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As noted in Ministry of Truth's most recent diary, it appears the administration has gradually pursued a dangerous path of political convenience in separating militants from civilian casualties in the drone war on al Qaeda.  However, very little of the criticism I've seen here and elsewhere contains specific discussion of the broader policy context, let alone reality-based recommendations that go beyond facile negation of current policy without concern for the consequences of alternatives.  I will attempt to fill that void.  

I approach the subject through a series of questions that progressively address the legal, moral, and practical topics involved that I've seen raised over the years.  We begin with the most obvious, and then proceed to subjects of ever-increasing ambiguity and difficulty:

1.  Is it ever justified to take military action against a non-state organization that has taken responsibility for mass-casualty acts of terrorism and openly pledges more?

First, we can dispense with pacifist perspectives that claim military action in general is never justified: The view is a legitimate opinion, but is also morally inconsistent as it places higher value on the lives that would be lost due to their own side's military action rather than the lives lost as a result of the other side's unimpeded violence.  The idea that all violent actors can be pacified by non-violent resistance is not borne out by history, psychology, or evolution, and so positions taken on the current war on that general basis are a non-starter.  I deal later with the question of whether the specific enemy in this war can be pacified.

Rationally, an organization whose objective is undisputedly to engage in acts of mass-murder should be prevented from doing so as a higher priority than merely bringing perpetrators to justice after the fact - respect for human life requires it.  There are four possible options to achieve this prevention, and not all are mutually exclusive: (1) Meet the demands of the organization.  (2) Become a fortress police state to make their attacks impractical.  (3) Attempt to capture, try, convict, and imprison members of the organization on criminal charges.  (4) Take military action to kill them.

Since, as noted above, it is demonstrably false that all violent actors can be pacified, option (1) is insufficient even if we posited the existence of terrorist organizations who both could and should be pacified.  With option (2), the level of internal security required to make even highly competent, well-funded mass-casualty terrorist attacks impractical without attacking their operations at the source would be both economically prohibitive and socially dystopian, and ultimately amounts to a passive-aggressive version of pacifism if foiled attacks are not followed up with some form of proactive move to dismantle the organization.  

Option (3) makes the most sense under most conditions, but there are some conditions where it is impractical: If the terrorists are located in a lawless, chaotic region, or operating under the auspices of a friendly or corrupted "frenemy" state, capture may not be a plausible option, and thus trial and conviction are moot even if pursued in absentia.  By natural selection, if no further action is taken in these cases, the organization will come to concentrate its operations in these regions and use them as bases to launch attacks elsewhere - which is precisely what happened with al Qaeda in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.  

Once that occurs, the cost and complexity of pursuing option (2) goes through the roof and the probability of security failure increases because you have larger numbers of terrorists with greater resources constantly probing for weaknesses from a safe harbor location.  At that point, with (1)definitively discredited, and (2) and (3) impractical, your only options are to accept the deaths from terrorist attacks that occur both on your soil and all around the world as the price of not taking military action against the organization, or else take such action.  Since countries have a right to defend themselves, we have answered the above question - Yes, there are circumstances under which military action against a non-state organization is justified.  This fact raises difficult questions about the specifics of such a decision, but the fact that it can be morally justified is simply a matter of reality largely accepted by the vast majority of people and nations.

2.  Is it ever legal to take military action against a non-state organization?

Insofar as any organization, be it a foreign government or a terrorist entity, attacks a nation on a militarily significant scale, that nation has a legal right to defend itself militarily.  This does not exempt a nation from the laws of war, including human rights and a due process determination of status of those detained in a war zone (i.e., whether they qualify as criminals to be turned over to civilian authorities, POWs, or enemy combatants subject to military trial), but it also does not extend greater protection to an enemy non-state organization than an enemy nation-state would enjoy.  Difficult ambiguities occur in where to draw the line on what constitutes "militarily significant scale" and where the transition point lies between civilian and military measures, but there are no legal ambiguities about the mere existence of the right to take such actions.  Yes, it can be legal to take military action against non-state entities.

3.  Was NATO military intervention in Afghanistan justified?

After 9/11, we faced a crossroads identical to the one outlined in Question 1 above, and our ultimate decision vis-a-vis Afghanistan was not controversial in the eyes of the world: On the one hand, there was a highly capable, wealthy, regionally powerful terrorist organization proudly claiming responsibility for acts of wanton mass-murder deliberately targeted at civilians, openly planning to repeat them with impunity, and operating with the direct support and encouragement of the equally murderous, oppressive, and criminal taliban militias in control of Afghanistan at the time.  On the other hand, we faced military action against that organization and its taliban supporters that would inevitably result in unintended civilian deaths as a consequence of war against the people who were actively attacking us and slaughtering their own people with impunity.

Returning to the options identified for Question 1, we had the following choices at our disposal after 9/11, again not all of which were mutually exclusive: (1) Try to pacify al Qaeda by withdrawing all Americans from all Muslim countries, end all support for Israel and all non-Islamist Arab states, and somehow address a multitude of odd complaints based more on violent bigotry and delusional ignorance than actual US policy.  (2) Build a Leviathan national security state impervious to terrorism.  (3) Seek the arrest and extradition of al Qaeda terrorists by the illegal taliban state that supported them.  Or (4) act with NATO to restore the UN-recognized government of Afghanistan and destroy al Qaeda's bases and personnel in the country.

Option (1) would have been a sick joke that not even Neville Chamberlain would have entertained, since we had already been attacked on a massive scale rather than merely facing the danger of such attack.  We could, and should have taken rational measures to improve our standing in the eyes of global populations who might otherwise think we'd "had it coming," but there was no basis to see al Qaeda itself as anything other than what it was and still is: An eliminationist hate group who became even more violent the more they got what they wanted.  

