Obama Approves Assassination of Citizen

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When Catholics justified their decision to vote for Obama, they did so on two grounds: healthcare and foreign policy. The premise was Obama would actually save lives through healthcare and through his more peaceful foreign policy, thus outweighing the damage he would do through his promotion of abortion.

I never found that premise convincing. Not only did I think they underestimated the damage abortion does, but I also believed that they were ignoring what Barack Obama was actually promoting in his foreign policy. To make a long story short, I think most people assumed that since Obama was a Democrat who had opposed the war in Iraq that he would be the opposite of Bush when in truth their positions are very similar.

Since taking office, Obama has largely followed the lead of his predecessor. However today news is coming out that he has surpassed his predecessor in circumventing due process: Obama has authorized the CIA to kill a US citizen believed to be involved in terrorism (H/t Vox Nova).

The idea that an American citizen can be killed without a trial outside of battle is a troubling one, regardless of whether you voted for Obama or not. The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.

To take away human life outside of self-defense is a power no one, including the President, possesses. One will hope that the media will publish this and emphasize it so that public pressure will dissuade Obama from taking this course of action. Unfortunately, one has to doubt that that hope will be realized.

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  1. Oh, but surely the president deserves the benefit of the doubt! He has “more information” than we do! And he should be allowed to do anything to save american lives!

    At least, this is the defense you people made of Bush. Now you’re criticizing Obama on the same grounds?

    Of course, much of Obama’s foreign policy is sheer evil, just like Bush’s. But do forgive me if I find your opposition of it laughable, considering you defended Bush’s policies. Your concerns ring hollow.

  2. An interesting debate on this topic taking place on National Review Online:


    I found this comment by Jonah Goldberg interesting:

    “Re: Assassinating Awlaki [Jonah Goldberg]

    Just my quick two cents: I think this is a good and fine debate to have, but it’s worth considering that one reason we’re having it is that the White House wants us to. As Steve Hayes noted last night on Special Report, the news that we would be targeting Awlaki was leaked months ago, around the time of the Christmas bomber. It was releaked this week, perhaps to counterbalance the news that the White House is considering removing references to Islamic extremism in its national security strategy.”

  3. The Catholic Anarchist’s response to the news that the man he voted for is willing to have the CIA assassinate an American citizen is to rant against Bush and his supporters. I am shocked, shocked!

  4. I will have to let the others included in the group of “you people” answer for themselves, whoever “you people” is meant to address.

    However, I think you need to show me where I defended Bush’s policies. To my knowledge I have never done so on a blog. While I was very much a neocon in 2004, as I learned about Church teaching in college I came to oppose Bush’s foreign policy in regards to the war in Iraq, treatment of prisoners, etc. I don’t believe I have ever blogged supporting Bush’s actions, so I presume your accusation against me is nothing more than reasoning by stereotype & generalizations rather than any substantial basis.

    But of course, I digress. Whether or not my concern is has ill motives does change the fact that what I’m saying is true. I’m the one who voted against the man who’s trying to assassinate American citizens and you’re the one who voted for him.


    That is an interesting idea. Obama’s pretty good about getting the media to follow along; I wonder what the strategy is.

    And you are more than welcome to continue to post clips from Casablanca on any post I write. In fact, this post is surely deficient for lacking clips from that classic movie.

  5. One of my rules of life Michael is that there are few things that cannot be made better by a Casablanca reference!

  6. To quote my mom:
    “Life is technicalities.”

    I have no problem with murderers being targeted for death, I object to this one being killed without a trial to revoke his citizenship. (on the basis of having declared war on the US, if this is the youtube fellow I seem to remember)

    (Ed note-No profanity, even if merely abbreviated.)

  7. Foxfier:

    They still retain human dignity and ought not to be killed, regardless of what they have done, unless self-defense requires it. There is no reason this man should not be “merely” imprisoned.


    You really need to stop arguing by association.

  8. MD-
    Sure there is: we can’t do it, and trying to will make for a nice big pile of dead bodies. Failure to act has already resulted in innocent deaths– in part because this unspeakable has been able to be at war with a nation without even losing his citizenship of that nation.

  9. Foxfier:

    Do you have any evidence of someone who has died b/c the United States was trying to capture this man rather than assassinate him?


    This thread is not about my decision to blog for TAC so please stop submitting comments in that regard. Needless to say, I do not agree with everything my co-bloggers or the commenters say. In fact, I accepted the invitation to discuss those differences.

