Something to Go Galt About

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. It is a “principle” of ten years standing now that the president can kidnap and indefinitely hold an American citizen for being a traitor (AKA “enemy combatant”). That he can also kill him is a perfectly predictable extension.

    2. Going Galt is a strange metaphor, because that’s first, last, and always about money.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Going Galt is a strange metaphor, because that’s first, last, and always about money.

      Dagny Taggart had money, and could easily have had more of it in the non-Galt world. She passed it up.

      Hugh Akston didn’t have a lot of money, and the anonymous truck driver presumably had even less. They went Galt too.

      But anyway.Report

    • I disagree that going Galt is financially motivated.

      It’s freedom motivated.

      To the degree that the individual’s productivity is stolen from them to pay for what they abhor, that individual is a slave.

      Going Galt is a refusal to produce for the slavemaster.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to The Warning says:

        I agree, but let’s not get sidetracked.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to The Warning says:

        To the degree that the individual’s productivity is stolen from them to pay for what they abhor, that individual is a slave.

        Totally agree. When I work day jobs, I often abhor the fact that my boss makes money off my labor and only gives me a small percentage of it. So, I “go Galt” by sleeping in the back when nobody’s looking and stealing whatever I can. Hey, we all gotta do our part!Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Since it’s quote Ayn Rand day for me:

          “When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think…”Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            This sounds an awful lot like the argument for paying taxes you quoted Will Wilkinson as dismissing the other day.Report

          • Jason, I was making one of those “aint life ironic?” comments, and not an attack on capitalism as such. I get it- you’re free to work wherever they’ll pay you best. In this system, laborers are paid what the market will bear. That’s fine.

            But, god, that quote gets at why I am not a libertarian: I do respect my social betters, really I do, but I just don’t admire them the way you guys seem to. I mean, they’re okay. Factories are cool. I guess I don’t dislike them nearly enough to be a leftist. But I just don’t see every factory manager as a fulfillment of the Enlightenment project. There’s something so obsequious and cringing about that quote. It’s like a tribute to the local lord for protecting us from invaders and letting us keep some of our crops, because he doesn’t have to, you know? We should feel lucky. He does it out of pure benevolence.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t know why we can’t go through the motions of a trial in absentia.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    Going Galt would be a bad idea. That’s where they target you: far away from the eyes of the public.Report

  4. I think the key moving parts of the disagreement happen one step prior to events like the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Does the US conduct itself as though al-Qaeda is a criminal organization (using traditional law enforcement mechanisms) or does the US conduct itself as though it is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda (using traditional military means) – or some hybrid of the two approaches?

    My understanding is that, through Harold Koh, the US argues that it has the power to kill American citizens on battlefields in compliance with the law of armed conflict (necessity, distinction, and proportionality). The process followed for targeting comports with the military outlook and is wholly inadequate according to the law enforcement outlook. I’d add that the law enforcement outlook looks equally bizarre to those who favor the military approach, “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” and all that.

    Personally, I think it’d be more legitimate to have a judge involved to check that the process for designation of targets is robust, but I can see how the President, acting with the (at least) tacit approval of Congress, can call upon the threat of imminent harm to the United States and the fact that the target is not in custody to make a defined space for this kind of action*.

    (* – I’m not sure what to call it. Extrajudicial killing, targeted killing, targeted assassination, they all seem loaded.)Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Creon Critic says:

      I think the key moving parts of the disagreement happen one step prior to events like the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Does the US conduct itself as though al-Qaeda is a criminal organization (using traditional law enforcement mechanisms) or does the US conduct itself as though it is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda (using traditional military means) – or some hybrid of the two approaches?

      This is a largely irrelevant question. In the first case, the Constitution says there needs to be a trial (for criminal activity, conspiracy, etc). In the second case, the Constitution also says there needs to be a trial — for treason.

      In a hybrid approach, the government would presumably have to take its choice and defend that choice in court. But “just assassinate the guy” isn’t on the menu either way.Report

      • In accordance with the other rules regarding targeting, I thought military targets could be killed. American or not.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Creon Critic says:

          You don’t need a list for that.

          If you see the guy on a battlefield, you can shoot him anyway. Hell, you can even wave your hands about what constitutes a “battlefield” and probably get away with it.

          This is a seek and destroy order.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Creon Critic says:

              Certainly. “These are the most dangerous guys you might see on the battlefield, go out of your way to shoot them over random other guy”.

              That’s all well and good.

              Unless I’m misreading, this isn’t that. This is a, “You can shoot this guy, whenever and wherever you find him”.Report

              • Reported as a “kill or capture list”. Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and two unidentified al-Qaeda operatives killed traveling in a convoy as the Post describes it. When al-Aulaqi was first added to the list the Telegraph reported unnamed US officials saying he “now posed a direct threat to America, an al-Qaeda recruiter who had graduated from encouraging attacks to active involvement in them.” Quoting Jane Harman, “[then] the Democrat chairman of the House homeland security subcommittee, said Al-Awlaki was ‘probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No 1 in terms of threat against us.’”

                From a military conceptualization of confronting al-Qaeda this fits together fine without the trial for treason. I accept the scope of “battlefield” has been expanded in this view.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Creon Critic says:

                > I accept the scope of “battlefield”
                > has been expanded in this view.

                I don’t.

                I think that’s pretty much where we’re going to part ways, on this one.Report

      • Avatar Katherine in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        If in, say, the Vietnam War, a US citizen joined the Viet Cong, publicly stated they had done so, and fought on the side of the Viet Cong, would it have been legitimate for the US to kill that person in combat operations rather than capturing them and putting them on trial?

        I’m inclined to regard wars between a state and an organization as equivalent to wars between states. That leads to a variety of conclusions – you need to accord their fighters POW status; attacks by said group on military targets (eg, the USS Cole; possibly the Pentagon) are acts of war, not terrorism; and you can kill their combatants without trial.

        The other thing that bothers me here is that we only seem to know that Awlaki was AQ’s propagandist; if that’s the case, it’s far more debatable and I would say it’s not legit.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Katherine says:

          > Would it have been legitimate for the US to
          > kill that person in combat operations rather
          > than capturing them and putting them on trial?

          Sure.

          During combat operations. Assuming they don’t make an attempt to surrender or do anything else that would put them in a protected status under the applicable treaties.

          That’s a lot of context, though.Report

    • I’m not sure what to call it. Extrajudicial killing, targeted killing, targeted assassination, they all seem loaded

      How about extrajudicial execution? Both terms are standard legal descriptors.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to James Hanley says:

        Or we could choose the accurate and evocative term that we so readily employ elsewhere in the world: death squad.Report

        • For engaging in advocacy, that’s a better term, precisely because it’s so loaded. But Creon seemed to be looking for a less loaded term.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          death squad.

          That may be the most accurate descriptor of em all. And it might catch on. But I’d be interested in knowing to what extent the action was specifically targeting Al-Awliki before using it. And I’d want to know more about the limits of the executive branch in unilaterally designating a US citizen an ‘enemy combatant’ – as in ‘are there any? Are there restrictions preventing the executive from designating a US citizen for assassination on US soil consistently with the EC designation?

