Social Question

woodcutter's avatar

Is the ACLU really going to make hay over the Al-Awlaki kill in Yemen?

Asked by woodcutter (16249 points ) September 30th, 2011

He’s an American citizen…And?

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36 Answers

tom_g's avatar

You mean this?

Heck, I actually agree with Ron Paul on something!

woodcutter's avatar

@tom_g Forgive me but right now my comp is a limper and won’t load that. What’s in it?

woodcutter's avatar

OK I think I just saw it on CNN. Yeah….Ron Paul. Colorful figure.

flutherother's avatar

No one should ‘make hay’ over this assassination. The US government has just killed one of its own citizens on the basis of what he thought and what he said rather than what he did. Not a comfortable precedent to set.

Qingu's avatar

Why on earth do people care that he’s an American citizen?

Would it be more okay to target a non-American, Yemeni citizen for robot-assisted assassination? Is the idea here that only American citizens deserve due process before being blown up and it’s okay to do that to other country’s citizens?

I think the fact that he is a citizen is a total red herring. I am deeply ambivalent about our drone campaign. I think Awlaki was pretty obviously an evil person who clearly inspired would-be mass murderers. I think people in al-Qaeda have for all intents and purposes declared war on America and, if they don’t surrender, they should not be surprised if they get blown up. But if we are going to continue to target people like Awlaki, I would feel much more comfortable with some sort of international system in place to make sure the CIA isn’t the last call on determining whether someone is a valid target.

Qingu's avatar

Also, there are ways of losing one’s American citizenship. Renouncing one’s citizenship, joining another country’s armed services, being employed by another country’s government.

I certainly think joining al-Qaeda is at least as valid grounds for losing one’s citizenship as becoming a French postal worker.

woodcutter's avatar

The way it played out was to make Yemen the major mover on this so as not to make it look like the US is “at it again” going it alone on someone else’s turf. So possibly lives have been saved and who is to say any further attacks were going to be exclusively American targets?

woodcutter's avatar

Let me clarify, when I use the term “making hay”, I mean are there to be lawsuits coming?

Nullo's avatar

[removed by me]

Cruiser's avatar

I think the ACLU will be taking a back seat to public opinion on this one. Obama just invoked the death penalty without a trial for a US Citizen with this move….wow!

Maybe we should just have taken Jared Lee Loughner, and Timothy McVeigh out back and blown them up with out a trial or any evidence or proof of guilt. I thought we were better than this??? This crap puts him on par with his namesake.

Qingu's avatar

@Cruiser, why do you think Awlaki counts as an American citizen? He is a member of al-Qaeda.

Why do you think the citizenship of people who are targeted for assassination by CIA drones is the sticking point? We’ve also assassinated plenty of Pakistanis without due process as well. Are American citizens the only ones who can’t be assassinated without due process?

Now, I’m ambivalent about our drone campaign, but I don’t think it makes sense to compare Awlaki to Loughner or McVeigh. Both of those people were captured. If they were fugitives, however, and they resisted arrest—and particularly if they were also engaged in planning more attacks against American civilians — do you think police would be justified in shooting and killing them?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @Qingu on all posts in this q.

woodcutter's avatar

The thing with these types of people, terror leaders is they stay hidden, they always have a support mechanism and they are never going to be taken alive or without a fight. I don’t think one terrorist is worth a single life of an operative in the area trying to capture the guy alive to be brought to trial. This has been pretty much established as a given. The deal with the crazies doing their evil right here in country is, they get captured and are held until their trial. Americans who declare the US as their enemy pretty much understand that he can’t be up for planning attacks and if caught expect that very country give him rights. They would come off looking like half- assed activists, by their followers, who are uncommitted to the cause they espouse. These people want to go out fighting doing as much damage on the way out.
It’s a war. I think that makes people like this fair game.

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu I’m pretty sure that it’s merely a matter of rule-following. Different parts of the book apply to different people for different reasons.
Pakistanis do not have the same rights as American citizens, including the one that prohibits military action against them. Which may or may not be in effect, considering the circumstances. American citizens are supposed to be guaranteed due process in the American legal system, and non-citizens are not.

