Kill List Democracy


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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436 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Sometimes I feel good about being an American. Proud of our traditions and our laws and our culture and our government, imperfect though they all are. I defend and celebrate them from time to time.

    And then I read something like this and realize that indeed, there are things about my nation that are not only imperfect, but intolerable to any rational, moral person. And worse, that there is no ready means to remedy them.

    Then I recall the inextricably intertwined relationship between government and violence. Not necessarily exported and arbitrary violence such as is described here, but the more basic fact that a government must claim and enforce a monopoly on violence, which means that inevitably, it must engage in violence from time to time. And I can only come to rest on the notion this stew may very well be as good as it ever gets.

    Ironically, it is on that note which I prepare to go to court.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      this stew may very well be as good as it ever gets.

      Burt, I respect your judgment a lot. But who smiles and nods when you say that?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      *snort* plenty of places where the government doesn’t enforce a monopoly on violence. Not happy and good places, mind.Report

    • Avatar b-psycho says:

      Fish the stew then. Such total authority being inherent with no recourse renders its source invalid.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer says:

      “Then I recall the inextricably intertwined relationship between government and violence.”

      So the only true pacifists are anarchists?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        No. There are no true pacifists. The anarchists know, or ought to know, that anarchy invites violence.

        My despair in the specific case results from the utter lack of necessity for our state to export its violence, and indeed in such an arbitrary fashion as Jason describes in the OP. It is in a more general sense, though, that I indicate that a state must either monopolize violence or fail.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I doubt that’s the case. otherwise mexico is a failed state. And so was Washington DC for that matter (not sure about now…).Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            A single mugging does not a failed state make. (Caveat: the state has failed as to the victim of the mugging.) You can’t point to a place where crime occurs from time to time and say “That’s a failed state.”

            Now, if we credit the reports and rumors of drug gangs systematically working their will with violence, and the Mexican government helpess to stop them from doing so, then at least those parts of Mexico where the gangs rule are failed states and the effective government in those localities is the dominant gang. The failure may be a result of corruption rather than insufficient force being present.

            I also think it’s unfair to Mexican law enforcement to say that either urban street crime in the various cities, or the gang violence in the northern deserts, are “tolerated” by the government. The government of Mexico does not look at all interested in power-sharing relationships with the gangs. It may well be at a loss for how to effectively deal with the problem. ‘Course it took us a long time to get on top of street crime here, and while crime is down dramatically from a generation ago, it isn’t completely gone.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              A generation ago in DC there were plenty of places where the cops wouldn’t go. Some because they had “paid rich-boy cops”, some because it really was that bad.

              Same thing with Mexico — they’re fighting the gangs, sure, but they aren’t doing anything about the American expats with their hired goons. (not that the Americans in general cause much fuss…). (also, we aren’t even talking about the failed revolution down south in Mexico, a few years back).Report

  2. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I liked Bill O’Riley’s sign in his mock debate with Jon Stewart.

    “O’Reilly’s next sign: Drones Yes, Waterboards No. He notes the irony of hating waterboarding and being cool with dropping a missile in the middle of a city. ”

    I’m waiting for the foreign policy debate, to see if the moderator has the balls to ask about the kill list. Has Obama been asked in any interview about it?Report

  3. Avatar Kim says:

    Obama is not the only person with a kill list.
    Hell, even Greenpeace has one.

    Bet if I look it up, you’re on the record as favoring martial law.
    (or is there actually a libertarian who was in favor of TARP?).Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      [Citation needed.]

      Also, what are you even talking about?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Am I the only one who’d like to see Kim on one of the Leaguecasts? I just want to know if she can talk in real time the way she writes in comments.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          *blink*… umm… I swear a lot in real life too.
          I may take on a bit more of a “persona” online —
          I think me talking like a cowgirl might come
          off as more fake with my accent than it does online,
          so I might be more likely to not do it.

          But other than that, I is what I is, and I type as fast as
          I think. 😉Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I do not mean this an insult, but if you type as fast as you think, perhaps you should type a little slower.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Let me expand on that. I think you’ve got in a brain in there, and that brain may even have some interesting ideas in it. Unfortunately, you’ve completely obscured that brain and its ideas with an almost constant stream of bullshit.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              What have I said that you’d call bullshit on?

              I think the difference between me and koz is that
              you can see where koz gets his beliefs. my beliefs
              are just a little cocked out of normal (for
              liberals or conservatives). so you’ve either got
              the idea that I’ve got “sooper sekret knowledge”
              or that I’m making it up out of whole cloth.
              I think if I was making it up out of whole cloth
              i would be better than this.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                What have I said that you’d call bullshit on?

                This is a question that admits too many answers for my poor brain to process. I’m going to go daydream about Sony’s tanks instead.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Don’t forget how the Mafia will come and kill you if you ask for a raise.Report

              • Avatar Kimsie says:

                … now you’re just making shit up.
                seriously, I’ve said enough unlikely shit
                you really don’t need to go there.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Ooh, ooh, and that Lincoln lost America’s empire, and that he was to blame for the Nixon-Goldwater Southern Strategy! And that if you make less than $200,000/year, you’re not even middle class!Report

              • Avatar Kimsie says:

                You’re trying too hard, Jason.
                Not that I’m going to mind if you damage your credibility…
                but is it really worth it?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I could dig up the references to those claims, but I can’t be bothered at the moment. I trust that others here will remember them and will second me when I say that they’re real.

                Come to think of it, I should make a “Kim/Kimmi/Kimsie’s Stupid Outrageous Lies” page, source everything, make it permanent here at the League, and invite people to vote on their favorites.

                That would be fun.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                “and then the south would have been pulled back piecemeal. no, Lincoln did many things,b ut save the Union was NOT one of them.

                Lincoln gave us Jim Crow and the Southern Strategy — and possibly, just possibly, the loss of the American Empire.”

                Jason, I’ll stand by what i said (and the part about the southern strategy I most assuredly did say.)

                I’m no oracle, and i don’t claim much foresight either. Kindly don’t ascribe such to me.Report

    • Avatar b-psycho says:

      Wow, someone who actually still believes the bank bailouts were needed to avert total economic & societal collapse…

      Please. We just bought the .1% more lobsters.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        go talk to half the people on Calculated Risk.
        Hell, go read half of what they wrote in 2008.
        Anyone sane and in the know was sweating bullets.

        Do I LIKE that it was necessary? Fuck no.
        But try explaining what the problem was to fucking libertarians.Report

        • Avatar b-psycho says:

          Since then the depth of rot in high finance has shown itself to consist of the entire system. Good luck “reforming” that…Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            yeah, they got their cabals and shit.

            OTOH, people did big things back then, and
            not all governmental folks, to make sure
            that everything didn’t collapse on their watch.

            Self-interested? you betcha!Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          Most libertarians I know understood the full risks of doing nothing and supported doing nothing anyways.

          The long-run matters.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            They were in favor of martial law? Potential riots?
            Something like Argentina, when their fiscal system collapsed?

            Particularly if they’re in favor of that last one, they’ve got bigger balls than I’ve given them credit for. (And I’ll extend a formal apology to anyone who was willing to walk that line).Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:


              In favor of bankruptcy proceedings and liquidation though.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Then you misspoke earlier, when you said that they understood the full risks of doing nothing.
                I do not exaggerate here, though I’m not exactly giving percentage probabilities (all mentioned are well above 1% probability and thus worth mentioning).Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I did not misspeak.

                You’re point begs the question considerably. The US is not Argentina, and Somalia isnt the sole alternative to bank bailouts.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Sir, in medicine we look at all the possible consequences before suggesting a course of action. Someone who fails to properly consider the “somewhat likelies” is not doing his damn job.

                I did not bring up Somalia, (nor even Zimbabwe!). I brought up Argentina. I could also bring up Iceland, where they had riots and an attack on the state’s capital.

                If you can’t look the bull in the eyes and say, “Yes, it’s fairly improbable, but I’m willing to take that risk.” you’re just living in airy fairy town.

                Let me take a radically different example: Do you favor deep sea drilling (such as that by BP)? Do you still favor it, even knowing that we had a 10% chance of ending all life on earth, from one single accident? See what I mean? It’s fundamentally irresponsible to not look at the “somewhat less likelies”Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Let me take a radically different example: Do you favor deep sea drilling (such as that by BP)? Do you still favor it, even knowing that we had a 10% chance of ending all life on earth, from one single accident?

                [Citation needed.]Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                ping fishgrease, he’s the expert. If that crust had busted loose, we could have had a LOT of oil pouring into the water there. And with all that surfactants (otherwise known as “don’t make an oil spill on the SURFACE”) that hadn’t been tested (how they were being used.), who knows where it might have wound up. There was another hypothesis that it would have wiped out all life on the east coast (going airborne), but I don’t have any percentages on that.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                No luck. I vaguely remember something from Balloon Juice claiming that Deepwater Horizon, rather than just being a terrible environmental disaster (which, to be sure, it was) could also end civilization as we know it, through some sort of crust disruption.

                They concluded it was a bogus claim. But again, if you could provide a link, I might — hint, hint — waste even more of my time by reading up on your claim.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                This guy. You wanna do some research, go read a bunch of his diaries (quite talkative, he is).
                One thing about kos: occasionally you get subject matter experts on there.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Do you favor the 1 percent doctrine then? It would follow from everything else your said here.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                God no! Just as lazy as not treating them at all. Paranoia is NOT a virtue in high places, it is a very big vice.

                You do your statistics, you say, “can I handle it if everything goes pearshaped” — and then you make your move.

                I hang with gamblers, I’m willing to take risks, particularly when “lost $10,000” doesn’t leave me at all worse off than “made $1,000.”

                I’m no sheep, sitting around taking only the safe roads.Report

              • Interesting that you bring up medicine, because I think my position here is more in line with the Hippocratic oath.

                If the US economy were a diabetic, I’d be recommending a reevaluation of diet and lifestyle. You’d just give it an insulin shot and send it home. 😉Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … I believe you have my position sorely misread.
                I’m hoppin mad, and there’s enough shit to be done.
                We don’t need to burn down the barn to shovel out the shit
                (at least I hope to god we don’t!).Report

              • Kim, maybe I’m oversimplifying your position a bit. You believe the bailouts were a necessary evil, no?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                A lot. The bailouts were the best bad decision possible at that point in time.
                There were PLENTY of points both before and after where better choices could be made.
                At that point in time, the other guy had the upper hand. “Your money or your life” — give them the money. Then shoot ’em.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

            Libertarians worried less about suffering than about free-market principles? Shocking.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              No, libertarians worried more about everyone suffering in the long run than a few bankers getting fired when their companies imploded. 😉Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                And hand-waved over what would happen during the worldwide depression that resulted from the collapse of world trade. But hell, last time that happened things were really looking up by AD 800 or so.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Are you seriously suggesting here that if it weren’t for the bank bailouts we would have entered a new dark age?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think Schilling is being a little overboard, but I think a lot of people in their hatred for the banks have forgotten how fucked up things were back in ’08. The Big Banks imploding wouldn’t have not meant that a few rich executives would’ve not gotten a big bonus. It would’ve meant hundreds of thousands of more people out of work, the financial system being completely FUBAR’d, and world trade going from barely working to non-existent.

                Yes, you can think the bailouts were badly handled and more strings should’ve been put on the banks, but if you think we should’ve just let Citibank and JP Morgan collapse and see how the cards fall, then you’re simply substituting ideology, whether of the free market or left-wing kind in place of actual reality.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So we just prop up the current system in essentially its current form? We recognize that the problem is “too big to fail” banks, so we encourage them to become even bigger?

                The whole thing looked to me like wallpapering over the rot, not solving any actual problems. So we prevent catastrophe today, and set the grounds for repeated, and probably even bigger, problems down the road.

                And, no, I don’t think CFTC is going to do anything to prevent that problem. CFTC is nothing more than a regulatory wet dream.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                No, we get hopping mad and we do some serious work. Hell, even Michael Moore is getting in on the act (nothing like a pinch of populism, eh?).
                We got plenty of things to go fix (and a good part of that’s congress).

                I just feel like it’s a REALLY naive move to shoot ourselves in the head, simply because our legs are rotting off.

                Work’s not at all done, and you’re right, absolutely right, all we’ve done is bought time to get working…Report

              • I think there’s very little that Michael Moore does out of genuine conviction anymore.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                No, James, I would’ve nationalized them and in the process of winding them away from federal control, broke them into smaller banks.

                Again, yes, I think TARP as passed was bad policy. But, simply letting everything fail would’ve been even worse policy.Report

              • Jesse,

                I would’ve done that too! I would have tried bankruptcy and liquidation first, but I would definitely have nationalized them over bailing them out.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Are you seriously suggesting that the only consequences of not bailing out the banks would have been some well-deserved firings?Report

              • No, but can we meet somewhere between us but much closer to my side?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I’m with Jesse (and, it appears, to some extent, you) on nationalizing and breaking up (also prosecuting with the threat of real sentences at real prisons) rather than bailing out. But just letting things collapse punishes mostly the wrong people.Report

              • I heavily favor prosecution.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Argentina is worse than a “new dark age” in my not so humble opinion. And that happened, recently.Report

              • Really? What’s Argentina’s literacy rate in 2012?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Argentina is a hotbed of software development, because the publicly supported universities graduate a lot of programmers.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You’re ignoring the facts on the ground, and choosing to live in a magic fairy land where MONEY MEANS NOTHING!
                Libertarians who think that the loss of monetary valuation would cause no disruption whatsoever.
                Who’d have thunk it?Report

              • I’m actually more against redistribution from the have-nots to the haves more than I am against redistribution in principle. No matter what kind of numbers and theory it’s dressed up in, the bailouts represent a net transfer of wealth from the tax pool to the wealthiest and most privileged sector of our economy.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                *nods* great! we agree!
                Yeah, it was a horrid move. I don’t like that we had to do it.
                I will defend the folks what did it, because the alternative
                was genuinely worse.

                Now’s the time for us to right the ship and make sure this is NEVER allowed to happen again.

                (I kinda like a bit of redistribution from the haves to the have-nots. Keeps the have-nots from rioting, if nothing else)Report

              • “Now’s the time for us to right the ship and make sure this is NEVER allowed to happen again.”

                That’ll be far more difficult now that we’ve set the precedent.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yeah. But, god willing, now we’ll be ready.
                And the precedent got set a long time ago,
                you weren’t watching or you were cheering.Report

  4. Avatar Glyph says:

    Hear, hear. As I have said repeatedly, the Kill List is an absolute disqualifier for me. If I thought there was even a ghost of a chance that Romney would address it, I’d pull the lever for him.

    Nob and I have gone a few rounds on this topic, and Nob has attempted to demonstrate that the list arose out of gaps in extant legal precedent/processes/security needs. Nob has also proposed establishing a framework to address similar situations in future.

    I understand that these issues are complicated, and I have no doubt that Obama and his advisers were doing what they thought needed to be done at that time to protect American citizens. But I would have enormous respect for the man now if he took Nob’s prescriptions to heart, and said, “You know, at the time we did this, we were in uncharted waters and time was short. But it is apparent to me that the status quo is not an acceptable state of affairs, and so I am endorsing [something like Nob’s proposal] to ensure judicial review and the protection of basic American rights in similar situations in the future”. If he did this, I’d pull the lever for Obama.

    It is *critical*, IMO, that this situation be resolved ASAP.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      In case it is not clear, let me clarify – my specific area of greatest concern is the current lack of due process for US citizens on the Kill List (ex. Al-Awlaki). Non-US-citizens are a whole different kettle of fish. This is not because non-citizens’ lives are somehow worth less; it is because the implications to US democracy as a whole are catastrophic when the Kill List can be applied to US citizens. It makes our President a King.Report

      • Avatar GordonHide says:

        No, if you are at war and some of your citizens are fighting for the other side you are entitled to kill them without due process unless they surrender or fall into your hands as prisoners. If they become prisoners they may be tried by whatever court is constitutional. I note that some American citizens were caught working for the Germans in WWII. They were tried before a courts martial even though not in the military. Some were executed. It was apparently legal.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          This hinges on a definition of ‘fighting’ that I am unsure Al-Awlaki, or the Kill List itself, actually meet. The Kill List, as far as we know (and of course, we don’t, not really), means ‘kill this person on sight, no matter where they are, or what they are doing at the time’. Not ‘Kill if on a battlefield, gun in hand, or about to blow up a building’; not ‘Kill while attempting to capture’.

