Sunday, October 9, 2011

more about killing Awlaki

Let's see where we agree and disagree.

1. I do NOT agree that the US is not fighting a war. In fact, I think it's a silly mincing of words for anyone to say that.
2. I do not agree that the killing of enemies is preferably done one way rather than another. I can't see any point in arguing that A a-A was not an enemy of the US.
3. I do not agree that foreign citizens who are captured by the US in conflict (Prisoners of War) are entitled to the same rights as American citizens.
4. I DO agree that there is a very serious constitutional question involved in hunting down American citizens and killing them. I think this should be settled. I keep wanting to hear the arguments for and against this, but no one I know will talk about that.
Frankly, I am disappointed that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have been calling for Congressional hearings on this matter. It needs to be discussed and debated. Probably it needs to be sent to the Supreme Court and settled.


troutbirder said...

Mmmmm. I believe Mr Lincoln had some good arguements for the suspension of habeous corpus during a civil war. But the terrorists hardly threaten the existence of the state. They would seem to be self evident as traitors though fighting & killing American with other foreign nationals.

Bud said...

Sparty said-

Our basic difference is we disagree on what the definition of is is. There are a lot of terrorists out there, some agents of nation-states, some as agents of extreme religious groups, some as agents of groups that see America and its culture as a threat, some who hate the U.S. because it supports Israel, some free-lancers with one grudge or another against the U.S., etc., etc. Are we "at war" with all of them? Did our elected representatives authorize the president to conduct war against all of them? two of them? any of them? And those individuals we are targeting for assasination - are they being targeted because of their position in an organization or their individual actions against the U.S.? Who are we at war with?

I believe the term "war" has a specific meaning under the Constitution and/or the powers of the president to protect U.S. lives and property and I'm not clear as to the definition that is being used by this administration or its predecessor. For example, those "prisoners of war" who were captured in Iraq and Afghanistan and then locked up in Guantanamo Bay - the Bush administration said the Geneva Convention rules on treatment of P.O.W's didn't apply, and this administration continues to hold some of these people and subject them to military trials, treatment that violates the defined rules for treating prisoners of war. By implication this must mean they aren't prisoners of war. So, what in the hell are they? And if they aren't prisoners of war, are we at war? You may think this to be silly mincing of words, but in a nation of laws, it's all about words.

Another difference between us is that you consider the critical question to be the citizenship of al-Awhatever and I think the question should be the legality - and morality - of the drone program.

Irene said...

I agree with Sparty. The War on Terror is not a war. I think the use of the word "War" is contemptuous. It is deliberately employed to drum up support, rally the patriots, unite Americans against a common enemy - all to excuse the fact they breaking the law. They can't have it both ways - calling it a war, yet not affording the captured enemy the rights of a POW. Killing Awlaki could be seen as the thin edge of the wedge - who will be the next mortal enemy, and for what reason?

Irene said...

I also don't understand why the citizenship matters - are only American citizens protected under the Constitution? What about residents or illegal immigrants? Are they covered because they are on US soil? Do the the moral standards set out in the Constitution only apply when they absolutely have to be - ie they can be ignored if the US govt can get away with it "legally". I find this idea sickening really - this notion that are beings who have rights (US citizens) and as for the rest of the world the US govt can do whatever they want.

Irene said...

Sorry for all the typos and missing words - I was in a hurry.

Scot sw said...

1. I think we're fighting a "war" in Iraq, where we've set up a government with which we're allied. At this point, we're helping the government of Iraq (with whom we are not at war) battle a dying insurrection. We're also engaged in a similar situation in Afghanistan, with the caveat that there are remnants of an actual paramilitary organization there which attacked thousands of our citizens and which still hopes to destabilize the United States, but which hasn't shown any actual capacity to strike outside its backyard for years and years. It's therefore best also seen as a local insurgency. There's a real war going on in Libya, where a U.S./Nato backed insurgency has effectively toppled the existing government. Is there a war I'm unaware of? If you're referring to the "Global War on Terror", that's a crock of shit because that war never existed. You can't fight a war against a tactic. You can kill members of a global terrorism network, which we've been doing by the truckload, in violation of the sovereignty of numerous other nations, including Yemen. So yes, I guess we've been in the business of committing acts of war regularly over the past decade, though none of these wars have been declared. My problem with this thinking is that a "war" without geographic or temporal restriction is an invitation to huge abuses of power, and I've read about such societies before thanks to authors such as Orwell.

2. I don't know of anybody that's arguing that A al-A was not an enemy. I do know that the Constitution lays out in crystal-clear English the necessary conditions for convicting a person of Treason. If the test of a traitor is now, "The president knows one when he sees one," I think he's violated the Constitution and could be impeached. This, as opposed to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, would be about something that matters.

3. I don't think they are, either. But if they're Prisoners of War, they are entitled to rights secured by treaties we have signed. We just choose to ignore those treaties and since, as in #1, we've established that the war never ends, there's not need to move prisoners from "detention" or whatever we're calling it. They'll never be exchanged or ransomed, they'll just rot.

