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Holder Explains Some Of It For You
March 6, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

... it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances. ... “Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

In the continuing effort to keep our people secure, this Administration will remain true to those values that inspired our nation’s founding and, over the course of two centuries, have made America an example of strength and a beacon of justice for all the world.
posted by Trurl (224 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It can't happen here.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:46 PM on March 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who we think presents an imminent threat of violent attack,”

Fixed that for you, Eric...
posted by Huck500 at 6:47 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some have called such operations “assassinations.” They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced. Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.

No, see, what that means is you found a way to claim your assassinations don't break the law, not that "assassination" is the wrong term for your assassinations.

Oh lawyerspeak, you make everything better.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:48 PM on March 6, 2012 [24 favorites]


I agree with Holder's stance. There are certain situations (e.g. finding bin Laden) where the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance. Plus, wiping nuts like al-Awlaki off the face of the Earth does society a favor.
posted by reenum at 6:50 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I must have missed the part where Bin Laden was an American citizen.
posted by unSane at 6:52 PM on March 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


There are certain situations (e.g. finding bin Laden) where the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance.

Indeed. The reelection campaign is just around the corner.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Whoa- bin Laden was a US Citizen, reenum?
posted by hincandenza at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well aren't I fucking original.
posted by hincandenza at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, I'm sure that the Cato Institute will get right on this one.
posted by onesidys at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


...the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance...

If only we had some means for preventing people from being at large while their due process was pending! Ah well, that's impossible. I guess we better kill them out of hand.
posted by DU at 6:54 PM on March 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


This was a weird way to frame the issue: "it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances."

Surely that was obvious? Consider U.S. citizens who fought for the Axis in World War II. Nonstate actors planning attacks on the United States are a less clear cut case, but in light of the AUMF, Holder's position seems reasonable enough.
posted by planet at 6:55 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

Good luck with attempting to open that really exceedingly potentially big gutting of the purview of the courts...in the Supreme court.
posted by jaduncan at 6:56 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sarcasm aside, I do think "it can't happen here", nor can it (or at least, should it) happen in any country where we can persuade the authorities to pick up the person in question and hand them over (via extradition treaty, or whatever). But that shouldn't mean that someone born in the US gets to move to Yemen and get away with, well, murder. I do think we need to be able to "do something" in such cases.
Which brings up Huck500's comment -- in such cases, we're blindly trusting our government to use things like drone strikes in a just way. Do we trust them?
Part of me greatly appreciates the idealism of people like Glenn Greenwald (I always want to have a voice like that in my ear), and part of me is a little more...pragmatic...but also very worried about what we're trusting our government with.
posted by uosuaq at 6:59 PM on March 6, 2012


it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances

Irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of actually doing those killings, I don't see how this is remotely notable. It's virtually certainly legal/constitutional for the US government to kill citizens who are making war against it or who are engaged in insurrection and rebellion, and to do so with no judicial review.

The only notable part is that having a war on "terror" or other nonstate actors makes the question of who is making war against the US something that reasonable people might disagree about. AFAIK courts have held that questions like this aren't justicible, though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:59 PM on March 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


No, bin Laden was not a US citizen, but I was simply using that case as an example.

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American. He was involved with a group that is dedicated to fomenting unrest and discord in the U.S. and around the world.

An important separates al-Awlaki's case from that of someone like a Tea Partier or other nut who wishes to destabilize America's existing system: he was involved in the active use of weapons and the endangerment of innocent people to carry out his agenda. If he simply goes around the world giving anti-American lectures, I say let him speak to his heart's content. It's when his actions endanger innocent people that his continued existence becomes untenable.

Eliminating him was not out of bounds to me.
posted by reenum at 7:03 PM on March 6, 2012


What weapons did he use?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 PM on March 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process

Look, like reenum, I understand, in principle, that sometimes, particularly in the "theater of war," some malefactors, American citizens or not, are going to be killed in a military operation. But this quote from Holder is just weasel words.

If he simply goes around the world giving anti-American lectures, I say let him speak to his heart's content.

Sure, that's what you believe, but if the president (this one or a future one) decides otherwise, then there are no restraints on that decision. This is just as bad if not worse than Bush's claim that he could have someone, anyone detained at Guantanamo based solely on his own judgment, regardless of where or why someone was taken into custody.
posted by deanc at 7:07 PM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hamdi v. Rumsfeld: We therefore hold that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker.
posted by Trurl at 7:11 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


An important separates al-Awlaki's case from that of someone like a Tea Partier or other nut who wishes to destabilize America's existing system: he was involved in the active use of weapons and the endangerment of innocent people to carry out his agenda.

Exactly! He never did anything except talk a lot, but the penalty for thoughtcrime is death! I love Big Brother!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:12 PM on March 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


If there was only something called a 'declaration of war' which could clarify when it was and wasn't appropriate to kill people.
posted by unSane at 7:13 PM on March 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


Anwar al-Awlaki was an American. He was involved with a group that is dedicated to fomenting unrest and discord in the U.S. and around the world.

So basically we can commence the assassination campaigns against Anonymous and LulzSec now? Great...that'll end well.
posted by mek at 7:13 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, thank goodness no Tea Partiers have guns. :: rolleyes::
posted by unSane at 7:14 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


If there was only something called a 'declaration of war' which could clarify when it was and wasn't appropriate to kill people.

How about everyone just stops killing other people so we don't need a "declaration of war"?
posted by Talez at 7:15 PM on March 6, 2012


Don't worry, I'm sure that the Cato Institute will get right on this one.
They first got on it over two years ago, in an essay that ended "Where are our chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, Republican leaders and the Tea Party legions opposed to boundless big government?"

Your ideological opponents are not all the cardboard villains you've been told they are.
posted by roystgnr at 7:16 PM on March 6, 2012 [16 favorites]


"An important separates al-Awlaki's case from that of someone like a Tea Partier or other nut who wishes to destabilize America's existing system: he was involved in the active use of weapons and the endangerment of innocent people to carry out his agenda."

And who told you that?

Yeah…
posted by Pinback at 7:18 PM on March 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


Citizen-terrorist, citizen-detainee .. a troubling use of a prefix that seems to indicate "if you were an Iranian, you'd be at least protected by a sworn enemy, but now you're ours and you're fucked."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:20 PM on March 6, 2012


My intention is to vote Green rather than Democrat from now on.
posted by wrapper at 7:21 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Your ideological opponents are not all the cardboard villains you've been told they are.

---

Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent... went the furthest in restricting the Executive power of detention. Scalia asserted that based on historical precedent, the government had only two options to detain Hamdi: either Congress must suspend the right to habeas corpus, or Hamdi must be tried under normal criminal law.
posted by Trurl at 7:22 PM on March 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Targeted killing is nothing new. The international law community has been wanking about it for years. Byman, 2006. Kaplan, 2006. Alston,2010. It's a little late for pearl-clutching.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:29 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Exactly! He never did anything except talk a lot, but the penalty for thoughtcrime is death! I love Big Brother!

Tojo never did anything but talk a lot, either, and he was certainly fair game during WWII. If the man is giving orders and material aid to terrorists, he's a terrorist, even if he never picks up a gun himself. Logistical support is still waging war. Being a commander is absolutely and directly waging war.

How about these guys - were the Allies wrong to have killed them?
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


reenum: "Eliminating him was not out of bounds to me."

Your opinion might be of some importance if you sat on a jury in his trial, other than that it's, um, what's that called again, when someone gets killed without a trial? Ah, murder, that's right.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:40 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


What kind of orders did he give?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:41 PM on March 6, 2012


How about these guys - were the Allies wrong to have killed them?


How 'bout that declaration of war thing? Unreal, huh?
posted by unSane at 7:43 PM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


What kind of orders did he give?


"Go blow up an airplane with your underwear" for one...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, al-Awlaki was Greedo and the US was Han. We had to shoot, otherwise we would been Jabba's dancing slave girl. Seriously, you don't want to see Amercia in skimpy outfit, not since contraception was outlawed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Go blow up an airplane with your underwear" for one...

---

Brandenburg v. Ohio: the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force
posted by Trurl at 7:46 PM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Go blow up an airplane with your underwear" for one...

Sounds like he denies that, can you prove it?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:46 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Remember, this is a man who was accused of involvement in 9/11 and then invited to the Pentagon as part of Muslim outreach months later. I'm aware there are accusations but they never seemed to stick when he was arrested.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:48 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


reenum: "... he was involved in the active use of weapons and the endangerment of innocent people to carry out his agenda. If he simply goes around the world giving anti-American lectures, I say let him speak to his heart's content. It's when his actions endanger innocent people that his continued existence becomes untenable. Eliminating him was not out of bounds to me."

He was by far not the first person in history to endanger the lives of Americans through actions or through words, and regardless of anyone's feelings about his expendability, the United States has never before openly targeted and killed its citizens without any judicial process whatsoever.

I think it's essential to keep in mind that we do not hold trials solely for the sake of the people who are accused of crimes. We hold them for our sake, for society's sake. It's of the utmost necessity that we as a society satisfy ourselves of the guilt of criminals and understand what that means when we punish them. This is a thing sorely lacking in totalitarian societies, and I think it does them great harm; there is no such thing as a criminal in a totalitarian society except insofar as the state defines a person as one, and moral thought about what justice means and whether people are innocent or guilty are denied to the citizens.

In attempting to remove "due process" from the courts and place it in the hands of the executive branch, Eric Holder is not just violating the constitutional separation of powers - though, have no doubt, he is violating the constitutional separation of powers. He's also denying the American people something that is essential to them in their exercise of the civic duties of citizens: the ability to watch justice done and to be satisfied that every citizen knows what to expect if she or he violates the laws of our land. And in killing Anwar al-Awlaki without even a moment of due process in a court of law, he and this administration denied us the chance to be satisfied of his guilt and to see that there was warrant for the punishment, to watch the system work correctly. That's a hell of a thing to take away from us, and I for one am angry about it.
posted by koeselitz at 7:49 PM on March 6, 2012 [47 favorites]


Remember when the public left was up in arms over Ashcroft, Gonzalez and Yoo and (gasp) warentless wiretapping!?

I guess it is only wrong when the other guy does it...
posted by munchingzombie at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


What weapons did he use?
Exactly! He never did anything except talk a lot,


The argument was that he was an operation member of al-Qaeda, specifically that he recruited for, and helped plan, the Detroit bombing attempt. I understand you probably do not believe this claim, but it would make for a clearer discussion if you state that you do not believe this, rather than pretend such a claim was never made.

unsane How 'bout that declaration of war thing? Unreal, huh?

War was declared. There is no difference between an authorization for the use of military force and a declaration or war.

Here are parts of the Enumerated Powers relevant to war:

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.


A declaration of war does have to be titled "Declaration of War Against x"
posted by spaltavian at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Slap*Happy: That logic cuts both ways.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:54 PM on March 6, 2012


I like how we killed Al-Awlaki's son in a subsequent drone attack. It's the only way to prevent him avenging his father later. It's tribal warfare, after all.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:56 PM on March 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm a little annoyed that everyone seems to get up in arms when 'citizens' gets mentioned.

'Citizen' is used 11 times in the US Consitution, 4 times as a qualification for office, 5 times when outlining who has standing in Federal courts, 2 times when outlining that the 'privileges and immunities' afforded to them apply among the States.

'Citizen' is not used in the US Bill of Rights.

Many of the ideals of the US Constitution apply to people, not just citizens.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:57 PM on March 6, 2012 [27 favorites]


Brandenburg v. Ohio: the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force

From da wiki:

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

So your entire argument is disingenuous from the start. By your standard, most everyone at the Nuremberg trials should have walked away scott free, so long as they never pulled a physical trigger with their own finger.

Sounds like he denies that, can you prove it?

General Johnston denies he's in rebellion against the United States, he's just defending state's rights, can you prove he's a rebel?

These lines of reasoning are fairly floppy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:00 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a huge difference between a DoW and AUMF - the former directs the POTUS to wage war, the second gives him/her the option. That results in a massive political difference when it comes to getting it through the legislature. It's the difference between giving a cop a Taser and telling him to use it.
posted by unSane at 8:01 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember when the public left was up in arms over Ashcroft, Gonzalez and Yoo and (gasp) warentless wiretapping!?

I guess it is only wrong when the other guy does it...


this is bullshit. what is this thread about? who are we complaining about? who is president right now?
posted by facetious at 8:04 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone the vast majority of this site is going to help to another term.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:06 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are certain situations (e.g. finding bin Laden) where the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance. Plus, wiping nuts like al-Awlaki off the face of the Earth does society a favor.

How about his 16-year-old son? I mean the man was bad, right? And surely the apple doesn't drop far from the tree. We should probably kill the rest of his family too, just to be safe.

Essentially, the government is saying "just trust us, he was a bad man who deserved to die." There are a multitude of ways that this could be proved in a court of law: as a US citizen, he could be tried in absentia. None of it was undertaken.

Proscription lists have a very old and very bloody history. Government labeling the judicial process as "inconvenient" is the first baby step towards tyranny and terror.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:07 PM on March 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


I hate to say it, but the way the constitution sets things up, as long as there's something legally equivalent to a formal declaration of war (which despite what some people keep insisting to the contrary, congress' did adopt when they explicitly wrote that their authorization of use of force against al-Qaeda was meant to qualify as such under the war powers act), the executive branch will always have way more power than should be trusted to just any idiot. The wartime commander-in-chief powers are extremely broad and have always been; the courts have long been very generous in interpreting the C-I-C powers broadly. In those areas, Bush didn't really claim that much new power for himself; he just abused the power that had always been there, and with congress' help, pushed his C-I-C powers as far as he could.

Why do you think it is that it was only by executive order that assassination was boycotted in the first place? The executive was always explicitly understood to enjoy that power until Ford voluntarily renounced it.