As for the taliban, nothing as heinous had been seen in the world since the Khmer Rouge - their "government" literally consisted of little more than bands of thugs with AK-47s roving around shooting, hanging, beating, and stoning men, women, and children to death for minor offenses or just because they felt like it.  They used a UN-built soccer stadium more often as an execution grounds than for playing sports.  Any possible variant of Option (1) was dead on arrival due to the psychopathic nature of the enemy, even if it had been politically possible to just absorb the horror of 9/11 without vengeance.

Measures, both legal and illegal, were taken to approach Option (2), but largely to the detriment of national security: E.g., rounding up mass numbers of Muslim foreigners, throwing them in a gulag, torturing people, conducting state harrassment of "suspicious" minorities, and so on.  A few changes to the status quo were common sense, like nationalizing airport security, but other than that it's not clear if even a majority of the legal measures taken have been effective or just cumbersome and extraneous distractions.  Even if attempts to suffocate terrorism by turning the US into a fortress had been rigorously law-based, logistically competent, and respected both human and civil rights, the fact is there are points of diminishing returns for internal security measures - at that point you are left with law enforcement and military action.

Attempts were made at Option (3), although they took the form of an ultimatum issued to the taliban: Hand over Bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda leadership or face invasion.  This was a perfectly legitimate attitude to take: The taliban had no legal right to rule in Afghanistan, were not an actual government even in practical terms let alone legal ones, had supported al Qaeda throughout its growth in the country, and had nothing resembling a system of laws or a judicial process - just arbitrary acts of violence and mayhem meted out by killers on behalf of fanatics.  It would have been one thing if the taliban offered to turn over the terrorists to an international court, but what they offered was to try Bin Laden themselves: Basically it would be akin to the Ku Klux Klan offering to try a Neo-Nazi.  While it's true they're not exactly the same people, they have similar values and agendas.  So the offer was a bad joke on its face.

At that point the options were simply to let al Qaeda continue planning and launching attacks on the United States, or else invade Afghanistan, restore the UN-recognized government as per international law, and destroy Qaeda bases and militants.  The US had spent several years trying to get Bin Laden and other members of his organization through diplomacy and a few limited military strikes, but his organization had continued to grow in power and boldness regardless, so we knew exactly what lay ahead if military action was not taken: The same things that had already happened.  That was unacceptable - we would not permit these people to murder Americans with impunity, and the taliban made clear that it would support al Qaeda if we acted.  True to form, they declared NATO to be "invaders" for restoring the UN-recognized government, and waged war against forces fighting al Qaeda.  It was not an ambiguous situation, and the overwhelming majority of the world supported the decision to go into Afghanistan, remove the taliban, and destroy al Qaeda's presence in the country.  So Yes, NATO military action in Afghanistan was justified.

4.  Was NATO military action in Afghanistan legal?

Yes.  The UN-recognized government corresponded to the Northern Alliance forces who had been driven into a tiny corner of the country by the taliban, and whose leader had been deliberately targeted for assassination by al Qaeda just prior to 9/11.  This was the lawful government of Afghanistan under international law, and regardless of its moral character or motives, it supported NATO military intervention.  But this went way beyond what was necessary to be legal, because the US had been attacked by forces operating in Afghanistan with the apparent ongoing support and cooperation of the illegal insurgent "government," so even if the Northern Alliance had opposed the invasion it would still have been legal as an eminently and obviously defensive military action against a force that had already murdered thousands of our people.  

As far as I've seen, the only non-pacifist arguments against this conclusion come from Truthers who deny the facts of 9/11 - and commenters here who artfully dodge admitting that they subscribe to such notions to avoid a CT ban.  So we've established that the decision to become militarily involved in Afghanistan was both legal and justified.

There are some libertarian-oriented criticisms about the fact that war was never officially declared, but for a number of reasons both historical, political, and practical, such declarations are no longer considered useful - and this has been a largely consensual position both by political leaders and their critics, given that official declarations of war are tantamount to martial law in terms of the powers they explicitly grant the Executive branch.  Overt news media and private communications censorship are just two of the powers associated with declared war that few today would be interested in supporting, as well as draft armies, civilian regimentation, and for the right-wing folks, direct Executive control of the economy.  Not only would these be politically insupportable, but are totally unnecessary to fight al Qaeda.

5.  Is it justified to launch military strikes in Pakistan and Yemen??

The same set of circumstances that applied to Afghanistan prior to NATO intervention largely applies to the involved areas of Pakistan and Yemen: Trivial legitimate governance in lawless regions dominated by terrorists and religious militias operating with impunity.  The central governments of these countries are either incapable of exercising sufficient control over these regions to take responsibility for them, or have elements within themselves (e.g., parts of the military and intelligence services in Pakistan) that are in direct collusion with our enemies.  

So once Al Qaeda re-coalesced in Northwestern Pakistan and Yemen after being disrupted in Afghanistan, the three options (discounting those already discredited) were to (1)conduct limited, targeted operations directed at individual suspected terrorists, (2)treat the countries themselves as responsible for the terrorist activity occurring within their borders despite knowing they are not in control and invade Yemen and nuclear-armed Pakistan, or (3)just pretend it wasn't happening and let al Qaeda once again create safe harbors from which to launch attacks against us.  Option (2) would be insane, and Option (3) would only be slightly less insane, but if the fact that Osama Bin Laden was being sheltered in an armed compound in the heart of the Pakistani military-industrial complex doesn't prove that Pakistan cannot be trusted to stop al Qaeda within its borders, then nothing would.  That leaves limited aerial strikes against specific targets as the only remaining option with any sense to it.

6.  Is it legal to launch military strikes in Pakistan and Yemen?

The facts surrounding Bin Laden's hiding place would technically make an all-out invasion of Pakistan legal, but as it is we're maintaining some thin semblance of a relationship with Islamabad by mostly limiting operations to drone strikes in Afghanistan-adjacent regions where the central government is weak or altogether powerless.  Even without such stark evidence of Pakistan's duplicity, unreliability, and in some cases outright enemy behavior, the fact would still remain that it is either unable or unwilling to stop the taliban and al Qaeda from taking control in these regions, and we have a right to defend ourselves against the terrorists they permit to operate on their territory.  

