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