Cruiser's avatar

@Qingu Waging war and executing war doctrines on your own citizens is breaking so many covenants of our constitutional rights let alone humanitarian rights that it does beg a serious review of the motives and intentions of OUR leaders who approved this assasination no matter what affiliation this human being had! We are a nation of compassion and support the universal right to life…and chicken shit out of thin air drone bombings of human life flies in the face of what I believe this country stands for and I KNOW I am not alone in this mind set. That said you are free to condone the killing of humans without a fair trial and I will be free to despise you and the very chair you sit in.

woodcutter's avatar

I get the feeling that the unmanned drones are a sticking point when it comes to dusting those who want to do us harm, That it’s not risky enough for the people doing the deed? More honor in getting a few more people unnecessarily killed in the spirit of an honorable fight? These targets aren’t the defenseless victims they get made out to be. I don’t think a million dollar missile is going to be wasted on a loudmouth shit talker unless there has been serious evidence implicating an enemy combatant as a serious threat.He himself may not have personally been involved in murder attempts. But he has done just as bad by using his persuasiveness to get others to do his bidding. Same thing really. I believe if it was feasible to capture this guy in one piece it would have been done.

Sometimes playing fair causes a conflict to drag on longer hurting yet more people. The fact this guy was an American makes his actions more serious. Cut the head off the snake…snake dies. We can keep killing the low level grunts forever. They will never run out of them unless, we can stop the ones who do the recruiting.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu I am also very ambivalent about the use of drones. Using drones to eliminate ‘enemies’ is little better than terrorism. It is especially wrong however when used to kill citizens as a government has a special responsibility to protect and safeguard citizens’ rights.

The main function of government is to look after the well being of its people and no one, not even the President, has the right to break the bond between the citizen and his country for whatever reason. If citizens do wrong there are procedures for dealing with it and however outraged the President may be and however outraged the majority of the people are that is how it should be dealt with. When a government acts outwith the law and with violence towards its own people it is well on the road to becoming a dictatorship.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Do you guys know about the supposed threat of “home-grown terrorism?”
It is only a matter of time before the drones start flying here and killing “terrorists.”
By definition, protestors can be labeled terrorists and since one man, the president, has the ability to label someone a terrorist, how is he any different than the dictators we are supposedly trying to stop?
Everything gets justified by the media, mostly because them and their parent companies are making a shit load of money off of this.
Those of you who are ok with this, obviously have clue about the slippery slope we are going down.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think shooting a hellfire missile against your own citizen without due process is worse than shooting a hellfire missile against another country’s citizen without due process. Can someone please explain why this is the case from a moral standpoint?

Also, can someone please explain why they think Awlaki deserves special protections as an American citizen while an American who joins the French post office does not?

We should be concerned about CIA/military use of drones to assassinate people, period. The citizenship issue is a sideshow and a poor basis for arguing against the way we use drones.

woodcutter's avatar

I have never been under any illusion the govt here, or one of its proxy’s (Blackwater mercenanary types), would not be turned loose on us here if they wanted to. Everyone high up in the govt. really wants to be able to do away with semi auto- rifles or whatever goes for any type of high performance arms. The right panders to gun owners to keep getting their votes until they don’t need them any more. No head of state really likes the idea the common citizenry having arms that may pose a problem should a decision come down to lock us down. Seriously, morals have no place in war or an out of control govt. It’s a given there.
These drone strikes are always out in rural areas where collateral damage is apt to be low. Apt to be. If they want to hit us here there is going to be some serious infrastructure destruction that would be against the govt’s interest.

What is this, I keep hearing of French postal workers? Have I missed something?
The ACLU…going to push these points over the US citizen angle?
The military is prepared to shoot down commercial aircraft here in the US if there is another terror take over where flying bombs are concerned. Hundreds of innocent passengers will be killed to stop a plane suspected of being used as a weapon.
Fly the friendly skies…

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu Theoretically, Hellfire missiles are for shooting at enemies. Theoretically, the guy on the other end is trying to kill you, and so you are well within your rights to kill him first.