          And this is all on secret evidence. This makes the president judge, jury and executioner, outside the established laws of war or exigent circumstances.

          RE: WWII German spies & saboteurs – 1.) there was a declared war and 2.) even a court martial can be considered due process. This is more than Al-Awlaki got.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          And how do you know everyone on the list meets your criteria? After all the contents of the list and the method for putting people on it are both secret.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I should preface this by saying I am totally okay with a kill list that involves non-American citizens provided that collateral damage is avoided at all cost. That means no drones, no explosions. It means serious men slitting throats under dark of night. I also want oversight and all kills announced by the WH within one week of when they happen.

    Now, with that fantasy out of the way, I am going to put on my partisan hat and tackle Jason’s post. I was a lot more rah-rah Republican between 2004 and 2008. As such, I remember the Bush protests. I remember the way that the Left bemoaned the end of our civil liberties. I remember the villification of John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. It was ugly. So I ask:


    I also have to wonder, is the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare a fair trade-off?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      No, it’s not.
      From my perspective, the left is still trying to drag the right kicking and screaming out of the festering hole it’s dug itself into. When we can have real elections again, we can have sane discussions.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      “The left” is still pretty pissed about it. “Liberals” not so much. And “the left” is still protesting.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I agree with this Chris. This is one situation where the distinction between “the left” and “liberals” is an important one.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:


      Hiding behind a blue curtain. “Our guy” won’t abuse presidential power as much as the “other guy” will. Jason’s worry is how we tolerate even the possibility of such abuses, and I’ll concede that it requires some mental gymnastics on my part. Concessions to principles and whatnot. But like Burt, I think this is the perhaps the best we can expect from a dynamic system. I’d rather have government where things like kill lists were impossibilities. But that’s unrealistic, in my view. The best we can hope for is to reduce the likelihood of those possibilities being expressed in policy, and that requires changing not the structure of governance, but content of it. Personally, I think we’re heading in that direction, at least if history is any guide.

      Not that any of this answers Jason’s questions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        The best we can hope for is to reduce the likelihood of those possibilities being expressed in policy

        So you’re not voting for Obama?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Too busy pranking Romney to hack the database. Give it a few months.
      (actually, I bet it’s already been hacked).

      Sunlight’s the best disinfectant.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “I also have to wonder, is the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare a fair trade-off?”

      For many people, I’m sure the answer is yes. Most folks are touched far more by DADT or Obamacare than they are by the Kill List.

      “What do I care if someone halfway across the globe dies? My brother can serve now and my child is getting the medical care they need.”

      And while it might seem easy to cast these people as monsters, I think “human” is the better describer. That doesn’t make it the correct position, but an understandable one, especially for folks who are concerned more with their day-to-day lives than broader, more abstract concepts.

      All that being said, I am greatly troubled by the kill list. Can someone less ignorant than I illuminate how it came to be? Is Obama the first to have something like this?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Mike, in that the GOP and the Dems have not a lick of difference between them on drone policy specifically I’d say that the end of DADT and the passing of Obamacare is an excellent tradeoff if you like either of those which I’m 1.5 for 2.Report

  6. Avatar Koz says:

    And, from my pov anyway, such a policy is completely unnecessary even on its own terms. Any American (or foreign national) participating in acts of combat against the United States or its armed forces can already be legitimately targeted and engaged anyway.

    Some libs will rationalize that “Mitt Romney would do the same things, just worse.” Note that when a lib argues this, it will almost always be simply asserted, never argued. They want to pretend that they’re not enabling this horrible Administration, and his policies in Afghanistan, Libya, or judicial assassination but that just doesn’t hold water.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Nu? Cite evidence on what Romney would do better, and how. I tend to lose track, are cons interventionist or isolationist today?Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I belive Koz’s argument is, “Romney wouldn’t have a kill list, because he doesn’t need to: he can kill them all without one.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Exactly. Kos’s argument is that Libs are delusionally confused: they think Romney would be worse, so they support Obama in a practice they despise. Conservatives, on the other hand, are crystal clear: Romney wouldn’t even bother keeping the kill list a secret since he has the authority to kill everyone on it anyway. Which pretty much undermines the claim that liberals are delusional in thinking Romney would be worse…Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          This is crap. Every Commander-in-Chief has the authority to kill eneny combatants against America. Mitt Romney as C-in-C has that authority too.

          This was not a facet of executive authority that needed to be expanded, but President Obama has nonetheless expanded it, thereby creating problems in the future when and if another President (or the people in general) want to unwind it.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Does Assange count as an enemy combatant?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Koz, how has Obama expanded it? By keeping the list a secret? You’re conceding that Obama, as the CinC, already has that authority, yes? What has he done that extends the already granted power in question?Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              The Prez, specifically the armed forces under him, already has the authority to kill anyone who is an enemy combatant. This President claims the authority to authorize the assination of anyone he designates to be an enemy combatant. It’s not a real close call.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That’s a power granted under the Bush Admin: the President of the SecDef have the unilateral power (well, it’s not quite unilateral) to designate anyone an enemy combatant. How is Obama’s use of that power an expansion of the power granted to the President under Bush?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “the President and the SecDef..”Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                President Bush justified continued incarceration of people based on that designation. President Obama is designating people not in custody as enemy combatants for the purpose of assassinating them.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m confused, Koz, and I’m not sure it’s that I’m saying something wrong or that I don’t understand what you’re saying. Let’s go thru things a little more slowly.

                Here’s the Administration’s defense of the legality of drone strikes:

                Remarks of John O. Brennan – Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

                First, these targeted strikes are legal. Attorney General Holder, Harold Koh and Jeh Johnson have all addressed this question at length. To briefly recap, as a matter of domestic law, the Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack. The Authorization for Use of Military Force—the AUMF—passed by Congress after the September 11th attacks authorizes the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11. There is nothing in the AUMF that restricts the use of military force against al-Qa’ida to Afghanistan.

                As a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense. There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.

                Let’s suppose that argument is sound. (It might not be, which is of course an issue worth considering.)

                Question 1: Is a kill list limited to AQ operatives constitutional? (On the face of it, it seems like it is, yes?)

                Question 2: Does the targeting of specific AQ operatives by the Obama Admin. constitute an expansion of already existing US power? (On the face of it, it seems like the answer is no.)

                What are the counterarguments?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Question 1: Is a kill list limited to AQ operatives constitutional? (On the face of it, it seems like it is, yes?)

                To what extent is membership to AQ decentralized?

                That is to say, to become a member of ELF or ALF, you pretty much just have to say “I am a member of ALF!” You break in, you free the lab animals, you spray-paint “ALF DID THIS” on the wall… well, then ALF was responsible. There’s no place to send a membership fee to. No form to fill out. No one to say “no, you’re not a member of ALF”.

                To what extent is this also true of AQ?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                First of all, drone strikes aren’t the same as kill lists, drone strikes are about means whereas kill lists are about ends. There’s a lot of things to quibble with regarding the War on Terror in general but I specifically hate the kill lists, for several reasons.

                1. It codifies many bad things for future precedent in the worst way possible.
                a. It undermines geographic limits on warfare.
                b. It undermines temporal limits on warfare.
                c. It aggregates, in a very bad way, every form collaboration with the enemy when in fact there are many different kinds which should be handled in vastly different ways.
                d. It undermines American citizenship (that’s actually an important consideration for me relative to others here at the League).
                e. It renders the exercise of executive authority less accountable.
                f. The means in which somebody gets on the list itself a centralization of power.

                2. The existence of such a list is public, contrary to the intent America wants to present of itself.
                3. From what I can see, it’s not needed to solve any problem.Report

              • Avatar Plinko says:

                I don’t think I’ve ever been in more agreement with you than on this very comment, Koz. But I find it hard to square with your initial comment?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                It doesn’t seem that hard to me. For whatever actions of President Obama that they don’t like, libs rationalize them away on the theory that President Romney would be worse. In addition to whatever else could be said against that, it’s horribly lazy. It’s as if they want us to accept as equally credible their pejorative extrapolations or speculations regarding Mitt Romney and the known facts of President Obama and his conduct in office.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Stillwater is correct: As C-in-C, Obama seems well-grounded by the post 9-11 AUMF of 2001. Obama’s actions are exactly as reviewable as any military commander’s, and must be judged in that light, not civilian ones. [Putting the lie to the old argument that terrorism is a law enforcement matter. No Obama supporter, esp John Kerry, iirc, can have this question both ways.]

                FTR, the AUMF against Terrorists requires the target have a link to 9-11—the prez can’t just waste anybody, like fundies or capitalists. Some argue al-Qaeda in Yemen isn’t the same al-Qaeda that took out the Twin Towers. Perhaps. It’s a technicality that troubles neither the executive nor the legislature.

                And as for the judicial branch, one law prof noted we have a pretty specific “Congressional intent” here, not just the executive branch going rogue. If Congress felt President Obama was exceeding his authority, they could easily pass a resolution clarifying the post 9-11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, saying that it’s not intended to authorize the President’s “kill list” and drone war.

                But they have not, because as one poll put it, 82% of the American people approve and perhaps so does a similar %age in Congress.

                It seems creepy that President Obama is so hands-on with the kill list, but it beats just blindly turning over the program to the military.

                I think. 0?



                Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Commander in Chief clause, states that “[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

                The questions of whether and to what extent the President has the authority to use the military absent a Congressional declaration of war have proven to be sources of conflict and debate throughout American history. Some scholars believe the Commander in Chief Clause confers expansive powers on the President, but others argue that if even if that is the case, the Constitution does not define precisely the extent of those powers. These scholars tend to construe the Clause narrowly, asserting that the Founders gave the President the title to preserve civilian supremacy over the military, not to provide additional powers outside of a Congressional authorization or declaration of war.

                The terrorist attacks of September 2001 created new complications for the separation of powers within the war powers sphere. After September 11, the United States Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists (AUMF). While the AUMF did not officially declare war, the legislation provided the President with more authority upon which to exercise his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, Presidential Commander in Chief powers increase when Congressional intent supports the actions taken by the Commander in Chief. The AUMF served as that expression of Congressional intent.

                Written before the Obama drone war, BTW, but the issues are the same.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Putting the lie to the old argument that terrorism is a law enforcement matter.

                So 400 terrorist convictions in civilian courts is a lie?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            > This is crap. Every Commander-in-Chief
            > has the authority to kill enemy combatants
            > against America. Mitt Romney as C-in-C
            > has that authority too.

            There’s a little problem there, Koz.

            That whole “declared war” thing. It’s kind of an important procedural detail.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Actually, I believe Koz’s argument is, “Some magicians can walk on water. Mitt Romney can swim through land.”Report

    • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

      You tell those dirty libs, Koz! I have faith that the man of “Double Gitmo” fame, who gave that speech at VMI earlier this week, and who has surrounded himself with folks urging him to officially start up the torture program again will be much better on the issue of “War on Terror” civil liberties!Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        I will, believe me. As far as what the future President Romney will do, frankly I don’t know. We don’t know the problems he will have to face, at least we don’t know all of them. We do know that smart people tend to do smart things, whereas incompetent people do, well, whatever it is that President Obama does.

        The worst of President Obama’s moves are so stupid they don’t even make sense on their own terms. I don’t know what the President’s policies about Libya or assassination were intended to accomplish.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Who has ever told you that you need to vote for him? Who, especially here, has not understood and respected that you were never going to, with prefectly legitimate reason?Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      For a libertarian, voting for Gary Johnson is an easy call. For a liberal who favors Obamacare and the rest of the social safety net, it’s not that simple.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        Completely understandable. Liberals should vote for a liberal.

        Her name is Jill.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … you mean biden’s wife?Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          I’d support her in a primary, but ultimately politics is about coalitions. Vote or don’t, but you can’t pretend that a third-party vote does more for liberal goals than a vote for Obama–as our esteemed OP stated, neither accomplishes much at all.Report

          • Avatar b-psycho says:

            I’m not saying I’m voting for her (I’m not voting for anyone for president, because that’s who I trust with such power: nobody), just that if one still believes the story on voting then they should use it to support whoever comes closest to representing their view of things. Thus, those concerned with civil liberties who support government administered social programs should support Jill Stein, and those so concerned on the former while skeptical of the latter should support Gary Johnson.

            On the other hand, if one doesn’t give a shit beyond govt required & mandated health insurance, there’s Obama. If unconcerned beyond tax cuts on capital, Romney.Report

            • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

              Thus, those concerned with civil liberties who support government administered social programs should support Jill Stein…

              Assuming you actually have that option. I’m not totally sure, but I doubt the Greens are going to be on my ballot in Kansas.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          I don’t think anyone is allowed to mention Jill this election cycle. As her existence on the green party ticket would pull more votes from Obama than Romney, she’s probably had 2 milliseconds of coverage from the mainstream press.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            I don’t think you need to resort to elaborate explanations as to why she doesn’t get much press attention–she’s a minor-party candidate. Virgil Goode isn’t getting a ton of coverage either.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Is it really that wrong to anticipate a possible line of objection and answer it in advance?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Sort of, if you’re making the claim that someone is likely to object to your voting intention, or telling you whom you must vote for. It would be presumptuous of them to do so, and it’s presumptuous to anticipate that people of good will will. (And who were you talkng about? The statement was made in the second person.) Granted, it’s not a wrong as killing people.

        Of course, if what you’re reallydoing here, without owning to it, is objecting to others’ voting intention and telling them whom they must vote for, then it would make sense for you to anticipate their lines of defense. But then also see above.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          …or not vote for, in this case.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          The second person was offered as a rhetorical flourish, not as personally imagining anyone necessarily occupying the role.

          Really, this isn’t so uncommon. Dialectical philosophy has been doing it since Plato. Anticipate an argument, answer it. Repeat as needed.

          Where it gets unfair is when a writer invents an argument that no one would ever even consider making, merely to have the pleasure of knocking it down. Yet “vote for the lesser of two evils” is such a common proposition that I didn’t think I could be accused of fantasy in anticipating it.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I think it’s significant that this is, as far as I am aware, the community in which you most engage these questions, and in any case the community into which you chose to issue that second-person injuction (apparently targeted at all speakers everywhere, however generally their supposed injunstion “to you” about whom to vote for). And here, as far as I am aware, no one is telling anyone they must vote for Obama on the basis of being the lesser of evils on this issue.

            My experience of Lo2E arguments in this election on these issues is that they ahve been offered as defense of votes for Obama against attacks saying that such an intention proves either insincerity about objections voiced to similar policies under Bush, or simply insufficient concern over these issues. But perhaps you’ve seen more affirmative arguments made out in the ‘sphere that people particularly concerned about these issues must vote for Barack Obama as the Lo2E in this election on them and take no other course than I have, and if so and those are what you’re referring to, then fair enough. Of course, a simple statement that someone is the lesser of evils on some particular thing is not an injunction that anyone in particular must vote for him.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Let me amend that: no, it’s not wrong. It’s presumptuous and unfounded. Have people told you what you need to do with your option to vote? Anyone we should care about? Do you really expect anyone to?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          Gosh, I dunno. Maybe you could try asking some people around here?

          Because it’s so unreasonable as an argument, and gosh, no one would ever ask me to consider voting for the lesser of two evils. Wow, how presumptuous and unfounded of me.

          Not only do I expect people to tell me how to vote, but they are offering advice. Here. On this blog. On comment threads that you’ve participated in. And very often, they have argued that while both of the big two candidates are bad, it’s still important to choose the lesser of two evils.

          I can’t believe that you didn’t notice this. I also can’t believe that you actually made me go look for it and link to it. Really.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            And very often, they have argued that while both of the big two candidates are bad, it’s still important to choose the lesser of two evils.

            Folks have argued that on a specific issue (usually in foreign policy) the two parties may be indistinguishably “evil”, and on those issues their preferred candidate is perhaps marginally less bad. But the argument doesn’t generalize from there. On other issues, people think their candidate/party is actually doing good things. So it’s incorrect to say of most people that they think they’re voting for the lesser of two evils.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I recall a lot of defenses and practically no injunctions. I don’t have time to go through those, but for now I see Koz making the argument that we must vote for major parties generally, but not related to these issues. I see Mike S. saying he’s going to vote for the Lo2E on these issues, maybe or maybe not as the primary driver.