7.  Is it ever justified to target individuals in war?

Everyone who fights in a war is an individual, so the question is more precisely rendered as whether it's ever justified to target someone whose identity is known.  But that merely illustrates the superficiality of the perception that there is something fundamentally different about aiming at a specific person rather than at a uniform or a nameless bad guy.  To propose a reductio ad absurdum, if one were preparing to shoot at an enemy and they shout out their name, must you then stop firing and allow yourself to be killed because you now know specifically who is trying to kill you?  So we know that merely possessing the knowledge of an enemy's identity is not sufficient to disqualify them from being a battlefield target if their actions would otherwise call for it.

But let's take a step further away from clarity and pose a different scenario: You receive information that the person who shot at you earlier is So-and-So, and he operates out of a farmhouse at Thus-and-such location.  Is it no longer war because he isn't shooting at you at that very instant?  Does the fact your side now has information superiority somehow change the situation from one of combat to law enforcement, even if that's utterly impractical under the circumstances?  The fact is that your level of insight into a potential target doesn't change the nature of it or the circumstances of the situation: If you don't know who's trying to kill you, then you are simply at a disadvantage - and if you do, then you have the upper hand.  

These are historically typical battlefield considerations in a guerrilla war, and do not inherently add up to something illegitimate any more than reading a uniformed enemy's name tag before shooting back at them would make you an "assassin."  So while it is obviously the case that there is a great deal of peril in targeting enemies whose identities are known, and major ambiguities that must be resolved before those dangers can be categorically avoided, the answer is Yes - it can be legitimate to target individuals in war.  

That fact is not changed by the inherent limitations of information and human judgment: If it is ever justified to wage war at all - and we've already dispensed with the claim that it isn't - then the fact that mistakes or malfeasance will lead to death is no more of an argument against the inherent validity of targeting individuals in war.  However, there are a large number of ambiguities and details involved that need to be explored, which I do more fully in subsequent topics.  

8.  Is it ever legal to target individuals in war?

Yes.  There is no standard of international law which holds that enemies in war whose identities are known become immune to being targeted.  If you have a right to direct a bomb at the Reichstag in the vague, minimal hope of killing a Nazi leader, then you have a right to shoot Reinhard Heydrich on the street.  This is even more obvious in asymmetric warfare where enemies do not wear uniforms, and leaders do not congregate in grandiose, flag-draped buildings.  Again, there are dangerous ambiguities, but the legality exists.

9.  Is it justified to target suspected terrorists in the war on Al Qaeda?

We have already established above that the war against al Qaeda is both legal and justified in general terms, so the question then becomes how it could possibly be fought on a moral and practical basis without targeting individuals - and the answer is that it can't.  To refrain from using knowledge about specific individuals in making targeting decisions would make those decisions far less accurate than they are, result in pointless civilian casualties, and make it definitively impossible to target the terrorist leadership since they don't operate as concentrated institutions in the way of a nation-state.  As terrorists, they also don't wear uniforms or rank insignia, so to fight them at all requires knowledge of their members and leaders as individuals.

Here we run smack into a very dangerous and problematic state of affairs, because we enter a domain where political and military leaders are forced by circumstance to assume a role that looks in PR terms like being summary executioners.  It isn't that in reality - for one thing, the people in question are not in custody, and there is no plausible expectation that they could be brought into custody without a major military operation likely resulting in far higher civilian casualties.  Asking them to surrender would be pointless: The guilty would not do so, and the innocent would be more afraid of becoming a target of the militants for cooperating with the US than being mistakenly targeted by us.  So there aren't a lot of obvious options other than to set high standards of evidence before going forward.

And yet that leaves the dangerous ambiguity unresolved, because though the situation requires such measures, it does not preclude the possibility of establishing clear statutory limits, oversights, and checks and balances to ensure that the war stays in the war and doesn't become a generalized authority of the Presidency.  It is reasonable to demand the formulation of specific, empirically-verifiable definitions of what constitutes the war zone: Ones that reflect the complexities of the concept in fighting terrorists, but also makes absolutely clear that the actual war part of the fight against al Qaeda is geographically limited to where (a) they actually exist in major concentrations, and (b) the local authority can't or won't capture them.  It's also reasonable to demand that at least the Congressional select committees be made aware of all individually-targeted strike decisions as they happen, and the evidenciary basis for them.  Ideally international bodies would eventually be involved, but as a war based strongly on human intelligence, publication would be an unreasonable demand.  However, it is reasonable to put a relatively rapid time limit on such secrets.    

What is not reasonable is to demand that the President simply refrain from acknowledging the reality of the situation that requires such decisions.  He can impose as many limitations on the process as he pleases by order as Commander in Chief, but they could easily be reversed by a bloodthirsty Republican successor, so the only way to remove the danger created by this situation is to have a Congress that is willing to pass statutory changes making the process more accountable and balanced.  I personally trust that President Obama is doing what he can to protect both Americans and the civilians of other countries, but that's not enough because the process will continue after him and most of the people who occupy the White House after him will probably not take the same level of responsibility for monitoring the military's actions.  So Yes, the targeting is justified - but very, very dangerous over the long-term.

In other words, there is nothing inherently illegal or immoral about it, but the fact that we don't have mechanisms of oversight and accountability in place means that it's guaranteed to run off the rails out of control the next time a Republican psychopath is President.  The current President can't do anything about that - he can't be asked to both defend the United States now and defend it from all possible future internal threats that will develop as a perversion of present-day measures for which there is no credible alternative.  You couldn't tell FDR not to do certain things in WW2 because Richard Nixon some day would do them to get his political enemies - that's just not a rational or realistic demand from a President.  And really it's moot until we are able to field a Congress willing to address the issue.

