Skip to main content

We need a wider debate not about the justification of the use of Predator Drones, but about the morality and implications of so doing.

That they are being used is clear. They are being used as weapons of war against any "high value" targets the Executive deems appropriate.

Weapons of war have collateral damage ... always. People die who were not the intended targets. War is hell, we have always known that therefore it must always be the tool of last resort, and only then when the balance of harm caused favors the protection of our fundamental concerns.

And war has rules. We have treaties signed and they supersede our domestic law. Unless the SCOTUS chips in with a view, those treaties are supreme.

What I am saying is that absent the withdrawal of the United States from the Geneva Conventions, the Bush Administration does not get to redefine torture. Torture is defined by those conventions, and ruled upon by the International Court in the Hague.

Not in the White House by the President, Not in Langley by the CIA, and not in theater by soldiers on the ground. When the previous Administration attempted to redefine torture, and authorised "enhanced interrogation techniques" based upon their own assessment, they broke the law. Justice demands that they answer that charge in the Hague. Practical politics says that they never will.

In the same way that we pilloried George Bush and his advisors for the war crimes they stand accused of, we face a similar situation with the President that we helped to elect.

The criticism is not, however, the same. Bush was perusing an agenda that did not have the interests, or the national interest, of the United States at heart. It certainly wasn't ever in the interests of the country we invaded on a false pretext. It was action taken for baser concerns, those of personal pride and commercial gain. There is no excuse for that. We were not threatened by Saddam Hussein. Iraq did not attack us on 9/11.

In this situation, the gross illegality of the war in the first place, and the alleged breaches of the Geneva Conventions in the second, are clear and pretty damned egregious. Congress may have authorised the war, but in failing to impeach the President for torture, Congress heaped illegality on insult by colluding with war crimes.

Now we are facing another, more difficult situation to get our heads around.

More difficult because we do not know whether or not the targets of the drones fulfill the legal requirements for Executive killing, and the "wartime" version of due process. More difficult because it is being authorised by a Democratic President, one we helped elect, twice, and that burns.

But we are nothing if we are not honest. Democrats are not immune from either making mistakes, or feeling the need to take action if the slightest justification can be found to allow such action. The slippery slope, or downright error of pursuing that course is easily lost, even by a smart guy, especially when he surrounds himself with dubious advisors.

Yesterday saw the publication, on the front page of this site, a Diary that caused quite a stir. It followed a week of media debate about the DoJ Memorandum, which we still haven't seen. That memorandum whose existence has been confirmed purports to represent the legal justification for executing American citizens abroad.

The Diary was complex and, I'll confess, I had some difficulty getting my head around the intricacies. It's law, and not meant to be understood by plebs like me, but I did my best. The article was written by an attorney, and I need to tell you something about attorneys. They believe in the law. Even when they see the absurdities, and the contradictions, in the end the remedy is in the law. You have to look for it, assemble your argument, then present them in court and if you lose then you present it all again to smarter judges.

That is what attorneys do, and they often do it brilliantly. What I read seemed to be an attorney attempting to explain the justification for the killings. Not necessarily agreeing with it, or commending it to others, but explaining how the decisions could be reached. I did wonder about a couple of points, but I am not going to re-litigate the Diary here. It was one man's view after some considerable work.

On balance, I have some real trouble with the legal case for the killing of US citizens, and anyone else because actually, the constitution protects everyone that the United States has direct contact with, and there is little contact more direct than a Predator Drone blowing your ass out of bed.

The memo we have seen appears to rely on two things .... The changed circumstances of normal jurisprudence due to the authorisation of war, and the definition of the word "imminent".

Here I am at a loss. We were pissed when the Bush Administration gave torture a cuddly new name, enhanced interrogation. I'm pretty confident that if you have to redefine imminent, which is defined quite clearly in the Title here, to include historical events and other irrelevancies, then your whole argument looks a little shaky.

I asked only one question yesterday, and although I asked it twice I have yet to hear any reasonable answer, or indeed any answer at all.

My question was simply "Who is Al Qeada" (sp. optional). This is pretty important if we are justifying an imminent danger based on membership of, or association with an terrorist organization. It seems to me that a terrorist, under the current regime, is anyone the Executive secretly determines them to be. Now they are safely labeled terrorist, we can decide they are an imminent danger and erase their asses from the planet. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and never have the opportunity to hear the case against you, or test the evidence. This might piss you off if maybe you have been a bit of a bad guy in the past, but were now simply keeping your head down and waiting for a better world.