            I think you’re conflating alot of different kinds of public statement here.Report

  8. Avatar GordonHide says:

    From my point of view it all depends on whether you think you’re at war. If you are at war there is no doubt the commander in chief has, legally, whatever power over his enemies his military and security forces can provide him with.

    On the other hand, if you are not at war, the commander in chief has no such authority and should be impeached and criminally charged if he murders foreigners or Americans in any jurisdiction.

    I happen to think you are at war. One of the reasons you are not doing as well as you might like is too many of you can’t face up to the reality.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      The war you think we’re waging isn’t the real war at all, just a distraction.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Are we to be at war everywhere, and forever, against an enemy that isn’t even capable of surrendering?

      Does the territory of the United States resemble a war zone to any appreciable degree? If not, why does it need to be governed by the laws of war?

      The reality is that we are at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya, but not really anywhere else at the moment. Beyond that, it’s just legalism and sophistry, without the tiniest bit of “reality” to face up to.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        I thought we were at war against a tactic (that we define as broadly as we like)?

        Actually, aren’t we actually at war against language itself?Report

        • Avatar mark boggs says:

          And Christmas…and women…and religion…and secularists…Hell, I’m standing here punching myself in the face I’m so confused about all the things with which we are at war.Report

      • Avatar GordonHide says:

        @Jason Kuznicki
        The theatres you name are only the most active ones. America’s enemies can only fight using a guerilla and raiding strategy against undefended or poorly defended targets. They are only loosely organised but strike almost anywhere in the world including in the American homeland itself.

        In my view your view would be dangerously naive if you were in a position of authority in America’s defence effort.

        As for America being governed by the laws of war, I think you know full well that civilian law still holds for most purposes. I would agree there is a debate to be had about recent legislation following 9/11. Personal privacy and freedom have been curtailed in pursuit of better security. I don’t feel even slightly qualified to judge if the balance is reasonable.

        As for your comment on “the forever war”: wars against guerillas and raiders have been won in the past. As with all wars where outright victory is unlikely you need to use a strategy which makes the cost of war for your enemy too great for the advantage gained. That is what your enemy is trying to do to you. They are well aware that outright victory is beyond their means.Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own. On that list was a 14 year old blogger named Malala Yousufzai. Surgeons have just extracted bullets from her neck and cranium. Her crime? Advocating for the girls of Swat Valley, once a paradise, to attend school. The Taliban stopped her bus, singled her out and shot her.

    Anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      You’ll note that our good friend Jason is merely advocating that the military might of America be not used for these Kill Lists.
      Perhaps he might put in a good word with the Kochs…

      Anyone rich and powerful enough has an Enemies List — hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to know that you’ve got one too.
      Some people think the folks on their enemies list need to be killed. Others ruin their lives. Some just troll the living fuck out of their enemies until they’re batshit insane.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I’m growing sick and tired of these puerile arguments about Kill Lists. These pantywaists seem entirely content that 14 year old bloggers should be singled out and killed — oh, to be sure — they’ll be sure to agree with the idea that such things are evil. And somewhere along the line, we shall hear the Infamous But which negates every such stipulation.Report

        • Avatar b-psycho says:

          …you’re calling critics objectively pro-taliban now?

          Tell us, where else shall the great American fist of justice strike next? Or to save time, where will it not?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Now I didn’t say that. I did point out they’ll make all sorts of stipulations before the Infamous But. So you’ll excuse me for noting that any sentence containing a But might as well start with No.Report

    • Tu quoque much?

      What used to differentiate “us” from “them” was the rule of law, not the rule of men.

      My vote is probably going to Gary Johnson.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        umm… bullshit. I’ve read my Steinbeck. I know about the Homestead Strike. They had the rule of law on their side.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        That’s pathetic. We’re talking about Kill Lists. Seems entirely germane to me, if not to you. The overlap’s pretty obvious, as outlined in the first sentence: those on our Kill Lists have Kill Lists.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          those on our Kill Lists have Kill Lists.

          Says who? (This is a rhetorical question. The fact that it has an answer is the answer.)Report

        • And you’re certain that the people on our kill list have kill lists how? Because the nice man on TV said so?

          Even if, mistakes happen. Oops, sorry we got the wrong “BlaiseP”. Guess that’s what he gets for sharing a name with a terrorist. Lie with dogs and you get fleas!Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Two words. Malala Yousufzai

            Or should I infer from the tone of your argument that she wasn’t actually shot?Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I infer from your argument that her shooters are already on the kill list? Because that’s the only way your argument works, and it implies a level of access to the current administration that I did not until now know you had.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                or that he’s been reading more on wikileaks than I have.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Stop right there. I was asked how I knew the people on our kill list have kill lists. I responded with the name of a girl on just such a kill list. She’s been blogging, anonymously, since she was 11 years old, about life under the Taliban. So they singled her out and shot her.

                So let’s have none of this twaddle about how I know the Taliban have kill lists. The Taliban have murdered many of the tribal leaders I worked with in the Jalozai camp in Pakistan. They were on kill lists, too.

                What I didn’t say was that I know who’s on that kill list. I merely stated the bastards who shot this blogger belong on that list. Do try to pay attention.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                As Koz and Mike have noted elsewhere in the thread, the laws of war were already adequate to the task of waging war. Adding a kill list is wholly unnecessary to that end.

                It might be worth asking what other ends it could also serve, then.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That being the case, as we are engaged in hostilities with the Taliban, these aren’t Kill Lists. Your ideas about warfare are sadly antiquated. They’ve been past their sell date since the the first aerial bombardment of civilian targets. Maybe it’s time your notions about the Laws of War were updated by, oh, maybe a century or so. I know you’re up the the challenge.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Rather pugnaciously put, but a valid point.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

                Pugnaciously Put, but a Valid PointReport

              • Avatar Kim says:

                easy answer. Killing the folks like Assange, the people the government doesn’t want talking. Or those swiss bankers…Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, you’re entirely missing the point. Who is on our kill lists? How do they get there? Who determines that they should be there? And how do we, that is you and I, know that the people on that list have kill lists?

                No one is disputing that there are people out there who have their own kill lists, literally or figuratively.

                Once we’ve answered the actual questions above (not the ones you want to answer, which no one is asking), we can ask the real question, is wise to kill people who have kill lists, because they have kill lists, without some sort of process in place?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I have missed no points. As for questions I’ve asked, all I’ve gotten is so much shrieking and ululating and running around in little circles, with the usual suspects flapping their hands at the wrists. But no answers.

                Our kill lists are no different than any other target list. You don’t like the idea of civilians on kill lists. Our enemy doesn’t wear a uniform and therefore deserves no Geneva Convention treatment. Anwar al-Awlaki had already been given a death sentence by the Yemeni government, we can get him off the list of Americans we’ve had on kill lists.

                Now let me tell you how these things actually work: there’s something called an Interpol Red List. Any police force in the world can arrest these guys, it’s a global warrant system. The military has Kill or Capture lists.

                See, y’all need to grow up and see the world as it is a, a goodly chunk of it beyond the rule of law. The Red List doesn’t work there. Nobody’s going to arrest these guys. They go on CIA and other agency lists, troublesome customers for the entire civilised world. They’re tracked and rewards are put out for them. If we get one of these guys in our sights, then the CIA and military go into overdrive. There’s no Kill List. It just doesn’t fucking work that way. They pop right up for immediate executive attention. It’s all on a one-off basis.

                Take the cynical view here, try to dump all this weak thinking for just a wee moment — and open your minds to a bit of sunlight.

                CIA and the military doesn’t want to kill these guys. They’re far, far more useful alive than dead. Often, it’s far more important to know where they take a piss, so you can find where a whole bunch of them might be, and you can form up a military target. Very easy to spot a puddle of piss in the IR. Plinking these guys one by one, it just doesn’t happen that way. We watch them, often for years.

                Now here’s an aspect of this problem which Jason hasn’t addressed. More often as not, we capture these guys alive. But for many years, we’ve been turning them over to regimes which torture those prisoners. Now we do it ourselves, or did it, and there’s no washing that stain out of our shorts. Quit worrying about those kill lists. They’re not the problem, those targets are military targets, actual threats.

                And those lists are less secret than you think: we share intelligence even with regimes you might think we wouldn’t. The last thing we want is some political crisis arising from murdering the citizen of another country. Even Pakistan complains about the US drone strikes but they don’t complain when we’re killing Taliban. I’ve been reading the Pakistani papers on this since last night and the whole country is in a rage at the Taliban at this point.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                I agree with most all of that, but am troubled by the kill list on a procedural, or perhaps more accurately a structural standpoint. In most of our early state constitutions, the command of local militias was given to judges instead of mayors or county executives because they felt that a judge was less likely to have a political motive or abuse the office for his own ends. At the state level, the governor was in charge, but from there the chain of command didn’t automatically replicate the civil political structure.

                My gut feeling is that you don’t want people at the top targeting individuals because it creates the temptation to change the political landscape by rubbing out personal enemies. It gets too close to kings and queens ordering the arrest and execution of rival claimants to the throne. But you also want them to have executive power, backed by the representatives of the people, so perhaps they should limit themselves to declaring war or declaring a state of hostilities (the pirates will be eradicated!) and then let the trigger pullers do their jobs, generating operational orders or kill lists that flow from a logical, strategic approach to defeating the enemy.

                The Presidential kill order strikes me as giving the king the power to insert the removal of his second cousin into what is otherwise a military “to do” list. It also ties the President to a particular death carried out on his orders, as opposed to “It’s war. Shit happens.” And of course it’s an evil-Spock Star Trek mirror of giving the President the power to pardon, not the power to condemn.

                From a structural standpoint, I’d say that the people should decide what the proper procedure should be, the military should implement it, and the President should keep to the big strategic questions, as the kill list is a bizarre anomally like having the President insert himself down into the county traffic court level on a case-by-case basis.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                European ethics about warfare evolved to separate civilians from combatants. We’ve been gradually refining these ethical constructs over time but long distance weaponry and aerial warfare, culminating in the nuclear weapon have put an end to all such niceties.

                Now our enemies will emplace weapons in schools and hospitals and sacred buildings, knowing we won’t fire on them. Our scruples have only become an exploitable soft point.

                All this talk about kings and suchlike is just maundering horseshit. If they played ball with us, we’d play ball with them. If they negotiated in good faith, we’d parlay with them. Probably work out very well for all concerned. But that’s not the game they’re playing and as such we should quit playing the game and just shove the bat up their ass and put the fear of death into them all.

                You want to talk about Structural Problems. Now let’s suppose we did have Mr. Mujahid in our sights. This guy just shot a 14 year old blogger on the orders of his religious leader.

                Are you serious about putting out a warrant on him and expecting some goddamn Dudley Do Right to go out there and arrest his ass? In the back of beyond?

                Whose army pays him? He’s not a soldier by any definition. This isn’t some Kobayashi Maru problem, it’s a question of waging war on a well-defined enemy of the USA and our ally, Afghanistan, a nation upon which we have poured out blood and treasure so these poor bastards can have elections and a government by and for the people.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                Blaise, I don’t believe that I, nor many of the others here, dispute that killing active enemies of the state. I even think that many would agree that it can, at times, be worth the loss of innocent lives.

                What makes me uncomfortable is the secrecy of the kill list, and the attempt to drape this particular aspect of a global, often blurred conflict in the majesty of the law.

                In an odd way, I feel more comfortable with the idea of America breaking (or at least circumventing) the law to get Those Who Must Be Got, rather than changing the law to pretend that nothing nasty is going on. People should be unsettled by the idea of Kill Lists; some things cannot be justified under the law without harming the integrity of the law.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Kill List is an open secret. I’ve already laid this out for y’all. Start with the Interpol Red List. Every intelligence service in every country in the civilised world has another, shorter list, active threat targets.

                You don’t think it’s just the USA which has become the target of terror, do you? In like manner, those lists are shared. Russia’s been fighting a war on Islamic terror for many decades now. You can bet your life they get a copy of our list. China’s facing Islamic terror threats, they get a copy, too.

                Quit worrying about the Kill List. It’s just bullshit, okay? It’s not a kill list in the first place, we want them alive. We ought to worry about torture, how we behave to our prisoners once we get them, and believe you me, we get lots of them alive.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Oh, I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill the Taliban who shot the girl, I’m saying that the decision to kill that Taliban should be made by a major or colonel, not the President of the United States, who should instead be deciding things like whether he should authorize colonels to engage such people in a particular combat area.

                He should be setting the parameters of what our military will do and where it will act instead of making out a Christmas list naming the people he wants removed from existence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                George, here’s how it works: POTUS is the final review for such an action. He’s the civilian in the loop.Report

            • This appears to be a simple rehash of your original tu quoque argument.

              Because someone somewhere in the world attempts execution without a trial, we have the right to do the same?

              No, we have no more right than they do. The correct answer isn’t to go assassinate the shooter (do we know his/her identity with certainty?), but to actually catch them and put them on trial.

              And not us, but their fellow citizens.

              When people are shot in our country, this is how we do it. A sovereign nation (Pakistan) has the right to its own internal justice (or injustice if it chooses). Or are we now the world’s policeman? Because I never voted for that.

              We’re not going to bring democracy, or the rule of law, to another people who aren’t ready and hungering for it themselves. If they want their stone age tribal justice, then they’ll have it until they get sick of it and change themselves of their own accord. We should support those efforts to change as much as possible, short of actual military action.

              Your underlying attitude seems to be “if we do it, it must be right because we are the good guys”. Am I correct? I see no other basis for a moral code in what you’re arguing.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                And here’s where I take your ear firmly and gently whisper into it… “Do answer the question, as asked. Was Malala Yousufzai actually shot for blogging by the Taliban?”Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                Yes, she was.

                Now, how does the barbaric behavior of the Taliban get around to justifying killing civilians in several other countries?Report

              • Avatar Kimsie says:

                be fair to blaise. he may actually be suggesting we employ assassins, who rarely miss their targets, rather than drones.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Uh, no. When I have a suggestion, I’ll make it. Thankyathankya.Report

              • Since I wasn’t there, I can only reply with what the media have reported. Yes, it seems the Taliban have claimed responsibility for her shooting. This doesn’t change the fact that you are making a tu quoque argument in the least.

                I don’t know that the person who ordered the shooting, or who carried it out, is on the kill list, since it is a secret. And neither do you. You don’t know what the people on the kill list have done or not done. You don’t know that the people on our kill list have kill lists, but you’ve inferred as much, because ‘we are the good guys’, right? If we are doing it must be right?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Tu quoque my ass. Not once along the line, anywhere in Jason’s article did he once address the notion that there are two sides to this argument. If I happen to point out the other side of this argument, I will not now be schoolmarmed by a bunch of precious handwringers who don’t want to hear that another side just might exist, that our drones are even now hunting down the murderers of a 14 year old blogger.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                There’s a district attorney at least four years dead in Penn State. No trial yet. Someone disappeared him good.
                There’s someone else dead for asking too many questions about gas drillin.
                You can kinda tell who disappeared that guy.

                Nobody done put their killers on trial yet.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          those on our Kill Lists have Kill Lists.

          And we should always stoop to the level of our opponents. The more vile they are, the more vile we must be. The more inhumane and wicked they are, the more inhumane and wicked we must be as well. True honor and nobility lies in being exactly like that which you most despise.Report

    • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

      “The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own.”

      So you say. Of course, there’s no way to confirm this assertion cuz we’re not allowed to see the Kill List.

      There is a long list of evil fuckers doing evil shit in the world — even right here in the USA. Obviously, anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart. Fuck this due process shit, amirite?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        So, Shannon, what’s your solution to the fact that the Taliban is murdering schoolteachers and bloggers and blowing up schools? Due process starts with the rule of law. Where the Taliban’s rule of law is the modus vivendi or in this case modus moriendi, shall I gather from your assertions about Due Process that justice was done for this girl?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          betcha it’s gunsmuggling, just like the folks the Secret Service busted.Report

        • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

          I don’t accept your premise that opposition to secret Kill Lists requires me to come up with a military campaign for defeating the Taliban on behalf of the women of Afghanistan. What’s your solution to the fact that US drones operating under orders from the Kill List are killing innocent women and children?