          I’ve had conversations on this site with people who insist that there’s a review of all EC designations such that they meet a minimum threshhold. My worry, that never got effectively answered, is that even if the military reviews a state department request for the designation to apply, the review is still internal to the executive branch. The quoted passage from Greenwald seems to confirm the point: the executive can unilaterally designate anyone it sees fit with EC status and prevent review by invoking ‘states secrets’ privilege. What he wrote is also consistent with my understanding of the wording in the Patriot Act which gives the executive those broad powers. No limits. No checks.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Stillwater says:

            I’d want to know more about the limits of the executive branch in unilaterally designating a US citizen an ‘enemy combatant’ – as in ‘are there any?

            In the good old days, we had courts for this.Report

            • I feel like the kind of conspiracy theorist I so don’t like, but there was a time in my life when the gravity of these kinds of situations (e.g.: terrorist attack) might have made me sympathetic to us giving the Commander in Chief this power under certain circumstances. But the Patriot Act has now made this a “No Way, Never!” deal.

              Wasn’t part of the reason not to fear the PA that we would only be using it in clear instances of national defense? And we all know what we use it for instead. Now I can totally envision us deciding that some criminal – a suspected drug runner, for example – was a kind of national threat and should be disposed of. Worse, I think I can envision a majority applauding that kind of decision.

              This really, really must be stopped.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Slippery slope!

                (but yeah, the end line is still 100% balls-accurate)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Well, let’s go back to Jason’s term: death squad. Death squads kill political enemies to both eliminate their influence and to send a broad message of terror to any and all that might challenge the current power structure. It’s political enemies that are targeted.

                What prevents the EC designation from being attached to domestic political enemies? We’ve seen before (cointelpro) that some elected reps aren’t bashful about using state power to break the law to further their political goals. What can we expect now that this type of behavior is codified?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              And we still do, ya know? That’s what’s so abysmal about the whole thing: no one wants to challenge the executive on this – certainly not Congress or the current Chief Justice and others in the SC.Report

              • Avatar 62across in reply to Stillwater says:

                It’s not just the executive here, is it?

                Not to diminish Obama’s responsibilities in this in any way, but I am struck by how immaterial who is POTUS has turned out to be. The US elected the least bellicose choice available in 2008 (except for Kucinich) and it hasn’t mattered a whit. The national security apparatus pulls levers in the shadows we have no clue about and which has zero accountability to the electorate. Congress isn’t providing checks and balances either, it is cheerleading.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          Barry’s “death squads” were established after he instituted Obama-commiecare and it’s “death panels.” In fact, if you work on Barry’s “death squads” you can get put on the list for selection to the prestigious “death panels” which I understand is a GS 21 position.Report

        • Avatar David Cheatham in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          And while we’re talking about correct terminology, let’s not forget that the correct form for a state where the executive branch can have you executed, or even imprisoned, without any other branch of the government having any say so, is _correctly_ called a ‘police state’.

          That is what that term literally means. It’s often misused to mean ‘unjust police action’ or even ‘police enforcing laws I don’t like’, but it actually means ‘police action that is legally unconstrained by the laws or the courts’. It’s not a police state if the police go in and bash the heads of protestors in violation of the law…it’s a police state if such behavior is not against the law, or someone’s invented some sort of ‘executive prerogative’ that makes them untouchable.

          I warned the other Democrats that we couldn’t just _ignore_ the nonsense of Bush, we needed to fucking impeach him _even if_ we were going to win the election. We have gotten dangerously close to putting _the infringement of constitutional rights_ as a _constitutional right_ of the president via the nonsensical idea that he has some sort of magical executive power to defend the country.

          The president has _no_ military power outside of what the legislature provides for him, and the legislature has no power to make laws that exceed constitutional limits. (As evidenced by the right to suspend habaes corpus…the fact the constitution includes a specific singular exception to civil rights in specific circumstances rather implies that you aren’t supposed to be able to randomly suspend civil rights simply because you’re at war.)Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Creon Critic says:

      How different is this than the old wanted dead or alive posters in the late 19th century. If you paid a bounty for a dead body back then clearly the fellow did not get much due process. In the light of those times it would clearly have been ok. Now times may have changed, but the can change back, and precedent says that it was ok then. Essentially what you have done is posted a wanted dead or alive poster on these guys. And as back then a dead body is much easier to handle.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Lyle says:

        How many of those wanted dead or alive posters were for people who had already been convicted of something, vs the accused?Report

        • Avatar Lyle in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          Partly because back in the day the hanging was quick after the conviction, there were few appeals. Look at the reports for Fort Smith Ark, and the court for Indian Territory for an example. Recall that back then hangings were held at the county seat, or perhaps even lower, see Judge Roy Bean and Langtry, Tx for an example.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    My understanding is that, through Harold Koh, the US argues that it has the power to kill American citizens on battlefields in compliance with the law of armed conflict (necessity, distinction, and proportionality).

    The problem is that when you are at war with an abstract concept, the entire world is the battlefield.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I know that this isn’t the first time that the US has assassinated somebody. I’m sure that there were all kinds of minor assassinations all over the cold war.

    This one was noisy, however.

    Is this the first one that is that noisy?Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    Most discouraging and certainly even more disgusting considering how Obama trumpetted as a candidate that this sortof thing’d be addressed by his administration. I fail to see how going Galt would be in any way or form a useful or moral response to this however.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

      Maybe we could have anti-war protests where people walk around with “Free Mumia!” or “Liberate Palestine!” signs instead.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

        Ironically enough to my mind even those would be more useful in opposing these excreable policies than going galt would be.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

          Eh. It’s like saying that this way to pound one out is superior to that way of pounding one out.

          Some ways work for some, others for others.

          There’s no wrong way so long as you get to where you’re goin’.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

            Perhaps. But going galt is akin to walking away from the fire while protesting (even stupidly protesting) is more akin to spitting on the fire. With galt you’re not trying to fix the problem, you’re arguably making it worse (by leaving only the wingnuts running policy). With stupid protesting you’re trying to fix the problem but doing it ineffectually.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

              Exactly right. And very concise.Report

            • Avatar James K in reply to North says:

              Out of curiosity, do you feel the same way about the American Founding Fathers? Should they have tried to reform the British Empire from within, or was leaving the right course of action?

              It seems to me that some fights can’t be won, and retreat is a perfectly valid strategy in that situation. Don’t get me wrong it is a good thing to try and improve the government you live under (I do it for a living), but that’s not always feasible, and I don’t really see how impotent protest helps anything.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to James K says:

                James, I was edumacated in Canada which means I got a considerably more… hrm, how to put this gently, clinical education about the causes, consequences and outcomes of the who American independence thing. While I’m plentifully fond of America and history is a funny and complex thing I’d say that in the case of the American Revolution history suggests that a lot of the fooferaw was unnecessary.
                Unless we think that the American Revolution was integral to the creation of the modern liberal democracy I’d say that history suggests that a world without the American Revolution would probably look a lot like the world with one except that there’d probably be a Dominion of America sitting across most of North America instead of the two nations there are now.

                But that’s only a kneejerk impression. Maybe the independence of America was one of those unique movements that changed the entire world dramatically without which history would be a darker story. I don’t know for sure. And even if there hadn’t been an American independence at that point then quite possibly it would have erupted a while later when Brittania decided to eliminate slavery within the Empire (or then again, maybe keeping the vast American slave interests within the Empire would have prevented that decision by providing stronger opposition).Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to North says:

                I didn’t intend that as a gotcha question, I was pretty sure you were Canadian, sorry if I came off as more arch than I intended. I just wanted to bring in another perspective since the American War of Independence strikes me as a successful attempt to “go Galt”

                It seems to me that even if the American revolution didn’t have a huge impact on the wider world it did make life a bit better for the colonists themselves. That’s why I think withdrawal (whatever catchy phrase you want to name it by) can be a good thing. Even if you can’t change the world, you can at least change your world.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Maybe we could have anti-war protests where people walk around with “Free Mumia!” or “Liberate Palestine!” signs instead.”