And that's why we will always need to be very careful about who, specifically, we entrust with the powers of the executive branch. Unless we change the constitution to limit the president's wartime powers, the president will always have enough power in areas of national defense that it can potentially be grossly abused. FDR, for example, had enough power to force all Japanese Americans into interment camps! President's having broad powers when congress gives them a war-time fig leaf is nothing new.

That said, I thought Holder did a terrible job of making his case here, and yes, we probably should reign in the wartime powers of the executive branch if our congresses are always going to be so ready and willing to legally authorize open-ended wars on perpetually-shifting, vaguely-defined enemies like congress did in the aftermath of 9/11.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:08 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


likely to incite imminent lawless action

I don't believe that "imminent" can stretch to cover the time it will take for someone, having been told to blow up a plane, to manufacture the bomb, take it aboard the plane, and detonate it.
posted by Trurl at 8:09 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


How about everyone just stops killing other people so we don't need a "declaration of war"?

Having some actual Declarations of War would be "nice".

Ok, not nice. But perhaps there would be some thought might be made into the spending of blood and treasure.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:13 PM on March 6, 2012


this is bullshit. what is this thread about? who are we complaining about? who is president right now?

Yes. But where is the media? Where are other elected officials? I am looking to those in power who were critical of the Bush administration and I am just not hearing a peep with the exception of Ron Wyden.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:13 PM on March 6, 2012


There's a huge difference between a DoW and AUMF - the former directs the POTUS to wage war, the second gives him/her the option.

There is no difference, as the First Circuit Court of the United States held. There is no definition for a "declaration of war" given in the US Constitution, which is why I cited the Enumerated Powers. Did you really by this same argument when Senate Democrats tried to explain they didn't "really" vote for the Iraq War? Of course not; because it was obviously the same thing.

The US Constitution never specifies exactly what a declaration must look like, but the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists of 2001 is clearly a declaration of war on al-Qaeda.

Nor does your reasoning even make sense. Okay, so the President is "authorized" rather than "directed". The argument you're attempting to counter is that soldiers on the battlefield don't get trials in a war; the exact degree to which the President is compelled to fight such are war is immaterial.
posted by spaltavian at 8:15 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why is it they don't use the "declaring war" language in the authorizations anymore?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:17 PM on March 6, 2012


Why is it they don't use the "declaring war" language in the authorizations anymore?

PR. Remember how Bush told us to go to Disneyland?
posted by spaltavian at 8:19 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having some actual Declarations of War would be "nice".

Explain to me again, why this doesn't count? When it explicitly says it does, in the following?


b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

posted by saulgoodman at 8:20 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


who is president right now?

With respect to the claim of executive power under discussion, I can't see how it matters.

As Mr. Greenwald observes:

... thus will presidential assassination powers be entrenched as bipartisan consensus for at least a generation.
posted by Trurl at 8:21 PM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The argument was that he was an operation member of al-Qaeda, specifically that he recruited for, and helped plan, the Detroit bombing attempt.

I don't get why this matters. Has anyone ever put forth a shred of evidence for this assertion, anywhere?

Responding to people's objections by saying "well, the people who killed him without a trial say that he would have been found guilty of something really bad if he'd had a trial!" does nothing to address those people's concerns. There is nobody alive that you couldn't say this about. And murdering someone doing nothing publicly observable worse than giving sermons, i.e., engaging in speech, is supposed to require a shit of a lot more evidence than that. Holder's assertion that a secret, non-adversarial determination of guilt by the same branch carrying out capital punishment, one which has been repeatedly wrong in the conclusions it draws from even publicly available evidence, satisfies constitutional guarantees of process is fucking laughable.

Sadly, I was excited to volunteer for Obama in 2008 largely because I assumed that a Constitutional law professor would be above this kind of shit
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:22 PM on March 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, I guess technically I should have said there's nobody DEAD you couldn't say that about. It would be misguided to say that about anyone alive except maybe Tupac
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:24 PM on March 6, 2012


Slap*Happy, quoting Wiki: "It held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action."

Indeed. Brandenburg v Ohio held that, in cases where someone engages in inflammatory speech directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action, that someone may be arrested, tried, and convicted of a crime.

Are you really suggesting that happened in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki?
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


who is president right now?

With respect to the claim of executive power under discussion, I can't see how it matters.


It matters because, like it or not, the president will always have this much power under the current US constitution when congress declares war.

There are only a couple ways to remedy that:

1) Change the constitution and/or magically reverse most of our legal precedents going back all the way to our first military skirmishes with pirates on the Barbary Coast.

2) Be careful not to elect people to congress who will pass declarations of war lightly.

3) Be careful not to elect presidents who will abuse the war time powers they have under the constitution, should congress authorize war.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:29 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


The argument was that he was an operation member of al-Qaeda, specifically that he recruited for, and helped plan, the Detroit bombing attempt.

Responding to people's objections by saying "well, the people who killed him without a trial say that he would have been found guilty of something really bad if he'd had a trial!" does nothing to address those people's concerns.


I wasn't trying to address their concerns, I was clarifying the issue. You should have quoted my entire point:

I understand you probably do not believe this claim, but it would make for a clearer discussion if you state that you do not believe this, rather than pretend such a claim was never made.

Your using the same tactic I was pointing out; namely ignoring part of the argument and then hitting the hole that it leaves.

I don't get why this matters. Has anyone ever put forth a shred of evidence for this assertion, anywhere?

The question of evidence begs the question. Either we are not at a state of war, and this was an illegal assassination, which can't be justified regardless of the quality of the evidence because he should have been given a trial. Or, we are a state of war, and he was a legitimate military target, in which case judicial language like "evidence" doesn't apply. A battlefield isn't a courtroom.

I think this a vitally important issue, so I think the clarity of the debate matters. I don't think any minds are going to be changed here, but it would be nice if the disagreements were honest.
posted by spaltavian at 8:32 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a debate because we have expanded the whole world to be considered a battlefield if a terrorist is standing on it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:36 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Precisely. Why not just authorize force against everyone anywhere and trust the POTUS to do the right thing?
posted by unSane at 8:39 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


(And that is kind of my main concern here, if we are on US soil is it only a battlefield if it looks like Antietam or if it looks like our "battlefields" in Yemen, where the battlefield is just a guy in an SUV. And how does the law change when the battlefield is on our soil?)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:40 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wasn't ignoring that part, spaltavian, I was explaining why I don't think it matters. In that post of mine, which you quoted. Can we talk about this without you accusing me of being dishonest because I disagree with you?

I think even when we're in a state of war, there needs to be more of a showing required before a U.S. citizen can be killed than presence on "the battlefield," since that is apparently the entire world, if you listen to War on Terror advocates, and it's a growing list of places even if you only count the nations we're currently occupying our drone striking. Al Awlaki was in a country and he gave sermons: I am saying it should take proof of more than this before we kill him and any other teen relatives who also committed the crime of being alive in a country near someone we've decided to assassinate. Even if we are "at war" against a feeling.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:45 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever put forth a shred of evidence for this assertion, anywhere?

Yes, there's at least been a shred of evidence put forth for it... Granted, there's not much in the way of the direct evidence here, but the DOJ recently released a memo outlining the case against al-Awlaki in regard to his role in one of the terror plots he was alleged to have played an operational role in.

Here's one link concerning that release

And here's another.

There is reportedly surveillance evidence to back up these narratives.

Precisely. Why not just authorize force against everyone anywhere and trust the POTUS to do the right thing?

I agree. This is a huge problem. But congress and the previous administration created it (not that the current has necessary done enough to reverse it), and the intended design of the US constitution facilitated it. Without congress acting to reverse itself, or to amend the constitution, this situation isn't going to get any better no matter who's president.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:45 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Occupying *or
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:46 PM on March 6, 2012


saulgoodman: “... the intended design of the US constitution facilitated it...”

I didn't quite understand this bit, and I'm curious – how so?
posted by koeselitz at 8:48 PM on March 6, 2012


Precisely. Why not just authorize force against everyone anywhere and trust the POTUS to do the right thing?

That's always going to be the problem with the US President; the powers granted to the office as Commander-in-Chief are very broad. Congress can authorize force; but beyond that, it's only real check on Presidential military power is its grasp on the pursestrings. Basically, Congress can't dictate how the President fights a war, since that would infringe on his Constitutional authority. They've tried in very limited circumstances, but even the milquetoast War Powers Act is always ignored. (And, while I hate to say it, probably unconstitutional.)
posted by spaltavian at 8:50 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is reportedly surveillance evidence to back up these narratives.

Guanatanmo Bay reportedly housed "the worst of the worst".

You see the difficulty.
posted by Trurl at 8:52 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because of the unqualified commander in chief powers it hands the president's office in a time of war. At least as the courts have always interpreted it, the constitution gives the executive virtually unlimited war times powers. That's why, for example, things like putting Japanese-Americans into camps pass constitutional muster. The executive's power, by design, is extremely broad when it comes to the conduct of war.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or what spaltavian just said so much better.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:53 PM on March 6, 2012


The AUMF is not a declaration of war, period. There have been five declarations of war, this is not one of them. Declarations of war say exactly that - other proclamations that do not are ways of making an end run around the law.

Ironmouth, a lawyer who should know about these things, claimed categorically in a previous thread that it was not. Ask him, perhaps!

If it is, by its wording it's war for as long as one person in the world is planning terrorist activities against the US - i.e. forever.

This means that for the rest of time, the US government can simply point to someone, say, "He's planning to commit terrorism," and have him killed - with no specific process required of any type - if you will note, Holder lists the process that this Administration right now chooses to use, but he's very specific that no specific process is required, so a later Administration can do pretty well what it pleases, and since it's all completely secret, we don't have any way to even verify that this Administration or any Administration is even following the very limited process that it claims it is.

I'm so, so, so looking forward to see the creative uses that a Republican President will find for this death ray...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


there's not much in the way of the direct evidence here....There is reportedly surveillance evidence

Sounds like a real slam dunk, bombs away! Look, this guy was accused while he lived in the US and they never made anything stick. I think there might be a case that the President can make the cold blooded decision to assassinate citizens without trial, but certainly not without making a public case that it is justified that would stand up in a court of law.

Because of the unqualified commander in chief powers it hands the president's office in a time of war. At least as the courts have always interpreted it, the constitution gives the executive virtually unlimited war times powers. That's why, for example, things like putting Japanese-Americans into camps pass constitutional muster. The executive's power, by design, is extremely broad when it comes to the conduct of war.

So basically, the law is fucked and needs to change.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:56 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Granted, there's not much in the way of the direct evidence here, but the DOJ recently released a memo outlining the case against al-Awlaki in regard to his role in one of the terror plots...

There is reportedly surveillance evidence to back up these narratives.


My problem is that we were also told that there was evidence Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium. That they had mobile weapons labs. That they were purchasing tubes only suitable for centrifuges for nuclear material.

The department that wrote that memo also found legal justifications for torture, and is facing backlash over the killing of Al Awlaki. I appreciate these links - there's more info here than last I was aware - but I'd still really, really rather a judge consider this evidence, and counter evidence, objections, etc. on the target's behalf, before determining whether it's enough to kill a citizen. Instead of killing the citizen first, claiming the constitutional authority outside of any judicial oversight, and later leaking unsupported descriptions of unseen evidence to make it seem more palatable.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:57 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There have been five declarations of war, this is not one of them. Declarations of war say exactly that - other proclamations that do not are ways of making an end run around the law.

Sorry, but I can't agree with that. The entire purpose of the War Powers Act is to clarify the question of what it means for congress to declare war.

When congress passes a law that explicitly says it means to be an authorization in compliance with the war powers act, that's exactly what it is. No matter who does or doesn't like it.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:57 PM on March 6, 2012


Under natural law, due process generally involves the accused having a chance to mount a defence.
posted by unSane at 8:58 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So basically, the law is fucked and needs to change.

Yes. I agree with that. The law is fucked. That's exactly my point.

I've often wondered if this wasn't what got logician Kurt Gödel worked into such a panic worrying about a contradiction he saw in the US constitution that he feared could be exploited to transform the US into a Fascist dictatorship when he was studying for his US citizenship test: If congress ever declared war on an abstraction like "Enemies of the State," it could potentially give the POTUS unlimited power.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:03 PM on March 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


If you believe that the constitution gives the president unchecked war powers, then you've basically set a timer for the end of the republic in the U.S. (not to mention jumping aboard the SS Richard Nixon for a voyage to hell.)
posted by ennui.bz at 9:04 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: “Because of the unqualified commander in chief powers it hands the president's office in a time of war. At least as the courts have always interpreted it, the constitution gives the executive virtually unlimited war times powers. That's why, for example, things like putting Japanese-Americans into camps pass constitutional muster. The executive's power, by design, is extremely broad when it comes to the conduct of war.”

That is true in a broad sense, but I'm hesitant to agree that it's true in this instance.

Is there really precedent for Holder's declaration that "due process" does not mean "judicial process"? I was under the impression that that was very much an innovation, and as far as I can tell no court (nor even congress) has ever held that "due process" can be the province solely of the executive.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you believe that the constitution gives the president unchecked war powers

I don't necessarily believe it, but the courts have pretty consistently held it, with only a few relatively minor exceptions. It's not likely the courts are going to start ruling in ways that limit war time presidential powers more significantly anytime soon. So the only alternatives I can see are either to force congress to be more careful about authorizing the use of force, put more explicit limits on the Commander in Chief powers into the US constitution, or don't ever elect presidents who will abuse the wartime powers of the presidency.

I was under the impression that that was very much an innovation, and as far as I can tell no court (nor even congress) has ever held that "due process" can be the province solely of the executive.

Due process can be an administrative hearing. Rules are applied (consistent with due process) by non judicial administrative bodies all the time.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:22 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eric Holder says the United States can kill American citizens overseas and he doesn’t think he should explain why.
posted by homunculus at 9:25 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a debate because we have expanded the whole world to be considered a battlefield

Why is the location your concern? Do you mean you are worried about the violations of Yemen's sovereignty?