          Look, if we are in a war against the Taliban in support of women’s rights, then lets get Congress to declare a war against the Taliban on behalf of Afghan women (because it seems to me the AUMF is a bit stale for that purpose).

          I do know that whatever solution we come up with shouldn’t involve the simple use of secret kill lists that, as best we can tell, are used for much more than going after Swat Valley blogger killers.

          What assertion about due process?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            I asked you for a solution, not more question-begging. We are already at war with the Taliban. They enforce their own laws. You’re very sure about what you Don’t Want. What you do want seems somewhat vague. Please elaborate on how we shouldn’t target murderers for drone strikes beyond the range of foot patrols, out where it’s the Taliban’s rule of law and not our own. They didn’t exactly give Malala Yousufzai a trial. They just boarded a schoolbus full of girls and put a couple of rounds in her.

            Due process my hairy white ass. We’re dealing with a regime which enforces its own laws, a regime we waged war against and drove from power and now they’re attempting to murder their way back into power and you want Due Process?Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Have you seen Lara Logan’s talk about the Taliban? RCP video of it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’m still at work, can’t watch it just now but based on what I’m hearing, Lara Logan is saying what everyone with a clue already knows, that the Taliban run pretty much the hinterlands and the Karzai regime could care less.

                But it’s not as dire as it was when the Taliban ran the show in Afghanistan. The only Afghans coming over the border into Pakistan are Taliban. While Pakistan refuses to act against them, the situation will be sorta like the war against the USSR in Afghanistan. But given this latest outrage, look for the Pak Army to go back into Swat again and once again take terrible casualties doing it. It’s a worthless army, for the most part. All the officers are fat and lazy and utterly corrupt. But that’s Pakistan for you.

                If we reallyreallyREALLY wanted to put an end to this crap, we’d put as much effort into peace talks between India and Pakistan as we’re putting into the Israel/Palestinian talks. Get China involved, too. Afghanistan is nothing but a colossal carbuncle on the world’s ass presently. If we could get the Pakistani Army to move troops off the Indian border and into the west, they could enforce their writ of law and this problem would largely go away. But while Pakistan still thinks India might be sneaking into Afghanistan, the Pak military will go on treating the Taliban as an asset.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      “Anyone who thinks such bastards shouldn’t be on Kill Lists needs his fucking head examined. Or his heart.”

      Well, you’re right that these bastards probably deserve to die.

      I’m not sure what differentiates THESE bastards from the other 3,498,571,627 other such bastards alive in the world today.

      Why is it imperative that America act as judge, jury, and executioner for bastards in the Swat Valley but not in say, the Mongolian Steppes, or the Andean mountains, or the Indonesian jungles?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        That’s a fan dance. It’s pitiful. Handwringing of the most unctuous sort. Pious baloney past its sell date. As I have said elsewhere along this thread, it’s the Infamous But.Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          however, “but they killed a 14 year old so who cares what powers the president has” is certainly not pious baloney.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          No, I am serious- why are the inner workings of Afghanistan suddenly a vital interest to us in a way that the workings of other countries aren’t?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Because they’re a strategic threat to the USA? Ever hear of Osama bin Laden? Think it couldn’t happen again?Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              The Taliban is a threat to us, by its ability to wield boxcutters? This differentiates them from Al-Quaida which has franchises all across the Muslim world how?

              So our strategy is to assume control of Afghanistan and any other country in which boxcutter-wielding Muslims oppose us, and impose a government that is in line with our interests?

              Given the fact that we have launched attacks in 6 different nations, mounted ground invasions in 2, spent about 4 Trillion dollars, and yet are no closer to that result than we were a decade ago, how many decades of war need to pass and how many different nations do we need to attack before we decide this policy isn’t working?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                We’re doing it wrong.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                So, let’s get this straight. A Taliban judicial authority handed down a death sentence for Malala Yousufzai for the crime of blogging and getting an education, contrary to Taliban law.

                That death sentence was carried out. Alas that they didn’t actually kill her.

                Justice was served? Should the Taliban come back for Round 2 and actually kill her in accordance with their laws?Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                You keep making this one point repeatedly.

                The Taliban are bad guys.

                BAD GUYS!

                REALLY BAD GUYS!

                Yeah. I think I grasp that point. Have you got another?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                And what’s more, they have Kill Lists. Which was my point all along. Now that we’ve established that the Taliban are bad guys, all caps natch, perhaps you’ll get to that part about their justice system. They do have one, you know. One which has sentenced a blogger to death.

                I have an answer, Liberty. You could have a little protest outside the Taliban embassy. And strum guitars and wave placards. You betcha.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                So the Taliban are bad and have kill lists, so your proposed solution is to get a kill list too so you can be just like them?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @James K: I’ve already described how these things actually work. Rhetorical cheap shots seem to be the stock in trade of people who continue to believe, every last bit of common sense and cynicism to the contrary, that these Kill Lists are somehow Bills of Attainder.

                Olly-olly oxen free. Time to quit hiding in the bushes. We long since forfeited the right to complain about the singling out of civilians after Dresden and Hiroshima, where we simply put a Big Red Circle around an entire city and marked it for destruction: man, beast, insect and plant. All this mendacious bullshit about these Kill Lists, as if the President could simply add his personal enemies to that list and everyone down his chain of command would follow his orders like little Praetorian Guards, to the point where this Semi-Righteous Indignation leads them to philippics about throwing garbage — I think I’ll throw some back.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                We long since forfeited the right to complain about the singling out of civilians after Dresden and Hiroshima,

                Because once we’ve sinned, there’s no possibility of redemption. There’s no changing our ways. The only path is forward, ever deeper into the abyss.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Would you characterise yourself as a pacifist, James?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                A) You’re posing a false dichotomy, so your question, in context, is meaningless.

                B) But for the record, no. It’s something I’ve given serious thought to. My ancestors were Mennonites, who are–at least supposed to be–pacifistic. When I got interested in studying anabaptist beliefs I gave very serious thought to pacifism, but ultimately I stumble over issues like WWII. Sometimes the only effective response to violence is violence. But I’m pacifistic enough to believe that we (humans in general, and for present purposes, specifically focusing on Americans, not because we’re worse, but because we’re all too human) are far too quick to resort to violence, and to use it when it’s not justified, not productive, or both. That’s why your question poses a false dichotomy–you seem to be suggesting that a person must either support the kill list (and perhaps the GWOT) or be a pacifist, but there’s ample midground between those two options.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                C’mon. First it was tu-quoque, then goalpost moving, now it’s false dichotomy. It’s like being nibbled to death by a frog. James, I’m relyin’ on you to hold up your end of the argument here. You usually do.

                So you’re not a pacifist. Neither am I. I see a big decision promoted through the ranks, right up to the president, who has the final say-so on the kill shot — as a vast improvement on sending out the CIA and people like me to handle some Political Objective without any direction.

                I see these bullshit Kill Lists as a vast improvement on the destruction of cities. You want evolution, a world with justified kill shots? Well so does everyone who pulls the trigger. We don’t like maniacs going off on civilians or wholesale blank atrocities like Dresden or My Lai or propping up death squads. We had to live out there with those people. They weren’t just so many faces under non la to us, they were real people. And they weren’t afraid of us and they were afraid of the people we were shooting. They fought bravely and they died alongside us.

                You want redemption? Redemption starts with admitting the truth, that we’re perfectly capable of justifying the unjustifiable, that our strongest intellectual suit is self-delusion. I’m sick of having to explain this to y’all.

                There are people of my acquaintance who simply won’t explain this stuff. They know civilians will never get it and when people make stupid noises like Throw Garbage on the President, they understand all such people are so full of shit they’re ready to burst.

                Well, James, I’m about ready to stop trying to explain it. I’ll just hold my tongue and let people make stupid noises of this sort. Because if I’ve learned one thing from this thread, nothing I’m saying is sinking in. Enjoy your little delusions folks. You should have taken the Blue Pill.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Whatever, Blaise. I know you’ve got a BIG IMPORTANT POINT to make, and it’s a damn shame all the little people are worried about being logical and consistent and all that stupid little stuff that only shallow people like programmers have to worry about.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I think his point is that these people need to be killed and that if a Kill List is what it takes to get that done then a Kill List we shall have, because Not Killing Them is not an option and the alternative is Soviet-style wiping out entire villages with bombing raids and death squads and shoggoths.

                (straps on a headband, slides a big combat knife into a vest holster, and goes all First Blood Part II.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers, James.

                Logic would evaluate an expression before loading the result into the register. You just stick to professoring and avoid any computer oriented metaphors. You don’t like the results of my evaluation? That’s your problem, not mine.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                As for you, Duck, if I need reinterpretation, you’re at the very bottom of the list of people I’d consult.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So, Blaise, you’re going to play coy and duck the real issue of your failure to make arguments that are logically valid?

                There’s the value of blogs in a nutshell. They enable fools to voice their opinion ever more loudly.

                I didn’t read any blogs for about two weeks, until today. I was happier for the last two weeks than I am today, because I didn’t encounter so much foolishness. But here at the League today I see Blaise P. arguing that we should behave just like those whose behavior we hate, and on another thread where I critique the unknowledgeable for clinging to a devout belief in an economist they can’t understand, Elias–a good guy in so many ways–seems to use that very ignorance as the justification for clinging to a devout belief.

                I think I’ve been wrong in believing there was any real value to blogs.

                Great post, Jason. Lousy commentary, all the rest of us.

                God, should there be one, bless you all.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Yeah, no shit. Let’s also note that this is only tangentially related to kill lists.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Liberty = killing bad people, or potentially bad people, or people who hang out with bad people, or people who are related to bad people, or people whose neighbors said they were bad people because they don’t like them, etc. Good to know.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                There are murderous armed militias in Sudan/Yemen/Pakistan/Egypt raping and killing women and children.

                Therefore America must immediately launch drones to rectify this situation.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                … and your proposed solution would be?Report

            • Avatar b-psycho says:

              The next OBL will be a relative of the collateral damage we created in the name of fighting the now already dead previous one.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No. OBL was depending on the feebs and fan dancers to do what we’d done in Lebanon, just back out of the Middle East like the Knights in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Run awaaaay!

                Well we didn’t. But guess what, the feebs and fan dancers haven’t exactly gone away. All very concerned about the rule of law, to be sure, oh yes, very concerned about Kill Lists. In any situation, we may rely upon them for the same answer we have always gotten from their camp: Run Away, lest we Offend Someone.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                How would the security of the u.s. have been harmed by not getting involved in Lebanon in the first place?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We went in as peacekeepers under the auspices of the United Nations.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                I know that, I just happen to reject “peacekeeping” whether under the U.N. or not as a legitimate reason for U.S. military deployment.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s a long tradition of that sort of thinking and it’s backed by sound reasoning. But it never works out in practice. Americans used to think those threats were far away, that they’d never arrive on our doorstep. That line of rhetoric has failed us too many times for anyone to seriously consider it again.

                At some point we must stand up for the rights of man, if only because all those refugees end up on our doorstep or else they stay in refugee camps for sixty years like the Palestinians, gumming up the works and we end up paying for them anyway.

                Just gotta say I find all this talk about isolationism more than slightly contemptible.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                Where does it end though, Blaise? There are monsters everywhere (some who at times our rulers cynically claim as allies, but I won’t go there for now), how long must we play whack-a-mole with the world?

                You say it’s standing up for the rights of man. Yet in the process our rights shrink, in the name of security. What are we really fighting for then? Is claiming to spread freedom abroad worth destroying it at home?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                only stupid people fearful people destroy their freedom at home. it’s stupid, just jack-damn stupid.

                Plus, what loss of freedom? Nuns still sneak into nuclear bases…Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Sounds like anything but expansion of the kill list belongs squarely in the Neville Chamberlain school of foreign policy then, eh?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Nobody quite gets Neville Chamberlain. He was tearing down old infrastructure and building the factories and armaments plants which built the aircraft which defended Britain. If it weren’t for Chamberlain, Britain would have fallen. As I’ve said any number of times, the bad historian always looks at the past through the lenses of the present.

                Chamberlain couldn’t have unilaterally acted against the Third Reich. The British military was in horrible shape. France didn’t do anything either and they were far closer. Russia, whom everyone had expected to act, did nothing either, largely because Molotov and Ribbentrop were drafting new maps of Europe and lying to each other about this and that. But I don’t have to tell you all this. You already know.

                Sounds to me like you want a nice sanitary war. Wrap the whole fucking thing in a maxi-pad the size of Texas and just pretend the Taliban don’t exist and that they aren’t a threat to the world at large.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                they aren’t much of a threat until they get nukes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Kotex Sanitary War Pads. Easy on yer conscience.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Stop moving the goalposts. Nowhere did I suggest that involvement in Afghanistan was against the national interest. What I’m saying quite clearly here is that America doesn’t need to have a Kill List just because the Taliban has one.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’m not moving the goalposts, Wrong Way Corrigan. People like me will always be pulling triggers and people like you will always be whining about it. Those Sanitary War Pads are great for bleeding hearts, too. Me, I view the president’s involvement in pulling the trigger as a democratic backstop to keep the Lieutenant Calley-s of this wicked world from repeating the Massacre at My Lai 4.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                Blaise: the old president-is-civilian-check thing is a joke now, unless you seriously think Obama giving an order that resulted in the equivalent of a My Lai would lead to impeachment & murder charges. Even the most rabidly partisan republican would defend it, or at least stay silent, since doing otherwise would be to side with Them Damn Hippies against Our Commander in Chief on war.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It’s not a joke. Clinton did say No to dropping the hammer on Bin Laden. See, this sort of dumbassery is just more proof civilians ought to know more about how the military operates.

                The military operates under separate law called UCMJ. They’re not protected by the Constitution. At any time, anyone from E1 to five star general can refuse to obey an order on the grounds it would be a violation of the Law of Land Warfare or the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners.

                At that point in time, the military grinds to a halt and a very special ceremony begins, and it can begin at any time. It’s called Summoning the Chain of Command. It’s rather like the brake pull cord on the train. It’s a very serious occasion and it’s taken terribly seriously. The subordinate has his say, repeating the order he was given. If that order is deemed unlawful, as in the case of Lieutenant Calley’s order to massacre the people of My Lai, that officer can and will be relieved of command. That’s what happened to LT Calley and that’s how Sy Hersh found out about it. The military was conducting inquiries into what went down there and Sy Hersh just happened on it.

                So President Obama goes crazy and orders up a dozen murders. Those orders will not be obeyed.Report

              • “So President Obama goes crazy and orders up a dozen murders. Those orders will not be obeyed.”

                You’re right. Our soldiers are perfect shining angels wherever they go. The best ambassadors of the American Empire I say. They especially love us in Okinawa. Because our soldiers treat the locals with such respect. I’m sure if President Obama ordered them to rape local children they’d refuse. That’s old hat.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I don’t trust the soldiers on the ground too much, to be honest. But, I do actually trust the upper brass that if a POTUS went totally crazy, they’d pull some sort of evasive maneuver. I think during Nixon’s second term, the claim was that the JCS double checked any order from Nixon with Kissinger. Now, Kissinger was an evil bastard, but he was an evil bastard with a plan.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                You’re right. Our soldiers are perfect shining angels wherever they go.

                Is that really where this debate has gone? What if the president decides to drive down to the nearest 7-11 and shoot the first dozen people he sees. Should we vote third party to ban guns, or convenience stores, or the office of the presidency to alleviate this grave danger?Report

              • Trizzlor, we don’t have to do that because our good soldiers will refuse to obey orders according to BP.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yeah, Christopher. Our soldiers are all sick heartless bastards. None of them have a conscience. I gather you’re including me in the SHB Brigade and I’m sure I deserve every nasty thing you have to say about soldiers. Your long experience in uniform certainly informs your opinions of us.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                very concerned about Kill Lists. In any situation, we may rely upon them for the same answer we have always gotten from their camp: Run Away, lest we Offend Someone.