10.  How should civilian casualties be differentiated from militants?

The news that got me thinking about this subject is that the Pentagon has been basically defining every military-age male who ends up dead in a drone strike targeted at someone else as a "militant" even without specific evidence to that effect.  The administration is erring badly in permitting such a tactic: To the extent the strikes themselves are justified and every practical precaution is taken to avoid unnecessary civilian deaths, then those that do occur should be honestly acknowledged.  The standard is pretty simple: Anyone not specifically identified as a militant by credible information is not a militant.  Or they could use weasel words like "associate," but claiming that someone is a militant just because they're in the presence of a target when the bomb goes off is dishonest and unnecessarily compromises the moral authority of operations that are more than justified.  Usually this administration knows better than to tolerate such chicanery, as it's self-defeating.

Trying to fudge the numbers certainly doesn't give critics less ammunition, and I don't believe being honest about the cost of war would give them more if those critics had to argue honestly about why this is necessary.  The truth is that these strikes by and large make the world a safer place, because the people targeted in them would gladly kill a hundred, a thousand innocent people just like the ones who unfortunately sometimes die near them without a second thought, and they would do it deliberately with truck bombs full of nails driven into crowded marketplaces, under bridges, or airplanes into buildings.  And the reason it's so hard to get local people cooperating against them isn't that they support them - it's because the militants saw people's heads off who defy them.  They kill people's families one by one in front of them.  

I may not take the military at its word when they say this about their targets, but I sure as hell take some of the targets at their own word that they want to kill me, my countrymen, and the Enlightenment civilization of Western modernity because we're not part of their medieval fantasy world.  I take people at their word who release videos declaring themselves part of al Qaeda and hoping to see my country in ashes.  I may not understand what goes on in the head of an eliminationist psychopath, but I know enough about history to recognize the phenomenon and know it's not some invented bogeyman of the US military industrial complex.  Once you understand that, and acknowledge the conclusions reached above, then the real difficulty begins: How do you defend yourself against these people without basically having to become Skynet?

11.  What's the plan, Stan?

There is a trap in all this that I had hoped Barack Obama would recognize and find a way around, but either he hasn't seen it yet or sees it and just hasn't found a way through.  Taking more personal responsibility for targeting decisions is a stopgap measure with no sustainable conclusion.  I don't know if there is any kind of actual long-term plan involved, and I wouldn't necessarily expect to know what it is if there were one, but for the moment is looks haphazard: Like the administration is pulling the reins tighter on its operations the more unstable circumstances become, and it's not encouraging.  I trust the President, but he's one man and this is one of the most socially and politically intricate, Byzantine wars of all time.

Yes, it is true that drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan can be destabilizing, but the destabilization works both ways - it also destabilizes the ability of al Qaeda to operate there, as they've reputedly complained in intercepted communications.  What are the alternatives that both deny these locations as safe harbors for the organization and avoid political destabilization?  I'm not sure there are any, short of nation-building such as in Afghanistan that would require a ground presence and probably have similarly disheartening results.  Obviously we don't want to be playing Fundie Whack-a-Mole for all time, but for every thousand vague calls for an "exit strategy" or an "end game," I see maybe one specific recommendation on how to do that, and none so far that don't boil down to playing make-believe that the problem has simply gone away.

Until there is a credible, reality-based idea out there for how to evolve beyond the militarization of anti-terrorism operations in these regions, the criticism of current policy will remain plagued with puerile rhetoric, false generalizations, false dilemmas, and surreal, CT-driven personal demonization of President Obama simply by default because that's all that's available.  There's a difference between acknowledging a situation sucks and has a lot of bad alternatives, and blaming the person who volunteers to navigate through the murky waters.  We don't have to put up with nonsense like the Pentagon's rubbery retroactive definition of "militant," but the necessity of the operation overall isn't discredited by their flimsy attempts to capitalize on ambiguities that should favor the less convenient interpretation.

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Comment Preferences

  •  T and R for the important discussion. Too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, Troubadour

    many civilians are being killed.  This policy needs to be changed, stat.  A diary today linked to study where more Americans are being killed by gun violence in 10 states so  ...  IMO we are simply creating more enemies for ourselves than we are killing.

    •  There's no basis for that last conclusion. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan

      And no ethical reason to think in such terms.  Unless you think we are being deliberately negligent in protecting civilians or that the war itself is illegitimate, which I've already discredited, the casualties that occur as a result of drone strikes are the fault of the terrorists - same as if you were defending your own life and accidentally killed some innocent bystander: It's the fault of the person trying to kill you, not yours.  The casualties would be a lot higher in a ground action, and definitely higher in a terrorist attack.

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:05:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That... (0+ / 0-)

        doesn't negate divineorder's last conclusion, that we are creating more enemies than we are killing.  Makes no difference how justified we feel in these strikes, the net effect is to radicalize the population and provide new recruits for al Qaeda and other organizations.

        •  Yes, it does negate it. There's no evidence. (0+ / 0-)

          We do have evidence that it breeds resentment, and that terrorists have used it as a recruiting tool, but the claim you're both making is quantitative and there is no evidence of it.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:26:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'll disagree, just to share a thought or two. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CJnyc, Troubadour, ybruti

    First, thanks. That's a good write-up, and it does show a very rational / pragmatic line of thinking.

    I hope you will allow me to be somewhat irrational in my reply.

    The answer to all of your questions, in my own opinion is, "No." (except 10 and 11, of course)

    At war, we are our worst, our most horrible, our most sickening. War must be horrible and sickening and oh so very unbearable.

    "Drones" and all of our other advances make war easy for most. They make killing simple. The disconnect man from the primal scream of a violent act that is unsound and irrational-- save the grunt stuck in the middle trying to figure out who's who.

    If you thought an "all-volunteer" military filled to the brim with professional, well-trained, people who elected to serve made war too easy, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    The US has an elite military with an unlimted budget and remote control capability that allows it to see and do nearly anything on a whim, and with those two things on instant tap, we will forever be at war.

