One wouldn’t have to search far to find examples of hypocrisy in the rhetoric and policies of Barrack Hussein Obama. Perhaps it’s the promise of transparency while he hides the truth of the embassy attack in Libya or the details behind “Fast & Furious”. Or perhaps you prefer his call for civility on the campaign trail while he labeled his presidential opponent a felon and a liar. This week you can add yet another example to the list….. classifying lethal drone attacks against American citizens as constitutional while prohibiting enhanced interrogation techniques against captured foreign terrorists.
Of course….we would never have known about this latest hypocrisy if it had not been for the leak of a secret Department of Justice “White Paper” called “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S Citizen”. This paper, obtained by NBC News, lays out the administrations rationale for killing Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was also a leader of the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. Obama considered Alwaki a grave threat to America and ordered him killed in a drone attack in September 2011. Civil libertarians and human rights activist quickly argued the killing amounted to a summary execution of an American citizen without due process.
You won’t find me shedding a tear for Awlaki. He was indeed a known terrorist and traitor who had plotted numerous terrorist attacks against the United States. I consider his killing justifiable as he was certainly an enemy combatant. Clearly….the war on terror presents some unique and unexamined challenges as to who constitutes an enemy combatant. While I would rather capture and interrogate any terrorist, I have no problem using lethal force against a traitor of the United States provided they meet sufficient criteria. Unfortunately…I’m not sure the criterion is sufficiently laid out in the newly leaked DOJ white paper.
The white paper lays out the justification for an “informed, high level official of the U.S government” to order a lethal strike against a U.S citizen in a foreign territory if the target is:
1. a “Senior Operational Leader” of Al Qaeda or “associated” force…or
2. “posses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and
3. That an attempt to capture that individual is “infeasible”.
Clearly Awlaki was a “Senior Operational Leader”….but what about the next American to be in the crosshairs? One only needs to read a little deeper into the 16-page white paper to find a gaping hole in the justification to kill Americans on foreign soil. While the term “imminent threat” seems reasonable (and a traditional standard for military action) the white paper seems to attach a rather broad definition to the phrase. The paper states “the condition that an operational leader presents an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” Huh?
Instead….the “high level official” can determine the target was “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of attack and that ”there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities”. The paper does not define “activities” or “recently” leaving that up to the administration to determine. That’s a rather long leash to attach to a drone missile…..especially if it’s pointed at an American citizen.
White House Press Spokesman Jay Carney certainly had his hands full following the leak of the secret DOJ paper. Carney said these drone attacks were “consistent with our Constitution and our laws” and that they were “necessary”, “ethical” and “wise”. However…he seemed tongue tied when a reporter asked him about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki.
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was killed by a CIA drone just a couple of weeks following the death of his father. “When asked by a reporter if Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was a “Senior Operational Leader”….Carney reverted to press speak and said “I’m not going to talk about individual operations that may or may not have occurred.” How’s that for transparency? He’ll talk about the policy but not how it’s actually administered?
The Obama Administration use of drones has been under the microscope since a May 2012 New York Times article which highlighted civilian casualties in drone attacks. The article stated civilian casualties were misreported because the administration counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants.
In the days following the strike that killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, U.S. officials suggested that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was not a teenager, but rather a “military-age male” in his 20s. Under international protocols of conflict, recognizing Awlaki as a “military-age male” provided justification for his killing. However, the family refuted the U.S.’s claim that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was of military age by releasing a copy of his U.S. birth certificate showing that he was born on August 26, 1995 and was aged 16 at the time of his death.
It seems clear that the Department of Justice White Paper is just a manufactured justification for any lethal action the Obama administration wishes to take anywhere in the world. It’s hard for a rational individual to accept it’s more ethical to kill a suspected terrorist with a drone…..be they American or otherwise ….rather than capture and interrogate them. We can continue to argue the most effective and acceptable methods to interrogate captives but dead men tell no tales…nor provides any intelligence.
Sadly…it seems President Obama is more concerned with avoiding a political scandal than obtaining actionable intelligence. Lets face it….it’s just easier to kill them.
This is John Galt Speaking!