                Objection; false dichotomy.Report

              • Avatar cfpete says:

                Responding to Blaise – up and to the right.
                The CIA gives two shits about your sacred UCMJ:

                Down to brass tacks: The US intelligence community collects the intel, relays that info to the President and recommends targets (people) for the kill list.

                Many people here are concerned about giving the President the power of judge, jury and executioner. I believe it is much worse than that.

                Who compiles the list of possible targets? Who collects the evidence given to the President in determining the Kill List?

                My concern is that you are providing a veneer of Presidential authority to a program of assassination constructed by US Intelligence Agencies.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The CIA does give two shits. Precisely two. One on SIPRNET and the other on its own comm channels.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                OBL was using the USA as a catspaw, provoking it with intolerable behavior to elicit reprisals. By eliciting the reprisals and portraying them as anti-Muslim aggression he hoped to coalesce support for a new Caliphate. With himself as Caliph. This failed, obviously. Not because the USA did not respond or because OBL lacked charisma. But because the USA’s response could not reasonably be portrayed as unjustified aggression after the dramatic destruction of 9/11, and because there really isn’t a desire for a multinational Caliphate today.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Not by Osama bin Laden.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              “Think it couldn’t happen again?”

              I actually don’t think it could ever happen again. Call it hubris if you like. Locking cockpit doors and increased vigilance of citizens is more than enough to assure that there will never be another 9/11.

              On top of this, it’s not necessary to destroy an entire region of the globe, instill another hundred years of enmity, and kill 14-year-old boys.

              Maybe this is just me the libertarian not giving a shit.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                After 9-11, I was talking to a military strategist. His comment was: “The next major terrorist attack on US soil will be assassinating an entire town. Just wipe the whole thing off the map, down to the last child.”
                Now, he wasn’t predicting no ANTHRAX, but… are you willing to lose Red Lion? How about Tyrone?Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Thank God we spent all that money on that Tiger Rock!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Despite their earnest protestations to the contrary, Libertarians do give a shit. And they know, deep down, the rights of man are in the balances. We can stand by and allow the outside world to lapse into darkness and tyranny, we’ve done it before. But it only gets worse as we watch it go down. And we’re always dragged into these things anyway.

                Personally, I think Obama has struck the right balance here. Yes, he’s going after Taliban. After I rubbed y’all’s noses in it, I finally got someone to admit the Taliban really were bad guys. But I never really got to the point where anyone admitted we not only have a right but an obligation to put down these bad guys.

                We have an obligation to the Afghan people. We invaded their country. If we leave only to have the Taliban return, we have only turned over the doubling cube. And yes, it’s hubris to think it couldn’t happen again. Not only can it happen, it will happen. We’ve made those Never Again noises before.

                Famous last words: “the war to end all wars.” War is mankind’s natural state. Peace is an illusion, carefully cherished, like stained glass in a window. We do our best to preserve it. We dream of a peaceful world. But as a species, we will never be done with war and we don’t help matters along by pretending it’s someone else’s problem. It’s the world’s problem.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                The more football, the less war.
                Humanity has engaged in a systematic breeding pattern to devise a way for men to work together and get shit done.
                It has involved some rather extensive reprioritization,but I think you’ll find we’re less violent now than then.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Kim, I have faith in humanity. I believe with all my heart that mankind is doomed to repeat its folly and eat its own vomit and shit its own bed and ruin this planet until we have to wear a fucking space suit to get to work in the morning. And I have faith, backed by every history of every nation, that this trend will continue until the sun burns down to a cinder.

                For I have faith in the hubristic idiocy of all who preach the Gospel of the Supremacy of the Individual. I have faith in the inertia of capitalism to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few and the selfishness of mankind to ignore the suffering of the poor in all times and all places. I have faith in the power of violence and hatred to silence the small, hesitant voice of reason. I have faith in testosterone, the molecule of rage, and its sovereignty over the human brain. I have faith that technology will continue to produce first toys then tools, then weapons, with which we will destroy each other. And I have faith the planet will be better when we are extinct.


              • Avatar GordonHide says:

                Perhaps you should read “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker. It might make you a little more optimistic about the future.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I have a cure for Steven Pinker’s optimism. I can show him where I buried mine.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Lovely, Blaise. Your anecdote trumps Pinker’s data. You’re old enough and well educated enough that you ought to understand why data actually trumps anecdotes, and to realize that saying the world is less violent is not saying that there is no violence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                James, feel free at any time to pay a visit to a refugee camp. It will change your life. I know Steven Pinker. I’ve used his vacation photographs in videos I’ve made. Casualties aren’t going down in the modern world. People don’t have to die to become casualties. You need to see what becomes of the survivors. They’re the ones who deserve our grief.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I remember when we had to fight with absolute conviction against the death penalty because it was the worst thing you could do to someone.

                Now it seems we have to fight with absolute conviction against lifetime imprisonment because it’s the worst thing you can do to someone.

                Before long we’ll have to fight with absolute conviction against preventing internet access because that’ll be the worst thing you can do to someone.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Well, compare our murder rate to those horrible leftie countries like Norway that don’t have soul destroying prisons and get back to me, DD.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Because they’re a strategic threat to the USA? Ever hear of Osama bin Laden? Think it couldn’t happen again?

              OBL was a tactical threat t the U.S. Treating his as a strategic threat was our big mistake.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          I’m trying to figure out what there is to your argument other than the claim, well-dressed to be sure, that two wrongs make a right.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            It really would be helpful if you’d acknowledge the idea that there really are two wrongs. That part never seemed to appear in your article, that both exist.Report

            • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

              “Objectively pro-terrorist” is SO 2002…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yeah. Taliban law seems just fine by you all. Glad to hear it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Not under my jurisdiction” should not be seen as “fine by me”.

                Do we want to start saying things that are of a sufficiently large “not fine by me” quotient should be under our jurisdiction?

                I can see a lot of things going wrong with that, actually.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How very right you are, Jaybird. Now just how should such an episode be interpreted? Kill Lists are very bad, I’m told. But all I seem to see are Many Interested Questions and Damned Few Answers.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why not “Declare War”?

                If we can’t muster the political will to get Congress to vote on it and the President to sign it, maybe that’s a good sign that what’s going on is not our problem.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Uh, how do you declare war on a non-state entity? Here’s a clue. AUMF. 14 Sept 2001.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Better question: How do you win a war against a tactic?

                You can’t expect “terrorism” to surrender. And so we’ll be forever at war, everywhere, and with the president enjoying war powers forever as well, fighting and bombing and killing wherever he pleases.

                Because Taliban!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s so lame. We don’t pull the trigger when an abstraction gets in our crosshairs and neither did the Taliban when they shot up Malala Yousufzai.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Out of curiosity, are those Talibs on our kill list now?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I hereby apologize for appearing insufficiently anti-Taliban.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The day I see anyone from the Libertarian faction give a damn about the use of force by anyone except our own government, there will be two moons in the sky. Somewhere in a galaxy, far far away…..Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise, remember when Roger and I talked about Rudolph Rummel and his research on democide (killing of civilians by government)? Remember that your response was simply to insult Rummel?

                It’s easy for you to write nonsense like this, but as usual you let your fingers get ahead of your thought processes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                James, you’re a bird of a different feather. I hardly think of you as an orthodox Libertarian for a variety of reasons.

                Rummel’s overarching theories of everything contain too many holes for me to take him seriously. He sounds too much like Tom Friedman for my tastes: Rummel’s notions of democratic peace sound exactly like the Moustached One’s McDonald’s restaurant theory, that nations with McDonald’s restaurants don’t go to war with each other.

                Democracies do go to war with each other. Clausewitz says war is politics by other means. I’d extend that thought to say a shooting war is what happens when politics fail. Nations are forever in conflict with each other. They’re at economic war with each other, they spy on each other, they form Beggar Thy Neighbour alliances. And to top it all off, they secretly cooperate with their enemies lest either one lose face. The world’s a great deal more complicated than this pious baloney Jason’s serving. People don’t just end up on Kill Lists. They rise to the attention of a world which can no longer tolerate pirates and anarchist Islamists and Maoists and international criminal gangs and other such troublers of the world at large.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Assange is now something the world can’t tolerate?
                …. really…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Assange isn’t the problem. I think he’s doing the world a great service, pulling back the covers. I really didn’t expect an honest debate when I put up my first response to this essay and I haven’t been disappointed.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Don’t that shoot to hell your argument that only bad guys get put on kill lists? Plenty of folks are after Assange and company…

                This here participant is honest, and curious about your position.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You thrust Julian Assange into this debate as if he’s on a Kill List. He’s not on a kill list. The USA hasn’t even filed any charges against him. Bradley Manning’s in prison. Personally, I think Bradley Manning’s chain of command should be in prison with him, especially the system architects and security administrators who let a troubled little freak like that stay on SIPRNET. They knew he was in emotional trouble. He should have had his clearance revoked a year before he leaked that stuff.

                But that’s not how it works. There are two flavours of idiocy at work here.

                Flavor 1. The US government blames the lowest man in the totem pole, as happened in Abu Ghraib and Haditha. Another incident, the coverup of the friendly fire incident which got SP4 Pat Tillman killed.

                Flavor 2: The conspiracy theorists who blame the President for everything, dissecting away every other consideration. Case in point, Jason’s essay here.

                Here’s a little insight into the problem of secrecy. Ever seen that flowchart which starts out “You fucked up.” ? What’s the next step in that chart? Yes, “Does anyone else know?” In the military, the logical response to a No answer is to stamp it Top Secret. That way the fart can be kept in the sack. Most truly important details such as troop movements, unit readiness, that sort of thing — details which would be of importance to our enemies — is only classified at Confidential.

                Want a more accountable government? Every senator on the Armed Services Committee can get access to pretty much anything they want, any time they want. They have military attaches who handle this sort of thing for them. Usually they have extensive contacts inside the Pentagon and CIA who keep them read into these missions. Big fuckups do happen. Innocent people do get killed. Coverups do happen. But our system of government does provide accountability. People do get punished for screwing up and most of it you’ll never hear about. Trust me, the military and the intelligence services are trying to stay out of politics and they’re fighting back against attempts to turn them into political animals. It got so bad under Bush43 Dick Cheney had to work around the CIA and NSA to gin up all those bullshit arguments for the Iraq War.

                You might have more faith in our civilian-dominated government and put less credence into these folks who would tell us Julian Assange is on a Kill List. He isn’t.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So your argument against the concept of Kill Lists is that there’s people who aren’t on them?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I don’t know if you’re bullshitting me or not. Maybe you do.
                Top Secret is what kind of clearance in the military?
                There ya go, that’s an easy one.

                You made the statement up above that everyone’s got kill lists, and that they all share ’em. You’ve also made the statement that you don’t know who’s on America’s. Now you’re stating that you do know that Julian isn’t on there.

                See, you’ve gone and made my job easy on me. The way I figure, Julian’s the type of guy governments get pissed at, not so much private citizens. And he’s got glowing jewelry to prove how much someone got pissed at him.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Clearances work rather like your path to work in the building. You come in the front door, you’re authorized to take the elevator to a particular floor. That’s one clearance. All the way to your desk, at every point where your path diverges, every turn requires a separate clearance. This is literally the way CIA Langley operates.

                Top Secret is subject to review but it’s basically a statement that divulging this fact is a threat to national security. Things get reclassified all the time. If you’re read into a matter, that means informed of an issue’s existence, you might have access to all the information related to it. It’s not as if you get a promotion from Secret to Top Secret (TS), there are as many flavours of TS as there are issues. It’s called Need to Know.

                Let’s take one flavour. SECRET/NOFORN. This means only Americans can read this document. We won’t share this with the UK. But if we wanted to share information with another country’s agency, it would be SECRET/[ACRONYM] meaning it’s not to be divulged beyond that ACRONYM specific agency. They might share it with New Zealand on the sly, but generally speaking with friendlies they’d ask before letting it out and we’d issue it ourselves at their request.

                Here’s the deal with Julian Assange and here’s how I know he’s not on a kill list. We have to cooperate with Sweden all the time and they have to cooperate with us. This isn’t even a matter of intelligence, this is strictly at INTERPOL level. There’s a Red Letter out on Assange. He’s wanted on a Swedish warrant. We’re not going to issue a warrant against him. To be sure, there’s been plenty of political grandstanding but it’s all nonsense and don’t you believe it.

                Furthermore, Assange is in an embassy. The UK is involved. They’re the ones with the problem, not us.

                And here’s the clincher: Assange has already done as much damage as he can do. He’s not on a kill list because we tolerate all sorts of leaks from within our own government. Happens all the time. These politicians can’t keep secrets, not when there’s some political advantage in exposing them.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You asserting that private citizens have access to poisonous radioactive isotopes, and are active in the UK? Are these folks on the kill list or not?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Poisonous radioactive isotopes? Horrors! Let’s hurl every X ray technician into Gitmo forthwith.

                If I want an assertion, Kim, I’ll put it into a switch statement so I can use default: and throw an AssertionError.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                James, you’re a bird of a different feather.

                Definitional convenience, what an art form. As I look back, it was actually Roger who brought up Rummel first, but no problem, we’ll just define him as unorthodox, too. By fiat of Blaise P., libertarian orthodoxy requires not giving a shit about abusive governments outside the U.S.

                Of course just because folks think U.S. intervention is often likely to create more problems than it solves does not mean they don’t care what happens elsewhere, but you just go on making false claims about other people’s motivations, because it surely requires less effort than learning the truth.

                Rummel’s notions of democratic peace ….. Democracies do go to war with each other.

                It’s not his notions. It’s a standard theory among IR theorists, primarily because it actually corresponds pretty damn well to the facts on the ground. That is, exceptions depend on some debatable definitions of democracy and war, but even allowing those exceptions the frequency of democracies warring with each other is far below what would be statistically predicted if democracy was not a relevant variable.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                As you began with debatable definitions, so do you end, James.

                Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
                As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
                Are melted into air, into thin air;

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                And I haven’t yet denounced Stalin, and this thread is 157 posts long.Report

            • Avatar Pyre says:

              So, going forward, every disparaging comment about Mitt Romney must be balanced out by an equally disparaging comment about Barack Obama?

              While that would actually make League a bit less lopsided, I think back to a discussion on Canada’s voting turnout where people were pointing out to the author that the U.S. voting turnout was much worse. Her response?


              I don’t think “are other countries doing worse than us” is a good measure of whether we’re doing a good job for ourselves or not.


              Continually stating “Well, the Taliban do much worse” is as relevant to the discussion of whether we should/should not have a kill list as “Well, Sir Robert Boyle dies on Dec. 31, 1691.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Am I the one who’s gracing these pages with churlish bushwa about throwing garbage on the President?Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                True, that is a fair point.

                However, what I’m trying to say is that whether or not the Taliban have a kill list is not a valid argument as to whether the U.S. should have one. Arguments on whether we should or should not have a kill list should be based on whether such a list is necessary, the realities of global politics, and whether we, as a constitutional republic, can accept the existence of such a list in our governmental framework.

                Admittedly, while the first two questions are generally based on the facts, the last question is a subjective one. It can usually be answered by “What if the other side wins?” If Mitt Romney (or whichever Republican nominee you found most repugnant such as Perry or Santorum) won the election, would you be okay if they had a kill list?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’ve soldiered under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Nixon had his enemies list but that didn’t exactly redound to his benefit.

                Pyre, I’ve laid out how this actually works. You’ve got it exactly backward. The President doesn’t operate Kill Lists. The CIA and the military form up actionable intelligence. Most of what the CIA actually does is bullshit filtration and it’s a goddamn shame more people don’t know what it is they do and how carefully they’re monitored. For there was a day when they weren’t monitored, when they went off to do terrible things, armed only with a vague mandate to handle some political situation. Now, we have these decisions put in the hands of the President. He can say No. Clinton said No when he had OBL in his sights: there were children around. We could have gotten him many times.

                Now you can go on attempting to say I’m trying to justify our Kill Lists because the Taliban have kill lists. And that’s not what I’m saying. So quit it. There’s a reason why we have a civilian in charge of the military and why we have Congressional oversight of the intelligence services and why there are so many lawyers in the food chain. We don’t just go around killing people. It’s bad for business.