I'm really concerned about the apparently perpetual quality of the war. (I think those people in Gitmo are POWs and are entitled to the rights granted to POWs by the Geneva convention. Meaning they should get to go home when the war ends; but what if the war never ends?) But the fact that the war is not tied to a specific place doesn't seem to me to be a big concern.

The AUMF is not a declaration of war, period. There have been five declarations of war, this is not one of them. Declarations of war say exactly that

As I linked above, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit as already rejected this argument. Regarding the AUMF against Iraq (which similarly is not titled "declaration of war"), the Court said "The text of the October Resolution itself spells out justifications for a war and frames itself as an 'authorization' of such a war."

The term "declaration of war" is actually never used in the Constitution, the closest is comes is saying that Congress shall have the power "to declare War", without stating what it must be titled or what it might state. This is seriously a made-up issue. The only reason it's even out there in the popular consciousness is because some Democrats tried to avoid responsibility for voting for the Iraq war by trying to exploit a technicality. But the technicality doesn't exist; it's up there with people who claim they have "proven" the income tax is unconstitutional, or that if you pay a few more cents over your speeding ticket, you won't get points because the account won't be closed.
posted by spaltavian at 9:26 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is the location your concern? Do you mean you are worried about the violations of Yemen's sovereignty?

Because that thing I said, but yes I am concerned that we have determined that we can drop bombs on random foreign citizens because they chose to live next to a battlefield*.

*this means anywhere on the planet an alleged terrorist has decided to be next to.

Battlefields used to be fields...upon which there was battle....I don't think we should use the same laws when that isn't what we mean anymore.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:32 PM on March 6, 2012


There are certain situations (e.g. finding bin Laden) where the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance.

Then you do it and ask for forgiveness.

Granting permission for this class of operation is begging for abuse. If you are right, you can defend this.

What Eric Holder* is demanding is the right to not have to defend this decision.


* Thank you for spelling your name wrong. I'd hate to have to explain that I'm an Erik, but not that cowardly Eric that insists that killing random people is OK if you're scared.
posted by eriko at 9:46 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey everybody, remember Bush's first Attorney General, John Ashcroft? Hahaha, that guy was bad. Covering up the female nude Spirit of Justice? Oh man, that's some ironic symbolism right there, we all snickered.

Well, I suppose we don't have to worry about covering up naughty lady parts anymore, I've heard Holder has personally stabbed her to death himself.

It was not, I repeat, not an assassination. It was a justified legal targeting that the Constitution allows. Oh, and our top-secret assassination memo. Sorry, I mean our Justice Killing memo.
posted by formless at 10:02 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the President does it President's lawyers say it's not illegal, it's not illegal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:11 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The AUMF is not a declaration of war, period.

That's an interesting opinion and I might even agree with you, or at least wish that I could agree with you because then the would would be a nicer place, but the dudes in black robes who kinda make the rules about such things disagree. The GWoT AUMF (and previous AUMFs) are equivalent to a declaration of war insofar as the War Powers Resolution is concerned — it states that explicitly in the AUMF itself. It doesn't need to be titled "Declaration of War" to be a legally effective declaration of war, which seems to be what people get hung up on.

I think it sucks too, because Congress is obviously avoiding actually creating something called a "Declaration of War" for marketing purposes, mostly so they can weasel out of war-starting accusations more easily later on, but there's enough wiggle room in the Constitution so that it's possible to do this, and the courts have allowed it.

If it is, by its wording it's war for as long as one person in the world is planning terrorist activities against the US - i.e. forever.

Indeed.

But I'm not sure why that would surprise you, given that the Korean War, which was authorized via a method very similar to the Iraq war and the GWoT (an authorization by Congress to spend $xx on military operations), and arguably set the pattern for all of the military actions that the US has engaged in since, is still technically ongoing.

The "AUMF is not a declaration of war" boat sailed two generations ago.

(Although this is all a bit of a moot point, given that the War Powers Resolution is quite frequently disregarded by the Executive Branch, and there is apparently an official stance by the Executive — not just the current President but every one since the Resolution was passed — that the WPR is unconstitutional. It seems to be arguable since the USSC has never really taken up the issue.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:39 PM on March 6, 2012


I am looking to those in power who were critical of the Bush administration

One can look to the people of the Blue and see the same kind of non-response.

Once someone with an (R) after their name gets in charge The Blue will have the old 'Grrr Bush!' posts to compare/contrast with the occasional FPP 'Grr? Obama' as a baseline. At that point one can examine if there is some kind of Overton Window/Grr Burnout/something else *OR* if claims of 'partisan soapbox' apply. Time delay from when a post makes it to Community X VS Community Y would be another metric.

There's a PhD paper in doing such an analysis of online communities for political commentary for an enterprising person/someone who wants to spend their life as a PR hack.


There have been five declarations of war, this is not one of them....Sorry, but I can't agree with that.

Do either of the two of you have standing so it could be argued in the Supreme Court?
If not, who DOES have standing?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:49 PM on March 6, 2012


The "AUMF is not a declaration of war" boat sailed two generations ago.

So who's gonna get the boat back to port?

Be careful not to elect presidents who will abuse the war time powers they have

Of the Presidential candidates out there, who is saying they are wanting to change the military path via reduction VS expansion?

And, what ones have a history of not saying one thing and doing another? (Bush II was claiming a non-intervention/humble policy as a candidate as I remember)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:54 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck, I see Kucinich just lost his primary too. First Feingold, now Kucinich. Not many progressives left really.

The Democrats are really shooting themselves in the foot with this authoritarian national security focus. It only breeds more conservatives.
posted by formless at 11:20 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

First of all, doesn't the Fifth Amendment state that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law?

But more importantly, can somebody explain to me what "due process" means then? I mean, I feel like I understand it and then it slips away. Isn't a "due" process supposed to protect individual rights? I mean, who is due what? Whatever the administration thinks a person is due? Is that seriously it?
posted by phaedon at 11:21 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]



Anwar al-Awlaki was an American. He was involved with a group that is dedicated to fomenting unrest and discord in the U.S. and around the world.
Fomenting Unrest? I guess you'd better get started decapitating anyone involved in Occupy Wallstreet, as they are clearly Fomenting Unrest
posted by delmoi at 11:29 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jonathan Turley: "The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport."
posted by fredludd at 11:48 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish the 'Left Wing' of US politicians would see a loophole like Due Process and Judicial Process and FUCKING CLOSE IT instead of abusing it.

I mean, dontcha think someone down the road might want to REALLY abuse that loop hole? On our own fucking soil?
posted by Slackermagee at 11:49 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman, MJD once explained to me his best guess as to Godel's flaw: it only requires a simple majority of congress to create states, and there are no rules as to minimum area or population; it would be trivial for a simple majority of congress to create 500 new states each with a population of 3 people (and force them to have constitutions requiring senators and representatives to vote a certain way), and then amend the Constitution to do whatever they feel like.

But, while this is a genuine flaw, it is only a guess as to whether it is the one Godel discovered.
posted by novalis_dt at 12:29 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think the attack on Awlaki was so horrible, then answer this question: if an American citizen is leading attacks on the U.S. from a hiding place where we can't arrest him -- and those attacks continue to kill Americans -- what are we allowed to do to stop him? Sounds like most people here are saying there is nothing you can do, we have to sit back and accept the deaths.

I don't think that's a reasonable position, and if you value democracy, I guarantee you Americans will not accept that. They will pass a constitutional amendment to allow that, easily, if you force the issue.

It's a really tough case, with obvious dangers of presidential overreaching etc. No one denies that. But you're not being intellectually honest if you don't acknowledge that it's a tough issue on the other side, too.
posted by msalt at 12:30 AM on March 7, 2012


There are a multitude of ways that this could be proved in a court of law: as a US citizen, he could be tried in absentia.

I suggested that earlier, but trials in absentia are not allowed under U.S. law. That's part of what makes this a tough case.
posted by msalt at 12:35 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


koselitz: the United States has never before openly targeted and killed its citizens without any judicial process whatsoever.

Kamal Derwish was an American citizen killed by the CIA as part of a covert targeted killing mission in Yemen on November 5, 2002.

Not to mention all sorts of people covertly killed, from Black Panther leaders to targets of posses and CIA plots. If Obama's administration is more honest about what they're doing, inviting the kind of criticism you all are making, I count that as a good thing.
posted by msalt at 12:43 AM on March 7, 2012


"There are a multitude of ways that this could be proved in a court of law: as a US citizen, he could be tried in absentia. None of it was undertaken."

No, actually, he couldn't be tried in absentia in this instance — he has a right to be present at the commencement of the trial, and only can be tried in absentia if he voluntarily leaves during the trial or forfeits his right through disruptive behavior.

I do think that this is a post hoc justification from the administration, and is something to be concerned about — while the general statement that due process doesn't necessarily mean judicial review and that the government can use lethal force against citizens without judicial review, these circumstances should be incredibly narrow, e.g. situations where the imminent threat precludes a considered process. No one would fault, say, soldiers returning fire from a citizen.

But one of the most intelligent arguments that both Kerry and Obama campaigned on was treating the war on terror as a matter for the courts, a criminal matter rather than a military one. To that end, I'd have no problem if al Awlaki was killed in an attempt to apprehend him, but I do believe that attempt (and sincere at that) would need to be made. The principles, as stated by Holder, are too broad and too open to expansion outside of this edge case.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


All this talk of what's legal, what's allowed under the law, what would happen in court, is missing the point. To say that some actors are allowed to break the law is to say that they have no law. To instead require that conditions, exceptions and justifications be codified into law beforehand in order to make the desired actions "legal" - this is backwards. Laws shouldn't be based on actions, they should be based on principles. Actions should then be determined by the spirit of the law.

So in this case, the issue shouldn't be about whether assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki technically doesn't break the law, or how to amend the law to that effect. The issue is deciding whether "due process of law" or "equal protection under the law" are principles that should be universally applied, or only applied under specific conditions. The rest will then follow from the outcome of that decision.

"We make the laws we need, to say what we want them to say."
-- SS Lt. Gen. Otto Hofmann, Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:01 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't believe that "imminent" can stretch to cover the time it will take for someone, having been told to blow up a plane, to manufacture the bomb, take it aboard the plane, and detonate it.

You're being disingenuous again. Not a good place for moral defenders to be.

Here. Let's look at the wiki quote again, different highlight:

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

The moment anyone he works with acts on his orders, in any way at all, in such a way that it culminates in death or destruction, they have committed a lawless action. Conspiracy to commit a crime is itself a lawless action. I don't watch much "CSI:Miami" but even I know that.

This is why Terry Nichols went to jail for the OKC bombings.

The reaosn he's in jail instead of dead, is that he surrendered to the US authorities. Al-Awlaki decided to hide out in a war zone to direct operations against the US instead.

Now, if you were making the case that treating terrorists as criminals instead of military threats gets you better results, I could get behind that... Clinton had a pretty good record there. If you're arguing congress should do a better job of formally declaring war where the US wages war, again, I agree.

I can't support the notion that battlefield and strategic commanders shouldn't be held accountable for their orders, and I can't support the notion that an enemy in the field of battle should be off-limits because of the color of his passport.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


First Feingold

Feingold is fighting the good fight at Feingold.org.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:12 AM on March 7, 2012


anyone involved in Occupy Wallstreet, as they are clearly Fomenting Unrest

Then you have H.R. 347 to help keep them protesters in check.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:16 AM on March 7, 2012


Since the AUMF was obtained via criminal fraud, is it valid?
posted by mikelieman at 4:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and


Specifically this is a lie.

There is no threat to national security or foreign policy as long as you don't capitulate to the terrorist's demands, such as withdrawing the troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
posted by mikelieman at 4:27 AM on March 7, 2012


I concede that there should be some mechanism in place that would allow us to deal with a US citizen on foreign soil who is attacking America. This, however, is a bad and dangerous mechanism. I wouldn't want any President, Republican, Democrat, Green, Rent is Too Damn High, or whatever to have this power.
posted by Legomancer at 4:54 AM on March 7, 2012


Could Holder's arguments be applied in the future to Julliam Assange? The UK is unwilling or unable to act against him. Therefore he is beyomdd the reach of our laws. He is encouraging attacks on our computer infrastructure. Some have said that his aims are the destruction of the United States Government. Other claim that he isn't just a recipient of the leaked materials but used his own skills to aid in the break ins. The ongoing nature of the attacks makes him an imminent threat. That would seem to meet the criteria.
posted by humanfont at 5:12 AM on March 7, 2012


He is encouraging attacks on our computer infrastructure.

No, he's not.

This slippery-slope nonsense is out of hand.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:19 AM on March 7, 2012


Al-Awlaki decided to hide out in a war zone to direct operations against the US instead.

Awlaki was not indicted with any charges that he could "hide out" from. And your evidence that he "directed operations" is "someone in the Administration that ordered him killed said so".

You may now return to instructing me on how disingenuous I am.
posted by Trurl at 5:39 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


koselitz: the United States has never before openly targeted and killed its citizens without any judicial process whatsoever

I must have missed the 260,000 trials we had for Confederate soldiers.
posted by spaltavian at 6:11 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


And your evidence that he "directed operations" is "someone in the Administration that ordered him killed said so".

You may now return to instructing me on how disingenuous I am.


OK.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:18 AM on March 7, 2012


The most compelling thing about conventionally presented radical islam is the (in my view terribly misguided) moral courage it imbues in some of its worst actors. Al-Awlaki is by any measure at the top of that list of actors.

What makes that moral courage so fascinating to me is that it is often so lacking in the discussion of what to do about him. Al-Awlaki and AQAP present the greatest operational terrorist threat to the U.S. and its interests. Evidence of this is abundant and is not limited to scriptural exhortation and "fomenting unrest." You should not think for a single moment that Al-Awlaki would hesitate to cut your entire head off with his own hand -- you, each one of you, irrespective of your level of philosophical queasiness about the current state of this administration's read on matters of constitutional law, the AUMF, lawfare and foreign policy -- and post a video of it on youtube. He would absolutely relish killing every one of your loved ones. If you can't wrap your head around that reality I understand that. Judging from many of the comments in this thread, you're not alone.