        It wasn’t “instead.” A few people did that. Vastly more carried signs against the Iraq war. What does it matter that a few people carried other signs? Like, seriously, what does it remotely matter? Are you saying that those protests would have been a powerful form of resistance but for the few off-message signs?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Which brings me to what I think happened: I think the main thing that harmed the anti-Iraq War protests was the anti-Afghanistan War protests from a few months prior as well as the association with ANSWER that resulted in a few bad apples running around flying Hamas flags at a Peace Rally in service to the Iraq War (and the Mumia people show up everywhere… it’s not like you can kick them out).

          I mean, you’d have a good protest with good speakers and good crowds and you’d turn on the television and see the footage from the rally that had two guys in blackface burning an effigy of the Queen.

          To be anti-war translated into associating with the Free Mumia people.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            I don’t think most people are as bothered by that as you are.Report

            • Perhaps it’s because I live in Colorado Springs (very military town… five military installations within a half-hour’s drive) but the general attitude within my circle about the folks protesting was something to the effect of “they don’t care about the war, they’re just upset that they missed out on protesting Vietnam” when it came to people who bothered to bring a sign that had to do with the war and “they don’t care about the war, they’re just protesting” when they were holding signs that dealt with something else entirely.

              (Acacia Park is also a 10-15 minute walk from Colorado College and I’m sure that that didn’t help when it came to the amount of focus that the most visible protests had.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                The ineffectiveness of antI-war protesting? Is that the subject? I think anti war protesting was deemed ineffectual after Bush II because during his administration, anti-war protesting became ineffectual.

                He called the millions protesting in all major cities a ‘special interest group’ and said that his policy decisions wouldn’t be influenced by ‘special interests’. And the media went along for the ride.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                No, it seems to me that the tea party protests are(superficially, anyway) similar to the anti-war protests.

                The tea party has a handful of scalps, however. There’s even a legit argument that they move policy.

                The anti-war protests didn’t. Well, they kinda succeeded in making Dubya’s Vietnam war service a major issue which seems to have resulted in John Kerry (shudder) having been nominated for the 2004 election…

                Overall, however, it seems that they went relatively nowhere (using the tea parties as a baseline of what might be accomplished by white people yelling things into megaphones in a city park, anyway).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Tea party activism has certainly yielded some scalps. I attribute that not so much to the activism itself, but the media attention which mainstreamed the views endorsed. The media was very sympathetic to the ideas presented by small groups of angry old white people demanding lower government spending, while it was equally unsympathetic to the idea of millions of people from all colors and income brackets objecting to invading Iraq.

                Weird.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The media struck you as sympathetic?

                Huh.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                To the Teapartiers?

                Oh yeah.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                You don’t agree? They had a contract with a major network for exclusive coverage; all the other major networks gave them uncritical, very congenial coverage; many/most pundits at all the major newpapers werer behind them because it was an exciting new force in politics.

                The Iraq protestors were just a bunch of hippies – you know, hippies from every conceivable profession, all economic brackets, and full-spectrum skin colors.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I know that Fox portrayed them as populist crusaders fighting for the working man against The Man but MSNBC, CNN, and NPR didn’t.

                It was a mixed bag with the players lining up as you might assume they would.

                Now, I do seem to recall that the only approving coverage the anti-war protests got towards the end was on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman (god, I can’t stand that show…) but, prior to Cindy Sheehan’s embrace of the Palestinians, I seem to recall the players lining up as you’d expect there too… certainly around 2003-2004.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

                I recall the Times/Post/non-Fox-networks being (moderately) against the war before it started, and skeptical after it started, like asking if the looting in Baghdad was really a positive sign. (Though they still printed everything the White House said like the good stenographers they are .) If they has anything good to say about the dirty fishing hippies who were protesting in the street, rather than dignifiedly writing letters to the editor, it escaped me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I remember glowing discussions of Cindy Sheehan (remember MoDo explaining that her moral authority was absolute? Good times) on the networks…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                That was here, by the way.

                But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

                Read the whole thing, of course.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

                They found a mother who lost her son sympathetic? Communists.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                If you’d actually *READ* Marx, you’d see that there’s nothing about using mothers as spokespeople in there.Report

  8. Avatar NoPublic says:

    I wonder if the next administration will choose to look forward not backward and decline to prosecute the current War Criminal In Chief.Report

  9. Avatar Ben JB says:

    If going Galt is the removal of one’s productivity to protest the confiscation of that productivity (“if the government is going to tax my money, then I simply won’t make any!”), then what is “going Galt” in the context of targeted assassination without due process of law?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ben JB says:

      In Rand’s terms, which of course we may argue about, life and productivity are closely allied. Productivity is not a virtue in and of itself, but only becomes virtuous because, and when, it is in the service of a flourishing, well-lived life.

      Take away that last bit — life itself — and you’ve a bit of a problem.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        > Productivity is not a virtue in and of itself,
        > but only becomes virtuous because, and
        > when, it is in the service of a flourishing,
        > well-lived life.

        That’s very Aristotelian.Report

      • Avatar Ben JB in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        OK, but that doesn’t entirely answer my question: are you saying that the correct response to a targeted assassination is to withdraw from the economy so as to de-fund the government?

        (That was Thoreau’s response to the Mexican-American War/slavery–he didn’t pay his poll taxes. And he spent some (small) time in jail for not paying his taxes. (Until, IIRC, his aunt paid them in his name.) Are you planning on following in Thoreau’s footsteps?)Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Productivity is not a virtue in and of itself, but only becomes virtuous because, and when, it is in the service of a flourishing, well-lived life.

        Do you have a passage you can cite here? Also, isn’t that a bit reductive? In terms of what’s good for people, what could be a virtue for human life if it’s not a virtue in that it advances a person’s flourishing and well-being?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

          From Galt’s speech:

          “Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live — that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values — that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind… that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human.”

          It’s not the only virtue in her system, so it’s not quite as reductive as all that. She’d add in rationality, independence, integrity, honesty (yes, different things for her), justice, and pride.Report

  10. If he wasn’t the only bad guy killed – couldn’t the US just say they were killing his companions and he was collateral damage? Simply, this was a military action, not an assasination. As the article says, “…the 40-year-old al-Awlaki had over the years moved from being an influential mouthpiece for al-Qaida’s ideology of holy war against the United States to become an operational figure, helping recruit militants for al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen…”Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      This is the part that has always baffled me. Why on earth didn’t they fudge a pretext that at least clouds the legal/moral issues involved enough to let reasonable people disagree.

      Going about it in this manner leaves you with no possible interpretation other than an extreme disregard for the rights of any person at all.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Plinko says:

        Unitary Executive!1!

        It makes me wonder when Assange is going to be designated an enemy combatant subject to death squad justice. They can’t seem to figure out what to charge him with either.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Plinko says:

        Why on earth didn’t they fudge a pretext that at least clouds the legal/moral issues involved enough to let reasonable people disagree.

