All celebrity interviews should be like this »« The mark of the beast

Good questions

Some defenders of president Obama’s policy of using drones to kill people without even charging them with any crimes, let alone trying to apprehend them, have made the extraordinary argument that this is a good idea since it does not put US forces at risk the way any attempt to capture them would. This use of drones has considerable public support.

The practice of using unmanned drone aircrafts to attack suspected terrorists in foreign countries – a policy begun by the Bush Administration and expanded under President Obama – enjoys widespread and bipartisan support. Seven in 10 Americans favor using drones to attack suspected terrorists abroad, including most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Americans also support a more controversial measure, although in smaller numbers. Forty-nine percent of Americans favor the targeting and killing of U.S. citizens living abroad who are suspected of carrying out terrorist activities against the U.S.; 38 percent oppose that.

But Glenn Greenwald poses some interesting questions. If one takes those arguments at face value, then why not use drones to find and kill the fugitive ex-policeman Christopher Dorner? After all, officials are convinced that he is guilty of murder and have called him a terrorist, which these days is all that one needs to be summarily executed by the government.

Suppose the LAPD locates Dorner in a cabin in a remote area of the California wilderness, just sitting alone watching television. Why should they possibly risk the lives of police officers to apprehend him? Why would anyone care if this terrorist’s rights are protected? What’s the argument for not simply killing him the moment he’s located? Given that everyone seems certain of his guilt, that he’s threatened further killings of innocents, that he declared himself at “war”, and that the risk from capturing him would be high, what danger is created by simply shooting a Hellfire missile wherever he’s found?

Or suppose that, as feared, he makes his way into Mexico. What’s the objection to sending an armed drone to killing him there?

Greenwald is trying to expose the hypocrisy of those who create justifications for Obama’s drone policy in distant countries that completely bypasses any of the norms that we used to think applied when it came to carrying out justice. But he may be overestimating the public’s and the punditocracy’s sense of self-awareness. There is a real danger that those people are too far gone may actually think that this is a good idea.

We are hurtling down a dangerous road with the brakes that should prevent disasters (conscience, law, due process, and justice) no longer operational.

Comments

  1. psweet says

    I agree wholeheartedly that arbitrarily killing someone without an attempt at capture is simply wrong — except in battlefield situations where it simply isn’t possible. But … a commander isn’t doing his job right if he’s not looking to accomplish his assigned objectives with the fewest friendly casualties possible. The problem isn’t that we’re using drones to accomplish this, the problem is the initial decision to kill first.

  2. sunny says

    But he may be overestimating the public’s and the punditocracy’s sense of self-awareness.


    Exactly.

  3. kraut says

    A democracy is distinguished from any other form of government not just by the rule of the majority and the protection of the rights of the minority, but also by the rule of law.
    By declaring anyone without due process a criminal and an enemy of state, America has clearly joined the ranks of autoritharian states like China, Russia et. al.
    The rule of law does not longer exist. If it does not exist in this against against alleged but unproven terrorists, it exists in other cases only as an exception until further notice.
    The main thrust of democracies was to prevent the tyranny of the head of government – be it king, semi elected leader (with less than 50% voter participation – can one still call America a democracy anyway?) or unelected war lord – and prevent extra judiciary killings, torture or incarceration without trial – state of war excluded. With the current drone policies: happy 1984 to the US of A.

  4. Kimpatsu says

    …why not use drones to find and kill the fugitive ex-policeman Christopher Dorner?
    Because he’s not a Muslim.
    Next question.

  5. ollie says

    “If one takes those arguments at face value, then why not use drones to find and kill the fugitive ex-policeman Christopher Dorner? ”

    Because we have a functioning police force. The areas in which drones are used do not have functioning police forces; that is why we’ll never use drones to, say, kill a terrorist hiding in a European country or, say, in Japan or Korea, or even Turkey.

    Also: sending in troops in situations in which they have to be inserted and extracted and pass through areas extremely hostile to them is very different than sending a police force to this cabin through friendly areas.