It is very tempting to postpone and delegate the question of what to do about an evil killer benefiting from a state-sponsored support network in rural Yemen where the U.S. has no ongoing operational capacity. We cannot arrest and detain him, things we would very much like to do instead of killing him. That is the process he might otherwise be due, but we cannot afford him that process by virtue of his chosen operational stronghold.

So what are we supposed to do?

In the context of what everyone else is saying here, this will sound crazy but I firmly believe that if you were in a room with him with a gun in your hand you would be morally compelled to shoot Anwar Al-Awlaki in the face. I didn't write that to offend you. I actually believe it and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do it. So I am tremendously grateful to the people who take on the obligation of making decisions to kill people like Bin Laden and Al-Awlaki because i believe it requires great moral courage and comes at tremendous risk and tremendous cost, including the cost of being wrong about where the bomb should go. What they are compelled to do is the very desirable and very difficult EXACT OPPOSITE of luxuriating in glib rhetorical meandering about things that distract us from the ultimate question. If you find yourself saying things like "there's no evidence that Al-Awlaki is directing operations of AQAP" your factual wrongness doesn't conceal or forgive your moral yellowness and I did write that to offend you.

I would just add that I think it does a tremendous disservice to the discussion to suggest even obliquely that the people who have to make these decisions take them any way but tremendously gravely, that they don't have their own queasiness, that they dont honestly struggle with endless legal, philosophical, and moral dimensions of these questions that most of us don't even know exist, let alone engage, and that they aren't personally and completely devastated forever to learn -- or to know beforehand -- that some member of someone's family was sitting next to him in his Toyota land cruiser as he caravaned across the desert in the only time in the last five years he could possibly be taken out, and to have to do it anyway.

Our decision-makers take on all that while guys like al-awlaki and bin laden and Hassan Nidal and Faisal Shahzad and endless others get to kill people (or try) without any of that cost, because they absolutely don't give a shit about what kid or wife or baby or whatever is standing next to whom when the bomb goes off, and if you find yourself apologizing for them, or making what you think is an evidentiary case for doing nothing about them, i really can't understand or agree with that.
posted by clownschool at 6:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


A document in a government sentencing memo purporting Awlaki's operational involvement.

In other words: "someone in the Adminstration that ordered him killed said so".

When you have something admitted into evidence by a judge - who has determined that it is admissable, not having been manufactured by one of those colorful methods we have - let me know.
posted by Trurl at 6:58 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


clownschool, you are missing the point entirely. The problem is that the position set out by Holder does *not* simply apply to actors like Al-Awlaki.

It's exactly the same as the torture issue: the edge case of the ticking bomb is used to legitimate a process which is subsequently used in entirely different situations.

It's manifestly easier/less messy/less risky for USGov to kill people than to bring them to trial. Where is the downside? The process by which the decision is made is entirely opaque and not subject to review. Nor is there any opportunity for an external party to argue a defence.

You have obviously made your mind up about Al Awlaki - fair enough - but if you aren't troubled by the general principle you just haven't thought hard enough about it yet.
posted by unSane at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


the United States has never before openly targeted and killed its citizens without any judicial process whatsoever.

You're not that familiar with American History, are you ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:13 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Evidence of this is abundant and is not limited to scriptural exhortation and "fomenting unrest."

Then why have we seen none of it? The absolute most concrete that anyone can point to is an unsupported narrative in the sentencing memo of a different person, written by the same DOJ defending al Awlaki's assassination, months after said assassination took place. Or is there more evidence, hiding somewhere? In abundance?

You should not think for a single moment that Al-Awlaki would hesitate to cut your entire head off with his own hand -- you, each one of you, irrespective of your level of philosophical queasiness about the current state of this administration's read on matters of constitutional law, the AUMF, lawfare and foreign policy -- and post a video of it on youtube.

Does he have a history of this type of thing? Where's his channel?

It is very tempting to postpone and delegate the question of what to do about an evil killer benefiting from a state-sponsored support network in rural Yemen where the U.S. has no ongoing operational capacity.

Oh wait, now he's actually ALREADY a killer! Who was the victim?

I would just add that I think it does a tremendous disservice to the discussion to suggest even obliquely that the people who have to make these decisions take them any way but tremendously gravely

I weep for them, because the effects of undertaking this terrible struggle 239 times in the last 3 years must have taken an awful cost on them.

Your entire post is based on your belief in assertions of government officials that have never been reviewed by anyone else. Some of us find nothing "morally courageous" with ordering assassinations of American citizens in violation of the rights set forth in our nation's founding documents based on the same quality of evidence that started the Iraq War or landed innocent people in Guantanamo for most of a decade. (Or, for that matter, follow-on assassinations of 16-year-old citizens on the basis of absolutely no evidence)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:24 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This represents "moral courage" to me more than preventive war, indefinite detention without trial, warrantless wiretapping, and citizen killings without due process combined!
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:32 AM on March 7, 2012


I've seen every law enacted to get the "bad guys" eventually turned against dissenters so regularly, without fail actually, that I've come to believe that this phenom is standard part and parcel of any human system of governance. I look forward to many more such laws, and don't anticipate any challenges to my cynicism.
posted by telstar at 7:50 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are certain situations (e.g. finding bin Laden) where the need to act swiftly is of utmost importance.

It took us ten years to find bin Laden. The nation did not collapse.
posted by steambadger at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


trurl and cobra_high_tigers: your high dudgeon about the fact that no trial court has verified the evidence against Awlaki ignores the fact that he prevented trial. He vowed to kill anyone who brought him to trial, and surrounded himself by armed men who agreed.

Until you explain your plan to bring him to trial, you are simply saying that any criminal or terrorist who can prevent their arrest with armed force should be free to do whatever they want. By that logic, a mafia don who can evade arrest with a combination of intimidation and bribery is also blameless. You're welcome to take that position, but it doesn't deserve your moral high horse.
posted by msalt at 8:39 AM on March 7, 2012


klang: I'd have no problem if al Awlaki was killed in an attempt to apprehend him, but I do believe that attempt (and sincere at that) would need to be made.

The problem is that he fled to a lawless part of a failed state, where he was surrounded by many armed kinsmen sworn to prevent his capture by his own government, much less the US. (Plus, Yemen's dictator was a failing tyrant.)

If we sent a police or military force to apprehend him, many hundreds would have died, and most would have been innocent Yemeni citizens. I don't see the moral calculus of killing many to prevent killing one person who, by his own account, is leading jihad against he US and at the very least training and motivating terrorists to kill Americans.

The principles, as stated by Holder, are too broad and too open to expansion outside of this edge case.

Absolutely, and I'm not sure what the solution is here. I actually trust the Obama administration to use this power wisely, but they have certainly opened a door that other presidents I don't trust can use. I hope that by the end of Obama's second term they find a way to create some sort of judicial proceeding for cases like this.

Another problem is, by the nature of these edge cases, their evidence will be from either highly embedded spies and informants -- whose lives and work will be lost if revealed in court -- or top secret electronic surveillance, which has a similar problem.
posted by msalt at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


you are simply saying that any criminal or terrorist who can prevent their arrest with armed force should be free to do whatever they want.

1) You're not a criminal until you're convicted of a crime.

2) Terrorism is a crime according to the laws of the United States. See #1.
posted by mikelieman at 8:59 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you opposed the killing of Osama Bin Laden?
posted by msalt at 8:59 AM on March 7, 2012


And Mafia Don's are free until criminal charges are filed and an arrest warrant issued, regardless of how loudly they scream, "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE -- I'M GONNA TAKE YOU ALL WITH ME!"

Ever see a felony arrest warrant served?
posted by mikelieman at 9:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you opposed the killing of Osama Bin Laden?

OBL should have had is day in court before his execution. That way we KNOW we executed the right guy, for the right reasons, and we didn't short-change, or go through the charade of a kangaroo court, which means both our moral requirements for executing a person and their moral requirement to be provided a chance to answer the charges against them would have been preserved.
posted by mikelieman at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think the attack on Awlaki was so horrible, then answer this question: if an American citizen is leading attacks on the U.S. from a hiding place where we can't arrest him -- and those attacks continue to kill Americans -- what are we allowed to do to stop him? Sounds like most people here are saying there is nothing you can do, we have to sit back and accept the deaths.
Attacks? Like the underwear bomber?
I must have missed the 260,000 trials we had for Confederate soldiers.
Congress suspended Habius Corpus, as there was in fact an insurrection going on.
You should not think for a single moment that Al-Awlaki would hesitate to cut your entire head off with his own hand -- you, each one of you … and post a video of it on youtube. He would absolutely relish killing every one of your loved ones. If you can't wrap your head around that reality I understand that. Judging from many of the comments in this thread, you're not alone.
Why does this matter? Surely there are plenty of people in the world who would like to do those things. Who cares?

It seems prudent to be concerned about the people who actually can kill you, even if by mistake.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) You're not a criminal until you're convicted of a crime.

Tell that to Bonnie and Clyde, or better yet, tell it to the Nazi saboteurs that FDR had tried by military tribunal instead of in the courts (and yes, among them, were American citizens).

Look, it's all well and good to object to this stuff and oppose it on principle, but to pretend it's new and unprecedented, or to insist on that in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that's just not factual.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


So what happens when the US government is a bigger threat to its citizens than terrorists?

I suppose we'd have to declare the government a terrorist organization so that it can assassinate unlawfully kill itself.
posted by LordSludge at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delmoi: Attacks? Like the underwear bomber?

You're saying this is a matter of principle, so it doesn't matter whether it's Awlaki, who batted about .275 in his attacks (Fort Hood shooting was 13 dead, 31 injured), or the Unabomber launching nuclear missiles at the US from hiding. If, as Trurl says, you need court proof, then the fact that someone is successfully killing people -- even thousands or millions -- is not enough reason to attack them until you arrest and convict first.
posted by msalt at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2012


It took us ten years to find bin Laden. The nation did not collapse.

You must be talking about a different United States of America than the rest here...
posted by Djinh at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2012


While I do oppose this on principle, I do see how the law is totally hosed and how Congress runs around like a chicken with its head cut off - at the best of times - and they should change the law so this doesn't work out this way but don't (for myriad reasons) - I'm pretty much ok with killing anyone we absolutely have to kill in the field if they can't be captured.

That though is operationally a very long way (doesn't seem like it, but it is) from a priori targeting someone for assassination.

I don't have a problem with assassination under very select circumstances. I think it's dumb to pretend it's ok and legal, but there's very little question every country on Earth and many organizations have cadre like that.
But, assassinating a warlord or something is very preferable to invasion which may result in all sorts of collateral damage, etc.

All those though are caveats.

What's bizarre is that any educated individual could be so obtuse and oblivious to the quite common "can of worms" concept:

"Significantly, Mr. Holder did not say that such a situation is the only kind in which it would be lawful to kill a citizen"

Because, what, Holder is always going to be a powerful man? His kids are never going to get in any kind of trouble at all? His grandchildren couldn't be threatened by some future despot we create by leaving this wishy washy "sorta" law eigenstate just hanging there?

I have no interest in seeking power, but it's stuff like this that makes me rethink the whole "I'm not any smarter than they are" thing.
Make me the AG and someone asks me this question and I say
"We can only use that kind of force under limited circumstances with very specific and clear rules. As Congress has continually refused to provide such guidance I would say while we have the legal power we do not have commensurate protection from the law that is our right to expect. Anything that empowers the government must also hold it responsible to its citizenry and I would not want to send men into harms way to accomplish a task our leadership has only vague guidance and uncertain goals for and have them subject to prosecution or political retribution by a future administration. So no, I would not want to speculate and pull scenarios out of my ass for the sake of looking like we're doing something about a problem that is a very limited element in a vast spectrum of law enforcement merely because it's so high profile right now."

But that's not really a punchy quote.

Congress suspended Habius Corpus, as there was in fact an insurrection going on.

Not as cut and dried as that. The Merryman thing. All that. Yes, there was an insurrection, but the sort of follow up on that - can the president just try citizens however he likes? sort of applies to this discussion.

The logical extension though gets absurd. I mean, there's no such thing (in practical terms) as habeas corpus if you kill someone unlawfully.
And if they resisted, there's the self-sustaining argument right there.
So I'm Joe President. I send in Dainty Farce to get Citizen X. It's an unlawful attempt at arrest. Let's say he's in another country. We don't have authorization to be there. There's no proof, blah blah blah.
But Citizen X opens fire on us when we deliver the brochure to his door.
Then we kill him.
Replacing 'kill' with 'imprison' we're legally good. Because of the resistance.
So technically, we're ok with killing him.

Just explaining the logic there. I'm not 100% on board with it. (Although I think it worked in OBLs case. Aircraft don't just crash for no reason. And there were plenty of reasons to capture him alive. That said, I'm agnostic all around, there being no direct evidence presented to the press *shrug*)

So it's a big nasty. And Congress isn't doing much about it. And incoherence and vagaries only support abuses. Which, I can't think, isn't by design in some ways.

But again, the really dumb thing is thinking "fire good" *all the time* and that this tool won't ever turn around and burn you or yours. Guh.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, it's all well and good to object to this stuff and oppose it on principle, but to pretend it's new and unprecedented, or to insist on that in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that's just not factual.

I would go out on a limb and say that assassinating minors is a first, but given this country's track record it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't. I'm actually sure it isn't now that I think about it, especially if you take "collateral damage" into account or the Indian Wars.

Just remember Obama ordered the assassination of a child when you pull the voting lever this coming November. Or one could keep justifying all the other assassinations and forget about the assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. But of course this will be the case in November as millions of "good americans" get out the vote for the criminal Obama. I mean this is the country that elected and then re-elected Bush II so it's not really that surprising; just disappointing to see so many well meaning people duped into participating in what at this point amounts to a fascist system.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


your high dudgeon about the fact that no trial court has verified the evidence against Awlaki ignores the fact that he prevented trial.