The thing is, not only would that be a shame for your Mom, who would miss you, but it would be grossly illegal, and no amount of parsing of words, so favoured by politicians, would make it any less so.

The Authorisation for the Use of Military Force does not entitle a Commander-in-Chief to ignore the treaties we have signed. Nor does it entitle the Executive to make up its own rules about killing Americans without due process.

Worse, when all you have is a justification based upon the redefining of a common word, that you may bend it to fit the meaning you need it to have, then it is quite likely that you are wrong. Legally, morally, ethically wrong.

I have no issues with an liberal legal expert attempting to explain this justification. That is a service to us all, because this stuff is complex. I have no problem with said author even agreeing, although I might offer a few discussion points to that debate.

I do have an alternate view though, and it might not be couched in legal terms. I may not be able to assemble case studies, cite court decisions or do anything other than bring my own sense of "right" to bear, but to me .... If it stinks like a dead haddock, then it is probably at least a dead fish.

That is .... If you want to commit what, on the face of it, is the most egregious crime against a citizen, that of taking his life without due process, and to do so you have to redefine the word "imminent", then you might be trying to sell us all a dead haddock.

This Diary is NOT meant to be read as anything other than a civil addition to an important discussion. I have no disagreement or dispute with another author, a man I have come to admire for his clear thinking and helpful stances. I have deliberately neither linked the Diary nor mentioned the name of the author, because this is about the policy of the government, not the explanation of that policy that was offered. We need to stay focused, and stay on the same side of this. The side of Justice. Please comment accordingly, or not at all ... thanks, twigg

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:50:59 PM PST

  •  like being bald ? looking for thrills and chills ? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, tardis10, kurt

    read marcy wheeler: Queen of the Weeds.
    she has some breath-taking posts. and smart commenters, too (not me, if you see me, you know i'm just a bird.).

    There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.--@Hugh * Addington's Perpwalk: TRAILHEAD of Accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:00:33 PM PST

  •  As a courtesy to the reader a link would help. (7+ / 0-)

    Some of us didn't see most of yesterday's posts.

    Immanent. Eminent. My head spins with these words.

    But it's damn clear that the 16 year old son of a guy who did propaganda for an AQ franchise in Yemen was not an immediate threat to Americans. Neither of them were immediate threats to us.

    Of course, if everything like this is kept top secret, all drone strikes can be justified as imminent and you can't challenge the claim.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:04:12 PM PST

  •  If Democrats begin using drones on US soil (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    temptxan, twigg, annecros, kurt, gerrilea

    I will discontinue my future support for them, period.

    That's my line in the sand.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:13:44 PM PST

    •  Honestly, I've never felt this way (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, gerrilea, twigg, penguins4peace, hnichols

      about anything previously. And earlier, I had to cut it short due to a family issue. However, nothing, in my mind, will permit me to accept supporting what amounts to a militarized dystopia. There has been a tremendous amount that I set aside all of the time because ultimately, I know that Democrats are an infinitely better solution than Republicans, and I am a realistic person who understands that the Democratic Party holds the Republicans at bay. However, if this level of on-soil militarism is permitted (and it already encroaches at our borders; thus it has been the single fiercest fight I've put up as an activist in my life), then I literally cannot support it for any reason whatsoever without feeling absolutely morally complicit. This is not a knee-jerk reaction or a hair-on-fire statement: it is a deep contemplation of my ethical boundaries as someone who is, ultimately, a pacifist and who already compromises daily to accept that we have a standing military at all, who tries to think myself as "not a pacifist" to realistically assess the actions of our military in a logistical and relatively (not ideally) ethical fashion. If we start shit with drones on U.S. soil, an idea which seems to have increasing fashion from what I'm reading, that's it, I cannot be a part of that. It goes against every single thing I believe in at root as just, right, virtuous, and true. There's only so much someone like me can set aside. With Clinton, I was not able to accept his extreme neoliberal economic policies and hawkishness. I rejected those and was subsequently apolitical as I came-of-age into federal politics. The second election of GWB was a wake up call for me. I resolved to vote in the next possible election after that, and I did. Drones in the U.S. used with little discretion would be something I would view with the same repulsion as I did the invasion of Iraq; it would essentially constitute, in my mind, an invasion of the U.S.

