circumstances presented, could either president have carried out either action?

MayBee said...

The thing is, jr, the expletive are trying very hard to find out how this administration determines who the enemies are. And the administration does not feel it has to share that information, but so far it has leaked out that it is enough for someone high up in the executive branch to make that determination

I fully support a push for better information and procedure than that.

(Ps. The Yahoo article also states that Brennan previously claimed there was no collateral damage in drone strikes. Another obvious manipulation which makes it all the more clear that we need oversight and parameters)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We have a right to bear arms and defend ourselves. Sometimes though, mistakes are made. Maybe in the course of defending ourselves an innocent person gets hit in the cross fire. Would that invalidate the idea that we have a right to bear arms.

People defending THEMSELVES, is a bit different than the government targeting US Citizens who disagree politically with them and then killing them outside of being engaged in combat.

We also have the right to be secure in our homes from the police without due process. The numbers of 'raids' in the homes of innocent citizens has been escalating recently. Some due to the total incompetence of the police....some without any due process at all. The seizure of property without due process because you are 'suspected' of something drug related is also rampant. Google it.

Unfortunately it appears more and more often that we citizens need to be protected FROM our own government.

MayBee said...

.But many of you are arguing as if it had, and further conflating drone strikes made overseas with drone strikes here against civilians.

This does not seem to be in good faith. I am out.

jr565 said...

We would have to declare war on the NRA for the president to be able to use War Powers (and not in a "War on Women", "war on poverty" sense. Absent that, he'd have no justification to drone strike his critics.

rhhardin said...

The White House isn't being secret but trying to avoid mentioning impeachment as the remedy for what concerns the concerned.

If the war powers are abused, if the circumstances aren't obviously okay for use of war powers outside the law (but within the Constitution!), then the President finds himself impeached and removed.

That's a pretty strong prior constraint.

Yet it leaves open what you want left open, namely the President can act if something comes up that isn't anticipated.

Bender said...

The law of aiding and abetting -- and treating an aider and abetter the same as a principal -- is neither that hard to understand, nor is it of recent vintage.

Yes, one who facilitates combat by financing the operation or by manufacturing a weapon or even providing non-weapon materiel to the one shooting the gun, or who advocates and thereby encourages shooting the gun, is the same as one who shoots the gun. They are all combatants, i.e. "engaged in combat."

rhhardin said...

The White House is acting as if the law limited the war powers. There's no criterion that will work. Hence vaguess.

But the law doesn't limit war powers. Common sense limits the war powers.

jr565 said...

Dust Bunny wrote:
People defending THEMSELVES, is a bit different than the government targeting US Citizens who disagree politically with them and then killing them outside of being engaged in combat.

But not even the obama administration is arguing that they have the ability to do so simply because they disagree with the administration.
And descibe killing them outside of being engaged in combat? (not people who disagree with the administration, but people we are at war with). Are they only to be targeted when they literally have their hand on the trigger of a bomb?

Broomhandle said...

No one really gives a shit about Muzzie militants. But if they're in the house next to yours and a drone fires a missile into it while your kids are playing in the yard, you're going to really, really start giving a shit.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They are all combatants, i.e. "engaged in combat."

The difference is that in previous 'wars' there was a definite set of combatants. France vs Germany. Japan vs USA. In the "war" on terrorism the combatants are various, nebulous, multi-national and can be defined as anyone that the government wants. The "war on terrorism" doesn't have a particular battlefield and can be anywhere that the government wants to claim it to be. There are no uniforms, no treaties, no nationalities.

Because terrorism is so cloudy, the danger is that it is a perfect opportunity for anything that threatens the powers that be, anything they want, can be called terrorism and anyone they want to 'classify' as a combatant in that nebulous war can be theoretically and even literally killed.

To go down this path is to begin to live in reality the horror of 1984 where everyone is afraid of expressing themselves or deviating in the slightest from the dictates of Big Brother.

jr565 said...

rhardin wrote:
If the war powers are abused, if the circumstances aren't obviously okay for use of war powers outside the law (but within the Constitution!), then the President finds himself impeached and removed.

That's a pretty strong prior constraint.

