By: Charles Krauthammer
2/15/2013 05:00 AM
WASHINGTON The nations vexation over the morality and legality of President Obamas drone war has produced a salutary but hopelessly confused debate. Three categories of questions are being asked. They must be separated to be clearly understood.
1. By what right does the president order the killing by drone of enemies abroad? What criteria justify assassination?
Answer: (a) imminent threat, under the doctrine of self-defense, and (b) affiliation with al-Qaeda, under the laws of war.
Imminent threat is obvious. If we know a freelance jihadist cell in Yemen is actively plotting an attack, we dont have to wait until after the fact. Elementary self-defense justifies attacking first.
Al-Qaeda is a different matter. We are in a mutual state of war. Osama bin Laden issued his fatwa declaring war on the United States in 1996; we reciprocated three days after 9/11 with Congress Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda and those who harbor and abet it.
Regarding al-Qaeda, therefore, imminence is not required. Its members are legitimate targets, day or night, awake or asleep. Nothing new here. In World War II, we bombed German and Japanese barracks without hesitation.
Unfortunately, Obamas Justice Department memos justifying the drone attacks are hopelessly muddled. They imply that the sole justification for drone attack is imminent threat and whereas al-Qaeda is plotting all the time, an al-Qaeda honcho sleeping in his bed is therefore a legitimate target.
Nonsense. Slippery nonsense. It gives the impression of an administration making up criteria to fit the presidents kill list. No need to confuse categories. A sleeping Anwar al-Awlaki could lawfully be snuffed not because of imminence but because he was self-declared al-Qaeda and thus an enemy combatant as defined by congressional resolution and the laws of war.
2. But Awlaki was no ordinary enemy. He was a U.S. citizen. By what right does the president order the killing by drone of an American? Wheres the due process?
Answer: Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in-arms.
Lincoln steadfastly refused to recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation. The soldiers that his Union Army confronted at Antietam were American citizens (in rebellion) killed without due process. Nor did the Americans storming German bunkers at Normandy inquire before firing if there were any German-Americans among them to be excused for gentler treatment while the other Germans were mowed down.
3. Who has the authority to decide life and death targeting?
In war, the ultimate authority is always the commander in chief and those in the lawful chain of command to whom he has delegated such authority.
This looks troubling. Obama sitting alone in the Oval Office deciding what individuals to kill. But how is that different from Lyndon Johnson sitting in his office choosing bombing targets in North Vietnam?
Moreover, we firebombed entire cities in World War II. Who chose? Commanders under the ultimate authority of the president. No judicial review, no outside legislative committee, no secret court, no authority above the president.
OK, you say. But todays war is entirely different: no front line, no end in sight.
So what? Its the jihadists who decided to make the world a battlefield and to wage war in perpetuity. Until they abandon the field, what choice do we have but to carry the fight to them?
We have our principles and precedents for lawful warmaking, and a growing body of case law for the more vexing complexities of the present war for example, the treatment of suspected terrorists apprehended on U.S. soil. The courts having granted them varying degrees of habeas corpus protection, it is obvious that termination by drone is forbidden unless Congress and the courts decide otherwise, which, short of a Taliban invasion from New Brunswick, is inconceivable.
Now, for those who believe that the war on terror is not war but law enforcement, (a) I concede that they will find the foregoing analysis to be useless and (b) I assert that they are living on a different and distant planet.
For us earthlings, on the other hand, the case for Obamas drone war is clear. Pity that his Justice Department couldnt make it.
This post was modified from its original form on 15 Feb, 9:14
I agree with your comment about secrecy and clandestine operations like this one Rhonda.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced this week a new medal for desk-bound warriors who control killer robots responsible for the deaths of thousands in South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will recognize drone pilots for their extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.
In other words, what Glenn Greenwald once described as sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away is now considered an extraordinary achievement.
The drone medal will rank above the Bronze Medal and Purple Heart, meaning computer screen heroes will receive awards more prestigious than troops who get shot in battle. Even members of the military community, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, are blasting the absurdity of the medals rank.
Its a boneheaded decision, VFW spokesman Joe Davis told Fox News. This is going to affect morale and its sending troops in the field a horrible message.
Even more horrible is the message sent to citizens of countries facing regular drone attacks, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. A report from Stanford and NYU released in September estimates that from June 2004 through September 2012, drone strikes killed 2,562 3,325 people in Pakistan, including 474 881 civilians, 176 of whom were children. The report also says that high-level targets account for about 2 percent of drone casualties.
Rather than owning up to the unconscionable devastation of Obamas signature weapon, U.S. lawmakers have downplayed civilian casualties from drone strikes. Senator Diane Feinstein disgracefully claims that annual deaths have been in the single digits.
Apparently, its not enough for the U.S. government to willfully ignore the extent of its carnage. Now, its awarding medals to the literal armchair warriors who carry it out.
The Stanford/NYU report has the testimony of a Pakistani resident living in a heavy-drone strike region:
"Before this we were all very happy. But after these drones attacks a lot of people are victims and have lost members of their family.
Maybe it's time for the U.S. military to rethink what constitutes bravery.
Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn
This post was modified from its original form on 15 Feb, 12:17
Computer commandos get medals now?
OMG! I jammed a finger when I hit that key!
How about carpal tunnel? Do these people get dangerous combat pay?
Ouch!!!! Paper cut, paper cut!!!
Post computer combat stress syndrome?
It's getting pretty sick out there.
This post was modified from its original form on 15 Feb, 12:27
This post was modified from its original form on 15 Feb, 12:30
Jim; it is going to be a whole new world of VIRTUAL WARFARE and the new technology starting with the drone program is just the beginning.'
The new warriors will be computer proficient and using joy sticks playing video games will come into play as basic training.
This post was modified from its original form on 16 Feb, 11:15
The Pentagon has created a new medal for drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists that will rank higher in the order of precedence for military decorations than the Bronze Star with Combat V, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday.
Called the Distinguished Warfare Medal, the new medal recognizes the changing character of warfare in the post-9/11 era in which servicemembers sitting at consoles in the U.S. can directly impact the outcome of engagements with an enemy overseas, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as the CIA director and then the Pentagon chief, he had seen first-hand how modern tools like remotely-piloted platforms and cyber systems have changed the way wars can be fought, changed the course of battle even from afar.
But there had been no way previously to honor the efforts of the technicians with a military decoration.
For that reason, I formally approved establishing the Distinguished Warfare Medal, Panetta said.
Unlike awards for courage in the face of the enemy, the medal will be given for actions that do not involve valor or physical risks that combat entails, Panetta said of the new medal that will rank directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In explaining the decision to create the medal, Defense Department officials said in a statement that modern technology enables service members with special training and capabilities to more directly and precisely impact military operations at times far from the battlefield.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded in the name of the secretary of defense to servicemembers whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition, the statement read.
A Pentagon memorandum makes sure to emphasize that the medal may not be awarded for valor in combat under any circumstances.
The [Distinguished Warfare Medal] provides an avenue to recognize appropriately extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations warranting recognition above the Bronze Star Medal, the Pentagon memo reads.
The medal is only to be awarded to those serving after Sept. 11, 2001.
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This post was modified from its original form on 16 Feb, 11:21
Jim et al ... this is an excellent site which I have now subscribed to as it gives the latest information on what is going on in this hi tech world we live in.
Here is the latest one: What the Astronauts Don't See published Feb. 13, 2012
This post was modified from its original form on 16 Feb, 11:32
If you really are interested in high tech, this a lot of stuff going on. We are close to a revolution in materials that will change everything.