                This is not the Roman Empire where some absent emperor like Tiberius can send out some Sejanus to do his dirty work. For one thing, our political process is robust enough to bring opposing forces to bear on the likes of Sejanus and this was equally true in ancient times, as Sejanus would find out. There’s always a Livia in the mix who can fix his little red wagon. Secrets don’t keep well in our republic any better than they did in the Roman world.

                Fact is, Bush43 allowed Rumsfeld to become just such a Sejanus and eventually even Bush43 was obliged to get rid of his lying ass. Powell had resigned in disgust, the military was angry with Rumsfeld. Only Cheney was left to defend Rumsfeld. Bush43 looked at the equation, Rumsfeld had not given him victories, Rumsfeld had annoyed too many important people so he had to go.

                Military victories aren’t partisan, Pyre. But military quagmires get awfully partisan. You get into a war, you’d better win.Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                So you’re okay with it. Fair enough.

                “Pyre, I’ve laid out how this actually works. You’ve got it exactly backward. The President doesn’t operate Kill Lists.”

                I said “the U.S.”, not the President. I suppose that I could have said “the U.S. government” but that seemed obvious. I confess that I don’t know what type of oversight there is on such a process but, given what our government seems to get away to citizens within our borders *Pulls out list of wiretaps, TSA escapades, etc*, I have no problem with the notion that the oversight is probably almost non-existent. Sure, the President (if he’s the one giving the order) may still have to pick up the phone and tell the CIA director “Make this guy dead” but that doesn’t strike me as much of a hinderance. CIA director is unlikely to say no and, once done, who’s he going to tell? They’ll be held just as responsible and, being the head of the CIA, I imagine that any director that did go public would already know whether or not rogue directors can be targeted.

                You’re saying that “it’s a goddamn shame more people don’t know what it is they do and how carefully they’re monitored.” Well, maybe the problem is that the government hasn’t really built up a whole lot of trust capital lately for people to buy the statement that they’re carefully monitored at face value.

                “Now you can go on attempting to say I’m trying to justify our Kill Lists because the Taliban have kill lists. And that’s not what I’m saying. So quit it.”

                >>BlaiseP October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am
                The guys on Obama’s Kill List have a Kill List of their own. On that list was a 14 year old blogger named Malala Yousufzai. Surgeons have just extracted bullets from her neck and cranium. Her crime? Advocating for the girls of Swat Valley, once a paradise, to attend school. The Taliban stopped her bus, singled her out and shot her.

                How was this, your very first statement, not justifying a kill list by stating “Here is where the Taliban are using a kill list. Therefore, we should also use a kill list.”?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      Boondock Saints 2016?Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What always bugs me is that when I say something like “we should have a trial in absentia!” (something that, I should point out, is also something that is vaguely troubling), I’m told that even doing something like that isn’t necessary.

    We should have used a drone to kill Troy Davis.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      My suggestion: we use a lottery to determine who we kill over there (or here, because there are always political enemies… I mean ideological enemies… I mean, people who hate us for our freedoms right here at home, right?). Because any male of military age (or at least close enough to it) is an enemy combatant if we kill them, aren’t they? This is the most fair way of doing it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I have an unworkable solution for how we might be able to square this particular circle:

        Declare War. Like officially. Congress passes it, the President signs it, and we send soldiers over there to kill people until we find someone with enough local street cred for us to put a crown on and make them sign a paper surrendering. Plaster posters showing this guy surrendering all over. Show it on the news. Declare victory. Go home.

        I am enough of an idealist to say that if we do not wish to do that, then we should not send people over there to kill people until we find someone with enough local street cred for us to put a crown on.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Dude, the moment you provide any semblance of “reality” to the War On Terror(!!!!!!) it’s ceased to be the War on Terror(!!!!!!). The whole point is to make it dramatic, distant, and with no impact on our lives whatsoever. Your solution won’t focus group well at all.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Declare War. Like officially. Congress passes it, the President signs it, and we send soldiers over there to kill people…

          Hmmm. Speaking out of a butt-cheek here (the left one, natch) I tentatively agree with Koz upthread: I think the President already has the authority to target enemy combatants (and whatnots and etceteras). If that’s right, then the “kill list” doesn’t need to be a secret for legal purposes, but for some other reason. One that I can’t quite fathom. (I mean, anyone who’s legitimately on that list would know exactly why they are, and wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they are, so it’s not like making it public would tip any cards or anything.)Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Propaganda purposes, duh. It would rile people up something fierce if we knew that Japan wanted to kill specific Americans.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              I don’t think that accounts for it, myself. In fact, I’m not sure what propaganda function is served by keeping an ostensibly justified kill list a secret. Again, anyone who’s legitimately on that list – because they’ve engaged in actions harmful to the US or whatever – knows full well that they’re a legitimate target of US military power whether they’re on the list or not. On the other hand, publicly promulgating that a kill list exists would serve a propaganda function, but the government isn’t publicly promulgating that information – at least as far as I know. And even then, it isn’t obvious that there are any propaganda benefits derived from doing so in Afghanistan, for example. Everyone in Afg. who’s an enemy of the US already knows that they’re an enemy of the US and that they’re already on a kill list.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I don’t think anyone in Afghanistan/France/Japan would think that we have a “justified kill list”, if it had citizens of their country on it. Or at least that knowledge of it would severely hurt our business.
                Someone says it’s justified — how, and in what way? I don’t find it legally justifiable when we have an ICC.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Or, would we be comfortable if Japan/France/China/Etc. were to have their own kill lists, and start lobbing drones into Dallas or Omaha.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Please. Every country with an intelligence service operates lists and they share those lists. If some citizen of France is on an American list, the French are all too glad to operate on our behalf. And lots of those crooks and murderers do end up in front of the ICC.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I think the President already has the authority to target enemy combatants (and whatnots and etceteras).

            If we’re talking about particularly troublesome baddies for whom we would want plausible deniability if one of our Mission Impossible guys is caught/killed, I would tentatively agree with both of you. We have our Ethan Hunts for a reason, after all.

            If, however, we are not talking about killing someone without creation of diplomatic incidents, but needing to kill low-level bad guys who offend us on a moral level? I don’t agree.Report

          • Avatar GordonHide says:

            You’re right. The “secret kill list”, if it exists, is just a tactical feature of fighting this kind of war. If you could fathom the tactics in play here it might well invalidate that particular tactic.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, two thousand and one,
          Joint Resolution
          To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.
          Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
          Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and
          Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and
          Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and
          Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it
          Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

          Section 1 – Short Title
          This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.
          [edit]Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
          (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
          (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
          (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
          (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

          Speaker of the House of Representatives.
          Vice President of the United States and
          President of the Senate.


      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Maybe we just do this once a year, and the lottery ‘winner’ gets crucified on live TV, and he can symbolically take on the sins/crimes of the world for the year. This would be completely equitable, save a lot of legal wrangling, and provide society-wide psychic benefits as all our sins get cleansed.

        Better yet, let’s elect our President by lottery, then crucify him* at the end of his 4-year term. He won’t need to pander for re-election that way. If you knew you only had 4 years left of your life, you’d want to either do the best job you could, so you’d be well-remembered, or else you’d spend your time drowning in drink, drugs and hedonistic pleasure (or quietly at home with family, if you’re into that sort of thing), in which case you hopefully can do little damage.

        * Note to Secret Service: the above is satire, and I in no way recommend nor approve of crucifying the President, except rhetorically.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      Did we have a trial in absentia for defectors during WWII? What kind of precedent would it set?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Would you say that these people in other countries are more like American Soldiers who were volunteer soldiers or would you say that they’re more like draftees?Report

        • Avatar trizzlor says:

          I think al-Awlaki was much more like a volunteer soldier. What I got out of the NYTimes report on the Kill List was that voluntary involvement and material support were the two main criteria used in general.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, then I think that comparisons to defectors do you poorly.

            All we have to do is demonstrate voluntary involvement and material support in an (in absentia!) court of law.Report

            • Avatar trizzlor says:

              I think there’s a reason why trials in absentia were not used on enemy defectors in previous wars and I’d like to understand what that reason is before criticizing the same policy in the current war. My guess is it’s because requiring the military to – essentially – sue everyone they seek to kill makes warfare impossible and is, in fact, completely at odds with the entire cannon of military law.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                When it comes to WWII, I’d say that a big distinction is that War was actually declared.

                For what it’s worth, many of my problems with killing people in other countries without having declared war on them would be allayed by declaring war on these countries before we kill people in them.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Jaybird, I really don’t understand the distinction you’re making between a formal declaration of war and the Congressional resolution. I don’t see how the differences between an AUMF and a formal declaration apply here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                A formal declaration of war can be formally turned into a formal declaration of victory followed by the war in question ending.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, it’s kind of like the difference between a search warrant that is limited to a specific designated address, and one that says, we can search any address at any time we want. The second type leaves us open to even more abuses and mistakes than the first type already does.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                The AUMF is more restrictive than a formal declaration and can be rescinded by Congress at will. I don’t see how either analogy holds.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                When do you think the AUMF will be voted away?Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                I’m pretty sure that after American troops aren’t in the shit in Afghanistan any more there will be pressure to repeal or replace the AUMF. Even if there is not, SCOTUS made the point in Hamdi that our presence in Afghanistan is the soft boundary that gives those belligerents their status.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My answer is “not in my lifetime”, for the record.

                This is one of the reasons I’d prefer a declared war. There might be reason to declare victory if we had declared war.

                An authorization of kinetic activities? Surely you’d *WANT* the government to be authorized to act kinetically, wouldn’t you? What kind of crazy person would want the government to be handcuffed when people were declaring war on it and killing citizens?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What kind of crazy person would want the government to be handcuffed when people were declaring war on it and killing citizens?

                Did AQ declare war on us? Is AQ capable of declaring war on us?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is AQ capable of being defeated?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Nah, bro. The question is: is AQ capable of declaring war. We’ll move on from there.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure, of course. Bugs Bunny was capable of declaring war.

                Is Al Qaeda capable of being defeated? Surrendering?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Bugs Bunny was capable of declaring war.


              • Avatar James K says:

                I believe Jaybird was thinking of this.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            Are we at war in Yemen?

            Are we at war everywhere?

            Clearly we’re at war in some places, but I’d thought “the whole entire world is a battlefield, no exceptions,” was a holdover from George W. Bush that the Democrats would have had the good sense to reject. More than anything else, the erasure of the distinction between war and peace is to blame for the ills I diagnose here.Report

            • Avatar trizzlor says:

              Jason, I think we’ve gone around this bend before so I’ll try to be as minimally pedantic as possible.

              From Quirin:

              Citizenship in the United States of an enemy belligerent does not relieve him from the consequences of a belligerency which is unlawful because in violation of the law of war. Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war. It is as an enemy belligerent that petitioner Haupt is charged with entering the United States, and unlawful belligerency is the gravamen of the offense of which he is accused.

              Nor are petitioners any the less belligerents if, as they argue, they have not actually committed or attempted to commit any act of depredation or entered the theatre or zone of active military operations.

              From Hamdi:

              Further, we understand Congress’ grant of authority for the use of “necessary and appropriate force” to include the authority to detain for the duration of the relevant conflict, and our understanding is based on long- standing law-of-war principles. If the practical circum- stances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that understanding may unravel. But that is not the situation we face as of this date. Active combat operations against Taliban fighters apparently are ongoing in Afghanistan … The United States may detain, for the duration of these hostilities, individuals legitimately determined to be Taliban combatants who “engaged in an armed conflict against the United States.” If the record establishes that United States troops are still involved in active combat in Afghanistan, those detentions are part of the exercise of “necessary and appropriate force” and therefore are authorized by the AUMF.

              Quirin does leave the door open to being at war everywhere, although Hamdi restricts the time to (at least) active conflict in Afghanistan. There is also a strong case made that Yemen, specifically, is a “hot battlefield” with direct relationship to Al-Qaeda.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                So, just to reiterate, your statement below is completely at odds with my reading of the SCOTUS precedent:

                If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

                In fact, the military would require evidence that Romney’s grandkids “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces”. If Obama were to force this through over his commanders – who could stop him or tell him otherwise just as with the breach of any other law – his administration would be tried in court where the judge would review any evidence and he would be impeached and likely thrown in jail.

                As to your claim that we are not at war with Yemen, I have not seen any legislative or judicial claims that a belligerent (particularly one out of uniform) stops being one when they leave the zone of active conflict. Obviously Geneva applies in instances where capture is reasonably possible, such as the hypothetical where al-Awlaki were to turn himself in.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                What if they were never in the zone of active conflict? What if they were never in the zone of active conflict and their only connection with the zone of active conflict is being a member of a loosely associated network of militant groups?Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Then the “substantial material support” claim would be very difficult, if not impossible, to furnish. And if that person was in a completely inactive area such as the US or the EU, then Geneva would dictate that attempts be made to capture rather than kill him, so drones would be out of the question. Once captured he could not be tortured or abused and would have to stand trial blah blah blah…Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                trizzlor, the missing link in all this is I think the ‘secret evidence’. How can this evidence be provided to the military, so they can evaluate the ‘substantial material support’ claim, if the evidence is secret? My understanding is that the evidence itself is being shared with nobody outside the highest intelligence circles, and the President.

                So how does the military evaluate the order for lawfulness? I mean, sure, if the Kill List contains the name “John Smith”, or “The Situation”, they might think, hey, this sounds unusual, let’s look into this.

                But a name like “Al-Awlaki” (which, aside from not “sounding” like an American citizen, could be a very common one in Yemen for all I know) – is that going to cause the military to do any vetting of their own?

                Or do they take the order from their commander-in-chief with no questions, assuming he wouldn’t be on the list if he hadn’t been vetted?

                And what makes us think the evidence will be reviewed after the fact? Won’t it still be secret? We still can’t compromise our sources presumably.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Secret evidence is always pretty dicey but a necessary evil. The NYTimes article describes a weekly meeting run by the Pentagon that gathers “more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.” The President then reviews these decisions with his national security and counterterrorism advisors and gives the final confirmation. Presumably there are enough people with clearance and access to all of the evidence that they could tell the president otherwise or stop him. Of course, the president could over-ride them and choose to willfully commit a crime, but then the president can always do that and we tend not to structure our laws around it.

                After the fact, anyone with standing can sue the government – as the ACLU is currently doing – wherein a judge and lawyers with the proper security clearance would re-evaluate the evidence. This is an area where a lot of abuse tends to happen, but it’s not unique to the Kill List trials and I’ve yet to see a comprehensive alternative.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Excellent comment trizz.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                After the fact, anyone with standing can sue the government

                After you’re dead, people can sue on your behalf.

                I suppose it’s better than nothing, but, oddly, I don’t find it real comforting.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What if they were never in the zone of active conflict? What if they were never in the zone of active conflict and their only connection with the zone of active conflict is being a member of a loosely associated network of militant groups?

                Then the President would be acting illegally, yes? Outside of his authority to kill people responsible for the 9/11 attacks?

                What other restrictions can be placed on Presidential power than to make certain actions illegal?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                So the people we’ve targeted in Yemen were certainly once in Afghanistan or Iraq?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The official position of the Obama Admin. is: “There is nothing in the AUMF that restricts the use of military force against al-Qa’ida to Afghanistan.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Maybe that’s too quick. I’m not sure exactly what you’re arguing in this subthread.

                It seems to me there is a confusion about the legality of targeted drone strikes and the kill list, and the morality of those things. I’m not sure which one position you’re arguing from, but it seems pretty clear to me that the Obama admin is legally justified in engaging in targeted killings based on a list of AQ operatives who’ve engaged in belligerent acts against the US.

                Of course, there are worries about transparency and abuse, but those worries are neither unique to the kill list, nor uniquely applicable to it, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Still, the point he made was that if they leave the active combat zone, they’re still targets. So it seems natural to ask, “What if they were never there?” What if they were never even supporting people who were there, but home-grown militarism (e.g., actively opposing the Yemenes government)?Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Chris, I don’t know how else to interpret this statement from the court: “Nor are petitioners any the less belligerents if, as they argue, they have not actually committed or attempted to commit any act of depredation or entered the theatre or zone of active military operations.“. Now, the court goes on to argue distinctions between uniformed/un-uniformed officers and how that also impacts their status as traitors or spies, but it does not effect their standing as belligerents.