Yet it leaves open what you want left open, namely the President can act if something comes up that isn't anticipated.

Exactly! its not the constitution that restrains the president. the constitution doesn't say what the limitation of the presidnets war time powers are (and how could the constitution fathom all the myriad circumstances that a president might have to deal with as a war time president).
Rather, it's congres that limits the president. The congress could start the impeachment process. the congres could rescind the AUMF.
But since its not the constitution that limits the president, why is Rand Paul making a constitutional argument?
Because he thinks due process should or does govern presidential war time powers. And that is simply wrong.

Bender said...

Was Osama bin Laden "engaged in combat" when his compound was raided while he was sleeping?

Yes. He was. Even while he was sleeping, he was "engaged in combat." Once a combatant, unless and until hostilities cease by surrender or peace agreement, then the enemy is forever thereafter "engage in combat." The enemy does not get to call "time out" in the middle of a war.

As for American citizens on American soil -- again, a few hundred thousand Americans on American soil were targeted and killed without trial or charge between 1861 and 1865. It is entirely constitutional.

But let's pretend that bin Laden was born in the United States and then his family moved to the Middle East when he was still a baby, such that he was an American citizen. Then he grows up and thereafter oversees the 9-11 attacks, etc. But instead of going into hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, he secretly makes his way to the United States and hides out in some small town. Maybe he gets a job at a 7-11. Would the U.S. government have the authority to simply shoot him or bomb him without warning if they learned he was here? Or would they be obligated to arrest him and charge him in civilian courts?

Bender said...

By the way, the targeted killing of Thomas Paine by King George during the Revolution would not have constituted "assassination." It would have been a killing in the usual course of warfare.

Ben Franklin would have been a different matter since, as an ambassador to France, he would have had diplomatic immunity and his killing would have constituted an "assassination," which is by definition an unlawful killing.

jr565 said...

Dust Bunny wrote:
The difference is that in previous 'wars' there was a definite set of combatants. France vs Germany. Japan vs USA. In the "war" on terrorism the combatants are various, nebulous, multi-national and can be defined as anyone that the government wants. The "war on terrorism" doesn't have a particular battlefield and can be anywhere that the government wants to claim it to be. There are no uniforms, no treaties, no nationalities.

Because terrorism is so cloudy, the danger is that it is a perfect opportunity for anything that threatens the powers that be, anything they want, can be called terrorism and anyone they want to 'classify' as a combatant in that nebulous war can be theoretically and even literally killed.

Fighting Al Qaeda is like fighting pirates. Look at the Barbary War in 1802 for example of an early example of us dealing with asymetric war of a sort.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I haven't lost a lot of sleep over Al-Alwaki's death, but the idea that we can just wipe out everyone in a restaurant because we thought someone we wanted to kill was in there -- whether he proved actually to be in there or not -- is pretty frightening all by itself.

Rusty said...

This will not end well for all involved.

bgates said...

It's funny how libertarians who are steadfast against the govt being able to kill Americans without trials, have no problem with the idea of being able to own a gun to protect yourself.

It's funny to pretend those are the same thing. "A shooting tonight in Washington as two men attempted to mug the entire federal government of the United States. The men spotted the government alone at an ATM and thought they found an easy target, not realizing the government was carrying a 9mm handgun, as well as the largest nuclear arsenal in the history of the world."

jr565 said...

Dust Bunny wrote:
Because terrorism is so cloudy, the danger is that it is a perfect opportunity for anything that threatens the powers that be, anything they want, can be called terrorism and anyone they want to 'classify' as a combatant in that nebulous war can be theoretically and even literally killed.

Congress authorized Bush and then Obama to go to war with Al Qaeda. not the NRA. Even if dems call the NRA a terrorist organization it doesn't mean that the president can simply start targeting the NRA as terrorists. He would have to be authorized to fight them.
So most people are safe.
Now, are there people falling through the cracks who may be targeted erroneously who are only related to terrorism on a tangential basis. probably. And there are people who are killed as collateral damage who are otherwise not engaged in terrorism. Thats why war is such a terrible thing.