        State secrets!Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

          To add: his father tried to sue the federal government to remove the assasination order. It never got anywhere because the government just said, “State secrets!” and it was over. A criminal trial was never going to happen under any circumstances. Hell, that’s part of why it’s better, from the government’s perspective, to kill him rather than capture him. This is an issue now, and people will forget it in a week or tow (or tomorrow when football comes on). If he’s held indefinitely without trial, it will keep popping into the public view now and then.Report

          • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Chris says:

            It never got anywhere because the government just said, “State secrets!” and it was over.

            Actually, skimming through the opinion (pdf or Lawfare highlights), the judge didn’t have to reach the state secrets claim, “But defendants [US Government] also correctly and forcefully observe that this Court need not, and should not, reach their claim of state secrets privilege because the case can be resolved on other grounds the have presented.” (pp. 82-3)

            Amongst other things, the judge found the father did not have standing, and underscored the possibility of al-Aulaqi surrendering (emphasis in original, cites omitted, pp. 17-19),

            Plaintiff has failed to provide an adequate explanation for his son’s inability to appear on his own behalf, which is fatal to plaintiff’s attempt to establish “next friend” standing. In his complaint, plaintiff maintains that his son cannot bring suit on his own behalf because he is “in hiding under threat of death” and any attempt to access counsel or the courts would “expos[e] him[] to possible attack by Defendants.” But while Anwar Al-Aulaqi may have chosen to “hide” from U.S. law enforcement authorities, there is nothing preventing him from peacefully presenting himself at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and expressing a desire to vindicate his constitutional rights in U.S. courts. Defendants have made clear — and indeed, both international and domestic law would require — that if Anwar Al-Aulaqi were to present himself in that manner, the United States would be “prohibit[ed] [from] using lethal force or other violence against him in such circumstances.”[…]

            The Court’s conclusion that Anwar Al-Aulaqi can access the U.S. judicial system by presenting himself in a peaceful manner implies no judgment as to Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s status as a potential terrorist. All U.S. citizens may avail themselves of the U.S. judicial system if they present themselves peacefully, and no U.S. citizen may simultaneously avail himself of the U.S. judicial system and evade U.S. law enforcement authorities. Anwar Al-Aulaqi is thus faced with the same choice presented to all U.S. citizens.

            Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Greenwald remains Greenwald, god bless him.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Yemen apparently tried him in absentia.

    I got this from Balloon Juice:

    Awlaki is being tried in absentia in Yemen for his alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of a French national. On Saturday, Judge Moshen Allwan ordered him “arrested by force, dead or alive” when he failed to appear.

    Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/11/08/Cleric-says-American-devils-must-die/UPI-61991289245343/#ixzz1ZSh5QEA1

    Does that make me feel better?

    Eh. Kinda.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      One should get some level of comfort from a show trial in Yemen.*

      * I do not actually have a level of comfort.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

      I feel pretty confident that if George W. Bush had used something like that as cover, they’d have been pissed off about it.

      That comment thread was more disturbing than the usual, because I expected at least a little more concern for civil liberties over there.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I feel pretty confident that if George W. Bush had used something like that as cover, they’d have been pissed off about it.

        I would have been. I felt quite vindicated when military justice officers started refusing to take part in the Bush show trials. Little did I know Obama would take the wrong lesson from that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I don’t really have the heart to read that whole thread, but I was expecting worse than the very first comment being:

        “Hooray for extra-judicial killings of American citizens!

        What was in that 4th Amendment? The right to be killed by Nobel Peace drones!”Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Apparently you didn’t even have the heart to read the second comment.Report

          • I must admit. This made me laugh out loud.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Because the second comment was a full throated endorsement of what happened… as opposed to the first comment which was a full throated opposition to what happened.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Right, so is 50-50 such a hilarious refutation of the the idea that the first comment being a full throated condemnation is a bit ironic when the thread was advertised as an embarrassing display of uncritical, unprincipled, and presumably partisan-hypocritical defense of this president’s action (which it certainly goes on to be, which I completely stipulated that it probably did…)? It’s not like i was suggesting anything other than this was the case… only that, based on the characterization here, I wasn’t expecting the first comment to be a… what you said it is. I just found that ironic, or something. I wasn’t challenging that the thread is what it is. But go ahead, laugh. It’s all so goddamn funny, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I’m not laughing. It makes me want to cry. Real, actual tears.

                Your team’s supposed to be solid on this stuff. At the very least, it’s clearly not.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “Your team”?

                Who gave Koz Jason’s password?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Well, then between the first and second, we’d have a 50-50 for/against. I still would have been expecting worse at that point. And worse, I take it, is exactly what it gets. Which I meant to imply I fully accept is the case. Not sure how my point doesn’t stand that the very fist comment is a strong denunciation. That doesn’t seem like nothing to me.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            This also goes to my overall point about your at this point clearly most important line of inquiry on this whole subject: what particular people ought to be saying about all this because of who they are and what you imagine you know about their past views. WTF is it you think you know about “Bob,” who says “This is unadulteratedly good news.” You don’t know what his positions during the Bush administration were. You don’t know that he issn’t a full-on neoconservative. You don’t know shit, dude. And your focus on this fingerpointing you insist upon doing is keeping you from knowing as much as you should about the subject matter about which you want to point fingers, or at least from exhibiting knowledge of it. But that is for the best for you, because having any more knowledge about any of this could potentially complicate the simple, reductive view that you are committed to retaining on matters such as this. And that would be a bother.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I would urge you to read further in the comment thread, while imagining that this action was taken by the G.W. Bush administration.

              I think you’d probably find it hard to keep in mind that you were still at Balloon Juice, not RedState or Power Line.

              That’s all I’m saying with regard to the left, and I don’t see much reason to change my view about it.

              The case itself is complicated in some ways, sure. But that does just sort of prove my point — you can’t possibly call it an “unadulterated good.”

              I’d call it a serious evil, with a silver lining. The guy’s dead, he was pretty clearly a criminal and a terrorist. Will it be worth it? Not if this sets a precedent for assassinating citizens.

              We’ve said that all kinds of things were impossible or absurd on the civil liberties front in the past — torture? Can’t happen here! And so forth. Will this be just one more?

              Yes. Yes, it will be, unless we make clear that this wasn’t a precedent. It was a horrible aberration.Report

  13. “The idea that Anwar al-Alauqi is being targeted for death and has no means of availing himself of his rights as a U.S. national is wrong….he has a remedy that will ensure his safety and give him the opportunity to defend himself: He can turn himself in. He can knock on the door of any U.S. consulate and say, “I hear you guys are looking for me.” No special forces guys, Predator drones, or air strikes are going to take him out if he does this. In other words, this situation is, in conceptual terms, a fairly close analogue to the one in which cops surround a building and say, “Come out with your hands up or we’ll shoot.”

    http://www.lawfareblog.com/2010/09/two-points-about-targeted-killings/

    Works for me, and obviates the “bill of attainder” and due process questions. If surrendering peacefully was not an option, the bill of attainder argument would hold. So too for due process: he was not denied it if he refused to make it possible to accord it to him.

    There is no moral or legal duty for the US gov’t to risk the lives of our military or law enforcement personnel to capture him so it can force due process upon him.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      > There is no moral or legal duty for the US gov’t
      > to risk the lives of our military or law enforcement
      > personnel to capture him so it can force due
      > process upon him.

      I can’t make that one generalize, Tom.