Frankly, a more immediate factor preventing his trial is the failure to CHARGE HIM WITH ANYTHING.

Until you explain your plan to bring him to trial, you are simply saying that any criminal or terrorist who can prevent their arrest with armed force should be free to do whatever they want.

I mean... yes? Are you seriously saying that if the government has any trouble apprehending a suspect, they should be able to just zap him from the fucking sky? We also haven't charged Julian Assange with anything and after great efforts have been unable to bring him into a courtroom in America. Should we just kill him with a drone attack, then? What about Roman Polanski? That fucker even had charges and evidence! Nuke France!

I love how believing that the Constitution should not be violated, or that our nation's executive should still be constrained by law, is "high dudgeon" that puts me on a "moral high horse." What'll I be against next, internment?? What a boor!

Even though I'm not a member of the judiciary and it's neither my job nor my area of expertise to come up with a regime that balances all these concerns, it's SUPER NOT HARD to come up with suggestions! Some may have even occurred to you, had you let it bother you for a second or two.

For instance: a trial is not the only means for granting a citizen "due process." In many instances, courts have granted the executive the power to do things which would otherwise be constitutional violations, as long as there is an advance hearing resulting in a warrant! Examples: searches of homes, ex parte seizures of cash and property, FISA wiretaps, etc. Why is this? Well, in their historical ignorance, our ancestors believed that the executive should not be able to decide for itself whether or not it had probable cause to violate one's constitutional rights. Rather, even when the other side cannot be present, a neutral magistrate STILL had to hear the executive's evidence and determine whether or not it had shown probable cause before it would be allowed to act.

If al-Awlaki and the other people on the government's citizens-to-be-assassinated list are really such unique cases that there's no existing legal construct available for dealing with them, then perhaps they should convince Congress to pass a bill equivalent to FISA or civil forfeiture statutes, which would make explicit the factors that would place a citizen at risk of assassination, and the required showing the government must put forth to obtain a warrant to do so. If the government is actually as sure as they say that these targets are Super Bad People and they have tons of evidence that can prove it, they should have no problem showing it to a judge, right?

When the executive comes up with its own secret program to violate the Constitution and neither discloses its boundaries to the public nor allows any judicial oversight, the program is vulnerable to subsequent expansion and abuses, either by the same Administration that created it or a subsequent one. It was scary enough when the program in question was warrantless dragnet wiretapping of telecom trunks, but now we're talking about killing American citizens who haven't been charged with any crimes. I think that's worth a little concern.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


it doesn't matter whether it's Awlaki, who batted about .275 in his attacks (Fort Hood shooting was 13 dead, 31 injured)

Oh, al-Awlaki attacked Fort Hood? Or is his involvement in that attack just another thing that the people who killed him told you was true?

I heard msalt helped plan Fort Hood! He says he'll kill anyone who tries to arrest him, too! Quick, someone kill him with a missile before he gives more sermons - we wouldn't want him to be blameless!
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2012


"Specifically this is a lie.

There is no threat to national security or foreign policy as long as you don't capitulate to the terrorist's demands, such as withdrawing the troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
"

There's a lot of nonsense in this thread, but I think this takes the cake. Things like the Cole bombing, or the attacks on embassies, definitely are threats to foreign policy and national security. Pretending otherwise is cloud cuckoo land.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2012


"If we sent a police or military force to apprehend him, many hundreds would have died, and most would have been innocent Yemeni citizens. I don't see the moral calculus of killing many to prevent killing one person who, by his own account, is leading jihad against he US and at the very least training and motivating terrorists to kill Americans."

I don't think that's true. Many hundreds didn't die in the Bin Laden raid. And even if some American soldiers died, I do think there is a moral obligation to at least attempt to apprehend him. In part, because defending the US constitution is one of those few things that American soldiers should be willing to die for.
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Just remember Obama ordered the assassination of a child when you pull the voting lever this coming November. Or one could keep justifying all the other assassinations and forget about the assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. But of course this will be the case in November as millions of "good americans" get out the vote for the criminal Obama. I mean this is the country that elected and then re-elected Bush II so it's not really that surprising; just disappointing to see so many well meaning people duped into participating in what at this point amounts to a fascist system."

Fascist?

And given that no matter who we vote for, it will have absolutely zero practical effect on whether or not these sorts of attacks continue — Obama's opponent is likely to go in with even less hesitation, and possibly even glee — but will have many positive effects and forestall many negative effects, then, yeah, I'm going to vote for him gladly and still think idealist hectoring is stupid. But hey, go vote for a RepublicanGreen if that's what gets you through the night. Just realize that in a practical way, you're supporting someone even worse. I'd rather eschew idealism that ends up making my (and millions others') life worse and engage in good ol' American pragmatism. You are, of course, free to vote in whatever symbolic and stupid way you please.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2012


Just remember Obama ordered the assassination of a child when you pull the voting lever this coming November.

The administration says that the killing of the younger al-Awlaki was not intentional, that "he was in the wrong place at the wrong time." He was riding in a car with Ibrahim al-Banna, a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who the US says it was targeting (and was also killed). There is some reason to believe this; outside of the U.S., the news was al-Banna's death, not that of the younger Awlaki. On al Jazeera for example, young Awlaki was not even mentioned. The headline was al-Banna dead.
posted by msalt at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2012


(Oh, and the idea that voting for someone means that you support all of their positions is a canard, and generally would preclude voting at all.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on March 7, 2012


If you think the attack on Awlaki was so horrible, then answer this question: if an American citizen is leading attacks on the U.S. from a hiding place where we can't arrest him -- and those attacks continue to kill Americans -- what are we allowed to do to stop him? Sounds like most people here are saying there is nothing you can do, we have to sit back and accept the deaths.

I think most people would say that at least you should present the evidence you are acting on. Especially if you are killing a guy who had been in the US when some of his accused actions were taking place and you were unable to convict him.

You should not think for a single moment that Al-Awlaki would hesitate to cut your entire head off with his own hand -- you, each one of you, irrespective of your level of philosophical queasiness about the current state of this administration's read on matters of constitutional law, the AUMF, lawfare and foreign policy -- and post a video of it on youtube. He would absolutely relish killing every one of your loved ones. If you can't wrap your head around that reality I understand that. Judging from many of the comments in this thread, you're not alone.

Funny, when he was invited to the Pentagon after 9/11 he hardly cut off any heads at all!

The problem is that he fled to a lawless part of a failed state, where he was surrounded by many armed kinsmen sworn to prevent his capture by his own government, much less the US. (Plus, Yemen's dictator was a failing tyrant.)

Awlaki had been arrested in the US, during his time here, and in Yemen, during his time there. He didn't have to flee these legal systems, they were repeatedly unable to prove the claims against him. I think a logical innocent man would get sick of it at some point and stop playing along.

I'm not saying he's innocent, but I do think we might not have had enough evidence to convict. I think a law that fails to consider the possibility he might be innocent is pretty deeply unamerican.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and the idea that voting for someone means that you support all of their positions is a canard, and generally would preclude voting at all.)

Yeah, this is a good point. For instance, if you care deeply about the assassination issue to the degree you would look the other way on other portions of his agenda you disagree with, you should consider voting for Ron Paul, who has been outspoken in his opposition.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:40 AM on March 7, 2012


I don't think that's true. Many hundreds didn't die in the Bin Laden raid. And even if some American soldiers died, I do think there is a moral obligation to at least attempt to apprehend him.

I respect that, and I'm not a military planner. Someone with special forces could probably evaluate the difficulty of a raid in Yemen vs. Pakistan. I think the raid for Bin Laden had many advantages, not least that he was not expecting an attack, it was a quiet, developed city with a lot of military bases around so the sound of a helicopter would not be too alarming. He was in a small compound with few people around him, many of them women or children. The US had well armed bases nearby, we know Pakistan far better and can scout it out, etc.

By most accounts Awlaki was in a part of Yemen similar to Pakistan's tribal areas like Waziristan, and I think it would have been a much tougher raid there. Hundreds of deaths might be exaggerated, but dozens probably, 5-10 minimum. Are those folks' families going to be happy they gave their life to support an American constitutional principle?
posted by msalt at 10:41 AM on March 7, 2012


> Are those folks' families going to be happy they gave their life to support an American constitutional principle?

Well, considering how much people like to tout the fallacious line about how our troops are "over there to protect our freedoms" then I'd say the question is really not even up for debate.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


US and Yemeni forces were on the scene quickly after the strike, and identified the target with fingerprinting. It wasn't all that remote and inaccesible a place.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


such as withdrawing the troops stationed in Saudi Arabia

Yeah, I always get short-sheeted by that kind of thing. Like "nah, that's just too f'ing obvious. They wouldn't just go and say 'we don't negotiate with terrorists' and 'bring it on' and 'lookit my package in this flight suit' sort of things then go and actually pull up stakes in Saudi. Pfft. Crazy.'
Then we do.
And it's like no one notices. (Regardless of whether staying in Saudi Arabia was a good or bad idea, whatever).

I mean, the AUMF. Say it out loud. 'Hey, you MF.'

Or the "battlefield" being "everywhere" and Holder saying "if they were on a battlefield" sort of thing.

I sort of feel like I'm watching pro-wrestling with two tag teams, one in red trunks, one in blue, and the occasional third team tries to get in but they're blocked by the managers of the other two teams and hit with chairs and they're throwing foreign objects into the audience and using illegal holds.
And the referee is the American people and I'm yelling like an idiot "Aw, c'mon! Don't you see that!?"
Then I feel dumb for getting emotionally involved, because it's pro-wrasslin. And maybe it's supposed to be obvious. But it's so dangerous. And yet, it doesn't get stopped, the match keeps going on and on. And it's staged. But then, they're really bleeding. But then, they cut themselves. But...
Sorta no-win situation.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:46 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, al-Awlaki attacked Fort Hood? Or is his involvement in that attack just another thing that the people who killed him told you was true?

I didn't realize I was posting in a conspiracy-theory thread. I'll see myself out, now.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


He [Assange] is encouraging attacks on our computer infrastructure.

No, he's not.


The chat logs with Bradley Manning that have been released so far seem to show both encouragement and participation in some of the cracking. The coordination with Anonymous would seem to show an ongoing threat. He has made a number of statements against the United States over the years and encourages people to take down our empire.

He isn't a US citizen so it should in theory be easier to kill him than Mr Alwaki, right?

Not that I'm endorsing this action. I'm increasingly uncomfortable with where Holder and Obama's views are going. I think that Alwaki was an extraordinary circumstance but future decisions should be made more transparently and with increased due process. Perhaps the FISA court should issue a warrant after the President issues a finding an a congressional panel should vote it out.
posted by humanfont at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2012


Proof before the government murders its citizens? LOL, you crazy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2012


Fascist?

And given that no matter who we vote for, it will have absolutely zero practical effect on whether or not these sorts of attacks continue


Yep fascist. No matter who the American people vote for the GWOT will continue unabated; along with all the other nice things that come along with it, such as gitmo, assassinations, torture, and the continued rise of the police state. Obama hasn't stopped any of these things he has just moved them out of the light of day. In many cases he has escalated the GWOT making it purely a shadow war in which there are no embedded journalists to tell us just what a great job our troops are doing protecting our freedoms by killing peasants in the Horn of Africa or Southwest Asia. Just to let you know, not that it matters, I don't plan on voting at this point. It seems like an exercise in futility given the situation you yourself admit is prevalent in this country. I suggest you read up on the history of fascism and how it has evolved since WWII. Hint: Fascist systems can exist without Nazis or death camps; though to be fair we do have concentration camps just not ones in which we kill people systematically.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:08 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm increasingly uncomfortable with where Holder and Obama's views are going. I think that Alwaki was an extraordinary circumstance but future decisions should be made more transparently and with increased due process. Perhaps the FISA court should issue a warrant after the President issues a finding an a congressional panel should vote it out.

Me, too. Holder, in particular, has been a real disappointment from where I sit. Rather than turning out to be the passionate defender of our highest ideals I'd hoped for, he seems more like a competent, but ultimately, middling technocrat who's more comfortable working within the boundaries of the legal status quo than advancing the cause of justice.

And I'd definitely like to see Obama put himself into this issue more directly and push for steps to correct the awful state of the current law in these areas. But ultimately, he's only going to be able to succeed with popular and congressional support. Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but I don't personally think it's reasonable to expect any of the other current contenders for the presidency to be more responsive to the public will on these matters, or willing to be pushed to reform, than the current officeholder. If there's enough popular push against the current state of the law, I think Obama would at the very least let the necessary reforms happen. I can't honestly say I think that's true of any of the other candidates--not even Paul, as whatever he might say, he's going to be awfully grateful for those broad executive powers once his superstitious views on the role of government, and on economics and monetary policy return the nation to a pre-modern standard of living.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2012


this entire thread and no one has questioned whether maybe the whole policy of "targeted killings" is a good one of not. I mean, it worked so well in Iraq when we had a lot more control over the situation than popping any Islamic radical anywhere in the world who seems like he might kill someone. There are an awful lot of disaffected young muslim men out there; how many do we have to kill in order to convince them to take up epic poetry (instead of arms) to voice their discontent?

That we have ended up extra-judicially killing Americans just makes them canaries in a coal-mine for a policy which is both bloodthirsty and deeply stupid. (stupid unless your actual agenda is America at war forever everywhere)
posted by ennui.bz at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


stupid unless your actual agenda is America at war forever everywhere

If it quacks like a duck, invades countries like a duck, and assassinates people like a duck, and engages in shadow warfare though JSOC and proxies like a duck...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:41 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


this entire thread and no one has questioned whether maybe the whole policy of "targeted killings" is a good one of not

See the allusion to the barbary pirates above.
"good" is a pretty broad term. It would be nearly impossible to dismantle.
And it would be hard to delineate acts of precaution under hostile circumstances.

What's your definition of "targeted killing"? (I know common definitions, legal, tactical, the political Greenwald definition, etc).
Because given an ongoing armed conflict and the impossibility of apprehension of someone who is a party to that conflict, positive identification of that person and the limitation of collateral damage, I'm ok with it.