    Furthermore, as one of your co-bloggers has just mentioned some support for Obama’s decision at your blog, you should check your own house.

  10. Question:

    What’s the standard?

    What I mean is, under what circumstances may the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States authorize armed force against an enemy person?

    Obviously we don’t try all enemy soldiers in American courts prior to bombing their positions.

    On the other hand, obviously the President shouldn’t be able to declare any given Person X somewhere in the world to be an enemy and have him shot.

    Somewhere between those two extremes is a line, which can be demarcated on the basis of moral principles.

    What’s the standard?

    I notice that the article brought up whether the target was on a battlefield. In this war, what battlefield would that be? A Paris nightclub? An apartment in Beirut? A city street pretty much anywhere?

    It seems more pertinent to me to ask whether the subject is armed…but once the Nazis bedded down for the night, they weren’t armed. Yet I suppose we were perfectly willing to bomb the Nazi barracks, and I don’t suppose that was unjustified.

    What then?

    Perhaps the concern is whether the man is an American citizen? Hmm. The only way that seems pertinent to me is that, if we can capture him, we should try him for treason instead of locking him up until end-of-hostilities as an unlawful combatant. I mean, if we’re talking about a matter of human rights, and not just the particular privileges of citizenship.

    I don’t mean to make absurd comparisons here. Of course I see the difference between blowing up a guy’s house in Kentucky and blowing up a Nazi barracks.

    But I want to see the standards and criteria for authorizing force spelled out in plain language. It seems to me that doing this allows those standards to be evaluated dispassionately.

    So: Those of you who think the CIA hit isn’t okay: What’s the least alteration in the situation required to make it okay? Those of you who think it’s fine: What alteration would make it beyond the pale?

    Where’s the line? What’s the standard?

  11. God Bless America! I just want everyone to know how much I love my country.


    If this doesn’t make you cry, you’ve got the devil in your soul.

    (Ed-note: This is not an actual comment from Iafrate but a joke played on him)

  12. I for one find this development troubling on several levels. This is very much in line with the previous administration’s foreign policy, but it goes a step further.

  13. Yes, the thing that Obama defenders seem to be missing out on this topic is that by ordering the killing without trial of an American citizen, Obama is taking a step which the Bush administration explicitly declined to do. (And rightly, I would argue.)

    Ordering any kind of assassination is troubling from a moral and a legal point of view, and it is (I think) with good reason that US law has generally forayed this. Setting the precedent of ordering the assassination of a US citizen (even on suspicion of terrorist involvement) without trial essentially means that Obama is claiming the authority to order the death of any person, at any time, for any reason.

    That’s not something one wants any authority to claim. (And someone who imagines this is “the same” as having the authority to order military action is either ignorant or duplicious.)

  14. I just wanted to make sure you all saw this, so here it is again.


    Why, I love this song so much that I may never post anything else here again.

    (Ed-note: this is not an actual comment of Iafrate but a joke played on him.)

  15. Only American citizens deserve human dignity?

    I’m not really worked up over this one way or the other, maybe because I don’t see any other president doing any differently, but I do find it somewhat disturbing that some believe killing Americans is somehow less immoral than killing non-Americans.

  16. Restrainedradical

    For me, the issue is that this is another step away from human rights; I agree with you that assassination is wrong, whether or not an American. However, there has always been a sense that Americans are given more rights and protections – rights and protections I think which should be extended outside of America, but instead, we see the rights and protections being eliminated, to make everyone equal.

  17. Henry,

    Is this the WaPo article – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604239.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2010012700394 – with this correction:

    “Correction to This Article
    The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture. After The Post’s report was published, a source said that a statement the source made about the CIA list was misunderstood.”

  18. The posts attributed to Iafrate are simply wrong. I disagree with the guy on a lot of things and I wouldn’t exactly consider him the most considerate and thoughtful person around the blogosphere, but while I appreciate the humor of it, it’s just wrong and makes you all look bad.

    It’s your blog to do with as you see fit. I’ve voiced my opinion in the past that I don’t think you should moderate even the worst of his comments because most people can see them for what they are. They’re a true reflection of what he stands for and his character. Posting comments under his name that he clearly didn’t write shameful and even worse than the way the other blog refuses to post comments that challenge the fallacies and unwarranted assertions offered.

    I would remove the comments, apologize, and promise to not do anything like this in the future. Common decency dictates that, and your regular readers deserve better (at least this regular reader thinks he deserves better).