                So yes, one could be on the kill list without ever traveling to Afghanistan, but one would still have to meet the high standard of substantial material support (imagine an American citizen making and sending IED’s to Al-Qaeda officers in Afghanistan). And, as I mentioned before, different rules of engagement apply in a cold zone such as the US versus a hot zone such as Yemen.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Trizzlor, which brings us to the question, who decides that someone in Yemen, who is, most likely, actively supporting insurgent operations in Yemen, is providing support to combatants in Afghanistan or Iraq? On whose authority? Our own intelligence agencies? The Yemeni government’s intelligence? Whose? What standard of evidence are we using? What procedures are in place to insure that we get it right? How would the courts ever find out if we got it wrong over there (as opposed to over here)?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                the point he made was that if they leave the active combat zone, they’re still targets.

                Who? Brennan? His point was broader than that, as I read him. It’s that a) the “battlefield” isn’t geographically circumscribed and b) that any individuals or organizations responsible for the terrorist attacks are legitimate targets of US military action. b) is very broadly worded. Maybe too broadly worded for your comfort.

                So it seems natural to ask, “What if they were never there?”

                Is your worry that we would never know the difference between a “legitimate” vs. and “illegitimate” target since none of this information is publicly accessible? I’ll concede that. But I’m not sure what that has to do with kill lists. The President could just kill those people in any event, yes?, with or without a kill list, right? And the only potential constraint on his actions would be the legality of doing so.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                which brings us to the question, who decides that someone in Yemen, who is, most likely, actively supporting insurgent operations in Yemen, is providing support to combatants in Afghanistan or Iraq?

                Totally fair point, but isn’t this a concern with any military operation? I don’t see a scenario where regular warfare against belligerents is acceptable, but putting a single belligerent on a targeted list is unacceptable. To me, the kill list seems like an additional check to make sure the individuals is a legitimate target to the best of our knowledge; as pointed out in this thread, historically lack of a kill list would has meant that everyone is on the kill list.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                It’s certainly not a question with any military operation. It is not even, for the most part, a question of most operations in active combat zones. It may be the question with missions that seek to root out combatants who aren’t in uniform and aren’t currently fighting, but are blending in with the population, but that sort of operation raises all sorts of problems even within active combat zones (witness Vietnam and the current conflict in Afghanistan). It raises a whole shitload of problems when the “combatants” are hundreds, even thousands of miles from an active combat zone, wear no uniform, exist among a network of varying militancy, some of whom are actively supporting fighting in combat zones or terrorist activities, some of whom are more about their local stuff, some of whom are militant but not materially supporting any actual violence, and so on.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Chris, I’m starting to lose the plot but I appreciate your reasoned argument. I overstated my point. Obviously, this is not the case in any/most military operations in general. But it is the case for a specific tactic which we has become common: targeted long-range bombing. In those cases, military intelligence provides evidence – to the best of their ability – of hostile forces with minimal civilian casualties; and somewhere along the chain of command this evidence is formulated into an order of attack. After the fact, an internal or external investigation can be launched if their is evidence of war crimes. I get your point about the complexity of this tactic in the kind of war we are now fighting, but that’s a concern that is not unique to the kill list. What you’re raising appears to me as an issue inherent in any long-range attack against an un-uniformed force, full-stop.

                I think I would understand where you’re coming from better if you proposed an alternative. So far, I’m seeing a sort of law-enforcement approach from Jaybird, where hostiles are first tried in court; and what I imagine would lead to a complete end of bombing campaigns from you and Jason. What am I missing?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Not all hostiles, Trizz. Just the ones on the kill list who are American Citizens in countries where we haven’t declared war.

                Or we could declare war. I’m good with killing people in countries where we’ve declared war, as well.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Not all hostiles, Trizz. Just the ones on the kill list who are American Citizens in countries where we haven’t declared war.

                Okay, let’s assume we are at war with Afghanistan. I grok your argument about the difference between a declaration and an authorization but let’s just set it aside for this bit.

                So how does this policy work? When al-Awlaki is in Afghanistan he’s fair game as an enemy defector. But when he travels across the border to Pakistan or a few more borders to Yemen, he’s no longer a legitimate target until we have a trial? Does he get a full trial or a tribunal? Does the fact that he was tried in Yemen change things? Does the fact that we have an operational relationship with Pakistan and Yemen in the GWOT change things? Do we have to declare war on Yemen, or any other ally, before we can legitimately target him?

                What if he enters the US? Obviously we can’t declare war on ourselves, is he also now bound only by trial and law-enforcement? The Quirin case, for example, references a specific situation where Nazi soldiers broke through our defenses and entered the US, without uniform, and with intent to do harm. In that case they were treated as belligerents and allowed only a military tribunal after capture. Was that precedent incorrect? Should we continue to follow it?

                Now, it’s totally fair if you think all of these questions need answering only because of the AUMF. But then the debate isn’t really about a Kill List at all but about weather a Kill List can exist under the AUMF or only under a declaration of war (though the issues of domestic and allied soil still hold).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                trizz, first, let me be clear about where I am coming from: I protested the war in Afghanistan in 2001. I’m kinda anti-war.

                That said, I would at the very least stop bombing with drones altogether, and stop long range bombing outside of active combat zones as well (we could debate the areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan and from which the Taliban has been supplying its troops in Afghanistan). Then if we want to fight against loosely associated groups in countries where we have no troop presence and will likely never have a troop presence, under the guise of fighting “terrorism,” then I would definitely take a law enforcement approach. When the governments of those countries allow us, we go in, capture people who we know to be actively plotting to attack the U.S. (either here or in the form of Americans living abroad), and try them in court. If that’s not possible, then we monitor them, and use other means (mucking with their finance, putting pressure on the governments of the countries in which they’re operating to arrest them, etc.).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                A good way around the whole “what if the guy is jumping borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan?” is the whole “have a show trial with evidence and stuff” option.

                Surely the evidence against whats-his-nuts would get a jury in Texas to vote for him to get the Bill Of Attainder, no?Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                “have a show trial with evidence and stuff”

                So, policy-wise, we’re back to trying every hostile in Afghanistan that could conceivably hop the border and end up on the list?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Trizz, nah, just get out of Afghanistan.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Is the number of American citizens who are not in active combat zones and are also AQ members so great, that trials in absentia for them is prohibitive? If so, then we have a bigger problem than I thought. I was thinking there were like, maybe a couple hundred guys at most.

                Maybe we could look at the List, and get a head count, so we could make a decis…oh, wait.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                “And, in response to those who are concerned about the possible misuse of these powers, I make this pledge: we are not going take military action against any individual without first holding a trial …”

                “Yay! The system works!”

                “… in Texas.”Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                @Glyph: Is the number of American citizens who are not in active combat zones and are also AQ members so great, that trials in absentia for them is prohibitive?

                If you’re talking about Just War then these numbers shouldn’t matter. You’re setting policy for the nation as a whole and how it’s entire military apparatus should function, that means a single consistent system based on ethics. We can’t turn on trials in absentia when it’s manageable and then turn them off if things get hot – that kind of slippery policy is *precisely* what does lead to abuse. This has to be consistent with the wars of the past and reliable for the wars of the future. Moreover, you’ve yet to explain why citizen/non-citizen belligerents should be treated differently (the courts make no distinction here), without which even the numbers wouldn’t work.

                @Chris: That said, I would at the very least stop bombing with drones altogether…

                Look, if your argument is that we should stop our adventures in the middle east and reinstate a law-enforcement approach to combat terrorism then I’m totally with you. I think we should have been out of Afghanistan long ago, I think drone-warfare as counterinsurgency creates more problems than it solves, and the law-enforcement/intelligence agencies are much better equipped to deal with any remaining terrorism than the military is. But that’s a debate over the best tactics for fighting this war, or weather to fight it at all; and it’s one where the two of have more in common that apart. What Jason is claiming, however, is that the Kill List policy, per se, is incompatible with the principles of Democracy. And that view is absolutely wrong. It’s wrong because the policy is designed so that the legislative branch has oversight on who gets put on the list and the judicial branch has oversight after the fact. It’s wrong because the policy is consistent with judicial thinking on the rules of war going all the way back to Geneva. And it’s wrong if the only proposed alternative is not to fight wars at all.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              Absolutely agree, other than “the Democrats would have had the good sense to reject”. Look at the politics of it:

              1. There is no electoral downside to full speed ahead on the GWOT
              2. If you slow down the GWOT and there’s another incident on American soil, you have just Jimmy Cartered yourself and your entire party for decades

              The last person I’d expect to think a politician would risk 2 is you, Jason.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                No, liberals are supposed to give up any political advantages we have the moment we have them, for the good of the country. Ignoring that, of course, not every Democrat is a pacifist. But yes, rule 451c says that Democrat’s always have to run an election with one hand tied behind their back.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Jesse, the Democrat left has to hide its true intentions. Obama a centrist? Hyuh.

                If he’d had an actual mandate in 2008 and not just Bush fatigue, we’d have not only single-payer but Cap’n Trade, an anti-DOMA, Law of the Sea, lordknowswhatelse, he’d still have Congress and he would be cruising to re-election.

                But he was found out with the Obamacare initiative, both in its statist content and how it was foisted onto the American people, where it trailed in the polls and trailed today. He lost his 60-vote senate when Ted Kennedy died and lost the House in 2010 bigtime.

                I say it was Obamacare, The Bridge Too Far: presumptuous, bad law, and indeed tyrannical in the way it steamrolled all objections, not just from the polls and the Republicans, but even Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak.

                If you want to measure the American electorate’s vital signs, look first at Bill Clinton from 1992 onward. He comes in with a lefty agenda and loses Congress to Gingrich in 1994. Turns to the center and wins re-election easily but is a disaster for the Dem Party downticket until the Bush administration commits its own follies and lets the Dems back in bigtime in 2006.

                Respectfully submitted, Jesse, not just sledging—Reagan turned out to be far more centrist than feared. Dubya told us up front he was going to spend like a Democrat with “compassionate conservatism.”

                Clinton ran as a centrist, got his ass kicked in 1994 after swinging left, then “triangulated” back to the Gingrich center. To me, Obama was transparently left–although his enablers continually insist he’s a centrist—and when he showed his true colors, got gobsmacked back just as Clinton did in the midterms, the difference being that Barack Obama does not “triangulate.” Instead he chose the Truman ’48 strategy of running against an obstructionist GOP congress.

                Truman squeaked out ’48 against Dewey but was less popular by ’52 than Dubya was by ’08—hard as that is to believe [!]—so unpopular he didn’t even run again, though he was constitutionally eligible.

                Where the Dem Party goes from here—even if Barack Obama squeaks out a second term as president—I don’t know. I wouldn’t even be able to start naming the Dem bench beyond Andrew Cuomo. The mayor of San Antonio guy? Sandra Fluke?

                The party put all its eggs in the Barack Obama basket, and whether it’s soon or sooner, now or in 4 years, that basket is emptying.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Actually, Obama’s part of the grand center-left tradition of the Democratic party. More conservative and neoliberal than I would like as a committed social democrat, but he is probably the most liberal President since Nixon, but that’s not saying much.

                Single payer was never on the table with even the 2009 makeup of the Senate and every smart liberal knew this. Cap ‘n’ trade would’ve passed with a sane Senate and most likely will in the near future after somebody hopefully puts the filibuster out of it’s misery, getting rid of DOMA in Obama’s first term was never on the table, and as far as Congress goes, unfortunately, if you still have high unemployment, you’re going to lose some seats in the next Congressional elections.

                I’m going to skip the rest of your typical “America is a center-right nation and Obamacare is tyranny (and getting more popular by the day)” and get to your point about no bench. Let’s see here, just off the top of my head, we’ve got Mark Warner, John Hickenlooper, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Kathryn Sebelieus, and down the road, in a few elections, when demographics are even more in our favor, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, or hell, even Elizabeth Warren. 🙂Report

  11. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    So….are conservative in favor of, or opposed to, the policies in Afghanistan, Libya, and judicial assassination?

    I checked with that RoboMitt website but it didn’t seem to help.Report

  12. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    “Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.”

    You’ve identified my central problem with liberals here.Report

    • Avatar Kimsie says:

      … the “that’s enough” or “of course he wouldn’t”?

      If Malia was in danger, I’d say Obama would probably be capable of a lot…Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Well, both in conjunction with each other. Liberals on the whole I think are better people than conservatives.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          … wow, that’s playing dirty. you aren’t supposed to say that aloud, ya know? 😉Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            Good people in the sense that they want to lead for other people. They think that the world is full of good people whose esteem and respect they can earn. Not true. Romney’s right about one thing: the world is full of assholes. Pleasing the world should not be near the top of our list of priorities unless pleasing the world simultaneously increases our soft power.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Clinton had the world leaders eating out of hsi hand, because he was willing to talk shop with ANYONE. Not by pleasing people.
              And I agree about realism v.s. idealism in foreign politics.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          better people do not make better presidents. witness carter.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Now swap out the countries and make this about Israel and Palestine during the 2nd Intifada.

    What’s changed?Report

  14. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    So these American citizens, they’re Americans in America who are part of American society and we’re killing them in America?

    No? They’re in other countries, conspiring with non-Americans to attack identified American military forces? Because that sounds like rather less of a problem. In fact, it sounds like something that, had the guy not been born in an American hospital, something that wouldn’t be considered a problem at all.Report

  15. Avatar Plinko says:

    My one quibble here is on the abdication of responsibility for acting as a check. It seems rather obvious to me that those in possession of said responsibilities haven’t functionally abdicated them as much as they prefer to not employ them at the moment. Certainly, they will claim that authority back the moment they sense some sort of political advantage to doing so. That’s Congress’ MO now, their powers are mainly to be used for political grandstanding in the service of fund-raising as needed.
    Favorably, that kinda, sorta, functions as a sort of check on the power itself. The president can put whomever he wants on the list, but the moment enough Senators no longer trust him with the power, suddenly it will be back in the Congressional purview. Practically, given the nature of our Congress’ nature, this will almost surely never happen.
    Unspoken in all this is the notion that the President has claimed this power and can keep it because most people want him to. It sickens me to think of it, but does anyone doubt that the idea of this power isn’t actually deeply popular with the electorate? Thus it should be no surprise that no one in power wants to be the bold defender of freedom that tries to pry that power from the White House.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Certainly, they will claim that authority back the moment they sense some sort of political advantage to doing so. That’s Congress’ MO now, their powers are mainly to be used for political grandstanding in the service of fund-raising as needed.

      That’s sadly an awesomely accurate comment.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      It sickens me to think of it, but does anyone doubt that the idea of this power isn’t actually deeply popular with the electorate?

      I don’t doubt if for a second. What’s it called? “Bi-partisan support”?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      I believe Rome officially considered itself a Republic long after it had become an empire.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Yep, this very emphatically.Report

  16. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Do not tell me that I need to vote for him… because you are afraid that he will lose.

    Your concerns are completely accurate but I’ve yet to see an explanation of how voting third party will move the political scales in your preferred direction.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I think that by making it known that this issue is why X% of the left voted for someone other than Obama, the ultimate deal-breaker, and that it cost the Democrats control of the White House, it would be a very loud signal to all subsequent Democrats to “never do this.”

      Basically make it one of those third-rails that no politician will touch because they lose their elections if they do. Note how the DNC, which used to push gun-control as a signature issue, dropped it when it lost them enough blue-collar union votes to start costing them seats.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        that’s a centrist position. name one that’s a leftie position, got the way you propose.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        The way I see it, that was accomplished by mobilizing a large enough block *within* the Democratic party and threatening to stay home unless some specific changes are made to the party platform. This process (form coalition – demand changes) is then repeated until the the party has shifted to where you want it to be. This was not accomplished by arbitrary individuals voting third party based on single issues. In fact, the latter scenario tends to result in the DNC filling the vote gap by moving *further* away from the desired direction. As Kim points out, this is even more the case on non-mainstream positions.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Another excellent comment trizz.