      We have enough issues with terrorizing our immigrant population. I can barely hang on board some days with what we justify for our deportation policies (which are so morally reprehensible that I could expound at long and tedious length).

      To make myself clear.

      Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

      by mahakali overdrive on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:15:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I keep wondering (9+ / 0-)

    how we will feel about drones,

    when our enemies have them  (say in 10 years).

    And they decide that flying them across our border

    is good for the gander.  There must be something,

    they consider "imminently threatening" over here.


    you raise some important questions, twigg.

    thank you.

    •  Thank you James (5+ / 0-)

      I imagine that Drones are a very useful tool for the legitimate wars that we have to fight.

      It's this "extra-legal" use I am struggling with. Well that and the apparent lack of transparency.

      It is perfectly possible that some really dangerous people have been targeted, reducing the danger to us all, but without effective oversight how would we possibly know?

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:17:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hear ya. (6+ / 0-)

        weapons do occasionally have legit uses.

        even drones.  ... but as you say "how would we know"

        especially when our own govt won't admit to the far-ranging collateral damage, our "targeted drones strikes" have caused, so far.

        No we have to go to independence sources for that.


        pdf report

        The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3]

        TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team.

        web site

        How many "new terrorists" are created with each misguided/errant drone strike?


        I guess too, I worry about the eventually Rise of the Machines, like in those Terminator movies.

        What treaties determine what weapons they can carry?  

        Seems to me they are lend themselves to many a frightening scenario -- left unchecked, on our currently escalating course.

    •  This may sound like snark but it's not (7+ / 0-)

      We're already working on "anti-drone" systems. Lasers, target EMP, etc. By the time drones are readily available in countries that we'd consider "enemy states" we'll have new (massively over-priced, MIC boondoggle) drone defense systems.

      What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

      by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:29:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This might not go down well (7+ / 0-)

        with some but ...

        I would favour a twenty year program to cut military spending by about 75%.

        That time could be used to re-purpose the military, and the expertise it contains and the industry it supports into the same amount of spending on new technologies and industries that will lead us into the future.

        We need a military, but only one big enough to defend our borders and help out the UN occasionally, when asked.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:34:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Last I saw we spend more on our military than (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jamess, twigg, kurt

          the rest of the world combined. We're ~5% of the population and we're 50% of the world's military budget. If we cut out spending by 75% we'd still be pissing away money on military spending. So, yeah, let's start with a 75% reduction over the next few decades and see how much further we can cut it after that.

          What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

          by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:37:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well said. nt (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, mahakali overdrive

          Alpacas spit if you piss them off. So don't do that.

          by alpaca farmer on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:29:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  why would that be different (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      than aircraft encroaching on a country's borders without permission, which is (i believe) unlawful?

      We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. -Pres. Obama, 1/21/13

      by SoCalSal on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:18:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well if you mean (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SoCalSal, jamess, kurt, penguins4peace

        military aircraft, it's not really a legal matter.

        If the aircraft has no clearance, and refuses to turn around it's regarded as an act of war, and would probably be shot down.

        Drones are not really aircraft in that sense, they are flying bombs and there is no mistaking their intentions.

        The problem is that they are small, relatively cheap and need very little infrastructure. They could be flown from inside the country to devastating effect.

        Have we sold any yet?

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:27:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not only military aircraft... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg

          any aircraft, including commercial or privately owned, would trigger alarms if entering US airspace without prior clearance through air traffic control, and would soon have a local air guard escort.

          I was surprised to see photographs of some drones so small that they looked like toys, and could probably not be detected by radar. Do those small drones only carry photographic equipment? They don't appear to be large enough to carry bombs.

          We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. -Pres. Obama, 1/21/13

          by SoCalSal on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:04:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Has the USA sold any yet? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jamess, kurt, twigg

          twigg, you asked that question. The answer is yes, to the UK, Israel and Italy at the least according to this wikipedia article on combat drones.

          We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. -Pres. Obama, 1/21/13

          by SoCalSal on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:13:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Back when I was smuggling, happened constantly, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess, twigg, a2nite

        and no one paid attention. Now, I suspect thinks have tightened up some.