      > If surrendering peacefully was not an option,
      > the bill of attainder argument would hold.

      I think there’s a reasonable case to be made that expecting someone to surrender when the police force looking for you has a demonstrated recent history of retaining people it accuses of the same actions as the ones it’s accusing you of, without trial indefinitely, (and/or extraordinary rendition)… is a questionable expectation.Report

      • It obviates the bill of attainder objection: he is not dead today if he’d surrendered.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Not really. If you have no expectation of due process, you’re not surrendering to a legal authority, right?

          I think this is pushing it a bit. Probably enough for a “he needed killin'” defense in a court, but we’re not gonna get there.Report

          • Now you’re theorizing a fear of not receiving due process, Pat, but that isn’t a legally sustainable argument under US law. Now, he might have surrendered himself to the Hague on that argument. That would have been a helluva shitstorm.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              > Now, he might have surrendered himself
              > to the Hague on that argument. That
              > would have been a helluva shitstorm.

              That’s personally what I would have done. But then, I’m not a crazed fanatic in the first place.

              > That isn’t a legally sustainable argument
              > under US law

              Where’s Burt…? (you’re probably right)Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Al-Alauqi applying for asylum because of a well-founded fear of torture would have been a lot more damaging to the US than a few bombs.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            If you have no expectation of due process, you’re not surrendering to a legal authority, right?

            Here too, Patrick. I mean, argue whatever you want, but we can’t pretend that arguing that the United States just isn’t a legal authority is not a BFHMFD.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Pat, do you really hold that no wanted terrorist has a duty to surrender to us if he has been indicted by a U.S. court (Awlaki has not, which is the argument I would use against the Lawfare argument, though the Yemen trial I think can’t be dismissed out of hand without examining its propriety…) because of our track record on denying due process? That is really, really big deal, you are aware, right? If they hve no duty to surrender, then we have no right to use force to capture them; indeed no right to capture them. we have no right to detain them by that logic, because a indictment just is a legitimate court order stating that a person must give themselves over to a jailing authority for trial. If they don’t have to do that, then we can’t very well just capture them against their will with any more right. I’m not sure what you are leaving in counterterrorism’s toolbox of legitimate ways to neutralize threats. Left without legitimate tools, you are essentially assuring that counterterror measures will converge on the most expedient, effective means of neutralization, which in many cases is going to be extrajudicial executions of Americans or others.

        I’m not sure you want to make the argument that U.S. counterterror agents lack the legal/moral authority to command the surrender of wanted terrorists.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew says:

          > I’m not sure you want to make the
          > argument that U.S. counterterror
          > agents lack the legal/moral
          > authority to command the surrender
          > of wanted terrorists.

          Perhaps then they ought not to have ceded away the moral authority by mistreating their captives in the first place.

          Look, if you torture your captives or submit them to extraordinary rendition or hold them perpetually without trial, what exactly do you expect people you suspect of similar crimes to do?

          “Oh, hey, I’m innocent of the charge which you’ve leveled against me, but I’m totally okay with going for my day in court to prove it!”

          Really?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            They certainly ought not to have, but that doesn’t mean I think what you are arguing follows. And if it does follow, then it is a BFHD. That’s all I’m saying.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            “if [we] torture your captives or submit them to extraordinary rendition or hold them perpetually without trial, what exactly do you expect people you suspect of similar crimes to do?”

            If they’re under indictment by the United States justice system, I expect them, by which I mean I command them, to surrender.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew says:

              You don’t see a problem there?

              Legality aside, you don’t see a *practical* problem there?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                The moral legality is the full extent of the point I am making. It’s a BFHD if they can morally-legally refuse to surrender to a legitimate U.S. warrant. As a practical matter, of course they will refuse to much more as a result of torture and indef. det. w/o trial. That was the tactical folly of those policies. That’s not what I’m talking about. You need to decide whether you’re on the side of our warrants having legal and moral force force in international legal-moral accounting, or on the side of their having lost that force. And I’m just advising you that if the latter view actually won out, it would be BFHD.Report

              • For the record, “moral” and “legal” are two different things, as are the spirit and the letter of the law. The Lawfare blog has arguments for either, but not the conflation of them both.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                They’re different; that’s why include them both. Our warrants need to have legal as well as moral force in order to have any reliable efficacy. Local governments will feel fine not honoring them even of they acknowledge their formal legal force, if they view the moral force of that formal legality as a nullity. Patrick is (I think) arguing they don’t even create a valid legal obligation to surrender, but even if they do, it still matters if they don’t create an acknowledged moral obligation as well.

                As a side note, on this matter I’m a metaphysical amoralist – real metaphysical moral duties are not what I am talking about here. I’m talking here about whether, broadly, world legal-political actors acknowledge through their official acts the moral duties, as well as the legal duties, these legal artifacts (indictments) purport to create. This matters a great deal for our ability to more peacefully rather than more violently combat terrorism.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I’m not sure if we’re talking past each other or not.

                > You need to decide whether you’re
                > on the side of our warrants having
                > legal and moral force force in inter-
                > national legal-moral accounting, or
                > on the side of their having lost that
                > force.

                Let me clarify. (Side note: to the best of my knowledge, there were no current legal warrants issued for Anwar al-Awlaki, so I’m not certain this even applies).

                No, I do not believe that the United States has “lost all force”. It is certainly the case, for example, that we can expect that normal warrants for the standard slate of international crimes should apply. As yet, we’re not putting drug dealers in Gitmo.

                If the U.S. expects to have its warrants honored when it comes to terrorism suspects, it probably ought to actually resume following its own laws.

                Because, at the present time, it has no reasonable grounds to assume that an actual innocent person would turn him/herself in, because said innocent person has no expectation of getting a fair shake.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                It has every reason to assume they won’t, the question is (for terrorism cases), whether it can “expect” them, in the normative sense of the term, to comply with the legally and moral force of our warrants.

                If you refuse to disambiguate the predictive sense of the term “expect” from the normative sense, then I’m not sure we can seriously have this discussion, so maybe we are talking past each other.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Let me turn this question around.

                You’re saying that a state should have a normative expectation that people should comply with both the legal and the moral force of their warrants when there is no predictive expectation that the state will honor its obligations to those who surrender to those warrants.

                Yes?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Michael Drew says:

                “Moral,” “US Law” and “international law”are necessary distinctions. To blur necessary distinctions is the sophist’s trade, to toggle back and forth between equivocations. We have no sophists here, surely, but this explains the Tower of Babel elsewhere, outside the League.

                The dude would be alive if he’d surrendered and via Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, American citizens get due process as recognized by the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of these things.

                Had the dude appealed to the world that he couldn’t get a fair trial, he’d have found many defenders. It would have helped if he were actually innocent, but be that as it may, he’d be alive now.

                As to one point made elsewhere by JasonK, it’s critical to the admin’s case that the dude was involved operationally in trying to kill Americans, not just as a propagandist, which indeed would have great slippery-slope currency.