    There is nothing rational about where we have gone with this.

    The military I spent 20 years in had twice the soliders it has now. At the time, we were an Army of occupation should the horror of a ground war in Europe be unleashed. Now, with half the number, it is no longer that. It is though, more deadly, less representative of the people (in number) and much, much easier to use. I don't think it should be.  

    I guess the point of my ramble is simple. If all we have are hammers, everything is indeed a nail.

    •  That's true, but it doesn't change the fact (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan, SoCalSal

      that there are people willing to die to kill us.  This is what I'm talking about - your insights are one-sided.  We obviously aren't going to accept higher casualties both among our own people and on the part of civilians in service to some nebulous concept of staying in primal touch with the consequences of war.  Vietnam was long before any of this technology with people deep in the muck of it, and the war killed like, what, two million Vietnamese civilians?  At the current rate, such a toll wouldn't accrue for thousands of years.  Your intuitions are insightful but lack context.

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 06:57:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why do people want to kill us? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, ybruti, enhydra lutris, allenjo

        Shouldn't we examine that first?

        Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

        by Burned on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:06:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We can examine it, but not if the price (2+ / 0-)

          is to pretend there can possibly be a legitimate reason to be eliminationist mass-murderers who deliberately target civilians to gratify themselves.  Look into the abyss long enough to know it's an abyss, then look away before you fall in.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:26:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think you may have forgotten some history. (0+ / 0-)

            Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

            by Burned on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:29:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Sorry, I had a phone call. (0+ / 0-)

            That is exactly where I believe we should start.
            With our own pretense, our own creation of lies, to put forth a legitimate reason to kill in order to gratify profit making.
            Once we get that straight, then and only then can we offer our judgement up on others.

            Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

            by Burned on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:03:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  correct, i am not interested in our "enemy" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        True. People are willing to die to kill us.
        But, I disagree that poses any sort of exitensial threat or even a threat great enough to go (somehow) claim to ID these people and kill them first.

        Most rational for war that isn't resource-based (if there is any other sort of rational) claims defense of an ideal, such as freedom or democracy. So we are killing to be free? I just don't think that's necessary. Ever.

        I do realize that drone warfare is a nuance of modern war, a capability worthy of discourse. But, I'll check out since I'm more interested in stopping war than how best to wage it (drone, bomb, rifle, stick, rock, all the same)

        •  You are correct that al Qaeda does not pose (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          an existential threat on a national scale, but could you not put quotes around the fact that they're our enemy?  They want to end us, even if they have no capacity to do so, and are willing to take out whatever number of us they can - that's simply, definitively Enemy, not scare-quote "enemy."  You don't have to accept the moral connotations of the word to simply acknowledge that they do not tolerate our existence.

          But, I disagree that poses any sort of exitensial threat or even a threat great enough to go (somehow) claim to ID these people and kill them first.
          You're welcome to be against self-defense in your own case, but you don't get to tell other people their lives mean less than your abhorrence of being associated with violence.  I think one of the key moral failures of pacifism is a refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of omission - i.e., the natural results of not doing something.  They don't feel responsible if the course of action they advocate leads to mass-slaughter, as long as the perpetrator is the other side.  There's something wrong with that kind of attitude.
          Most rational for war that isn't resource-based (if there is any other sort of rational) claims defense of an ideal, such as freedom or democracy. So we are killing to be free? I just don't think that's necessary. Ever.
          The freedom defended by the US in this particular war isn't an ideal - it's a practical fact of the right not to be murdered or coerced into obeying other people's religious dictates under threat of murder.  That's why the world is more or less on board with us in this, despite qualified criticisms about specific actions.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:46:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I find a contradiction (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          between this statement,

          True. People are willing to die to kill us.
          But, I disagree that poses any sort of exitensial threat or even a threat great enough to go (somehow) claim to ID these people and kill them first.
          and your sig line: the strong must help the weak.

          The threat need not be existential to create the moral imperative and expectations that the President and Commander in Chief protect civilians. By news reports, these AQ operatives are developing increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect explosives to take down aircraft (potentially 400 or so passengers) and use otherwise to kill people. You might consider that a negligible loss of life compared to the drone attacks; however, most perceive a different moral imperative.

          The sh*t those people [republicans] say just makes me weep for humanity! - Woody Harrelson

          by SoCalSal on Wed May 30, 2012 at 11:54:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sorry we disagree (0+ / 0-)

            Drones are a one way ticket to automated totalitarianism.

            We have weaponized or spycrafted nearly all diplomacy in my lifetime.

            So yes. I happen to think that the strong must help the weak. I aslo happen to think that does not involve wars of choice. Our anytime-anywhere drone war and troop deployment is war by choice. This isn't WWII. We do not have madmen exterminating millions of people with their military machine.

            We'll probably not agree. Thanks.

            •  "We do not have madmen exterminating millions (0+ / 0-)

              of people with their military machine."  Yeah, because we kill them when they're "merely" exterminating hundreds or thousands.  BTW, you might want to reexamine the death toll of taliban oppression in their approximate decade of control in Afghanistan.  It was in the same league as the Khmer Rouge, and they're still responsible for 80% to 90% of civilian casualties in the war there - as in, actual casualties, not using the Pentagon's false definition.

              Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

              by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:34:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  The drone policy needs serious revision (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, Troubadour

    on the other hand, Drones are never, ever going away. In fact, other nations, if they haven't already, will soon get in on it. Perhaps someone should put forward an international treaty on their use.

    I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

    by terrypinder on Wed May 30, 2012 at 06:04:16 AM PDT

  •  It's not that complicated. (2+ / 0-)

    Lying to make our actions seem legitimately defensive rather than preemptive set ups for various negligent profit making industries has been a complaint of those on the other side of the war on people since forever.
    We should stop doing the thing that makes the lies necessary.

    Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

    by Burned on Wed May 30, 2012 at 06:09:57 AM PDT

    •  Except we're not lying that it's defensive. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan

      We're lying about the numbers of civilian casualties - unnecessarily, because it is in fact defensive.  

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:10:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes Troubadour (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I am trying to start at the beginning.
        Not at the point where we now find ourselves lying.

        Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

        by Burned on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:16:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You claimed waging war on al Qaeda (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is not defensive.  It is.  We were attacked.  We continue to be the target of terrorist plots hatched by these nutbags, sometimes credibly.  When they're operating out of areas where capturing and trying them simply isn't going to happen and believe they're serious about killing us, we oblige their fantasies of being at war with us by delivering the reality.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:51:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Drone Strikes Possibly Creating More Enemies... (3+ / 0-)

    ....than whatever supposed "militant" we (U.S. govt) kills.

    Drone attacks can now be launched just because a small gathering of males are engaged in some activity....loading bales of crops? or are those weapons ?

    Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.~~~ Susan Sontag

    by frandor55 on Wed May 30, 2012 at 06:17:14 AM PDT

    •  Your "possibly ..." (5+ / 0-)

      I think should be "more than likely".

      Military age males are considered to be militants if they are killed in a drone strike.

      Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

      Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.


      Interesting thought - "posthumously proving them innocent"

      “Humankind can not bear very much reality.” - T.S. Eliot

      by truong son traveler on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:07:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's no basis for believing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan, SoCalSal

      that drone strikes "create more enemies" than they kill - at least not in the sense of being actively engaged in warfare against the United States, even if it does create resentment.  And even if it were correct, it doesn't change the fact that you are still dealing with a number of people deliberately trying to murder large numbers of civilians.  Your supposition about the long-term efficaciousness of drone strikes doesn't change that fact.  

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:17:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ? (0+ / 0-)
        There's no basis for believing that drone strikes "create more enemies" than they kill - at least not in the sense of being actively engaged in warfare against the United States, even if it does create resentment.

        Daniel Ellsberg, “It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam.”

        by allenjo on Wed May 30, 2012 at 03:56:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's a quantitative claim. (0+ / 0-)

          You need specific numerical evidence to make such a claim, not just the vague fact that it breeds resentment and is used in some cases as a recruiting tool.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:36:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I love this diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I think what President Obama is doing by renaming civilians casualties "militant combatants" is wrong. But I cannot rec a diary like MoT's that invites laughable claims in the comments that President Obama enjoys killing women and children and that he's a war criminal no better than Bush. I think what Obama is doing here is ethically wrong. But we can't expect to have a rational discussion about this issue with him if we use terms that are clearly not true and needlessly inflammatory. It's similar to trying to ask the President to keep dealing with the birther nonsense or people screaming "Socialist! Socialist! Socialist!" or "Obama is a Nazi!" when he is the furthest thing from both. We don't expect him to take the teabagger silliness seriously. Why do we think he'll treat people who call him an evil, morally bankrupt, war criminal with any less disdain?

    I want President Obama to change this policy. It's not going to happen if I sound like a deranged lunatic.

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Wed May 30, 2012 at 06:29:53 AM PDT

  •  The "drone" debate seems to come down to this: (5+ / 0-)

    From Wikipedia on the killing of Osama Bin Laden:

    5 adults killed in the raid:

    5 adults dead: Osama bin Laden, 54;[118] Khalid, his son by Siham (identified as Hamza in early accounts), 23;[115][117] Arshad Khan, a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the courier, described as the "flabby" one by The Sunday Times, 33;[115][116] Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti's brother Abrar, 30; and Bushra, Abrar's wife, age unknown
    Were all these people "terrorists?" It appears that maybe 3 out of 5 were.  It appears that at least 2 were not, strictly speaking.

    So if this had been a drone attack, instead of an armed attack with actual Navy SEALS, would there have been an outcry about the civilian deaths?  I don't think so. The reason is that by associating themselves with a known terrorist/fugitive they set themselves up as targets.  I don't see a real dispute about that, although I could be wrong--maybe I missed the outcry in this country.  By and large approval for this operation, even among liberals, seemed pretty universal.

    So how does that end result--no apparent concern for the "civilian" casualties in Bin Laden's killing--jibe with the concern about civilian casualties via drone attacks on other known terrorists? Again, assuming we're not targeting these guys on their trips to a public place (which would practically assure "innocent" civilian casualties) then we're dealing with dwelling places or meeting places.  Are we to assume that the civilians who may gather around these guys have no idea that they're terrorists?

    [C]laiming that someone is a militant just because they're in the presence of a target when the bomb goes off is dishonest and unnecessarily compromises the moral authority of operations that are more than justified.
    That's the decisionmaking process that seems to be the crux of the whole debate--whether or not these "civilians" implicitly set themselves up as targets by association with these guys, whether they know who they are, in other words. Do terrorists surround themselves with people who don't  have an inkling who they are?  If so, what is the basis for that assumption? Is there intelligence that tells us one way or another, or is it a calculated guess? Sometimes the answer (as in Bin Laden's case) seems obvious.

    So absent the details that the intelligence shows how can we challenge whatever assumptions are made in calculating the civilian casulaties that occur in these strikes, or even who is ultimately "responsible"for those casualties--the terrorist or the attacker?  And would the answer change if the attacker was not an armed drone but a platoon of Navy SEALS?

    •  I suppose my point is that it's always better (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and more ethical to accept morally inconvenient standards that force you to hold yourself accountable.  That isn't to say that casualties in any given case aren't justified, but they should be acknowledged regardless of whether the action was legitimate.  Especially if it was legitimate.  Get up there and say, "Look, this guy was planning to kill a few hundred people.  We looked at possible ways of capturing him, and found it was impractical.  We looked at trying to get to him away from others, but he's always around people.  Finally we decided to go ahead, and his wife and brothers were killed along with him in a drone strike.  We don't know if or to what extent they knew about his activities or were complicit in them."  

