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View Diary: U.S. Admits to Killing Four American Citizens in Drone Strikes (128 comments)

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  •  "On the battlefield" is meaningless legally. (6+ / 0-)

    People use the term "on the battlefield" as shorthand to mean "involved as a combatant in the war," but it's a misleading term. The legal doctrine about who can be targeted in an armed conflict isn't based on geography, but status. There are people on battlefields, like doctors, who cannot be legally targeted, and people off the battlefield, like operational planners or airplane mechanics, who can be targeted at will.

    Since the invention of air power, most air strikes target people behind the lines, well away from the physical battlefield. The Germans invented the first bomber in World  War One for the purpose of bombing targets like rail yards and supply lines.

    Yes, a U.S. citizen in the German Army during one of the World Wars would have been legal to target, whether he was shooting a rifle during a firefight, or sorting letters at a headquarters fifty miles from the fighting.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Wed May 22, 2013 at 03:15:23 PM PDT

    •  side note: a quick check of Waffen records (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe from Lowell, barleystraw

      that are available online reveals that most Americans who returned to fight for the Fatherland died in combat before 1944, many on the Eastern Front.  I can find no example of an American citizen serving in the Waffen as a combat trooper who survived the war to face American justice, though there were a few examples such as the Brit, Lord Haw Haw and American Tokyo Rose (who may have really been several women)

    •  Meaningless or not, (4+ / 0-)

      it's an explictly stated part of the subject and scope of this letter, from the Attorney General, to the chairman of  the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

      I am writing to disclose to you certain information about the number of U.S. citizens who have been killed outside of areas of active hostilities.
      •  That's what they were asked about. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, Ray Blake

        Which is unfortunate, because the irrelevant detail of location ends up getting a bunch of attention, distracting from the legal doctrines that matter.

        Art is the handmaid of human good.

        by joe from Lowell on Wed May 22, 2013 at 04:29:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Further on, (0+ / 0-)
          This week the President approved and relevant congressional committees will be notified and briefed on a document  that institutionalizes the Administration's exacting standards and processes for reviewing and processing operations to capture or use lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities; these standards are already in place or will be transitioned into place.
          Distinctions about, casually speaking, "hot battlefield" are a specific part of Administration thought. It's not Pat Leahy interjecting the meaningless idea in.

          "Due process" is Administation thought too. Holder spells that out pretty clearly in this letter. The Administration doesn't claim that due process doesn't apply, because war. It claims that its version of due process is sufficient. (For purposes of this paragraph, I'm speaking about what the Adminstration position is, outside of that important distiction of hot battlefield.)

    •  Exactly, and it is precisely this sloppy use of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catesby, Chitownliberal7, Ray Blake

      language that underlies most of the arguments by those who cry 'murder!' here.  

      The same is true of the bald assertions here that Al-a was 'killed without due process.'  Nevermind that the term due process has a specific definition and does not mean 'after trial, conviction and death sentence', or even 'after judicial hearing'.  Due process simply means the process that is due, i.e. that which the law requires.  In matters of war such as targets, the law - meaning the Constitution, Art. II - vests that power in the Commander in Chief, i.e. POTUS.  The only thing required to invoke that is a Congressional declaration of hostilities and direction of POTUS to use the military to prosecute same.  Congress did that with the Authorization of Use of Military Force resolution.

      That is the process which is due.  Whether the target/victim is a US citizen or not.  Whether on or behind 'the lines' or in Timbuktu.  Arguments that they should capture them put troops in harms way instead of a robot are arguments abuot military tactics, not due process, which exclusively is the CinCs province.

      Just as the CSS Nashville could have been sunk and all hands killed even when it atacked union ships in the English Channel, so too could it have been attacked and all hands killed if it had been in foreign port.  The same is true for anyone deemed a combatant in an authorized military action.

      As I have said here for months, those who attack Obama on specious ground of 'due process' on this would be far better served- as would their cause - by directing their efforts to getting Congress to repeal the AUMF and thus removing the legal basis for these acts.  

      Everything else is psudeo-legal bloviating.

      BTW, a number of terror suspects have claimed al-A was connected to their acts.  Even if only as an instigator of them, he might then be deemed a legitimate war target ala Reichminister Goebbels, who was never in the German military either, bc if al-A did have a connection with those attacks, then a fear of connection to more in the future is not so absurd as to be patently unreasonable.

      •  I agree on all points, and it is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Blake, truong son traveler

        clear in the Bill of Rights.  Citizens are not singled out for special protection - it applies to everyone under US power.  And the exemption for war and public safety is a huge one.

        My problem is, and this is more a matter of international law than Constitutional, is whether a country can make military attacks against individuals without that country's permission and without declaring war.

        Sometimes I miss the USSR, because then at least we attempted to try and look like the principled guys.

        •  re: USSR, too damn (and sadly) true. I worried ou (0+ / 0-)

          tloud about just this in 1991 (and the deeper concern that average Americans would not understand why something should not be done without the example of the boogeyman, e.g., torture, indefinite detention without trial).

          And I agree, it does not mean that we should not aspire to a more just system.  Nor does it mean the People thru Congress can not decide to impose a higher standard.  Or that they should not.

          The problem with International Law is it really doesn't exist, since Law requires Authority to enforce and there is none independent of individual nation-states' desires and interests.  E.g., 'international law' applies to and binds the US only by virtue that the US has chosen to be bound via treaty and only so long as it continues to so choose.  (And anyway Yemen has consented to US strikes and you really don't think Pakistan really objects do you?  Not too mention the UN charter gives one nation authority to violate another's sovereignty in self-defense and in this age when a handful of men can kill a city, the refusal of host nation to police in its own borders may
          justify the defender to act without the hosts consent.  Tho the 'Afghanistan solution' - i.e., the hosts refusal to act is an attack or abetting same on the defender nation is extremelu problematic when dealing with nuclear powers such as Pakistan.)

          But, that aside, legal principles adopted by a vast majority of humanity would seem a pretty good place to look if we care about being just as well as legal.

          IOW, a just result, as well as due process.

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