Qingu's avatar

@woodcutter having semi-auto rifles will do you all of jack shit good against drones armed with hellfires.

French postal workers—if you are hired by the French post office, you lose your American citizenship. So it seems like joining al Qaeda also ought to be grounds for losing one’s citizenship. That’s my point.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, “enemies” was much clearer, in terms of legality of use of force, when your enemy was the armed forces of another nation’s government. Our “enemies” today are largely non-governmental insurgent forces and international terrorists. They live with and act like civilians.

Our government has never had the power to closely observe civilians for days anywhere in the world and, if we so choose, to assassinate them from the air. This is what should be troubling people. I’m not saying we need to stop the drone campaign. But I would like to see a better and more accountable process for determining who these targets are, and how these strikes are carried out… as opposed to “the CIA says the guy is al-Qaeda.”

woodcutter's avatar

@Qingu Nothing can out do a drone missile but a town full of people with semi’s will give people of Blackwater ilk some serious headaches, thus making them respect. Lot of ex- military out here with training that is not easily forgotten.

Qingu's avatar

Blackwater ilk? Maybe. Not so much special forces though, unless you’re sleeping next to night vision goggles.

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu What kind of system would you propose?

An American citizen can commit acts of treason. A non-citizen cannot. Worth pondering, I think.

woodcutter's avatar

@Qingu Special forces aren’t immortal. They can and have been killed. Some of them may not have the stomach to follow orders. Civilians with guns are a dangerous wild card to a govt. that is doing wrong. They would face the same situ as they did in Mogo, Bahgdad, etc. The pretty bus will have pulled out of the station way before anything newsworthy happens. The Govt. won’t want any of it’s citizens to even think they have any kind of chance at all ,of resistance. Guns will give them motivation to resist. The last thing a govt wants to do in a capitalist society is have even small pockets of resistance that will cause destruction to infrastructure and commerce.Not to mention a public relations nightmare the whole world will see. Americans have grown fond of freedom and the military or its proxy’s doing anything to take it away is not going to sit well with them. Even though using the military against its own population is supposed to be forbidden, it doesn’t mean they will hold back.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu It isn’t so easy to lose US citizenship. You have to renounce your citizenship voluntarily. Even if you work for a foreign government and swear an oath of allegiance to that country you will lose your nationality only if you carried out these acts with the intention of losing US citizenship.

As a US citizen you can expect your country to protect your rights and the government is obliged to do so. Using drones to kill is immoral and probably illegal and murder is murder however murder where there is a duty of care seems especially wrong. When a mother kills her child, or a nurse murders a patient or a state murders one of its citizens we should all feel our blood chill.

Qingu's avatar

@flutherother, I agree it isn’t easy to lose one’s citizenship. But are you seriously going to argue that joining al-Qaeda doesn’t count as renouncing one’s allegiance?

But as I’ve said, this is a red herring. Government shouldn’t be able to assassinate its own citizens without due process. Government shouldn’t be able to assassinate other country’s citizens without due process either. So why are we even talking about whether Awlaki was a citizen? The entire implication of this argument is that it is okay for the US to assassinate other country’s citizens without due process.

@Nullo, I would like to see the ICC get involved. I realize this will provoke fears of a “World Government,” but I am actually okay with a world government in the sense of an institution that could provide accountability and balance to what has undoubtably been unilateral and unchecked American use of force.

Terrorism is an international problem; terrorists are non-state actors and they are not armed forces. I am not saying we shouldn’t kill terrorists who are on the run and who are actively planning attacks. Even local police are allowed to use lethal force against dangerous, fleeing criminal suspects. But there needs to be a system in place so we aren’t relying on the CIA’s word that our missiles aren’t accidentally targeting Pakistani or Yemeni innocent civilians.

woodcutter's avatar

I have to believe there have been many more missiles held back then released, towards a target for the very purpose of not killing unintended people. Occasionally they get it wrong. There is a system in place for checking and rechecking. Most of the time they get it right.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu It is not okay for the US to assassinate other country’s citizens without due process. I am in complete agreement with you. Many of the assassinations take place in the tribal areas of Pakistan which are semi autonomous and where the people have no voice and do not enjoy the protection of government. I don’t think that means it is OK to kill them. We need international agreement on how drones should be used but while only one side has them I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Qingu's avatar

@woodcutter, I agree that there’s no evidence at least of the drones widely attacking the wrong targets. And I am in favor of using drones and hellfires with heavy surveillance as opposed to, you know, carpet bombing, or even a cruise missile. The whole point of this technology is that it’s accurate.