          {Btw, I read your response to Freddie on a similar topic over at his place recently and thought you pretty convincingly dismantled his argument with much the same line of reasoning you expressed here. I was sorely disappointed that he didn’t respond to you. Just wanted to mention that…}Report

          • Avatar trizzlor says:

            Thanks Stillwater, I’m glad I’m not spouting pure gibberish all over the place since there is a lot of overlap between what JasonK and FreddieDb and ConorF have been saying about third-party voting. I think the preferred strategy for changing political platforms is a complex question, but it’s strange to me that voting third party is so often treated as the self-evident solution.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Clearly, enough of the left voting for Nader in 2000 to affect Gore’s electoral votes had a strong impact on the policies of the Democratic party.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        What we have here though is a prisoners dilemma. If both right leaning and left leaning opponents of the drone program defected then a third party would do very well and both of the major parties would take notice.
        But if one side cheated then the other party (and it’s supporters who defected to the third party) would lose big time.
        So instead neither side is willing to do this and the maximally sub-optimal outcome seems to be the most likely one.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          With an ABC poll saying 82% want drone killings to remain safe, legal and rare, it’s academic.

          I do recommend Democrats vote Peace and Freedom Party in protest, Roseanne and her running mate Mother Sheehan. You got yer peace, you got yer freedom, what’s not to like?

          Legalization of Marijuana: The legalization of marijuana is the way to end all Drug Wars and stop the monopoly of the subsidized prison systems.

          National Security / War / Peace Wars make the stock market go up and are fueled by profits. Where one puts their money is where one puts their energy. The Military Industrial Complex is our shadow government.

          The Economy: The Bankers and the Federal Reserve need to be brought down. They have stolen our money, our future and the American Dream and continue to enslave us with a broken monetary system.

          I mean this is some Main St. LoOG shit. Pot, profits. Military. Bankers!

          Food & Water Safety:Clean water and preservation of natural water sources is paramount to our survival. Those that lead us have allowed the corporations to cross over the web of life and they have destroyed the genetic code.

          OK, mebbe not destroying the genetic code, but Rosie’s still in the zone.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        As Trizzlor pointed out, and I’ve pointed out before, that’s not how you change the conversation. In a lot of ways, the DNC moved right after 2000, before eventually moving left largely because of Dean’s run at DNC Chair and the fact the Iraq War became massively unpopular.

        The way you change a party is from the inside. It’s how the Religious Right did it. Now, it may turn out that unfortunately, you’re far in the minority, as TVD pointed out, about an issue. At that point, you’ve either got to figure out a better argument, find a compromise you can live with, or if you’re that upset, cut bait on politics. For instance, I know the nation isn’t ready for Scandinavian-style welfare state. So, I’m not pissed when Obama signs the ACA or doesn’t repeal DADT on his first day in office. I realize it is a process.Report

  17. Avatar bookdragon says:

    One question: In what way is this so dramatically worse than the 50+ years of US support for and involvement with death squads in South America and elsewhere?

    Note: I am not defending the kill list, which I think needs to be subject to the sort of framework that Nob suggested.

    However, the over-the-top rant about this making Obama WORST PREZ EVR! sort of made me pull back from taking the article seriously. I mean, is it somehow less appalling for the President to support a school for assassins and have the CIA/NSA supply them with equipment, intel and funds as long as he, personally, doesn’t sign off on specific hits?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      In what way is this so dramatically worse than the 50+ years of US support for and involvement with death squads in South America and elsewhere?

      Could we run with “dramatically equivalent”?

      (Watch out! That question is a trap!)Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        No, I wouldn’t go ‘dramatically equivalent’. We took too active a role in having people killed. All the lack of the current sort of kill list did was provide the president with ‘plausible deniability’.

        Maybe that’s important? Maybe if we got a bunch of folks from Afghan and Iraq and trained and armed them and fed them info on AQ members/sympathizers no one would be wringing their hands over this. After all, if Alwaki had been offed by some Arab version of a Contra, who would have worried about where he’d been born?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Hi bookdragon, I can’t respond for other people, but the problem I have (and this could just be me) with these discussions is they conflate several things that are themselves controversial, so it’s hard to maintain focus or clarity. There are three separate issues, to me:

      1.) use of drones. I have no inherent issue with drones per se; they are a weapon, and how/when/why they are used is far more important than their mere use. If we decide a guy needs to get got, I have no issue with us using a drone to do the gettin’.

      2.) Use of ‘kill lists’/military force/assassinations against foreign nationals (I would include your CIA/death squads nexus here) – I think this can be a grey area, and depends in large part on the given situation and the means used.

      3.) Use of kill lists/military force/assassinations against US citizens who are not engaged in active hostilities* – This is the one that is the most clearly problematic to me. It is not a case of it being necessarily uniquely *morally* worse than the others – it is a case of it being uniquely subversive to the basic rights the Constitution affords all US citizens, including due process; and to the concept of checks and balances; and to the very relationship of the Executive branch to both the other branches and to the citizenry. As I stated above, this turns a President into a King. And that is a deal-breaker.

      * by which I mean, either on a battlefield, or imminently preparing to commit acts of violence.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        I largely agree with you and (3) is the real issue. However, I wonder why you imagine that this is a new thing originating with Obama. I truly doubt that is. An American was captured and tortured by people working directly with Oliver North’s group because she was on the ‘wrong side’ in Nicaragua. No due process and apparently no one has ever cared about that.

        We’ve been contracting out this sort of thing for a long time. If a second party is essentially contracted to do the job, how is that different? (See my comment to Jaybird on how Awlaki could have been targeted in that context).Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          I am not familiar with the American in the Ollie North saga, but was that a case of ‘mistaken/unconfirmed identity or in the wrong place at the wrong time’ kind of thing? Al-Alwaki was a ‘premeditated, we know exactly who he is’ kind of thing.

          RE: second parties, I guess it depends on the contract. In the old west, they used to give bounties/rewards – you know, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ posters , which means they weren’t too concerned with the means used to get the guy, or his optimal end state, so long as he got got.

          But this would be different than the Sheriff (or his deputies) shooting the guy in the back as he walks to the watering hole – we expect those guys to make an attempt to do things by the book, you know, at least a ‘come out with yr hands up’ kind of thing.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon says:

            I think the Old West was a bit less by-the-book than the movies depict. Shoot first and ask questions later wasn’t necessarily restricted to bounty hunters and I suspect ‘come out with yer hands up’ was offered primarily to end a shoot out, not because anyone cared about civil rights.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              bookdragon, that is a fair point and I certainly don’t mean to imply that Western movies are accurate representations of historical reality.

              The point I was making was this: how do we *want* our Sheriff (President/Government/Military) ideally to behave? I can live with the idea that sometimes they give “Dead or Alive” rewards to second (or third) parties, and don’t ask too many questions about how things went down – the bad man is gone now, and that’s all you need to know.

              But do we want them personally doing the same themselves, to US citizens no less, in a premeditated fashion and not in active combat? Isn’t that a recipe for political abuse?Report

  18. Avatar Roger says:

    For reasons that I cannot disclose (I’d have to kill you all), I am actually intimately familiar with the working procedures of the kill list. The thing none of you are aware is that there is a requirement that to be involved with the management of the list requires that you BE ON THE LIST. This is the essential safeguard built into the system. Indeed, those of us involved are responsible to kill ourselves as our final act. To improve the system further we are even working on a time loop system so that our final act can be to kill ourselves before we actually ever work on the list. We think it will be foolproof. And yes, rest assured, Kimmi is not on the list.Report

  19. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:


    This again?

    Yay for your oh-so-noble stand against drones and Kill Lists and all the other things that make you so special. But you know who is actually trying to DO something about them? The liberals you denigrate — Fred Clark of Slacktivist and John Cole of Balloon Juice. They are the ones trying to propose a discussion on these matters.

    Will they succeed? I don’t know, but they have an infinitely better chance than one guy who wasn’t going to vote for Obama anyway telling us why he’s so wonderful for not voting for Obama.

    As for Romney, the one thing he HASN’T flip-flopped on is an escalation of the Bush War Machine — all wars, all the time!

    I think drones and Kill Lists and enemy combatants all need to discussed, to find a proper place for each in the light of modern warfare. Moreover, I’ll bet my Rep (Grace Napolitano) and at least one of my Senators (Barbara Boxer) agree. How about yours?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      You don’t have the RIGHT to oppose this!!!Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        I’m not saying that he doesn’t have the right to oppose it; just that I’m less than impressed with what he’s doing about it.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Yay for your oh-so-noble stand against drones and Kill Lists and all the other things that make you so special. But you know who is actually trying to DO something about them? The liberals you denigrate — Fred Clark of Slacktivist and John Cole of Balloon Juice. They are the ones trying to propose a discussion on these matters.

      Did I write anything bad about either one of them? No, I did not. I didn’t even mention them. To the extent that they agree with me on these policy questions, great. To the extent that they are urging me to vote for Obama, I will not hear of such nonsense.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        I’d be impressed if there was one word about voting for, or otherwise supporting, those few politicians brave enough to speak out against drones and kill lists. I’d be impressed if this post was not out of the blue a month before the election. As it is, it’s just “I hate Obama — I’m going to glom on to the first thing I can think of”


        Again, if you think this is so bad, put your money where your mouth is: Act Blue or MoveOn. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.Report

  20. Avatar Roger says:

    I am sure someone has already said this, but I can’t be sure with this many comments. Just putting your last three posts together, your recommendation is to Vote for Obama because he has a kill list and it would be wrong… Right?Report

  21. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    To those who think Romney will be better:

    Romney proclaimed, “The 21st century can and must be an American century.” This is where he and his advisers, many of them Bush-Cheney neo-cons, share a dangerous assumption about the world. [Emphasis mine]

    Any questions?Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      “We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.” Barack Obama

      “Eleven years later, ‘they’ still hate us, now more than ever. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished. They’re coming back.

      I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated. … The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban. There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years. It is driven in part by Taliban apologists, who claim they are just the poor moderate, gentler, kinder Taliban. It’s such nonsense!”—Lara Logan, CBS News

      “We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat the Taliban.”–Mitt Romney

      All yours, Ms. Radatz.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        Are you glad we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you think we needed to spend a decade there? Do you think most or even much of our defense spending is worthwhile?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Roger, I haven’t done Iraq in public since about 2007. >;-O

          As for defense spending, I’ll go with “much,” but am willing to put some on the table as soon as the Dems get real about the hard choices in entitlements. I agreed with Scott Rasmussen’s recent article in Reason that the American consensus is for a haircut, not jut a trim.

          I’m a consensus guy, a good governance type first and foremost.

          Republicans who demand cuts in every program except the military open themselves up to justifiable Democratic charges of hypocrisy. Exempting major budget categories from spending discipline is a key reason government almost never gets cut. The American people are ready to take a more mature approach. A 2011 poll conducted by my firm, Rasmussen Reports, found that 67 percent favor finding spending cuts in all government programs. Every budget item, Americans emphatically believe, needs to be on the table.

          But I was meditating the other day on how well American isolationism worked after WWI. It sure didn’t. So yes, I am comfortable with us being the Indispensible Nation—and there’s no denying that we are. I hate the all nations of the world except for the Anglosphere and Denmark, which mans up when the chips are down. Some of the liberated nations of Eastern Europe might be contenders too, like Poland. And there are a few I’ve missed, but on the whole the “international community” is corrupt where it’s not just downright evil. We and our handful of allies are the only forces for good in the political world.

          There are also a few perks to our military spending: there is a certain Keynesian effect, although I wouldn’t deny it’s still a net loss. And per some of Mr. North’s very good musings on monetary policy, it’s only because we are The Indispensible Nation that we can get away with as much as we do. How long we can get away with it, I don’t know, but the world has so much invested in us and the dollar that it does them no good to have it go kerblooey. It’s sort of a mutual hostage situation.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        Of course they hate us. We’re the invaders. You’d hate an invading force here, as would I.Report

  22. Avatar damon says:

    “If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

    Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.”

    QFT. But you need to change “might” to “will”. Give someone a tool or a new power, they will eventually use it, especially since politicians are, by and large, not regular moral people. Someone will find a creative way to intrepert something and expand the power or authorization. Too many examples to cite…Report

  23. Avatar b-psycho says:

    To Kim above:

    only stupid people fearful people destroy their freedom at home. it’s stupid, just jack-damn stupid.

    Yes, it is stupid, it is the domain of the fearful. Fear has been whipped up here for the past decade, as it is the standard response when someone questions the removing of one more already-brittle restraint on government power.

    Plus, what loss of freedom? Nuns still sneak into nuclear bases…

    Warrantless surveillance & indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge are now legal.Report

  24. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    Your overstatements detract from the argument you’re trying to advance.

    Its legal justification is a secret

    Here is State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh to the American Society of International Law (March 2010) The Obama Administration and International Law; here’s John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, at the Wilson Center “The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy“.

    Its contents are secret, too. You don’t get to see who’s on it. Nor do any members of Congress. Nor any federal judges. Basically no one does.

    Part correct and part incorrect, here’s the LA Times (June 2012):

    The regular review of some of the most closely held video in the CIA’s possession is part of a marked increase in congressional attention paid to the agency’s targeted killing program over the last three years.

    The oversight, which has not previously been detailed, began largely at the instigation of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, officials said.
    The lawmakers and aides with the intelligence oversight committees have a level of access shared only by President Obama, his top aides and a small number of CIA officials.
    In addition to watching video, the legislative aides review intelligence that was used to justify each drone strike.

    They also sometimes examine telephone intercepts and after-the-fact evidence, such as the CIA’s assessment of who was hit.

    “We receive notification with key details shortly after every strike, and we hold regular briefings and hearings on these operations,”

    Given the LA Times piece, this from your original post isn’t correct: “We know that no one gets to review his decision. Ever. The ones who might do it have all abdicated the responsibility.”

    Also, the repeated use of the word “secret” in your post must accommodate the norms of Washington DC, which means oftentimes we the public can read about it in the NY Times. Altogether, that’s what I’d say is missing in the analysis as presented here: attention to the underlying norms. It would be a pretty big stretch for the President to order the assassination of the children of political opponent; Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre comes to mind.

    I don’t think the articles presented here would get to a true rejection for you, I understand you and various others would like much firmer footing. I would too. The organic process of presidential claims of power, Supreme Court and congressional checks, or lack of checks, then partial checks… it is disconcerting. Personally, I’d like a blue ribbon commission with pretty open terms of reference to take stock of the AUMF, post-9/11 US behavior, and offer advice as to where to go from here. Put a great deal of the processes that’ve gone before and are ongoing under greater scrutiny and explicit legal footing that has been congressionally approved. But as things stand, it doesn’t serve to totally overlook a series of developments that have occurred thus far that gesture in the direction of the kind of oversight you’d prefer.

    For you, apparently, these steps still fall well short of the mark. Fair enough. They fall so far short as to disqualify Obama from receiving your vote. Also, fair enough. But I do want to put into the discussion the fact that the people involved, Obama, the Intel Committee, bureaucrats in the security services, they aren’t oblivious to the concerns outlined. They too are familiar with the principles of the republic, and I’d guess that subverting the republic isn’t their goal. They’re professionals dealing with difficult questions, the defense of the realm and civil liberties are hard stuff. They don’t deserve rapturous applause but they don’t deserve a shower of rotten vegetables either.Report

  25. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I’ve been really busy this week, and have been off the front page so I know I’m coming to this party late. I did want to chime in briefly, however, because I think I’m in the huge minority of people that think the kill list is both unacceptable and a (very, very) small point in Obama’s favor.

    Much of the kill list outrage rings false to me, because most of it seems to come with the assumption that this is a new danger, a thing no President has ever done before. And I recognize that might be true, but I have to say that it doesn’t pass my smell test. I think it far more likely that presidents in the past have (or would have) assumed the power to address the problems the kill list was made to address (*not* to kill Mitt Romney’s children) behind the scenes, in the shadows. In fact, I think the idea that in the midst of the Cold War Reagin, Nixon, Ford, Kennedy, Johnson or Eisenhower would not – and *did* not – issue any commands to secretly imprison, torture or kill a US citizen they thought was working with the Soviets because it was an abuse of power to be laughingly credulous.

    Again, I want to say uneqivicably that I do not approve of the hit list, and think it should be checked by either the legislative or judicial branch. But for me it does represents a new level of transparency that is a right and necessary step in the right direction.Report