  19. Jonathan

    A couple things. If you read beyond that, there is still the assertion of Americans being targets, just the CIA source is wrong. Second, there are other articles and discussions on the CIA affair– not just that one article. So, it is possible they were wrong, but as I said on the VN post, there are all kinds of indications which the Bush administration favored such actions and did them — even if we cannot prove it, I suspect this is not new, a creation ex nihilo, but an open admission to what was once not open. That is my intuition. Even if I am wrong there, there is nonetheless evidence which, though not proof, shows why one can suspect it is the case — and again, the line beyond what you quote is indicative of that, too.

    Still, Obama is bad for doing this. But to believe it is new… and the Bush team opposed such an idea? Read Cheney.

  20. The posts attributed to Iafrate are simply wrong.

    Agreed RL. Completely classless. Michael’s a troll on this blog, no question about it. And anyone familiar with his writings will recognize the joke. But editing comments that way is a basic violation of blogging etiquette (as is the delete-all-dissent (DAD) policy at VN from some writers) and it shouldn’t happen. Apologies are owed to Michael I.

  21. I generally approve of what Obama is doing here. I can see the other side but I think he is solid COnst grounds here.

  22. If it was found in WWII tha there were in a army camp numbers of Japanes Americans that had returned to Japan to fight could we bomb it or since it they are citizens would we have to send in the FBI to arrest them

  23. “The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.”

    I think calling this the Death penalty , while a good way to try to put this in the Civil Context , is largely incorrect.

    We currently have an young American Citizen from Mobile Alabama that is in Somilia (at least was) creatingterror and destruction in his for work for AQ. In his spare time he sends out videos urging all to the join the war against the United States

    Woull targeting him be the death sentence or would it be valid military exercise?

  24. I woke up this morning to the altered comments. As they’ve been discussed, I don’t think it’s fair to delete them but for the sake of avoiding any confusion I have added a note to both comments making it clear that the content was not of Iafrate’s doing. As I didn’t do the editing, I think that’s all I can do other than to promise that there will be no further editing of comments in my threads other than modifying inappropriate language. I apologize for the editing that took place and am trying to rectify it as best I can.

    If there’s anything else MI would like me to do (or anyone has suggestions for me to do), please let me know.

  25. Jh:

    I’m thinking about it, but let me ask you a question: what is the difference between an assassination and a “valid military exercise?” That is, is it always permissible for another country to execute kill orders for the leaders of the opposition? If say Robert E. Lee had been shot in the back during the Civil War by a Union sniper, is that morally acceptable as a “valid military exercise?”

  26. Michael D:

    Actually, there is a real-life example you can use: the targeted shooting down of Japanese Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto’s plane while on an inspection tour. Yamamoto’s plane route was discovered because we had cracked the Japanese military code. The attack was authorized by President Roosevelt:


  27. Michael There would be nothing wrong for a Union Sharpshooter to shoot General lee in the back

    Union and Confederate sharpshooters were shooting Officers all the time

  28. Jh:

    My example was poor. Let be more specific-General Lee is sitting 300 miles from a battlefield visiting with his family. He sits down to the dinner table with one of his kids on his knees. At that moment, the Union sharpshooter fires. Or we can play with the example of a regular private, sitting at home with his family.

    I think we would agree that a sharpshooter in the heat of battle is justified in aiming at officers-it causes confusion and makes victory more likely, not to mention it is battle. One can further argue that when one is conducting military missions, like the example Price gave, one can expect to be attacked and so is permissible.

    I don’t think that however we can argue that a participant in war is subject to be killed at all times regardless of whether or not they are involved in the war. A soldier on leave is not a target.

    What makes the problem fuzzy w/ Obama’s decision however is trying to decide what constitutes a battlefield here. I’m not prepared to say that the decision to be a terrorist constitutes a continuous act of war. I think the US has the right to seize him arrest and use force to do, including the force necessary to defend the soldier’s lives. I’m not prepared to say that if they find him unarmed & alone they can kill him.

  29. Michael D:

    A soldier on leave is not a target.

    Exactly. It is more than this, but this is the heart of the issue — for a war to be just, there are all kinds of rules for war; among them is how one finds targets (which goes with the question, is the soldier acting as a soldier, or outside of that domain). To approve of assassination in this instance is to extend the domain of the battle and the domain of what is and is not soldiering, both of which are troubling.

  30. Of course the classic example is Adolph Hitler. Even before we were at war with Hitler I would have had no problem, moral or otherwise, with anyone assassinating Hitler after he came to power in Germany. The question gets much murkier when we are dealing with smaller fry in service to evil.