                I’m likely out for hours & hours now, but slipped in for a final plea to clarity.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                No, I’m simply asking you come down one side or the other of whether we, the international community, and, indeed, terrorists themselves should normatively expect the subjects of United States warrants in terrorism cases comply with them. Actually, I’m not even doing that. I’m just pressing the point that that if that question is genuinely an unsettled one, and if it were to go in the direction of the negative, it would be a BFHMFD in abad way for any hope there is for a legal, rule-of-law-respecting, more peaceful rather than more violent regime of counterterrorism. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong, whatever your view of the question is. I’m just saying what a big deal for all that stuff it is to argue one side of it. Not that you are going to tip the question one way or another. But just considering the remote possibility that that argument held sway throughout the international system.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Well, then it’s good that I’m not blurring them Tom.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            BTW, the argument that Awlaki, even if he was indicted, could have avoided assassination by surrendering (as if like any other indicted suspect) and so assassination was warranted is an obviously failing argument. Just because a criminal suspect is choosing not to surrender, even in another country, does not mean we make a practice of targeting them for death. So it’s really not a sufficiant argument to say that because Awlaki did not surrender, he therefore could be killed. If we could kill him, it’s because he was part of an enemy force with which we are engaged in an armed conflict. Whether that’s true is debatable, but if it’s true, it is unremarkable that it would apply to U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. Especially in the case of people performing command-and-control functions in that force, which Awlaki is alleged to have done.Report

            • Avatar George T in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I, too, reject the argument that it was okay to assassinate him simply because he could’ve turned himself in, especially since he wasn’t under indictment, merely wanted. I’m probably wanted by the campus police over an unpaid parking ticket from three years ago, but surely it doesn’t give them the right to conduct a surprise missile strike on my house.

              On a more humorous note, the judge said he was free to walk into any US court or embassy to turn himself in.

              Do we really want a policy allowing high level Al-Qaeda suicide bomber commanders to waltz into our courthouses whenever the urge strikes them?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to George T says:

                That would make a lot more sense if he was indicted in our courts, wouldn’t it? And it’s not like we make a practice of going around helping foreign countries by executing American citizens who have been convicted in their courts in absentia. Usually we try to get them out of the country to safety.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke, thank you for linking to Lawfare. I’d read Greenwald already but hadn’t seen this perspective. I was particularly swayed by the post that argues,

      Rather, I suspect that [US government lawyers] view was that deadly force was only compatible with the 5th Amendment in this setting because al-Awlaki was located, purposefully, in a place where neither the host-state government nor the United States had a plausible opportunity to capture him (combined with his asserted operational role and the resultant premise that he posed an imminent threat to life).

      Also that had al-Awlaki surrendered, he would have been due more process. (Also at Lawfare, What process is due?)Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      I don’t think the analogy holds. Unless someone is thought to be actively committing a crime, you have to have a warrant from a judge to demand that they come out with their hands up. I’m not sure al-Awlaki was actively committing a crime when he was on the road to wherever, and we certainly didn’t have a warrant.Report

      • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Chris says:

        See above. Apparently the legal fig leaf they’re holding up for this is that the Yemeni courts issued a “bring him in dead or alive” warrant for him, and we were just being kind and helping them serve it.

        Also, the repeated claims above about a trial being required before killing a citizen are incorrect, at least in wartime. American citizens who fought for the Germans in WWII weren’t granted a trial prior to being killed or captured, for example. I don’t think this case is analogous in other ways, but there is no absolute requirement for a citizen to be tried before he’s killed by U.S. military action.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG says:

          Nobody’s making that assertion, Darren.

          We’re arguing about what is “the battlefield”.Report

          • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Both Jaybird and Jason assert above that a trial is required in all cases before killing an American citizen.

            I probably should have included that response to their post(s) instead of shoe-horning it in here, though. Apologies for any confusion.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DarrenG says:

              It’s obviously not *REQUIRED*.

              Obama could kill any of us by calling in an anonymous tip to our local law enforcement and telling them that we’re cooking meth in the basement.

              It’s just one of those trivial little things that makes the difference between trying to live up to the whisper of an idea and not.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s not even legally mandated in some cases, though, although I tend to agree this was not one of those cases.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DarrenG says:

                If the American citizen is engaged in combat, fire away. If not, that’s a different story.

                Posting angry nonsense on YouTube doesn’t count as “combat,” either.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                The hitch there is ‘engaged in combat.’

                During WWII being in an enemy uniform in a theater of operations was sufficient, regardless of whether it was an active combat situation. That’s the peg on which Bush, and now Obama, have hung their hats in authorizing lethal military action against individual targets.

                I dearly wish the political and judicial system would start seriously debating and defining what the law requires in asymmetric warfare, though, for all the reasons described in this thread and elsewhere in the blogosphere today.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor in reply to DarrenG says:

                I’m surprised this is only now being addressed. The details of the drone strike are unclear, but it’s been reported that al-Awlaki was travelling in a convoy with a number of bodyguards and al-Qaeda functionaries (one of whom was a foreign-born US citizen).

                If the same situation had occurred in a traditional war, where al-Awlaki was in a military convoy wearing a uniform, would such a strike been legal? If no, how is that reconciled with the indiscriminate bombing of military targets in other wars? If yes, what, if anything, would be considered a “uniform” in asymmetric warfare?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG says:

                To the best of my knowledge, we’re not at war with Yemen in any event.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to DarrenG says:

                To the best of my knowledge, we’re not at war with Yemen in any event.

                That goes back to the perfectly reasonable debate over what comprises a battlefield in asymmetric warfare. (We weren’t at war with France, Holland, or Poland in WWII, either…)

                Again, I’m just trying to establish that it is not unprecedented for the U.S. military to kill an American citizen in wartime without a trial, not defend what happened today as indisputably legal or moral.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DarrenG says:

                If the same situation had occurred in a traditional war, where al-Awlaki was in a military convoy wearing a uniform, would such a strike been legal? If no, how is that reconciled with the indiscriminate bombing of military targets in other wars? If yes, what, if anything, would be considered a “uniform” in asymmetric warfare?

                Stipulated. And now a targeted killing order is superfluous. So what good does it do, other than setting a horrible precedent for others to pick up and abuse?Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to DarrenG says:

                And now a targeted killing order is superfluous. So what good does it do…

                As I understand it, the laws of armed conflict favor enumerating who you’re aiming to kill and what appropriate means are to kill them. A targeted killing order is not superfluous when you need to meet standards of military necessity, distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and proportionality of the use of force to the desired military aims.Report

              • There are forms of treason that could consist of speech and “thoughtcrime”, I suppose.

                Like you, I just wish that we could get 12 people to nod and say “yep, he’s a legit target” first.

                Heck, Padilla was found *GUILTY*. Does the government really think, with regards to this guy, they wouldn’t be able to find 12 people that they could sway with their best with a public defender on the other side???Report

  14. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Governor Palin said if I voted for Obama there’d be Death Panels, and she was right!Report

  15. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    This isn’t even the worst example of state-sanctioned murder by the United States of the past weeks.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      Which one would that be?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Since it’s Jesse I’m guessing he’s referring to the GA execution?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to North says:

          Troy Davis was severely wronged. But at least he had a formal accusation and a trial, however flawed it may have been.

          Perhaps Jesse would be happier if Rick Perry just went around shooting suspects from helicopters? If that’s less bad for him, let him come right out and say so.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            The process that killed Davis is going to be replicated and kill far more citizens than what happened here. This isn’t anything new, Presidents of every stripe have probably done things at about the same level, it just wasn’t as public. We didn’t cross any moral event horizon, this was a cost-benefit decision that came down on the side of death.