But, lets take Adam Gadhan. How should we treat him (or Osama bin Laden for that matter) we wont get them to trial, or haven't up till this point. But should we give Adam Gadhan a presumption of innocence when it comes to being a member of Al Qaeda, even though we've all seen the tapes where he is with AL Qaeda talking about taking arms argainst America? We dont' really need a trial to know that he is working with them, do we?
How would you suggest we carry forward when dealing with him? Before we called him a terrorist or in league with terrorists we'd have to first arrest him, then bring him to the states then try him? That's a ludicrous argument.

Bender said...

the idea that we can just wipe out everyone in a restaurant because we thought someone we wanted to kill was in there

Well, of course, the killing of those who are entirely innocent, treating them like "collateral damage," is a different question entirely. And completely illegal, whether under the U.S. Constitution or under the international laws of war.

jr565 said...

bgates wrote:
The men spotted the government alone at an ATM and thought they found an easy target, not realizing the government was carrying a 9mm handgun

the point being, if you are defending yourself you don't particularly care that you haven't proven in a court of law that the people are trying to kill you. Nor do you have to arrest them and have them put on trial before you defend yourself.
Yet, you are ostensibly killing Americans on American soil without first giving them trials.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Of course, there would always be collateral casualties but I'm sure those unfortunate folks would feel good if they could to know that their deaths were not in vain for it all work out okay in the end."

-- I was going to link to the story that appeared in the Huffington Post about how, maybe, Mary Jo Kopechne would've been OK with what happened since Ted Kennedy did good things, but, unsurprisingly, the article has been scrubbed from HuffPo.

wyo sis said...

I want to rank the choices by which one will be used most often to least often.

My guess, B, A, D, C

Robert Cook said...

"Why are they using the word 'innocent' to describe this boy?"

How about because there's no proof, no evidence, not even any suggestion that the boy was engaged in terrorist acts or planning. How about because, as an American, he must formally be considered (by the American government) "innocent" until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law?

How about because we should never just take the word of the President--whoever is in office--that any person he's just iced extrajudicially was "guilty?"

Hagar said...

@jr,

The way you "take" Adam Gahan is that you publicly declare him "outlaw" along with your reasons for doing so.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Bender said...
"Well, of course, the killing of those who are entirely innocent, treating them like "collateral damage," is a different question entirely. And completely illegal, whether under the U.S. Constitution or under the international laws of war."

Sorry, but in WW2 the Germans, Japanese, U.S., U.K., and well everyone and their dog BOMBED CITIES. Whole cities. Non-combatants were in those cities.

You do know the history of the Blitz? Or Britain's night bombing campaign, or the Japans bombing of Singapore?

And of course the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, right?

Not only non-combatants but some of our own prisoners were there (in fact quite a few cities we and the Germans bombed had POWs in those cities.)

By 1945 all pretense of precision bombing had gone out of the window and whole cities were targeted with the aiming point being the center of the city.

And the point of the bombing was [b]to break the will of their people[/b], so yes we have killed innocents and we knew we were killing them.

And it was, in our eyes, LEGAL.

jr565 said...

Paul wrote:
And the point of the bombing was [b]to break the will of their people[/b], so yes we have killed innocents and we knew we were killing them.

I agree, though I guess the distinction would be we didn't target those individuals we just bombed shit. Not that it really matters if you're the guy on the ground being bombed.

jr565 said...

Robert Cook wrote:
How about because there's no proof, no evidence, not even any suggestion that the boy was engaged in terrorist acts or planning. How about because, as an American, he must formally be considered (by the American government) "innocent" until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law?

those aren't the rules we use when we are at war.
Adam Gadhan hasn't been found guilty of being in Al Qaeda, but we've all seen video of Adam Gadhan speaking in furtherance of Al Qaeda's aims. So, should we pretend that he's not a target and send in troops to arrest him so that we can bring him to trial and only then call him a terrorist?
That's not how war works.

jr565 said...

Due process does not cover war. And assuming that it should or even should is crazy. Imagine if we were at war, and had to arrest people on the battlefield before we could prove that they were enemies we could attack.

Cedarford said...