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:08:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Drones are for chicken warhawks. And now (4+ / 0-)

    chickenshit cops.

    "The Global War on Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:39:06 AM PDT

    •  Lyrical, but bullshit. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There's no obligation to be fair in war, and any demand that our soldiers accept more risk than is necessary is just crazy.  Cops using them for surveillance is dangerous, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it.

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:57:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very good diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Well written and well thought out.  And if the drone policy was executed as you describe, minus the deceitful redefinition of civilian casualties as "militant", it would be acceptable to a point.   But there are red lines...or there should be...that should not be crossed.

    One such red line was crossed in October of 2011.  A 16 year old American boy, born in Denver, Colorado, was killed along with his 17 year old cousin and 7 other people while performing that most heinous of terrorist rituals...preparing to eat some barbecue.  The Obama Administration immediately claimed two things: that the boy, the son of American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (who had been killed two weeks before), was not the target of the strike; and that he was 21 years old and an al-Qaeda militant.

    As his official birth certificate, published by the Washington Post, proves, the boy was 16.  As for being an "al-Qaeda fighter", that is laughable.  The boy lived in Sana'a at his family's residence.  His friends, with whom he played every day (you know, rather than being out fighting with al-Qaeda) had this to say:

    Fighting back tears, his gaze fixed downward, al-Homiganyi, a lean-looking 15-year-old from the outskirts of Sana'a, told TIME, "He was my best friend, we played football together everyday." Another of his friends spoke up, gesturing to the gloomy group of jeans-clad boys around him: "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies ... you know, normal stuff."

    Read more:

    Yea, some al-Qaeda fighter this was.




    The Obama Administration has stated...insisted, in fact...that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was not the target of this strike.  However, they refuse to say who was the target or whether that target was killed.  We are asked to believe that it is pure coincidence that two weeks after killing this boys famous and very wanted father, we happened to kill his son too.  Accidentally, because he was "not the target".

    This boys death at the hands of an anonymous CIA drone operator is, plain and simply, a war crime.  And now we hear about "Terrorist Tuesdays" in the White House, with the President personally selecting the next target.  What conclusion are we to draw from that information, Troubador?  And what red lines would you impose on this drone war which your diary justifies, if any?

    •  FYI... (0+ / 0-)

      I have an interfaith outreach event to attend at a local Baptist church, so will be away for a while.  I will respond to any replies when I return.

    •  There are major problems with your story. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal, Jeff Simpson

      First, the Time article you cite says very different things from what you claim:

      1.  It says local Yemeni officials, not the Obama administration, claimed the boy was 21.

      2.  It says the Obama administration explicitly identified Ibrahim al-Banna as the target of the strike that killed the kid, and that it did in fact kill its target.  You claim they refuse to say who the target was or whether that person was killed.

      These are major points.  Did you not read your own source?

      Secondly, speaking of coincidences, what exactly was this innocent kid doing in the presence of yet another Yemeni al Qaeda leader?  Maybe he was just looking for his father among his father's associates, but either way the way you're portraying this story is patently dishonest and propagandistic.

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 09:10:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with your reply to downsouth, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but I find this sentence similar to the criteria used by the administration's count of terrorists killed:

        Secondly, speaking of coincidences, what exactly was this innocent kid doing in the presence of yet another Yemeni al Qaeda leader?
        I also agree with the points in Dartagnan's comment, above, including: "Do terrorists surround themselves with people who don't  have an inkling who they are?" With those points in mind, I don't find the administration's formula to be dishonest. Expedient, perhaps. The admin's count of civilians could well be on the low end, but what person qualifies as "innocent civilian"? A low level assistant or AQ follower?

        Btw -- If I recall correctly, the NYT article said the reason that President Obama assumed decision-maker status for this list was his distress that some family members were killed in an attack. That would indicate that attacks would not be approved if it was known that family members were present.

        The sh*t those people [republicans] say just makes me weep for humanity! - Woody Harrelson

        by SoCalSal on Wed May 30, 2012 at 12:42:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point. (0+ / 0-)

          I do consider it morally reckless to err on the side of declaring someone a militant because they're killed, though.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:38:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I imagine... (0+ / 0-)

            that the discussion leading to the decision to count all males as militants was not "if they're dead, they're militants" and more along the lines of "if they're traveling with X, if they're in a camp with X, then they are followers or sympathizers with X so we're naming them militants." Maybe some innocents are included in the militant count by that thinking. Maybe not. I don't know.

            I'd also think that intelligence types would call for a greater standard of proof than a journalist who interviews some of those surviving people accompanying X, who claim many innocent civilians were killed. X of course being the identified high level target.

            Anyway, I liked your post very much and only question that point.

            The sh*t those people [republicans] say just makes me weep for humanity! - Woody Harrelson

            by SoCalSal on Wed May 30, 2012 at 10:34:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)

        I'm an al Qaeda propagandist, and this boy was obviously an al Qaeda fighter...why else would our missiles kill him?  He's of military age in some countries, so yea, he's one of them "militants".

        The quote from the friend is the only thing I used the Time article for.  Didn't read it because Time is useless.  My information comes from other sources.  You are correct that I was mistaken on who said the boy was 21 years old.  It was Yemeni officials who said that, though I believe it was parroted by the Obama Administration before the family gave the Post the original birth certificate.

        As for al-Banna, yes, I'm aware that the Administration has since identified him as the target.  The problem is that Ibrahim al-Banna was killed in a separate strike several days earlier.  He was identified as part of this strike (with cooperation from Saleh) to deflect the strong criticism the Administration was under for targeting an American child (and his father, also a native-born American citizen) for state-sanctioned murder without any whiff of due process whatsoever.  You obviously accept that al-Banna was the target in this strike, though, so ok...lets assume he was.  Lets even ignore the illegality of targeting Americans, for a moment.