  31. I don’t think that however we can argue that a participant in war is subject to be killed at all times regardless of whether or not they are involved in the war. A soldier on leave is not a target.

    I may be wrong on this, but I’m not aware of any restriction on killing enemy soldiers who aren’t on the battlefield or on leave or whatever. Nor is it clear what the moral difference would be.

  32. I may be wrong on this, but I’m not aware of any restriction on killing enemy soldiers who aren’t on the battlefield or on leave or whatever.

    You are wrong. The church condemns the killing of non-combatants.

  33. BA

    Actually, just war theory discusses the status of soldiers, and makes sure that they must be, when engaged, combatants; military necessity and proportionality are a part of the ways this is addressed in classical terms. The soldiers can be captured, but if they have given up fighting, they can’t be killed as if they were still fighting. And if they are, for example, off the battlefield, they are no longer fighting.

  34. BA

    BTW, this is why we can’t just take out wounded soldiers or prisoners of war; just because they are soldiers does not mean they fit the status of combatants, they can lose that status in various ways.

  35. Actually, just war theory discusses the status of soldiers, and makes sure that they must be, when engaged, combatants; military necessity and proportionality are a part of the ways this is addressed in classical terms. The soldiers can be captured, but if they have given up fighting, they can’t be killed as if they were still fighting. And if they are, for example, off the battlefield, they are no longer fighting.

    I agree with all of this except the last sentence. I’ve never seen any discussion of Just War stating that you can’t kill enemy soldiers when they are “off the battlefield,” whatever that means.

  36. BA

    Just gave you an example where this debate actually exists in the tradition — naked soldiers taking a bath. And if you agree that prisoners of war or wounded soldiers cannot be taken out indiscriminately, why? What makes them no longer free game, if they are still soldiers?

  37. BTW, this is why we can’t just take out wounded soldiers or prisoners of war; just because they are soldiers does not mean they fit the status of combatants, they can lose that status in various ways.

    Soldiers who are captured or wounded are *incapable* of fighting, and thus have traditionally been protected as noncombatants. That’s a far cry from someone who is capable of fighting, and who isn’t doing so at the moment only because he’s not aware of your presence.

  38. Just because they are wounded or captured does not mean they are incapable of fighting; many wounded people get up and fight, and many people who are captured struggle for release. They might be less capable, but so is someone who is not on the battlefield, without any weapons of any kind. Capture them, if you wish. Assassinate when they don’t possess a threat? What?!

  39. You are wrong. The church condemns the killing of non-combatants.

    Well sure. But an enemy soldier is a combatant.

  40. Just gave you an example where this debate actually exists in the tradition — naked soldiers taking a bath.

    Larry May (the author you cite) argues that you shouldn’t kill a naked soldier but says that this is not a matter of justice but humaneness, and admits that his position is not the standard one. The only source he cites discussing the issue, Walzer, treats it as obvious that killing the naked soldier is permitted.

  41. Just because they are wounded or captured does not mean they are incapable of fighting; many wounded people get up and fight, and many people who are captured struggle for release.

    Right, and if a wounded soldier picks up a gun and starts shooting or an enemy soldier tries to escape then they lose the protection of noncombatant status. Do you not agree with that?

  42. BA:

    The point of the article is that it is an issue of concern and debate within the framework of just war discussions. And humanness and mercy is within the context of just war discussions (see Augustine). More importantly, your answer “and if they pick up a gun and starts shooting” goes back to the naked soldier point. They are not with a gun, not shooting. Remember, one aspect of just war theory is response must be just — which goes with the humanness issue of the article but he didn’t put it in that context — that is, if you can capture without killing, that is what is expected.

  43. “if you can capture without killing, that is what is expected.”

    In the case of al Qaeda-style terrorism, the likelihood of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrest scenario is probably low. More likely the “combatants” will go out like the Madrid train bombing cell.

    This is what is so vexing about jihadist terrorism; it exists in limbo somewhere lower in intensity than conventional warfare, but significantly more intense than organized crime. The Catholic moral philosopher has his work cut out for him. What is the battlefield, and who are the combatants? Is a UAV-fired missile strike legitimately called assassination, or is it just the regular course of this type of warfare? I’ve seen this stuff argued back and forth in comboxes ’til everyone is blue in the face, but I haven’t found a good treatment of the subject from a Catholic perspective.

  44. I saw a Marine havin’ lunch at the Pizza Hut the other day. Is he a legitimate target?

    No, but then he’s not an enemy soldier either.