MayBee said...
Should you shoot them if you think they may be at a food stand in Shabwa? Eve if they aren't, and dozens of others are killed?

Glenn Greenwald has reported, the Pentagon and many mainstream media outlets used the term "militant" to describe Abdulrahman Awlaki, an innocent 16-year-old boy from Denver


Maybee again proves she doesn't understand the way warfare is, larding up her talk with notions of how unacceptable any military strike is unless the bomb(s) are 100% accurate and the target is 100% sure of being there...
And the blather about "innocent 16-year olds" (apparantly assigned by al-Awlaki as companion and gopher to Al Qaeda's chief ME propagandist and media outreach person).

1. We bombed a Baghdad restaurant with B-1s at the start of the Iraq War, on reports Saddam and his inner circle would be there. He wasn't. We only killed a general and a couple mid-level Ba'athists along with their families and other patrons and some hapless restaurant employees.
War crime?
Nope.
War.

2. Calling the little Jihadi "innocent" is like calling a 15-year old Hitler Youth "innocent". Or a 14 year old that threw a grenade that killed one US Army Spec Forces guy and blinded another, "innocent".
Truth is they are neither innocent or guilty. The enemy is not criminal by nature, they are part of an ideology and world view that sees us Americans as enemy that can be targeted for destruction.
Americans saturated by media coverage of law enforcement and lawyer-speak try to fit the square peg of "US Criminal Justice Code" into the round hole of "dealing with enemy combatants and non-combatants.



jr565 said...

Hagar wrote:
The way you "take" Adam Gahan is that you publicly declare him "outlaw" along with your reasons for doing so.

But the assertion from many here is that we can't because he hasn't had a trial proving his guilt.

Cedarford said...

JR565 - A series of good, insightful posts from you. Well done.
I also like your adding that Andrew Johnson quote. Not a great President, but speaking viewing the ashes of the South after the Civil War, he was spot-on.

Worth repeating:

it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.

And it warns us of the utter folly of placing lawyers and legislators in charge of defining acceptable actions of the Commander in Chief and limiting the Executive in conduct of war to protect the US public from a lethal enemy.
Especially since the ones that want to put the Executive Branch inferior to the Courts and the Congress tend to overlook that lawyers and legislators tend to act with blinders on...using one engagement with one small jihad enemy as the template that would cover all future US engagements from all unanticipated enemy threats and even some threats that are known but dismissed as "impossible" - like total war with another nation or use of WMD.

So naturally you have lawyers with only experience in civilian criminal law wanting to apply warrants, Miranda, trials in civilian court, 14th Amendment due process rights to warfare. And idiotically thinking anyone who wants to kill us must have to violate some criminal law, otherwise, they must be considered "innocent in the eyes of the law".



Bender said...

Paul - if we are to be consistent and really care about things like truth and justice, then we must admit that even the Allies were not completely innocent in WWII. Some of their actions, for example some of their bombing campaigns, could rightly expose them to accusations of war crimes.

However, the WWII generation has at least this defense for them -- the weapons of that age, especially an air-dropped bomb, was pretty inaccurate. Hence the need to carpet bomb in order to strike one objective.

We cannot say that today. Obama cannot rely upon the inaccuracy of weapons today. Indeed, one of the positive things about drones is that they are smart weapons, they are precision instruments, and can limit a strike to within a couple of feet, rather than a couple of blocks as was the case with WWII bombs. So-called collateral damage is completely avoidable with these weapons. The fact that innocents continue to be killed only shows that Obama has a complete disregard for such innocent human life.

Cedarford said...

Bender - Indeed, one of the positive things about drones is that they are smart weapons, they are precision instruments, and can limit a strike to within a couple of feet, rather than a couple of blocks as was the case with WWII bombs. So-called collateral damage is completely avoidable with these weapons.

Bender, sorry, you don't know what you are talking about.

Modern precision weapons sometimes fail, they sometimes drift off target, they have MOA (margins of accuracy) in the 5 meter or so radius for the most accurate ones, 10+ meters for JDAMs. And add human error, meterological conditions..wind gusts..
They also have a lethal radius of tens of meters from detonation from small stuff, and almost 150 meters for bigger stuff.