        You're a drone operator.  You see a target approved by the President for killing.  But that target is surrounded by two young teenagers, some women, and some unknown males.  They are barbecuing outside in plain view, so you know it is more like a family gathering than some militant meeting.  Taking the shot means killing not only your target, but all 8 of the other people present at this house, and you know that at least some of these people are not militants.

        Despite any twisting of legal logic, taking that shot is a war crime.  It is the intentional slaughtering of civilians, including women and children.  If al-Banna was the target, we have the ability to remain on station for hours.  Why did they not wait for him to leave, thereby minimizing "collateral damage"?

        By the way, I see that you avoided my earlier question.  I shall ask again.  What red lines, if any, would you draw for the drone war as conducted by this Administration?

        •  Now you're just engaging in CT (0+ / 0-)

          without specific evidence.  You "believe" the Obama administration claimed he was 21, and you claim without support that it was a separate attack and they're lying.

          As to the "illegality" of targeting Americans, that depends on whether you consider targeting individuals in war illegal - which I've already demonstrated it's not.  If it's not illegal, then it doesn't matter what nationality an enemy is - nationality isn't the factor being targeted.  Being on the other side is.  Maybe you would prefer we killed more civilians in order to capture and try him for treason - or perhaps you think the American citizenship he betrayed and spat on should have made him immune to consequences altogether - but that's neither the law nor the reality of war.

          Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

          by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 07:45:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmm. (0+ / 0-)

            How exactly did this young boy "spit on" or "betray" his American citizenship?  By living with his extended family in Yemen?  By searching for his dad because he was scared?  By playing with those other Muslim boys?

            The Constitution of the United States guarantees due process for all citizens.  It doesn't say "unless that citizen is someone you don't like.".  And it doesn't say "unless that citizen is a Muslim."  And it doesn't say "unless that citizen is in a foreign country."  Rights taken from some, can and will be taken from all eventually.

            If arresting the citizen in question is hard, too bad.  Nobody said democracy and the rule of law was easy.  Either arrest him, or don't, but don't throw out the Constitution simply because you can't find a solution you like.  That way lies authoritarianism.

    •  too late to tip your comment but thanks for (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      putting a face on what we do and that is bombing people regardless of whether we know they are, or aren't a terrorist, aka 'signature strikes".

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Thu May 31, 2012 at 06:35:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Specifically in Pakistan the use of drones has (4+ / 0-)

    been deemed illegal by the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston

    A hard-hitting United Nations report, obtained by Channel 4 News, says a covert CIA programme to assasinate al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan using drone aircraft is "illegal" and should be halted,
    This may not mean that drone strikes themselves are illegal, but the U.S. application in Pakistan seems to be.
    "There are indeed circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal," Mr Alston says. "Targeted killings are permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants or fighters, or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities. But they are increasingly being used far from any battle zone".

    "This expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defence goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the UN Charter. If invoked by other States, in pursuit of those they deem to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos."

    •  It's ambiguous. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The report reaches the conclusions it does on the basis that reductio ad absurdum of the rationale would be abusive, but the claim that the specific use in Pakistan is illegal seems to be meritless - we have clandestine cooperation from Islamabad to wage them, and they're occurring against people involved in attacking US troops in Afghanistan.  If German soldiers in WW2 were occupying some distant base far away from a battlefield, that wouldn't make them an illegitimate target.  The reasoning of the report is basically that they don't want to see the phenomenon spread, but that's not a basis to condemn specific actions.

      Our Germans are better zan zeyr Germans.

      by Troubadour on Wed May 30, 2012 at 10:31:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well done, Troubador. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The sh*t those people [republicans] say just makes me weep for humanity! - Woody Harrelson

    by SoCalSal on Wed May 30, 2012 at 11:55:27 AM PDT

  •  If we kill every last Afghan, Pakistani and (0+ / 0-)

    Yemeni, we can be sure that those locations will not be safe havens for Al Qaeda. Do you think that would be the end of

    1) Al Qaeda and
    2) Opposition/resistance (especially of the armed form) to US imperialism and similar policies and practices?

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed May 30, 2012 at 01:27:58 PM PDT

  •  The Obama admin did not reclassify civilians... (0+ / 0-)

    as claimed in MOT's diary that you cited.  The policy of counting military aged men killed in a strike as militants unless there is evidence to the contrary was carried over from the Bush administration.  MSNBC also reported that allegation -- but  has retracted it and apologized for it.

    This is not a case of fighting people in official uniforms with ID on them such that after a strike -- whether defensive or offensive -- you can reasonably distinguish between soldiers and civilians.  Under the standard you would apply -- it's conceivable that most of the actual militants would be listed as civilian casualties.

    Imagine rocket fire coming from some location -- we know exactly where it's coming from -- and we target that spot with even a relatively small bomb.  Lets say 5 men are killed within a few feet of that rocket launcher -- but it surely didn't take all five of them to fire it.  We don't know who fired it.  Is it really unreasonable to assume that all 5 men were militants unless there is some valid reason to think otherwise?  Should they all be considered innocent civilian dead because we can't positively ID them as belonging to any terrorist/militant group and can't identify who among them was actually firing the rockets?

    I really wonder about the integrity of the people who pushed that allegation.  Not only did the military count deaths that way under Bush -- hell -- under Bush -- it was OK for ground troops to kill military age males found in a militant hot spot.  Remember Fallujah?

  •  Whatever (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilJD, aliasalias

    We don't need to talk abstract ideas - the story has been reported fully by the NY Times and covered extensively.  The killing of 7 innocents to get 1 suspected Al-Qaeda militant cannot be justified. It cannot be justified morally or strategically.  It is not right and it is not smart.  

    And what about the use of signature strikes to target people who are engaged in suspicious activity but whom the CIA doesn't even know?  What about all the anger caused and created?  We are really creating enemies for generations.  Hunting terrorist has become sport for our top military and civilian commanders.  We are doing exactly what OBL wanted.  We are going down the path of a clash of civilizations.  

    One day you are going to be very ashamed for defending all this.  

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