Here Are the Circumstances in Which Obama Feels Justified in Killing People. There May Be Others.

6548obama firing shotgun Here Are the Circumstances in Which Obama Feels Justified in Killing People. There May Be Others.

On Monday I noted several
alarming aspects of the process by which President Obama marks
people for death, as outlined in a Justice Department white paper
leaked this week. All of them boil down to this: To be comfortable
with the Obama administration’s program of “targeted killings,” you
have to be confident that the president and his underlings, without
the benefit of judicial review, are conscientiously and inerrantly
identifying people who deserve to die and who pose truly imminent
terrorist threats that can only be addressed by dropping bombs on
them. This morning Jesse Walker
noted an additional problem: Even if the targets are
appropriate, they are not the only ones killed by American
missiles. In addition to the Yemeni cleric he mentions, who had
taken a brave stance against Al Qaeda, the same

New York Times story cites a 2009 attack in
which “American cruise missiles carrying cluster
munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and
children.” Counts by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City
University in London indicate that drone strikes in Pakistan had

killed somewhere between 474 and 881 civilians, including 176
children, as of last September.That story also belies the impression that drones are targeting
only “senior, operational leader[s] of al-Qa’ida or an associated
force” who pose “an imminent threat of violent attack against the
United States” and that they are used only when capture is
“infeasible”:
Several former top military and intelligence officials—including
Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired general who led the Joint
Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the
military’s drone strikes, and Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A.
director—have raised concerns that the drone wars in Pakistan and
Yemen are increasingly targeting low-level militants who do not
pose a direct threat to the United States….
In some cases, drones have killed members of Al Qaeda when it
seemed that they might easily have been arrested or captured,
according to a number of Yemeni officials and tribal figures. One
figure in particular has stood out: Adnan al Qadhi, who was killed,
apparently in a drone strike, in early November in a town near the
capital.
Mr. Qadhi was an avowed supporter of Al Qaeda, but he also had
recently served as a mediator for the Yemeni government with other
jihadists, and was drawing a government salary at the time of his
death. He was not in hiding, and his house is within sight of large
houses owned by a former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh,
and other leading figures.
A 2012 study by researchers at the Stanford and NYU law schools

estimated that 2 percent of targets killed by drones in
Pakistan could be described as “high-level.” To be fair, the DOJ
white paper makes it clear that the conditions it discusses—the
target is 1) a senior, operational leader who 2) poses an imminent
threat (which in practice is the same as the first condition) and
3) cannot be captured—are sufficient to justify the
summary execution of an American citizen, which does not mean they
are necessary, especially when it comes to foreign
nationals. Attorney General Eric Holder likewise kept the
president’s options open in a
March 2012 speech (emphasis added):
Let me be clear: An operation using lethal force in a foreign
country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior
operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is
actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful
at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S.
government has determined, after a thorough and careful review,
that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack
against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and
third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with
applicable law of war principles.
I am happy to let Holder be clear, but he seems intent on
obfuscating a crucial point: While the president claims the
authority to order someone’s death when these conditions are met,
he also claims that authority when these conditions are
not met. The white paper itself broadens the meaning of
“imminent threat” so that it is not really a distinct criterion,
dropping even the requirement (which was never really a
requirement) that a target be “actively engaged in planning to kill
Americans.” Both that document and a close reading of Holder’s
speech make it clear that the president’s license to kill is
broader than all the talk of careful review and qualifying criteria
might lead one to believe.

Read the article: 

Here Are the Circumstances in Which Obama Feels Justified in Killing People. There May Be Others.


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