But I’m just not comfortable relying on the CIA or even the USAF to act as the judge, jury and executioner for these targets. This is not a sustainable system for the neverending “war on terror.”

woodcutter's avatar

The military or CIA are what we have with the capabilities do do such dirty work. Lawyers and diplomats are impractical. The drone missiles that appear to come from nowhere is as much a psychological tactic as it is a killing tool. They go hand in hand. It keeps the enemy jittery and careful to the point of being careless. Right now there are few countries who want to be seen as aiders and abettors to our enemies. They point the bad guys out to us. Indirect fire was considered when taking out Bin-laden but it would not have been surgical enough so special forces got the gig, where any or all of them could have been killed. Some intel is only good for a limited time, wait too long to move on it and opportunity is gone, never to know when the next time will present itself. All in all it looks to me like they are doing a pretty efficient job making these players disappear.

If these people do another “spectacular“attack on the country I would hate to think what more regulations our own govt. will cram down our throats…giving the bad guy’s another win, and democracy another FAIL.

Qingu's avatar

@woodcutter I agree that drones (and spec ops which go hand in hand with them) are the best of available tools in our current “war” against terrorists. They are much better than, for example, invading with an army.

But I think it’s important to keep in mind the downsides. I mean, how would you feel if you were a Pakistani or a Yemeni and a friggin’ robot airplane from another country fired a missile at your innocent brother or son because the CIA mistook him for a terrorist?

What is the greater long-term threat: people like Awlaki and bin Laden producing propaganda and vague plans to kill American civilians from hiding places, or entire societies in Yemen and (more importantly) nuclear-armed Pakistan hating America? Look at public opinion of America in Pakistan; and consider how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. Add in nukes and Pakistan’s stated policy of supporting terrorist groups as part of a “deep strategy” of detterrance against better-armed India and I think some international accountability is pretty damn necessary if we’re going to continue unilaterally assassinating Pakistani citizens.

woodcutter's avatar

War is one big downside. We can do very little to sanitize it. If you wake up a sleeping giant some people are going to die. The leadership of this movement has to go. The “big” one was hiding in plain sight in a large populated city. Would have been easier to put a daisy cutter there. Great care was taken not to kill innocent people. To me that satisfies the burden of there being a great effort of restraint. There are only 3 certainties in life, #1Death,#2 taxes, and #3 if you start a war with America, you’re gonna get one.

Qingu's avatar

@woodcutter, war has dramatically changed since the Japanese woke up the “sleeping giant” of America in 1941. (And thank God for that, since WW2 was the most horrible thing that ever happened to this world… though that’s another discussion).

We are not fighting armies. We are not fighting people who can even be traced to a government. In most ways, terrorists resemble organized crime. In most ways, the most effective way to combat terrorism, especially in urban areas, resembles SWAT tactics against organized crime. (I am thinking of the spec ops “night raids” that have been hugely successful in Afghanistan).

So I am wary of even using the term “war” to describe this conflict because it conjures ideas of “war of attrition” and extremely lethal force that are not at all appropriate to the situation.

To take your example of bin Laden, the “big one,” why was that successful? We spent untold resources training 70 SEALs and a dog over and over again, building stealth helicopters, etc… to take out a single guy. That is not “war,” that’s a supercharged police action. War would have been using daisy cutters (actually MOAB’s now, we’ve discontinued the ol’ daisy cutters) which was, in fact, an option on the table. And it would have been a terrible idea because a lot of innocent people would have died and we wouldn’t have gotten confirmation or computer intelligence from the compound.

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