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:55:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  which nations are enemies of USA? (0+ / 0-)

      According to this wikipedia article, fifteen nations already have combat drones. Those nations include Iran and North Korea, which are not enemy nations but can be considered "unfriendly", and also China. And Pakistan.

      As with nuclear weapons, the greater concern would be terrorist groups in control of combat drones, not nation states.

      We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. -Pres. Obama, 1/21/13

      by SoCalSal on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 08:29:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is where we disagree: (8+ / 0-)
    Justice demands that they answer that charge in the Hague. Practical politics says that they never will.
    I believe those at the top of the Bush who authorized and ordered real live human beings to be tortured WILL stand trial some day. I'm willing to work for it until I breathe my last breath. The more that you and others say it won't happen, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I have organized two panel proposals for Netroots Nation in San Jose in June: "Torture in American Prisons" with Robert King, the released member of the Angola Three, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement; Carter Camp, who was a leader in the American Indian Movement, and Dr. Craig Haney, who assisted Dr. Philip Zimbardo with the Stanford Experiments; and "Torture and Accountability" with Majorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyer's Guild; Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist who treats torture survivors, who blogs here and elsewhere as Valtin, and Armando. There will be one additional member on each panel, who I am in the midst of confirming. Please join us for both lively discussions.

                   Standing for justice and accountability,
                                  For Dan,
                                  Heather

    Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

    by Chacounne on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:36:41 PM PST

    •  I admire your spirit (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gerrilea, hnichols

      The reality is that nothing I say in a Blog will make a blind bit of difference.

      I do not make it less likely, I merely point out that there is no impetus for this from anyone who could summon sufficient votes to make it happen.

      I wish it were not true but ... reality.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:46:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I strongly disagree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg, kurt, gerrilea

        that what you say here does not make a difference. Every time people who read someone say anywhere that it will not happen, even if they think it should, those people are more apt to dismiss the idea, they are more apt not to call their elected federal representatives, they are more apt to turn away from even listening as to why accountability is so important. I would wager there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe that Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest should be held legally accountable, but they won't call their elected representatives because they think it will be a waste of time and effort.

        The reality is, I think, if everyone who believed that Cheney and Rumsfeld and the rest should be held legally accountable called the White House and their senators and congressional reps over the period of two weeks, something would be done, because they couldn't ignore it.

                            Just my two cents,
                            Standing for justice and accountability,
                                        For Dan,
                                        Heather

        Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

        by Chacounne on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 09:08:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with both of you. The moving of the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          penguins4peace, twigg

          Overton Window is basically your position and Twigg's being that what we say here on the interwebs is meaningless.  

          Many people create alternate persona's while here. On DK, I think we strive to be honest, open and real humans beyond the keyboard strokes.

          I know I do.

          As for calling our Congress Critters, I've written, called, met in person AND they still voted for TARP.  They still voted for the AUMF.  They still voted for the Patriot Act's, the NDAA, the new FISA law, they still fund wars of aggression, they still exempt themselves from the laws you and I must follow.  

          They've gotten tired of our incessant whining and passed the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,":

          Joe Shikspack's diary goes into great detail of this monstrosity.

          You do recall prior to the Iraqi invasion, the largest protests in human history occurred, they still voted for it.

          I seriously want to believe they all should be prosecuted for their War Crimes and High Crimes and Misdemeanors, but I don't think we have a say any longer.

          -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

          by gerrilea on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 04:52:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Doesn't this whole issue fall upon Congress? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    We've never had "co-equal branches of government."

    Seriously, Congress can defund any and all programs themselves.  They don't need the Supreme Court or the President to agree or like it.  They have the ultimate power of the purse. And since they cannot deny the intended AND actual uses of said monies, they are complicit in these acts as well.  I'd go so far as aiding and abetting the terrorizing of this Nation's citizens.

    If we are to restore sanity, and I do believe the excuses made are insane. Without judicial due process, anything else is unconstitutional.  Heck, they just indicted Dorner, didn't they?

    The issue of "imminent threat" and how it's defined is a useful exercise but it isn't going to change what they've already decided.  Aren't we debating how to close the barn door after the cows got out?

    I'd rather argue how to tear the barn down and build a new state-of-the-art facility that has no doors.  Maybe with some beautiful windows and a pretty view.

    -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

    by gerrilea on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 05:12:20 AM PST

  •  Tipped &reced (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site