Some of those points are moot. But look at the Mafia wars in Italy. That was a running gunbattle between the police and a criminal syndicate, but spread out over decades.

Is Citizen X off the hook just because he's not actively firing a gun *right now*?
He's used chemical weapons before. He's willing to do so again. But right now he's taking a leak. Can we shoot him?

I guess the big difference is in technology. Back in the day you had to risk people, perhaps en mass in order to engage in battle. Now, sure just drone strike these couple people.

I would argue though that mass troop movement does not in itself legitimize an engagement. Nor does personal risk.
If that were so than suicide bombing would be the morally highest form of attack.

The longbow certainly changed the course of the Hundred Years War. As did gunpowder and cannon.
If they could have just taken out the nobles of the Burgundian alliance with some newfangled technology, would that have been less legitimate? Or do we need all those dead conscripted bodies to somehow justify it?

This is more akin to the "is a crossbow moral" type question. Targeted killings are neither good nor bad in that regard. They're a result of technological evolution.

As with all of that we'll have to make law to make sure it's not abused.
And as with the Hundred Years war, perhaps wealth and prestige will stop being decisive and peasants will be more empowered.
I'm fairly optimistic in that regard. There's no armor a knight could have worn (in that era) to protect him from firearms.
In the near future, there's not much to protect someone with a lot of money from someone who has just enough to hit them with a drone strike.

So there will be some social changes.
That, is where I tend to share your misgivings.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Things like the Cole bombing, or the attacks on embassies, definitely are threats to foreign policy and national security. Pretending otherwise is cloud cuckoo land.

And you can identify the clear effects to our national security as a direct result of any of these incidents? Not our freaked-out-overreaction-after-the-fact. But you know. What Lincoln was talking about when he did his whole existential thing at Gettyburg... "and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Because, I really think that whacking people like the mob just because they're inconvenient isn't worth it unless we're talking about saving the Union itself, and not some wishy-washy slippery-slope argument.

Of course, that's the whole thing with hauling him in front of a count. You make the case that he needs killin' and a jury agrees, then no-one excepting Quakers &c. will complain...
posted by mikelieman at 12:01 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"that's the whole thing with hauling him in front of a count"

ONE ALLEGED TERRORIST CRIMINAL -- HA HA HA!

TWO ALLEGED TERRORIST CRIMINALS -- HA HA HA!

THREE! ...

s/count/court/ # of course.
posted by mikelieman at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and following up:

Bonnie & Clyde

Last I knew, they had warrants out for their arrest on murder charges.

Resisting arrest is often a fatal choice.

the Nazi saboteurs that FDR had tried by military tribunal

Well, they're spies. That's all well covered in Geneva, right? And IIRC, the German Ambassador delivered a declaration of war against us the very day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor...

See how clear cut everything is when two sovereign nations actually declare war on each other? And notice how when you try to cram LAW ENFORCEMENT into the same model, it fails horribly.

That's because police aren't soldiers. They're not troops. They're civilians ( although there's a big push to brainwash that out of their minds... )

Terrorism is a crime. Terrorists are criminals. You don't use an army to arrest and try criminals. You use an army to fight war.

Now, everything's fixed. Now, for my pony, I want Twilight Sparkle.
posted by mikelieman at 12:10 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


mikelieman: You're not a criminal until you're convicted of a crime.

Awlaki was convicted in Yemen of terrorist acts, including kidnapping and a not-yet-completed plot against the US attache in Yemen, in 2006. He was released at the end of 2007 after repenting, and under pressure from his very powerful tribe, the Awklakis.

By 2009 the Yemeni government had him on their most-wanted list, and he was hiding in Yemen's Shabwa region. By most accounts it was after he got out of prison that he became actively involved in directing terrorist attacks, including the underwear bomber, Ft. Hood, the printer cartridge bombs, and others. He also declared the fatwa calling for the death of Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris in 2010, which forced her into hiding.
posted by msalt at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would just add that I think it does a tremendous disservice to the discussion to suggest even obliquely that the people who have to make these decisions take them any way but tremendously gravely
This is extremely naive about humannature and power. It's not like they're throwing darts at a map and letting the cruise missiles fly. But look at exactly what's been going on and a small amount of interpersonal experience, you *know* that they aren't really making decisions "gravely".

Given Holder's rather uneducated remarks -- I think it's reasonable to assume that they have in fact made decisions rather rashly and are attempting to back them up with adhoc arguments. Not really the sign of people who have thought through the human cost...
posted by smidgen at 12:26 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would just add that I think it does a tremendous disservice to the discussion to suggest even obliquely that the people who have to make these decisions take them any way but tremendously gravely

So what? People make bad decisions gravely all the time.
posted by unSane at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2012


Ack! Wierd typo above, but my point was that people who truly consider their decisions in detail end up automatically having well thought out arguments for them as a consequence. Not bullshit interpretations of legal documents.
posted by smidgen at 12:30 PM on March 7, 2012


So he was convected in Yemen in the past, released, and apparently had a Yemeni warrant out for him?

I don't see how we can be spending money out of our treasury -- or that Congress appropriated any funds to execute Yemeni arrest warrants. Nor do I see how the existence of a warrant in another sovereign nation is any of our business. So, I'm REALLY sketchy on how we're supposed to get from that to whacking the guy?
posted by mikelieman at 12:30 PM on March 7, 2012


> I would just add that I think it does a tremendous disservice to the discussion to suggest even obliquely that the people who have to make these decisions take them any way but tremendously gravely, that they don't have their own queasiness, that they dont honestly struggle with endless legal, philosophical, and moral dimensions of these questions that most of us don't even know exist, let alone engage, and that they aren't personally and completely devastated forever to learn -- or to know beforehand -- that some member of someone's family was sitting next to him in his Toyota land cruiser as he caravaned across the desert in the only time in the last five years he could possibly be taken out, and to have to do it anyway.

Yes, but they're still alive. Playing political ball at their level involves lots of tough calls so I don't see discussing their mood or state as being anywhere remotely relevant to discussion of if this is truly ethical or moral.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:32 PM on March 7, 2012


"Just to let you know, not that it matters, I don't plan on voting at this point. It seems like an exercise in futility given the situation you yourself admit is prevalent in this country. I suggest you read up on the history of fascism and how it has evolved since WWII. Hint: Fascist systems can exist without Nazis or death camps; though to be fair we do have concentration camps just not ones in which we kill people systematically."

Sure, that counts if you're entirely myopic and a single-issue voter. Otherwise, that there are real differences on many metrics between Obama and Romney (or Santorum or Gingrich) is a reason to vote for one over the other.

Also, the vague claims of fascism and the implication that I just need to read how things have developed since WWII? That's "Google Ron Paul" level rhetoric, and beneath serious response.
posted by klangklangston at 1:10 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Otherwise, that there are real differences on many metrics between Obama and Romney (or Santorum or Gingrich) is a reason to vote for one over the other.


Whoever gets the gig, they're going to do as they're told. The Differences between candidates once someone has the gig seem to be a whole lot less distinct once the fundraising rhetoric of the election cycle dies down.

Does make you think a bit seeing Holder delivering the same crack-smoking nitwittery which Gonzales was derided for, and Obama flipflopping on unlawful domestic surveillance back in ought-eight and...
posted by mikelieman at 1:25 PM on March 7, 2012


Just remember Obama ordered the assassination of a child when you pull the voting lever this coming November.

That's why I'm voting for Santorum or Romney who are sure to respect the rights of heathen muslim children.

Oh wait. I can't vote.
posted by Talez at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2012


What's your definition of "targeted killing"? (I know common definitions, legal, tactical, the political Greenwald definition, etc).
Because given an ongoing armed conflict and the impossibility of apprehension of someone who is a party to that conflict, positive identification of that person and the limitation of collateral damage, I'm ok with it.


There's not enough al qaeda (whatever that means) for the US to be in armed conflict with them. If (the proverbial) you want the US to be in armed conflict with radical Islamist political movements... well, good luck with that and there's absolutely nothing irreplaceable about being a quasi-religious figure willing to bless killing americans.

But look at the Mafia wars in Italy. That was a running gunbattle between the police and a criminal syndicate, but spread out over decades.

The better analogy is the IRA: how did that end?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2012


I think the definition of "targeted killing" is anything that gets you out of the cross-hairs of US anti-assasination laws.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2012


Phhpt.... "Laws"!
posted by mikelieman at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2012


if you're entirely myopic and a single-issue voter

You know how people like to ask "Is this the hill you want to die on"?

This is the hill I want to die on. Assuming the Leader doesn't choose to have me die at a different location of his choosing.
posted by Trurl at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure, that counts if you're entirely myopic and a single-issue voter.

Which single issue would that be?

Also, the vague claims of fascism and the implication that I just need to read how things have developed since WWII? That's "Google Ron Paul" level rhetoric, and beneath serious response.

Suit yourself, I was just suggesting you read some history. If that is "google ron paul level rhetoric" then so be it, but really I think you probably have no idea what you're talking about. There is no response you could really give unless you educate yourself on the topic, and since you have already decided before you educated yourself about the topic that it is beneath response I guess we're at an impasse. I didn't go into serious detail because you know as well as I do that would be considered a derail by most here. If you are really interested in studying the history and development of fascism I can provide you with several book recommendations to start you off, just mefimail me.

That's why I'm voting for Santorum or Romney who are sure to respect the rights of heathen muslim children.

Strawman is strawman
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2012


If (the proverbial) you want the US to be in armed conflict with radical Islamist political movements
We're talking different things. Which is why I'm looking at the definition. I'm saying "This is how an internal combustion engine operates" you're going along the lines of "If you drive this car like this you'll get into an accident."

Targeted killing is not, as defined above, a policy decision anymore than terrorism is. They're tactics. The question is one of usage. Which I think we're mostly agreed on.

The better analogy is the IRA
Not in terms of relative wealth and goals.

The Red Brigades made about $10 million a year.
The PLO had about 10 billion to 12 billion in their pocket.

The Sicilian Mafia wouldn't get out of bed for that kind of money. They made $20 billion a year in public and private contracting alone.

The Medellín trafficking syndicate was able to paralyze courts and other apparatus of government. Escobar had around $25 billion. Which he used to overthrow the legitimacy of the Columbian government. And he was targeted by a military operation.

The IRA did not seek to supplant the English government, just free Ireland. With the exception of the strikes against civilians, they were a pretty textbook guerrilla organization. Crime, although they were big in it, was a means, not an end. Their goals were political and they could be reasoned with (to some degree).

So, different organizations, with different goals = different tactics.

The IRA didn't have the wallet to straight up fight engagements on a regular basis.

AQAP seems ok with taking on Yemen's army, executing U.S. spies, Tariq al Dhahab (the brother in law) is talking Caliphate all that. And that has politicians on our side talking more air strikes (we hit them in '09,'10,'11)
Which, really, wtf is that? Sending in planes or cruise missiles to bomb is better than drones or snipers or small teams?
I mean, I presume you object to that as well. And I think if we're going to beef up our abilities in one area, legally speaking, we need to scale back in another.
If we can hit someone, or cover a smaller area, and take someone out, we need to reign in the tactics that cause more widespread damage.

Naturally that presumes a right to attack in the first place which I don't have on the table.
But all things considered, doing less collateral damage is generally a good thing.

But anyway, the organizations are different animals altogether.
So, different tactics.

And that's really another big problem with this. If it's perfectly legal to target one guy, then what gives us the right to blast a whole neighborhood anymore?
All they can really say is "well, it's easier and cheaper to use dumb bombs."
Well, hell, that's not any sort of justification. If we're going to expand power in one area, we really should look at backing it up somewhere else.

Though there are still blue laws on the books.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:47 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, sometimes folks here just pound their talking points regardless of any level of sense. Someone complains to you they think a policy has led to concentration camps and is bringing us to fascism (I don't agree with this and which people would knock off the Nazi comparisons) and you just can't resist whining about single issue voters? HITLER IS COMING, DUDE, THAT IS A MAJOR PROBLEM. ;)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:49 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're saying this is a matter of principle, so it doesn't matter whether it's Awlaki, who batted about .275 in his attacks (Fort Hood shooting was 13 dead, 31 injured), or the Unabomber launching nuclear missiles at the US from hiding. If, as Trurl says, you need court proof, then the fact that someone is successfully killing people -- even thousands or millions -- is not enough reason to attack them until you arrest and convict first.
Awlaki had apparently been emailing the fort hood shooter, we had access to all their emails and communications, and because of that contact, he was under constant surveillance.

If he was directly involved in the planning, we would have known about the attack in advance, duh.
(Oh, and the idea that voting for someone means that you support all of their positions is a canard, and generally would preclude voting at all.)
It would also prevent anyone from getting elected if they held views that were reprehensible to more then 50% of the public.
Yeah, this is a good point. For instance, if you care deeply about the assassination issue to the degree you would look the other way on other portions of his agenda you disagree with, you should consider voting for Ron Paul, who has been outspoken in his opposition.
Well, he's not going to be an option in the general election, unless he runs as a third party candidate.
I didn't realize I was posting in a conspiracy-theory thread. I'll see myself out, now.
Not believing every claim the government makes makes you a conspiracy theorist now? I assume you believed in Iraqi yellowcake and the Saddam/Al Quaeda link as well? Which ironically, makes you an actual conspiracy theorist.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really ashamed of my lack of a position on this issue.

Maybe my crude, uninformed, and generally ignorant perspective could serve as a sounding board to re-rail this thread and get off the crappy personal attacks and assumption?

I don't want my government to sentence and execute a citizen without the judicial rights guaranteed by our laws.

I don't think that should still apply to a citizen that meets some vague notion I have of being a terrorist, being dangerous to civilians / our soldiers to capture instead of kill-by-drone, and being generally active in the plotting of and/or carrying out of, you know, terrorist stuff.