And dumb assertions like "collateral damage is now completely avoidable with precision weapons" - no, they are not.
Think MOA, lethal radius, and the fact that commanders will take out a bridge or high value Islamoid target in full knowledge that bystanders (Collateral damage) may be killed even if the ordnance drops dead on the bridge footing, or the missile actually skewers the Islamoid before it detonates.

Strelnikov said...

You're missing "All B".

Cedarford said...

Bender -
And further dumbness on your part calling enemy non-combatants "innocents".

How exactly do those enemy non-combatant "innocents" convert one of their own into a guilty criminal by them ordering that innocent to pick up arms and fight? Or remain innocent when they give the guilty and evil soldier - aid and comfort in the form of approval, material support??

MayBee said...

Maybee again proves she doesn't understand the way warfare is, larding up her talk with notions of how unacceptable any military strike is unless the bomb(s) are 100% accurate and the target is 100% sure of being there...
and yet I didn't say that at all, let alone lard up my comments with that talk.


And the blather about "innocent 16-year olds" (apparantly assigned by al-Awlaki as companion and gopher to Al Qaeda's chief ME propagandist and media outreach person).

I provided two quotes from the very limited reporting we have about the incident. One referring to the administration referring to the 16 year old as a militant after killing him.
One, just yesterday, reporting the administration had no evidence he had anything to do with terrorism and didn't mean to target him anyway.

You may think, for whatever reason, that he deserved to die. I am bothered by the inconsistency, and the opaqueness of the decision to kill this boy and declare him/undeclared him a militant.

Were they really targeting him? Did they think he was a terrorist? Did they think he was a militant and should have chosen a better father? Do they have some evidence to support that idea?
Or were they targeting someone else, and got him completely accidentally? Did they make up the idea he was a militant to cover up their mistakes?

I think those are fair questions as we move forward . It has nothing to do with perfection.

Rusty said...


""What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by 'engaged in combat'?""

It means you're criticising the Obama administration.

Robert Cook said...

"1. We bombed a Baghdad restaurant with B-1s at the start of the Iraq War, on reports Saddam and his inner circle would be there. He wasn't. We only killed a general and a couple mid-level Ba'athists along with their families and other patrons and some hapless restaurant employees.
War crime?
Nope.
War"


Nope. War crime. Our illegal invasion of Iraq was itself a war crime and thus all actions that followed are war crimes.

Hagar said...

Hagar wrote:
The way you "take" Adam Gahan is that you publicly declare him "outlaw" along with your reasons for doing so.

But the assertion from many here is that we can't because he hasn't had a trial proving his guilt.


We are indeed fighting a war, and indeed a world wide war, with a number of combatants with different motivations. If we can arrest and try a miscreant, then that is what we ought to do.

However, in a war that is not always possible, and anyway, it is justifiable to strike at our declared enemies.The drones, etc., once invented are not going to go away.

What I am aiming at is to try to prevent a free-for-all where everybody and his uncle are using drones promiscuously. People do know right from wrong, and I hope most will be with us if we state our case for using these weapons openly.
Also, of course, I hope to keep misuse of these policies for personal gain or political purposes to a minimum.

Robert Cook said...

"What I am aiming at is to try to prevent a free-for-all where everybody and his uncle are using drones promiscuously. People do know right from wrong, and I hope most will be with us if we state our case for using these weapons openly."

I wonder how accepting we will be when other nations start using drones against us, if they use the excuse they're just trying to kill "terrorists" hiding out here who have sworn to destroy them?

Hagar said...

I don't think other nation states will use drones against us - not openly anyawy, but NGO's assuredly will, and since we have declared war on them as "enemy combatants," I do not think we will have much choice but to accept it as "enemy action."

And it should not be laughed off. NGO's do not need very sophisticated weapons in order to retaliate quite effectively.

Mark said...

Wasn't Al Gore's network bought by Al Jezeera?

And if your basic cable includes the network, aren't you funding Al Jazeera?

It starts when you're always afraid.

Rusty said...