  45. This is a fascinating discussion. With regards to these latest posts, though, how plausible would it be that an individual Marine would be targeted for an attack?

    For the purposes of the analogy, it might be better to consider a high-ranking officer, someone who has been promoted off the battlefield but nonetheless plays a major role in directing operations–say, a member of the joint chiefs of staff, or the enemy organization’s equivalent.

    When and when would not that individual be a legitimate military target?

  46. Has anyone yet proposed a standard for what constitutes a combatant who may be legitimately targeted?

    I mean, IF…

    1. He has participated in attacks, or the planning of attacks, against the U.S.; and,

    2. He declares himself to be at war against the U.S.; and,

    3. It is not feasible to capture him;

    THEN, if he’s in a cabin or compound by himself, is it okay to blow the place up with a Hellfire missile?

    Under what circumstances is it not okay?

  47. The way I understand it is that in war one does not directly aim to kill but rather one aims to stop an unjust agression. Such is the case with self-defense also. Not clear at this point but some argue this is how the Church has moved captial punishment – from punishment to defense of society. Thus the moral object (perhaps) is the use of force to render an attacker impotent and not killing of the attacker. That consequence may be forsee under double effect but again is not directly intended.
    Can such an argument be used here? There is a person who is in fact, if not at that moment at some point in the past and probably in the future, involved in attacks on the US. Can we apply the above reasoning. It seems hard to make the argument that one is not directly intending the killing of a specific person in this situation. Perhaps an argument can be made that it isn’t and is licit. Perhaps, if as noted above capital punishment is not direct killing, one can apply the principle of the state executing a person to defend society.
    Then it would seem clear the guilt of the individual would need to be clearly established. In that case one would need to argue that a finding by the President on secretly held information would suffice. Does the Church say that determinations of guilt must be public and/or judicially based?

  48. Phillip:

    I don’t know of any direct Church teaching on that point.

    Unless there is some passage of which I am unaware which says otherwise, I expect that the rule is a matter of the morality of individual action, initially, with social and corporate action envisioned as an outgrowth and an organization of the former. It is to the individual act that universal and objective moral laws are directly applied; the corporate organization of a nation’s laws is reflective of this individual obligation indirectly, showing forth the moral pattern at higher levels of organization in a fashion similar to the way a fractal pattern is repeated at larger scales.

    If so, then a need for determinations of guilt to be public and judicial in character is not a primary moral obligation but an outgrowth of that which is healthy for society; namely, the rule of law and the need that society’s judgments in matters of life and death be carried out in “daylight” and with great deliberation whenever possible.

    That, of course, is healthy for society. But note the caveat “whenever possible.” It is not always possible.

    The law, as it ought, provides for instances in which a man defends his family or even his property by armed force against an intruder “in the gravest extreme”; that is, when the need to stop the criminal attack is now and the soonest intervention by police is ten minutes hence. If Person Y comes storming into Person X’s house in the middle of the night, and Person X stops the invasion with a firearm, thus killing Person Y in the process, no crime is committed. (Provided there’s no disparity of force, that Person X didn’t chase Person Y while Y is fleeing the scene, and so on.) The normal orderly intervention of society was not possible in this instance.

    So too there may be — in fact, certainly are occasions when a trial and a civilian conviction and incarceration are impossible responses to an attack. Military initiative is therefore required instead. I don’t think anyone denies this; the question is how to write our laws in such a way as to (1.) adequately anticipate this need and allow for it under the law, so that the rule of law is not visibly violated every time one of these exceptional cases arises, and (2.) write the law in such a way that it does not allow the unscrupulous, incautious, or confused to exercise military initiative in instances where a capture and trial are plausible.

    Writing the law to meet those two goals in a fashion sufficient to satisfy all observers is impossible. Satisfying most observers is extremely tricky even if some of them weren’t biased towards finding fault. In an adversarial political system, in which half the observers are finding fault wherever possible in order to win the next election, you probably won’t even be able to satisfy a majority of observers.

    Which is why I wasn’t surprised when, in response to my two requests that someone propose a standard or even lay out where they thought the lines should fall, I got the blog equivalent of chirping crickets. (Even among this usually quite vocal crowd!)

    Now in a sense that request isn’t quite fair of me. Or, if the request is fair, it isn’t quite fair that I should waggle my finger at everybody for not proposing a standard. After all, I haven’t proposed one, either!

    But I’m making a larger point; namely, that criticism of a president for “going too far” in this area of policy is meaningless unless one has a standard by which one may judge he has gone too far. Without the standard, how does one know if he has gone too far?