            I don’t like it, but let’s not play the slippery slope game. The fact an American citizen who is known to have gone to Yemen, joined al Qaeda, made numerous videos announcing the fact that he’s gone to Yemen and joined al Qaeda, was added to Treasury’s list of people who can’t receive funds, and was placed on the UN’s list of international terrorists, and was later placed on the CIA’s kill-or-capture list, is no equal to Rick Perry shooting death row inmates out of a helicopter.

            At the end of the day, whatever was done, some people would be pissed. People are pissed he was killed. But, if we went in under the cover of night with some SEALs and snatched the guy, I have no doubt Greenwald would have a 2 million word opus on it was illegal under international law for any agency of the government to go snatch people out of foreign countries.

            It’s not perfect and in fact it’s a little dirty. But that’s life. And before anybody asks, yeah, that probably means Obama’s a war criminal. But, so has every leader of any leading nation of the past few hundred years at the least.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              The process that killed Davis is going to be replicated and kill far more citizens than what happened here.

              I don’t dare take bets that you’re right. And frankly, I don’t think you’d have said a word of any of this if it had been George W. Bush in the White House.

              Most liberals I know were outraged at detention and torture without indictment or trial. Remember Jose Padilla? But now these same liberals shrug — or cheer — at killing without indictment or trial. Doesn’t reflect well on your team, you know.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Most liberals I know were outraged at detention and torture without indictment or trial. Remember Jose Padilla? But now these same liberals shrug — or cheer — at killing without indictment or trial. Doesn’t reflect well on your team, you know.

                I’m not sure who, exactly, “all these same liberals” are, but there’s certainly a lot more debate and outright condemnation over today’s events (and the Libyan war and the continuation of Guantanamo, etc.) within the liberal commentariat than there ever was among the right wing during the Bush years.

                There’s also the practical matter that there were obvious, available alternatives to extra-judicial detention and torture, while it’s not as clear what other options we may have had in the case of al-Awlaki. (Again, not defending today’s actions, just pointing out a difference between what happened today and what used to happen regularly at Guantanamo.)Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Jason:

                It is nice to see many of the liberals finally on board with taking the gloves off. Not to mention that now they can’t claim to have the moral high ground or have clean hands.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

                Every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay… We do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.

                Nice isn’t the word that springs to mind.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Jason:

                I don’t have much sympathy for a bunch of hippies that should have known better than to wander over an unmarked border. And even less after they become mouthpieces for the Iranian propaganda.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

                Clearly they deserved it. If you ran the world, they’d be waterboarded, I can only presume.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Because the Iranian regime was so peaches and cream back when Gitmo was only an Aaron Sorkin movie setting.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kolohe says:

                No, because sinking to their level is exactly what we should be doing!Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                At some point, Jason, you need to stop obsessing about what liberals might or might not have said about these things under Bush, which is unknowable, if you want us to believe that what you really care about here is what is happening, not what it says about liberals.

                There actually are bases to have different views of what restrictions there are on detention in war, detention of American citizens under criminal terrorism charges (during war), torture, and military use of deadly force in war (or outside war as teh case may be).

                I’m not interested in going into them with you because of your attitude, your insistence on a reductive way of looking at these things regardless of what the law actually says, and the fact that, whatever I’d write, you’d only read it with an eye to finding what I’m saying now that I wouldn’t have said then, convinced that nothing else could possibly be the case. (Never mind that you’ll be doing so using a picture of my views of five or more ago based that you’ve painted in your head based only on what friends of yours who are unknown to me may(!) have been saying at that time.)

                But these distinctions exist, or in any case may exist, or could exist – and you seem uninterested in considering, or simply to deny the possibility entirely, or to allow liberals to discuss them with you without attacking their integrity as thought doing that rather than actually discussing these matters is your highest priority (but that can’t possibly be the case!) – nevertheless.

                So I guess just keep doing what you do, and I’ll just think what I’m going to think about your priorities. I’m pretty sure you’ll be cool with that.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I only brought up liberals after I noted how so many of them, you included, were rushing to defend this action. The original post said nothing about them as a group, only mentioning the Obama administration, which is hardly avoidable.

                If you want to own this action, own it. But explain why Rick Perry shooting terrorism suspects — not convicts, just suspects — from a helicopter over U.S. territory isn’t perfectly okay, by the very same legal justifications.

                The entire world is a battlefield, any time can be combat, and anyone can be an enemy, provided only that the executive says so. That’s what you’re claiming, when you claim this.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Because we can easily arrest terrorism suspects on US soil. Not so much in the middle of a civil war in Yemen.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                As I’ve said repeatedly, I wouldn’t mind at all if al-Awlaki were just plain killed in combat.

                Declaring that he’s subject to being killed anytime, anywhere, without any charges or trial or possibility of review — that’s different. I hope you can see it.

                (Not exactly like you’ll be governing anytime soon, so you can join me on this, you know.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                And I’d argue the moment he’s hanging around with the actual terrorist organization, he’s in combat. So, this was perfectly fine on that point.

                I understand though if you disagree. Or would you argue for example, that if a US citizen went over to Japan during WWII and gave them information, that it’d be illegal to kill him if he found him in the middle of a whorehouse in Southeast Asia?

                As for the governing question, I mean in general. I disagree with a lot of what Democrat’s do, but I realize a lot of it has to be done because I understand the nation disagrees with me on many things.

                Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t say they’re doing things wrong, and I agree Obama has done a lot on civil liberties, but I can’t attack them for governing according to principles I may disagree with but aren’t illegal.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                And I’d argue the moment he’s hanging around with the actual terrorist organization, he’s in combat. So, this was perfectly fine on that point.

                Just like Jose Padilla. The entire world is a battlefield, a trick Obama learned from our previous president. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Jesse, you may also want to play up the number of people whose lives were saved by the killing of this guy.

                I defended Jose Padilla’s detainment at the time by pointing out what would happen to civil liberties had a dirty bomb gone off in a major city. There weren’t a lot of answers to that one. Of course, the air was really let out of the tires of that argument when charges were filed and they had nothing to do with my arguments for the last couple of years… but this guy is dead. You won’t have to worry about anything like that popping up.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I haven’t rushed to defend it. I’m not defending it (or condemning it). I’m discussing the modes of condemnation or defense that I’ve seen – what is a defensible argument and what isn’t, That’s what I want to be able to do without having to account for things that might or might not have been said years ago about matters that may or may not be comparable, none of which I am. on record saying. but yes, I am liberal. So can I do that with you without having to deal with this question of what someone else might or might not have said about this had it happened under another president? Or not? That’s what I’m asking.

                And you brought that up pretty damn quickly, whatever’s in the OP. Like, as soon as any liberal said anything other than what you think they shoudl, it seemed like. It doesn’t really matter what’s in the OP. This is where the discussion happens. To me you seemed loaded for bear on the liberals-are-hypocrites issue. It was my impression in any case. (I’m not going to look up when you said what exactly. If I’m wrong I’m wrong.) But it’s just not the case that you have an exhaustive record about what every liberal thought about every one of Bush’s actions, yet you don’t mind just pronouncing on what they’d have said about this. And there’s nothing anyone can do to disprove any of it. To me, you seem most interest in just shutting down any debate with us, or in eliminating our ability to have any position other than the one you are dictating, based solely on your impressionistic account of what we’d have said in a counterfactual universe. And that’s your right: I’m just describing it. So that’s why I say: do what you’ll do, and I’ll think what I’ll think. And write it down on your website.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                As to this:

                “If you want to own this action, own it. But explain why Rick Perry shooting terrorism suspects — not convicts, just suspects — from a helicopter over U.S. territory isn’t perfectly okay, by the very same legal justifications.