4. I've been talking about this. I think hunting down and killing American citizens is a solid basis for impeachment. I can't think of a more fundamental violation of the rights our President was sworn to uphold. I wonder, if not this, what?

Expediency certainly dictates that we just kill the people we don't like and/or think might like to hurt us. But I believe in America as a nation of laws, and not expediency. But that's increasingly being seen as a quaint notion. Once the notion that we're governed by laws is off the table, civil war lurks not far behind.

Bud said...

I think Sparty is arguing a point from a couple of generations ago. What is a war? At this point, it is either what he says it is or what the Congress and the Courts say it is. We lost that one long ago, and I now accept that all war does not have to be declared.

I also stand on this point as to whether someone is a prisoner of war. This is a matter which has lots of loose ends and you and I agree that it ought to be settled by the law, and we agree that some people should probably be let go instantly, some should be tried, and sue should the held until the war is over.

We are not arguing over the meaning of is.

@Scot: Yemen invited us in. Of course, that may be a government you don't like, but still, it is the recognized government.

On Point 4, you and I are in agreement, Scot, I think.

The inability of Congress to make certain decisions is an on-going one, and it's threatening the democracy we have. This particularly C ogress, on think, is utterly purchased by monied interests and so, I suspect, one of it's inabilities to function is dictated by those who want it not to function at all.

I think Obama has overstepped his rightful powers as Commander in Chief, for example, in Libya. It's hard to know what we should do about it.

scot s w said...

Sparty said: "You may think this to be silly mincing of words, but in a nation of laws, it's all about words."

Amen, amen, amen.

scot s w said...

Irene raises the question of whether it makes a difference whether a person is a U.S. citizen or not. Well, of course it does. Your rights as an American citizen (e.g.: freedom from unreasonable search and seizure) are different from your human rights (e.g.: not to be massacred). The government of the United States is responsible for protecting American citizens and no responsibility for protecting, say, Australians, except for whatever obligations it has taken on by treaty. As such, its treatment of American citizens is necessarily different from its treatment of non-citizens.

scot s w said...

Troutbirder says: "They would seem to be self evident as traitors though fighting & killing American with other foreign nationals."

Except the Constitution doesn't allow conviction of Treason on the basis of "self-evidence". It's actually really, really specific on that topic. If our armed forces encounter a citizen who is armed and shooting at you, it's fair to shoot back. If your satellites find him smoking a cigarette near his front door, and you have good reason to believe he's plotting something, what you are alleging is the crime of Treason. Even if it's inconvenient, there's a law to follow for that.

scot s w said...

Now I want to pin my Dad down on this one: "I do NOT agree that the US is not fighting a war. In fact, I think it's a silly mincing of words for anyone to say that."

Is it? Because here's a question:

"With who, exactly?"

Takes two to tango, right?

Bud said...

We are fighting a war in a number of places besides Afghanistan, against the same enemies, the Taliban and Al Qaida and their affiliated forces. They are armed and they are dangerous.

I wish they would all come to Afghanistan and all come out onto the plains and fight hand-to-hand like the Persians used to, but they have sophisticated methods of transportation, not just camels, and they have moved into other areas like Pakistan and Yemen and Sudan. Inside the United States, even.

Frankly, I would prefer to end this war of ours and go on the defensive here at home. Send all those Guantanamo people home. Close the place, as Obama promised. Get the hell out.

I am having a hard time understanding, given the hostilities, how drones are more objectionable than bombers, artillery, or naval guns that can fire 30 miles.

I know that al-Awaki was an enemy, because he said so on multiple occasions, and we have had warrants out for him which he defied. I have not said he was found guilty of treason, although if he had been caught and tried in an American court, I'm sure the charges could have held up.

I know that my disagreements with Sparty are more numerous, but I think you and I, Scot, are disagreeing about point 4, only.

Sparty said...

My comment, "the term war has a specific meaning under the Constitution and/or the power of the president to protect American lives and property," certainly recognizes that military action can be initiated under the president's executive power without a declaration of war. However, I don't believe that there's precedent for a general drone "War on Terror", no more than there was legal authority for a "war" against the Axis of Evil.

As for those prisoners, how would Bud's theory of "lots of loose ends" have fared at Nuremberg or especially in the post WW-II trials of Japanese prison camp commanders?

Irene said...

Of course, I realise that citizenship matters, legally. My point was the US government seems to have an attitude that if person is not one of its citizens, then it's a free-for-all, which I find morally reprehensible. It seems its treatment of American citizens is necessarily different from its treatment of non-citizens - not because of any human rights ideals, but because it has to under law. My point wasn't just what is legally right, but what is morally just. The US govt and many of its citizens fancy themselves as a prime force of justice throughout the world, which is complete and utter crap. The only thing exceptional about American exceptionalism is itself.

Irene said...

That last line of mine doesn't make any sense. Simply, I dislike the notion of American exceptionalism. To me, Americans use it as justification to do anything they want because they are somehow more special than anyone else.

Alice said...

Irene. You asked the question do moral rights only exist when then absolutely have to. Unfortunately the answer is too often yes; from the local enforcement officers to the federal government.