Robert Cook said...
"1. We bombed a Baghdad restaurant with B-1s at the start of the Iraq War, on reports Saddam and his inner circle would be there. He wasn't. We only killed a general and a couple mid-level Ba'athists along with their families and other patrons and some hapless restaurant employees.
War crime?
Nope.
War"

Nope. War crime. Our illegal invasion of Iraq was itself a war crime and thus all actions that followed are war crimes.




You've read way too much Chomsky.

Robert Cook said...

"You've read way too much Chomsky."

Not at all...unless you count reading one book and a smattering of interviews and articles as "too much."

From what I have read or heard by Chomsky, he seems more rational and more correct than his detractors...which is not to say his every thought is holy writ or inviolable.

I simply take seriously the requirement that the UN Security Council approve a motion for a member nation to go to war--or that the war be in service to self-defense against an imminent or already begun attack--neither of which condition pertained in our fabricated war against Iraq.

If any war can be illegal--that is, if any country can be condemned and sanctioned for initiating aggression against another--our baseless invasion of Iraq was illegal.

Drago said...

Cookie: "Nope. War crime. Our illegal invasion of Iraq was itself a war crime and thus all actions that followed are war crimes."

LOL

Nope.

Our "invasion" was not illegal.

Our "war" against Iraq began with the first Gulf War, which was authorized by the UN, to expel Saddam and his pals from Kuwait.

We did expel Saddam and his pals from Kuwait and, in fact, that "war" never ended.

We signed a cease-fire agreement which required certain actions and non-actions on Saddams part to continue the cease-fire.

Saddam violated every single one of those terms.

Thus, on that basis alone,as per the UN approved cease-fire, military action was again initiated on a wider scale (we had military action against Saddam and his pals on a narrower (but cease-fire approved) basis since the cessation of initial large scale military action)).

Drago said...

Next thing you know, cookie will be here telling us that it was really Reagan and HWBush who told Saddam to invade Kuwait.

LOL

Robert Cook said...

Sorry, Drago...all feeble post-hoc justifications to the contrary, our invasion of Iraq was illegal and a war crime.

BTW, we did not tell Hussein to invade Kuwait, but Ambassador April Glaspie did tell Hussein in a meeting prior to it, where Iraq's differences with Kuwait were discussed, that we had "no opinion" on the matter, from which he took the meaning that we would not object. We did not give him a go-ahead, but he thought we were giving him a pass. Just wonder what might have been the turn of events if we had strongly objected.

Also, before we invaded, (support for which by the American people was generated by lies, such as Hussein's soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators to die on the floor)Hussein declared a willingness to seek a negotiated end to hostilities, but he was ignored. So, even that war was avoidable and could have been resolved without our military engagement.

John Lynch said...

Hi, RC. Like your posts. You're consistent. I don't agree with you about the source of legality in international affairs, but you stick to your convictions and follow them through.

I'm interested as to why conservatives are now going after the drones. They didn't seem to care much before. What changed?

I'm not morally outraged by our government killing our enemies. They attacked us. Drone strikes seem to actually be much less likely to kill innocents in the immediate area than any previous use of American firepower, if they are aimed at the right target (more below).

I'm also not much bothered by American traitors being killed the same way- they chose their side. I don't think that our government is going to be able to kill Americans with drones who aren't our avowed enemies without being caught very quickly. Dead people, especially dead Americans, are far too obvious. They might get away with it once or twice, but that's it.

When there is this much discussion about a man who went on the internet with videos declaring his allegiance before he was killed, then I doubt it's going to be possible to kill someone whose loyalty to the enemy is less evident. If someone has joined the enemy and is trying to kill us, they should be treated exactly the same way. Being theoretically American, in this case, doesn't matter. If an enemy of American origin should not be killed, then no enemy should be. What they do matters, not what category they belong to.

Far more troubling, it seems to me, are the thousands of people who have been killed by drones in the last few years. Were they all enemies? How do we know? I'd like less focus on Americans and more on whether drone strikes have become comparable to the "body counts" of the Vietnam war- meaningless statistics that become an excuse to drop bombs on innocent people.

I'm happy that this has finally become a national issue, but I'm troubled that the real problem isn't being addressed. People who die in Waziristan or Yemen are people, too.