I can't tell the functional identification difference between the traditional idea of an 'enemy soldier' and the modern splinter cell terrorist network thing. They still self-identify as belonging to this or that extremist group, which is as good as a uniform I guess. I don't know.

And lastly, I don't naturally tend to infer malicious motivation on the part of my, or any, goverment. Something about the furtive fallacy stuck with me, and I just don't think it likely that this is a secret plot to yadda yadda. This is especially important because I tend to have a strong instinct of trust towards President Obama when it comes to foreign policy.

It seems like the modern version of 'enemy soldiers' in the form of terrorists are what we are going to be at war with, permanently, from now on. It feels like there is always gonna be a funded and organized terror group actively plotting and attacking my country, so you know....those guys are shoot-to-kill now, right?

So I mean....my President says this dude was planning and doing some seriously bad shit, and was an enemy soldier, basically. To me that forfeits the protection of the law, cause that's kinda how that goes in war. And we're at war with these bad dudes. So we know where he is, and we can kill him without sending in our soldiers, and with some reasonable expectation of minimizing civilian casualties, a consideration that is the direct opposite of the enemy....

I know it's a slippery slope, and I know the power can be abused, and I wish we could figure out a way to not have that happen, but I also sort of think that's a solid time to drone-strike the shit outta someone.

Muddled enough?

Yes, I'm a liberal. Yes, I'm aware that this is probably the wrong thing to say. I'm intellectually confident enough to appear stupid sometimes, dammit. Hush.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, shouldn't there be some option in-between capture / detain / try / kill and kill-on-battlefield-with-soldiers-while-they-shoot-back that let's us kill terrorists with drones in the countries where they are planning and equipping suicide bombers to come kill us?
posted by lazaruslong at 3:35 PM on March 7, 2012


There is no response you could really give unless you educate yourself on the topic

Thank Christ we have you here, oh wise Keeper of Twentieth Century History. I get that assuming people who disagree with you are ignorant is actually a kindness on your part, since otherwise they would have to be evil. But do you really think being this condescending is going to convince anyone? Are you showing off; do you imagine Noam Chomsky is lurking in this thread, silently cheering you on?
posted by spaltavian at 3:49 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is especially important because I tend to have a strong instinct of trust towards President Obama when it comes to foreign policy.

That's nice. I hope you're willing to trust the next Republican president - I'm afraid that there's going to be one eventually - with the same unfettered power to kill American citizens because it will be too late for you to start complaining about it then.
posted by Trurl at 3:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


If we try to resolve our conflicts using diplomacy and talking with their leaders rather than killing them, how would we keep the war going, lazaruslong? Sometimes I think the people at Metafilter just want this war to end or something.
posted by humanfont at 3:51 PM on March 7, 2012


I mean, shouldn't there be some option in-between capture / detain / try / kill and kill-on-battlefield-with-soldiers-while-they-shoot-back that let's us kill terrorists with drones in the countries where they are planning and equipping suicide bombers to come kill us?

Is the drone killing in foreign countries a requirement? It seems like most countries seem to do without it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:09 PM on March 7, 2012


Thank Christ we have you here, oh wise Keeper of Twentieth Century History. I get that assuming people who disagree with you are ignorant is actually a kindness on your part, since otherwise they would have to be evil.

That's a cute moral system you've set up there. Thankfully it has nothing to do me.

But do you really think being this condescending is going to convince anyone?

Yes my response was slightly condescending, but then so was the comment it was in response to. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. I can't hold people's hand and make them read books.

Are you showing off; do you imagine Noam Chomsky is lurking in this thread, silently cheering you on?

Now see Klang, this is an example of something that is beneath serious response.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2012


Okay, obviously this thread is now about personalities than it is discussion. Jesus. Enjoy that.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:32 PM on March 7, 2012


>War was declared. There is no difference between an authorization for the use of military force and a declaration or war.

Just catching up on the whole thread. We've gone over the whole Declaration vs. AUMF before and I still disagree with you. I also see you are still making the same specious arguments trying to convince everyone that a formal declaration of war and an AUMF have always been the same thing. They have not. I will grant you that post WWII they amount to the same thing but there is a reason for that. Given that you never responded to my earlier points I will reproduce them here:

Declaration of War and the AUMF are not the same thing. Both have been used numerous times in American History and in different contexts. Here is some interesting reading for you. You will notice that before WWII AUMF's were used specifically to battle piracy on the high seas. Given our founding fathers views on war and standing armies it is understandable they were loathe to declare war. In fact it is clear from the texts of the various AUMFs that even though another party had "commenced a predatory warfare against the United States" they were not willing to declare that a state of war existed. The original use of the AUMF was to protect U.S. interests while at the same time preventing the necessity of an all out war.

Contrast this with the actual declarations of war. In each of them the text states that a "state of war exists" between the respective parties. Each then provides evidence backing up that assertion and gives the president free reign to prosecute the war as he sees fit using all military forces at his disposal. This is in stark contrast to the AUMFs which strictly limit the types of forces to be used and the manner in which they are to be used.

After WWII this has changed. Now we use AUMFs to wage war against groups of people that do not hold the same ideology as us. The AUMF in Afghanistan and also the one for Iraq are heinous and immoral because they authorize the president to invade countries that have not attacked us. It is also revealing that after WWII we have not formally declared war because a preexisting state of war has not existed with any other nation since WWII. The reason for this is clear; we have been the aggressor nation in every instance.

All of this is really moot, though, as various presidents of the United States have on some 125 occasions engaged in military action undeclared or unauthorized by congress. A perfect example of this is the Philippine–American War or our various adventures in Nicaragua. It is clear that war can and does happen whether it is formally declared or not. The point is that we have not formally declared war because, as I stated above, there was no preexisting state of war with any of the countries we have invaded since 911. We are the aggressors and we have killed millions of people trying to bring to justice the people responsible for the 3000 deaths on 911. Now OBL is dead and we are seemingly no closer to achieving our goal than when we first started invading countries. Something is seriously fucked up if anyone thinks that this is an acceptable situation in which we currently find ourselves; murdering our way to a national security.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:45 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


"declaration of war" sounds so quaint in an era of permanent war.
posted by telstar at 5:33 PM on March 7, 2012


"declaration of war" sounds so quaint in an era of permanent war.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:52 PM on March 7, 2012


Muddled enough?

All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.
I've always suspected that alteration of clarity, truth, for any reason but most particularly for excellent, well-intentioned reasons, were the worst of all.
Now, I'm not so sure. I think it's self-sustaining. That is, they impose a false view of the world upon themselves and everyone else buys into it because the alternative is nothing. We've got no plan 'B'
Follow the King! 'Why?" 'Uh...divine right!' 'Well, where's that put us in 100 years?' 'Uh....die heretic!'

I mean, look here - AQ raided a base in south Yemen over the weekend, killed 200-odd doods, it's really all SNAFU.

What should we do about it? Liberals say talk (to AQ who, really in all honesty and for whatever my street cred here is worth, genuinely want to kill us all. There is no negotiation for that, only neutralization - that's not to say talking won't work, but it's the "nice doggie" looking for a rock sort of talking, we need to outmode them and that takes time and meanwhile 'boom' and they have a little more power, etc.).
Conservatives say 'bomb 'em" or at least McCain does, whatever the hell that little man's polarity is...

So yeah, you're damn right you're muddled. Anyone who has any brains at all has no f'ing clue what's really going on or what to do about it what with the chaos inherent in war and strife itself and adding to that all this political b.s which filters any genuine clarity one might be able to glean from objective reporters.

You're position is pretty close to mine. All my position really boils down to is "shoot that one asshole involved instead of blowing the whole place to smithereens" and "let's have lots of oversight on doing that 'cos it's dangerous as hell to our way of life"

But Holder - God knows WTF he's thinking. First date sort of "Yeah, Hi, I'm here to introduce your daughter to marijuana, anal sex and speeding through neighborhoods with children and my dad's a cop so don't try and hit me" sort of "Blowing up 'Merican citizens, fuck yeah!" direction he went with there.
I dunno why. Tiny dick? No clue. More people need to get laid and relax more. Not just him. Generally.

Dunno what these people have in mind for the next 20 years. More and more I'm thinking they don't have a clue and are just making stuff up because fear of the unknown is worse than even actually scary stuff. And there is actually scary stuff. Which makes it all the worse because we want to bomb it away or allow it to capitalize on it's position.

Best advice I can give is go watch "Red" and "Burn After Reading" back to back and you get (not the facts, 'cos they're all over the place) but an excellent feel for what it's like to work in national security.

(From Burn After Reading)

CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don't know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don't fuckin' know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I'm fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it's, uh, hard to say
CIA Superior: Jesus Fucking Christ.

Pretty much the last 20 years of American foreign policy.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:26 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm intellectually confident enough to appear stupid sometimes
I've got deep respect for that, btw.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:27 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Obama administration has refused to release any hard evidence that proves Awlaki's guilt citing national security concerns. In fact, the memo that gave legal authorization, is still kept secret. If you're ok with that, then you shouldn't really complain about the use of torture, er "enhanced interrogation", the secret detention of "enemy combatants" or if the government decides to listen in on your phone calls when the next Bush/Cheney incarnation arrives (if they haven't already).

And let's not forget how well the secret drone attacks are crippling the enemy. Declaration of War or not, we can still get in some fair amount of killin'.
posted by jabo at 8:43 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The chat logs with Bradley Manning that have been released so far seem to show both encouragement and participation in some of the cracking.

Speaking of Manning: UN top torture official denounces Bradley Manning’s detention
posted by homunculus at 10:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


mikelieman: Whoever gets the gig [as President], they're going to do as they're told.

So Obama and George Bush, no significant difference, eh? Ditto Santorum, Romney, Obama, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich? Oh, good. I don't have to take you seriously any more.
posted by msalt at 10:51 PM on March 7, 2012


"The Differences between candidates once someone has the gig seem to be a whole lot less distinct once the fundraising rhetoric of the election cycle dies down."

I thought we were in perpetual campaign mode now. But seriously, arguing that there are no differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms is either ignorant or disingenuous. Plus, Obama campaigned on continuing drone attacks and increasing the presence in Afghanistan while winding down Iraq. I'm disappointed with Obama's administration on this, and some other issues, but arguing there's no difference is like saying that there's no difference between Spong's and Dawkins' theologies.

"Suit yourself, I was just suggesting you read some history. If that is "google ron paul level rhetoric" then so be it, but really I think you probably have no idea what you're talking about. There is no response you could really give unless you educate yourself on the topic, and since you have already decided before you educated yourself about the topic that it is beneath response I guess we're at an impasse. I didn't go into serious detail because you know as well as I do that would be considered a derail by most here. If you are really interested in studying the history and development of fascism I can provide you with several book recommendations to start you off, just mefimail me."

Yeah, see, I've already read Payne, Griffin, Paxton and Weiss's books, in a couple classes on 20th Century Political Theory. I know there are more out there, and that defining fascism is nearly its own field, but calling America a fascist country is more epithet than sense. I'll cop to being heavily influenced by Arendt (two of my best profs were Arendt scholars), but wagging poli-sci dick isn't gonna get me to take your vague, fringe over-definitions seriously.

If you'd like to memail me with recommendations, I'll slot them into my reading list, but since I'm out of school and doing other political work, I find that I have a lot less time to slog through theory only tangentially related to my life (and very little money to blow on university presses — I'm always happy to read free books though).
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 PM on March 7, 2012


So Obama and George Bush, no significant difference, eh? Ditto Santorum, Romney, Obama, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich? Oh, good. I don't have to take you seriously any more.

There are obviously differences, for instance one of those candidates opposes the assassinations.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:28 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So Obama and George Bush, no significant difference, eh? Ditto Santorum, Romney, Obama, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich? Oh, good. I don't have to take you seriously any more.

The last cry of a hopeless partisan. You are correct in asserting that there are several significant differences between Obama and his would be opponents. As far as I know none of the Republican candidates have ordered the assassination of a minor. None of them have ordered the assassination of American citizens. In fact none of them have ever ordered the assassination of anyone(publicly at least). None of them have ordered drone strikes leading to countless civilian deaths. None of them have prosecuted shadow wars in Africa or Asia. None of them have overseen the transition from the CIA run concentration camps to a less publicized system of JSOC run camps. None of them is a mass murderer(yet).

I am sure you will point out that they(with the exception of Ron Paul) would probably engage in similar activities, and you would be correct. That's kinda my point and I think several people's point in this thread. In this day and age becoming a U.S. president pretty much guarantees that one must engage in what many would term crimes against humanity. What substantive differences(rhetorical differences don't count) are there really between the Bush II foreign policy and the Obama administration's? I would argue that in some regards Obama's is more insidious because he has taken what "W" audaciously did openly and had hidden it from public view(shadow wars, torture, and concentration camps). Of course he has had plenty of help from the MSM in this regard.

But yes you are correct if you are asserting that there are many rhetorical differences, and in the case of domestic issues one could probably find many substantive differences. Unfortunately when one examines foreign policy the differences are mainly cosmetic.

Reasonable people can disagree about the best course of action, but that's kind of a difficult place to get to when the most reasonable people(ie liberals) aren't even willing to admit that many of these things are taking place or that there is any problem at all. Shit most of my conservative friends are more on base than many of my liberal ones about the current state of this country. That will all change if a republican president is elected and they will go back to being proud Americans. Much like the evolution or in this case devolution of many liberals into party hacks once their guy was in.

If you are all right participating in a system in which the status quo and expected outcome of any election is a government which will continue to prosecute unjust and illegal wars, assassinate persons without trial, imprison people indefinitely without legal recourse, and do it in the name of your security then more power to you. I, though, am of the opinion that such a system is corrupt and immoral and should be replaced by a new system. I am honestly at a loss here and have no idea what the best way is to proceed. So no I don't have a solution to our current dilemma, sorry.

on preview:

but wagging poli-sci dick isn't gonna get me to take your vague, fringe over-definitions seriously.