  6. Jim B says

    Every time the issue of the death penalty comes up, half the country apparently can’t wait for it to happen fast enough. They want retribution, and they lament the long appeals process.

    These are men (nearly always) who are safely behind bars and pose no threat, yet half the population demands to see blood. Thus it doesn’t surprise me that they wouldn’t be bothered by assassinations of anyone labeled a terrorist.

  7. Ravi Venkataraman says

    Are you suggesting that Yemen, where several drone attacks have been carried out, does not have a functioning Police force? Do you have any evidence? The same is true for Pakistan, it does have a functioning Police force that is supposed to obey the laws of Pakistan.

    How do you define a functioning police force? Isn’t Dorner’s argument that the LAPD is not a functioning police force, but a biased one? If true, how is the LAPD different from any police force in a Middle East country or Pakistan? If drones can be used in these countries because there is no “functioning” police force, the logic obviously extends to the LAPD, and drones must then be an appropriate response based on your criterion.

  8. sailor1031 says

    “…that is why we’ll never use drones to, say, kill a terrorist hiding in a European country or, say, in Japan or Korea, or even Turkey. ”

    The USA would if it could; but those countries have the ability to refuse the USA permission to operate drones in their airspace and the ability to back up that refusal. As does Iran, apparently.

  9. sailor1031 says

    Sorry; meant to add that the arrogant assumption by the USA that it has the right to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, whenever it wants is one of the major reasons it is so despised and distrusted in the world, at least by ordinary, sane people.

  10. ollie says

    Is the BBC some right wing network?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20706955

    “Pakistan lawless tribal areas ‘fuelling rights crisis’

    Safeguards are not applicable to security personnel working in the tribal areas, Amnesty says
    Pakistan is failing to address thousands of human rights abuses taking place in its tribal areas in the north-west, Amnesty International has said.


    My point: if you have a terrorist in that region, you can either:
    1. Leave him alone
    2. Kill him with a drone
    3. Go in with troops and attempt to capture: this involves not only an insertion and extraction but also a fire fight which will kill innocents
    4. Air strike (which will kill innocents)
    5. Rely on a police force to make an arrest (which won’t happen in these regions).

    Have I missed possible courses of action? Note: I am talking about what to do now; of course I approve of the not getting in these wars to begin, but what do we do NOW? The way I see it: there are only immoral choices available.

  11. jamessweet says

    The problem isn’t that we’re using drones to accomplish this, the problem is the initial decision to kill first.

    Right, so is the problem drones, or is it what we are doing with them? I am somewhat mixed on this question… There are those who make the argument that drones, by their very nature, tend to be abused in exactly these ways — that the extra separation of accountability, the extra layer of removal, inherently encourages indiscriminate use and a disregard for civilian casualties.

    I’m undecided myself, I think it’s a question worth asking.

  12. Mano Singham says

    Ollie,

    One can always construct scenarios to argue in favor of almost any action, as people have done with torture.

    The question is what such actions do to the system of law. In the case of drones, would you approve of other countries sending in drones to the US to kill terrorists that the US refuses to extradite for trial in their own countries, as was the case with Luis Posada or Orlando Bosch? Because those countries face the same five options you listed.

  13. ollie says

    I don’t think that I am constructing a scenario; I am describing it as I see it. I warmly welcome evidence based corrections.

    And the difference: IF there were any chance that diplomacy would work (e. g., the countries in question didn’t have a lawless region not under control of the central government), then I’d disapprove of using the drones in question.

    As to your question: If, say, our country broke up into regions that the government didn’t have control over (e. g., if the US civil war situation were teleported into the era where drone technology existed) and a known terrorist were in such an area, then yes, I’d understand why they would do it.

  14. Mano Singham says

    But this is even worse than a government not having control over a region, a situation that we might hope to change in the future. In the case of the US, the government has control, they just refuse to hand over someone accused of horrendous terrorist acts. They can solve the problem immediately but they choose not to. When other countries do that, they are immediately labeled as a terrorist state.

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