    We have here a crowd of folks some of whom gave G.W.Bush quite a tongue-lashing for the laxity with which he carried out policies in this area. Later, a slightly different crowd with (tho’ with some overlap) gave Obama equally nasty language for doing basically what Bush did, or perhaps a bit more.

    Now one would guess from all these loud pronouncements of fire and brimstone against both presidents that every poster here has in mind a standard of what is and isn’t appropriate target-selection, which (1.) he knows to be the correct standard, (2.) can articulate, (3.) can defend against other proposed standards, and (4.) which one or both presidents have violated.

    But I suspect very few if any of the posters here really do have a well-defined standard in mind. At least I haven’t heard one articulated. And I myself am having difficulty coming up with one, so I suspect others are as well.

    But why, then, are folks giving Bush and Obama a lot of grief, if they can’t even say for sure that either man is operating outside the correct moral standards for this area of policy-making?

    I suspect it’s for two reasons: (1.) We have a gut feeling that this targeted assassination (what a choice of words: why is it considered assassination, I wonder, rather than an attack or assault?) is going too far; and, (2.) Even if it isn’t, we’re aware that a precedent granting the president power to do this sort of thing is dangerous when wielded by a man without a well-formed conscience.

    Now item (2.) is entirely logical, and if we all opposed this policy on the basis of avoiding the precedent, I would not complain of holes in our argument.

    But it seems to me that some folks are composing their criticism in such a way as to imply that Bushama have violated a standard of policy-making which everyone ought to know and which Bushama has no excuse for not knowing and following. It seems to me that they’re making this implication, without actually articulating the standard, because in reality they don’t have a clue exactly what the standard is.

    And, as I said before, I’m not sure what it should be, either.

    But let’s face up to it. On Argument 2 (dangerous precedent) we can articulate exactly what the problem is. But on Argument 1 (violation of an objective moral standard) all we have is gut feeling. And I don’t think it’s very just to blame Bushama for not having the same gut feeling as we, and following it.

  49. R.C,

    I think your points are well made. There is certainly a tendency to think politically and it affects both sides of the house. I think this is showing up now on this issue. I think it has been more prominent on the torture issue. I have asked plenty of times some very vociferous opponents of torture what licit interrogation looks like and gotten no answer. I think the terrorism piece makes traditional assessments more difficult and need to be looked at dispassionately. But this is perhaps a reflection on the current state of American politics.

  50. The danger in this case, and many other cases, in this thing we used to call the “global war on terror” is this- we become too accustomed to the demonization effect that creating a special kind of warfare always produces.
    Because the Muslim jihadists who cloak their cause for war in their faith make us uncomfortable, we decide that they are terrorists, rather than merely being unlawful combatants engaged in combat against a signatory nation to the various Geneva Accords. When we have to make them special because they are non-standard enemies, we commit ourselves to mental, legal, and geo-political gymnastics that always seem to produce bad results and bad decisions.
    The no-good, non-state, illicit Muslim jihadi swine declared, through action, war upon the United States (a signatory to the Geneva Accords).
    Congrtess should have declared war upon them and their supporters wherever they may be found- what they did, was authorize the POTUS to take whatever military action necessary to bring them to heel.
    In this case, the POTUS had, and still has, the legitmate authority over the armed forces of the US to prosecute the war as necessary (in compliance, where understood, with international standards for war).
    What you describe here, and what is not particularly new, is the POTUS ordering civilian (non-military) security and intelligence personnel to take lethal actions in cases where such authority is suspect at best. If the military commander assigned to the area of responsibility locates, targets, develops and strikes said scuzzy individual into non-existence, so be it. But where and when will end the POTUS’ authority to issue “kill” orders against “terrorists” at his own discretion, apparently independent of his authority as commander in chief? Certainly not at the conclusion of hostilities. Unable to even formulate a strategy to defeat global jihad without conducting all-out war, the Pentagon has adopted the capstone military concept of “persistent conflict.” Do not look for the conflict to ever end, nor for the military to seek victory.
    At water’s adge? That famous dividing line for domsetic politics is now long gone politically, as well as operationally. The new administration has been most vocal first in extending to domestic political enemies the moniker of “potential terorrists” and in declaing that home grown extremism (worded to appear to account for MAJ Hasan, in reality the wording more closely fits previous warnings about Tax Tea Partiers) is a gfreater threat than Al-qaida.

    In my opinion, the lout is an absolutely valid target. So kill him in combat, not as a covert operation of clandestine intelligence services.

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