Was I really "wagging poli-sci dick" around? I didn't even quote anyone. And did I actually give you any definitions to take seriously? Trust me when I pull out my "Clausewitz"(that's a pet name for my massive poli-sci dick) you will know. As I said I didn't really want to get into it here because we would both then be tarred and feathered for derailing. I will mefi mail you a couple of books which you can pursue at your own leisure.

I'm always happy to read free books though

Me too!!! :) Unfortunately library.nu is no longer with us so I have kinda entered a drought phase as far as free books go. I will look around and see what I can find in lieu of amazon links, though.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:07 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Trust me when I pull out my "Clausewitz"(that's a pet name for my massive poli-sci dick) you will know."

OK, that was funny.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought that Obama being serious about troop withdrawls from Iraq and Afghanistan was a pretty big foreign policy difference, but I could be wrong. Weren't conservatives saying that was tantamount to surrender, we should stay, etc?
posted by lazaruslong at 6:36 AM on March 8, 2012


Also, efficacy w/r/t the killing of OBL?
posted by lazaruslong at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2012


It took us ten years to find bin Laden. The nation did not collapse.

You must be talking about a different United States of America than the rest here...


Well, okay. The nation didn't collapse because it took us ten years to find bin Laden. I was taking issue with the commenters contention that finding Osama was so urgent that it justified suspending the constitution.
posted by steambadger at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2012


I thought that Obama being serious about troop withdrawls from Iraq and Afghanistan was a pretty big foreign policy difference, but I could be wrong.

The troop withdrawal timeline for Iraq was negotiated by the Bush administration(see SOFA). As far as Afghanistan goes Obama didn't campaign on withdrawing from Afghanistan, but rather on escalating the conflict there and in Pakistan; which he has done.

Weren't conservatives saying that was tantamount to surrender, we should stay, etc?

Yes, but that would be a rhetorical difference as plainly illustrated by the fact the Bush II administration negotiated the SOFA. Similar to when Obama claims that he respects human rights, and then proceeds to assassinate a minor.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2012


The troop withdrawal timeline for Iraq was negotiated by the Bush administration

John McCain has repeated suggested since the election that the President has made a terrible mistake in continuing the drawdown of forces, and not reaching an agreement that would have allowed us to remain. Thus we can conclude a significant difference between Obama and the Republican Party 2008 nominee.
posted by humanfont at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2012


The troop withdrawal timeline for Iraq was negotiated by the Bush administration

BS, even after you ignore the fact that Bush started the Iraq War and Obama opposed it.

When Obama took office there were 144,000 troops in Iraq. Bush had a plan that, on paper, would pull them out by 12/31/2011 but leave 50,000 troops "for training" indefinitely. Plus, no one believed he meant it -- any flareup would become justification for another surge. McCain pushed for MORE troops in 2008, and every Republican candidate this time except Ron Paul has pushed for more troops in Iraq.

Within a month of taking office, Obama announced a timeline to withdraw -- first getting down to Bush's permanent 50,000 level by August 2010, 16 months earlier than Bush, and then all of the rest out by 12/31/2011. He did exactly that, right on schedule.
posted by msalt at 11:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


and not reaching an agreement that would have allowed us to remain.

...and agreement Obama did try to negotiate, to keep potentially tens of thousands of troops in Iraq. McCain would have faced the same issue Obama did, Iraq would not agree.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:35 AM on March 8, 2012


We've been through this before, but again, no. Obama was asking to keep one base, 7,000 troops, in Iraq after 2012 (like we do in Korea and Germany). They declined, fine. McCain would have started with 144,000 troops and increased the number. That's an occupation that Iraq would not have been able to say no to.

Besides -- McCain would already be in both Iran and Syria. (He says so publicly.) As would Romney, Santorum or Gingrich.
posted by msalt at 11:58 AM on March 8, 2012


Besides -- McCain would already be in both Iran and Syria. (He says so publicly.) As would Romney, Santorum or Gingrich.


They say they would be. Big difference. Politiciians say a lot of stuff.
posted by unSane at 12:09 PM on March 8, 2012


We've been through this before, but again, no. Obama was asking to keep one base, 7,000 troops

We've been through this before, and again I will cite the numbers of troops as I always do, and the the plural nature of the bases.

Foreign Policy: As recently as August, Maliki's office was discussing allowing 8,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain until next year, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie said in an interview with The Cable. He told us that there was widespread support in Iraq for such an extension, but the Obama administration was demanding that immunity for U.S. troops be endorsed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which was never really possible.

The Guardian: Iraq rejects US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal. Obama announces the full withdrawal of troops from Iraq but fails to persuade Nouri al-Maliki to allow US to keep bases there

The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.


Besides -- McCain would already be in both Iran and Syria.

If the Democrats let him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 PM on March 8, 2012


Obama wanted to keep US troops in Iraq past the Bush timeline for withdrawal. But he insisted on Iraq granting the troops immunity from prosecution for future Blackwater-style massacres. It was only after Iraq refused to grant that immunity that Obama grudgingly pulled the troops out. At which point his supporters hailed him for "ending the war".

And you know what one person is more responsible than any other for Iraq's refusal? The whistleblower subjected to months of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" in Obama's prison.

Ironic, isn't it.
posted by Trurl at 12:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


> And you know what one person is more responsible than any other for Iraq's refusal? The whistleblower subjected to months of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" in Obama's prison.

I really don't expect it, but it would be pretty cool if Obama stepped up and commuted Manning's (inevitable) sentence before he leaves office. One can dream.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:02 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually every where we base American troops overseas they have immunity from local prosecution. We don't operate without that rule in place.
posted by humanfont at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2012


Keeping a base in a country does not mean war continues, unless you think we're still fighting WW2 in Germany. Even so, you're quibbling whether Obama would have reduced troops by 93% or 94% (144,000 to 10K or 7K), while Republicans would have increased the number of active troops above 144,000.

Unsane: Republicans say they would go into Iran and Syria.

After Iraq and Afghanistan (and Panama and Grenada and Iraq again etc.), why would you doubt them?
posted by msalt at 1:30 PM on March 8, 2012


Keeping a base in a country does not mean war continues, unless you think we're still fighting WW2 in Germany. Even so, you're quibbling whether Obama would have reduced troops by 93% or 94% (144,000 to 10K or 7K), while Republicans would have increased the number of active troops above 144,000.

Republicans negotiated the Bush withdraw timeline. human brought up McCain's criticism of Obama failing in the negotiations, it's not quibbling to point out that in order to fail the negotiations Obama had to be trying not to fail them in the first place.

The numbers, as have just been cited at you, were in the tens of thousands before being negotiated downwards at the behest of the Iraqis to where they ended up. 7 to 10 was the floor. Let's imagine we are talking about Obama's efforts to end the Bush tax cuts. Would you say Obama never negotiated to end them since he failed to get the revenue in the end? No, because what you get in the end is not necessarily what you were asking for.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:38 PM on March 8, 2012


Correction a Republican president facing a hostile congress and very low approval ratings negotiated a deal. The deal did not represent the aims of the republican party.
posted by humanfont at 2:17 PM on March 8, 2012


furiousxgeorge: you're ignoring facts. George Bush negotiated a floor of 50,000 troops, not just at a remnant base, and left open increasing that number. More to the point, McCain was the Republican candidate, not Bush, and he advocated increasing the number of troops. The current Republican candidates advocate reoccupying Iraq, attacking Iran and attacking Syria.

I quoted one of the two numbers you gave, 10,000. That source said "just a few years ago" the US wanted many more troops -- exactly! Just a few years ago means when Bush was president. The other number you gave, "8,000 to 20,000" was a single unverified report that said Maliki -- not Obama -- was "discussing" keeping that many troops. The only figure linked to the Obama Administration in your source is "a residual force of 4,000 troops." And the article you cite added an update that it was the Pentagon, not the White House, that wanted a residual force at all. Not Obama, the military.

So answer the question -- do you think we are still fighting WW2 in Germany, because we have a base there?
posted by msalt at 4:53 PM on March 8, 2012


and not reaching an agreement that would have allowed us to remain.

...and agreement Obama did try to negotiate, to keep potentially tens of thousands of troops in Iraq. McCain would have faced the same issue Obama did, Iraq would not agree.


That source said "just a few years ago" the US wanted many more troops -- exactly!

Dude, the article goes on to say: in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year.

It was scaled down (several years into his term) under Obama, because of Iraqi resistance.

"8,000 to 20,000" was a single unverified report that said Maliki -- not Obama -- was "discussing" keeping that many troops.

It was the statement of the Iraqi ambassador, but your 'NUH-UH HE LIES!" is noted.

I made a simple claim and have backed it up with my citations, it was in regard to what humanfont pointed out, that McCain criticized the failure of these negotiations. As Obama also wanted those negotiations to succeed, it was pointless to bring up.

I am ignoring your other stuff not addressing that point because it has nothing to do with the claim I am making and have cited.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:49 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm pretty sure if Obama had really wanted to keep us in Iraq, he could have done what Bush and McCain would surely have done and just ignored the Iraqi parliament. Lest you forget, we overruled the Iraqi authorities on a near daily basis under Bush's administration.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:22 PM on March 8, 2012


le sigh
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:19 PM on March 8, 2012


furiousxgeorge: You aren't reading or responding to my points, so I'm done trying. If anyone more reasonable is still interested, which I doubt, reading the article makes it pretty clear. Here's the original Foreign policy article, and on the "8,000 to 20,000" part it's quoting this interview with the Iraqi ambassador. Important note; that's Iraq's ambassador to the US, which is why he's speaking for Maliki and not Obama.
posted by msalt at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm not responding to any of your points because they have nothing to do with what I am saying. I have no idea why you insist on repeating what I have already said too. We heard you the first time, you think the Iraqi ambassador is a liar and you think all the sources that say 10,000 are liars, we get it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:10 PM on March 8, 2012


It seems like the negotiations considered a number of plans. These plans indicate that the US tried to keep between 7 thousand and 30 this and soldiers in Iraq as part of a long term basing strategy. The Iraqi insistence that the soldiers not be given immunity ensured that this deal could not be made.
The rest is just speculation, gossip and spin. Critics like to inflate the numbers and see the notion of US bases in Iraq as a broken promise. Supporters will point out that we are out of Iraq and question how serious the negitions were and how big a commitment this was or if this was the same as the American occupation.
After a number of back and forths on this over several threads I thnk we are all going to have to agree to disagree here.
posted by humanfont at 2:33 PM on March 9, 2012


We have the report from the Iraqi ambassador that he was open to the 20,000 that was on the table, but we know the Iraqis were trying to get the number down. As the Guardian reports, the number went down to 10,000 at their request. We don't need to go back and forth on this, the 10,000 number was widely reported. It is indeed a stupid discussion when msalt yells nuh-uh over and over but there isn't much I can do about it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:52 PM on March 9, 2012


fxg, you're simplifying a very complex situation to grind your anti-Obama axe. Maliki and the US army wanted a base to remain, and Maliki's own survival depends on having the force to fight off opponents. It's not at all clear he wanted to reduce the number of residual troops at all, but he's got political opponents who do. The US army wanted a base because duh, a great base in the Middle East square between Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and the Kurdish region whose autonomy the US supports.

Muqtada al-Sadr's faction wanted no U.S. presence at all. The White House says they did not want troops, and evidence is unclear. Politically, their threat is from the right; every possible opponent of Obama is more hawkish on Iraq, and Republicans actually want to reinvade. So by negotiating, they assuage the army and prevent a hawkish political attack. On the other hand, no troops means money saved, a promise kept, and no more risk of US troops dying in Iraq, or us getting dragged back in to another surge, which is another political risk they can now wash their hands of.

The point is, we have no way of knowing whether Obama wanted to stay and screwed up negotiations, or wanted to leave and made a weak attempt at negotiating to cover their ass but were happy to see the attempt fail. Seems most likely to me they had mixed feelings, didn't commit fully to getting an agreement and one faction was happy they didn't while another was upset.

None of which changes the fact that all combat troops were removed under any of these scenarios, far beyond what Bush agreed to, and that the only thing being discussed was a residual base or two. Which does not mean fighting a war. Like Germany, which you have no answer for.
posted by msalt at 5:17 PM on March 9, 2012


Didn't McCain get pilloried by Obama for suggesting our troops remain in Iraq under those kinds of conditions?
posted by humanfont at 6:12 PM on March 9, 2012


I'm not reducing a complex situation. I am well aware it is complex and many numbers of troops and bases were tossed around before the number was reduced at the behest of the Iraqis as the Guardian reported, which is why my statement that he was negotiating to keep potentially tens of thousands of troops remains factually accurate no matter how much you try to debate the history of the Iraq war, the policies of Republican candidates, the price of tea in China, etc.

I'm reporting to you what multiple news sources say happened while you deny it over and over without linking anything. For fuck's sake, I don't want to debate the Iraq war with you while you grind your pro-Obama axe, I pointed out McCain was criticizing Obama for failing in negotiations Obama also wanted to win, and citing for you the nature of the negotiations according to multiple news sources. I have no idea why you have to turn it into a massive derail of the conversation that has been going on, it was a minor point in which I said nothing else about the content of humanfont's argument.

It doesn't mean Obama isn't the perfect God-King you know he is, I am not debating the quality of his presidenting.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:42 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Humanfont: Didn't McCain get pilloried by Obama for suggesting our troops remain in Iraq under those kinds of conditions?

Well, they tried to pillory each other, but Obama certainly slammed (and arguably twisted) McCain's statement that troops might remain for 50 to 100 years. McCain opposed any set deadline for withdrawal ever, which didn't help. He probably meant a base when he said 50-100 but nobody wanted to hear that kind of talk.

Correction: a Republican president facing a hostile congress and very low approval ratings negotiated a deal. The deal did not represent the aims of the republican party.

Good point. I had forgotten, but Bush's agreement to withdraw troops was only settled after Obama won the election. As late as October 16th, 2008, no date for withdrawal had been set according to wiki. If McCain won, who knows what would have happened?
posted by msalt at 11:14 PM on March 9, 2012


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