                The entire world is a battlefield, any time can be combat, and anyone can be an enemy, provided only that the executive says so. That’s what you’re claiming, when you claim this.”

                That’s exactly what I haven’t claimed: I’ve only said that is the claim, and it’s debatable. And it just is the case that an insane president could do that if he was determined enough. yes, the U.S. could be defined as part of a battlefield (in my view, it was part of a battlefield on 9/11), and the president could take battlefield actions against people engaged in war against us on our soil, even citizens if all that were the case. he could make all those claims, and they would be formally legitimate. That does not mean that he wouldn’t be intervened against by people around him who thought his determinations were insane. But, yes he would have the power to claim that. Just by being president, not as a result of the Awlaki action. You can’t just dismiss the issue of whether the claims would have merit, just as I have not assumed that Obama’s claims have merit. If Obama’s do, then his actions might be formally legitimate, if not, not. The same with Helicopter Rick.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

                That’s exactly what I haven’t claimed: I’ve only said that is the claim, and it’s debatable.

                If the random assassination of citizens is “debatable,” then surely it is only debatable in the most academic of contexts. This is the very definition of tyrannical government. Is it not?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Drew says:

                You can call this a lot of things, but calling the death of al-Awlaki ‘random’ seems off-base.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Jason:

                You sound like G. Greenwald and the ACLU whining about where the battlefield is. Where do you think the “battlefield” is in the terrorists view? Is the battlefield on the train, bus or plane where the bomb goes off? Is it in the safe house where the bomb is constructed or the terrorists hide? Is it in the room where attacks are planned or money is disbursed to pay for the attack. When the terrorists actually appear in uniform on a battlefield then I’ll be more sympathetic to these concerns. Until then the US should hunt them down wherever we can find them and kill them.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Scott says:

                I’d like to point that plenty of liberals were saying the same thing after, and well after, 9/11 as well. Hunt down the people who did this, and who plan to do more of it, and kill them (or arrest them – I didn’t have a preference). Do this because they started a war with us. I certainly was saying it to myself. So go libs!Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Scott says:

                Liberals & conservatives vs. the Far Left, Far Right & Libertarian.

                Cool. ;-DReport

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Scott says:

                > Liberals & conservatives vs.
                > the Far Left, Far Right &
                > Libertarian.

                I will not be labeled!

                Not sure which label I would fall under, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                But now these same liberals shrug — or cheer — at killing without indictment or trial.

                I humbly apologize if I haven’t been sufficiently critical for you.Report

              • I must admit. This was well played.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                There’s this thing called evidence. In the case of this guy, there was overwhelming evidence that this guy was actually doing all the bad things we said the folks at Guantanamo doing. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of evidence for folks like Padilla and many of those stuck in Guantanamo.

                When Dubya and Rumsfeld actually managed to kill members of Al Qaeda, I didn’t have a problem with it. It was the other couple of hundred thousand people Bush and Obama have killed that I have a problem with.

                If that makes me not on the high ‘n’ mighty tower with you, oh well. But, it’s easy to act perfect when you have no chance at actually governing. Again, I admitted Obama was a War Criminal as every other world leader has been since the beginning of time.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                If the evidence is so good, try him.

                If not, don’t bring it up.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                He was tried in Yemeni courts in absentia. Now, I’ll even grant that Yemen courts aren’t trustworthy.

                But again, this guy wasn’t at the Five Guys down the street grabbing a burger. He was in the middle of a foreign country in the midst of a civil war in legion with an actual terrorist organization.

                How do you want to bring him in and try him? Ask really nicely?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                No need. If he’s in combat, kill him.

                Hell, even fabricate some combat, then kill him.

                Just don’t set this precedent. It’s lousy, it opens the door to much worse, and it makes you look worse than the Republicans, which I hadn’t honestly thought possible.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’d make the argument the Obama Administration probably would’ve fabricated some combat if at all possible, but it ain’t 1975 anymore and you can’t say the leftist guerilla leader’s helicopter mysteriously exploded. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                “Hell, even fabricate some combat, then kill him.”

                Wait, what? That’s what we did, more or less. We claimed that his status as a member of a group we are at war with put him in a sate of combat with us, more precisely. There’s no precedential difference between claiming he is in combat and killing him, and fabricating some combat and then killing him. Either way, the precedent is that we could kill him because he was in combat. The claim that he was in combat is what keeps this from being precedentially unremarkable. The factual question is whether he was in fact in combat. If not, then the move was illegal, not a new precedent. I understand that you want a narrower definition of combat, and for there to be some concocted action to make it fit that definition. But that doesn’t mean that a new precedent has been set. He was killed because he was in combat, goes the claim. That’s the precedent. From there, we decide if that’s bullshit or not.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                …this is partly meant to draw you out and make your points more explicit, if you want to take me up on it, Jason. Like, you know, set the bullshit aside and just discuss this case. Clearly, there an argument to be made about the precedent relating to the definition of combat they want to use. Consider that an open invitation.Report

              • Jesus, Mike.

                Jason isn’t talking about the event itself.

                He’s talking about the list. What it means for an executive to decide to put a citizen on this list. Without judicial review.

                How the dumb fucker dies after he’s on the list isn’t really relevant.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                It seems to me that fabricating an episode of combat to use as a legal fig leaf for killing a particular person you want to kill requires knowing who it is you want to kill. Knowing you want to kill a particular person is the equivalent of having a list with one name on it of people you want to kill. Is what you mean to say that you just don’t want them to actually offer any legal justification for why they can do this?

                In any case, I clearly asked for clarification from Jason. I’m not sure why you feel the need to take the Lord’s name in vain with me.Report

              • Avatar Katherine in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Detaining or killing guys who we think might be terrorists or AQ members is one thing. I wasn’t under the impression that there was any actually question about whether Awlaki was an AQ member. The difference between going after bin Laden and going after him seems to be that he was a US citizen.

                I’m against killing or indefinitely detaining citizens of any country on suspicion. But it seems to be fairly clearly known that Awlaki was a high-level AQ member.Report

  16. Avatar Renee says:

    A little off topic: Jason – your profile pic is perfect on posts like this. There is something about it that says: ‘Well fish, the only rational response to news like this (other than going Galt, perhaos) is to get seriously drunk.’ I’m with you man.Report

  17. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    As for “going Galt”, I’m a bit unsure about what it entails. About six years ago, I was very quietly upset about the wire-tapping, torture, rendition, kidnapping, shelving the Magna Carta, and the rest of the things that are regularly discussed here. I wasn’t out in the streets protesting, but I was, let’s say, “exhausted” by it all. So, it was not coincidental that I chose to move to Canada to be with my girl instead of the, probably easier, process of moving her to the states. It wasn’t “going Galt”, I guess because I wasn’t staying in protest. I don’t think any sort of protest will work. I am totally hopeless when it comes to this. Probably why I didn’t file an absentee ballot for Saint Hope.

    I still don’t know if that was the right choice. I also think that part of “going Galt” is first deciding that you’re one of the special ones that society cannot do without (as compared to all the flotsam), and I’m not remotely that vain. Besides, I’m not yet free of all tax entanglements.

    But, I do think that, over the next decades, you’re going to see a lot more people quietly leaving in the middle of the night than staying around and refusing to pay taxes in protest.Report

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