Obama Adminstration Weighs Limits (If Any) of Targeted Killing

The New York Times reports the Obama Administrations' legal eagles are considering how far they can go in targeting and killing suspected terrorists in countries like Yeman and Somalia.

The debate, according to officials familiar with the deliberations, centers on whether the United States may take aim at only a handful of high-level leaders of militant groups who are personally linked to plots to attack the United States or whether it may also attack the thousands of low-level foot soldiers focused on parochial concerns: controlling the essentially ungoverned lands near the Gulf of Aden, which separates the countries.

The Defense Department view:

[I]f a group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda against Americans, the United States can take aim at any of its combatants, especially in a country that is unable or unwilling to suppress them.


The State Department view:

To kill people elsewhere [beyond battlefield countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan]....the United States must be able to justify the act as necessary for its self-defense — meaning it should focus only on individuals plotting to attack the United States.

A bill pending in Congress:

[One version] proposed by the House Armed Forces Committee would establish an expansive standard for the categories of groups that the United States may single out for military action, potentially making it easier for the United States to kill large numbers of low-level militants in places like Somalia.

Sen. Lindsay Graham wants more killing authority:

He said he would offer an amendment that would explicitly authorize the use of force against a list of specific groups including the Shabab, as well as set up a mechanism to add further groups to the list if they take certain “overt acts.”

....“This is a worldwide conflict without borders,” Mr. Graham argued. “Restricting the definition of the battlefield and restricting the definition of the enemy allows the enemy to regenerate and doesn’t deter people who are on the fence.”

All the world's a battlefield. It's become our national anthem. Everyone just sing along. Ten years ago the issue was whether we could indefinitely detain suspected terrorists without trial for associating with al Qaida. Now it's whether we can kill them on sight. The more things change....

Alternate tune: Blaze of Glory.

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    Doesn't this issue have at least (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by observed on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:49:07 PM EST
    as much weight as SCOTUS appointments or social security?
    How can one cast a vote for such a tyrant?

    you mean Lindsay Graham? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:20:19 PM EST
    Beats me how someone could vote for him.

    As to the Obama legal eagles, they are weighing their position.


    Well, if you don't know how someone (none / 0) (#6)
    by Anne on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:43:19 PM EST
    could vote for Graham, how does it make sense for someone to vote for Obama?  I mean, it is Obama's administration that is trying - with some diligence, it seems - to keep figuring how new ways and new justifications for killing people.  

    We've gone from "it depends on what the definition of 'is' is," to, "it depends on what the definition of 'war' is."  

    We keep being reminded that we HAVE TO vote for Obama because of the Supreme Court. Well, I have to wonder, as Obama has evolved into someone who can justify the assassination of American citizens with no due process whatsoever - among other equally hideous and antithetical-to-democracy decisions - what's he really going to be looking for in a SC justice if he gets the chance to nominate someone?  And how different, really, will his nominee be from one made by a Republican?  I don't think Democrats would be nearly as cooperative and compliant in going along with a clearly-radical GOP nominee as they are certain to be if presented one that is just as dangerous by a Democratic president with nothing to lose.

    Don't get me wrong: I am not trivializing Roe v. Wade - I don't have to, actually, because it's been steadily undermined for years now, and I don't see any signs of us getting back what has been eroded - but I do think that we allow ourselves to have tunnel vision on Roe - to the exclusion of things like the issues raised in your post - at our collective peril.


    He's Got A Pretty Good Record... (none / 0) (#12)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 04:57:40 PM EST
     ... on that.  Not much else, but I am pretty sure he's not going to come close to a Perry SCOTUS nominee.

    That being said, it's not enough IMO to vote for him.  This site is a defense attorney site, so I would think a SC nominee holds pulls far more weight to Jerayln then you average liberal, or at least that how it appears to me.


    Though the ROE (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:54:09 PM EST
    that the Obama administration is using in places are classified, I have up to this point supported their position and I can say one thing for them,  at least they care.  At least they have these debates about what is proper and what is legal and what is not for them to do and not do.  I know that many liberals have not supported the President's stand on al-Awlaki.  I support him on that stand.  None of this is easy.

    I fervently hope the Obama admins. (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:27:02 PM EST
    policy makers read today's Glenn Greenwald post: "re-programming juvenile terrorists in training"

    Also, U.S. State Dept. acknowledges U.S. is engaged in wars in both Afghanistan AND Pakistan.  This is news.

    Glenn is just a little bit full of (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:59:31 PM EST
    crap here.  This is actually a topic that has been discussed within our house with people in special forces.  The sad differences between the children of Kabul and other Afghan cities, and the children of the Taliban growing up in valleys exposed to very little from the outside and deliberately brought up that way.  I don't know what to do about it, but it isn't our presence there specifically that is responsible for them growing up seeking holy war.  And it is this culture that seeks to shelter and breed terrorism, and it was going on long before we got there.

    I'm probably going to (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 02:04:26 PM EST
    upset someone out there too but I'm going to throw a word down that was thrown down on the table here describing what they do to their children, Cult.

    Cult Maybe (none / 0) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 05:30:21 PM EST
    But to me it's easier to convince them the devil exists when he's tromping through your backyard shooting at your family.

    All kids are in cults per se, I sure as hell wouldn't want my kid at an abortion rally or even a political rally.  To pull a Reagan, "If aliens were to land tomorrow.... "  they would think we are all in cults the way we brainwash our kids into working 40 hour weeks to make large companies rich, and doing it willingly for around 50 years for what, to buy the crap they sell, but we don't need.

    Aliens, now that I think about it, any ancient peoples would think were mad, brainwashed beyond comprehension.  So the Afghans want to keep their kids in from venturing out, who cares.  Let then do what they do, it's obvious to me we can't police their culture, and as much as that sucks in regards to human rights, it's just not possible.  We probably wouldn't be down with invading armies telling us spanking our kids ain't cool, or worse, demanding we stop.

    What we should be doing is showing them there is a better way, and maybe the people in the hills don't see it, but word would travel, "look at America, love and peace" or whatever, something they would actually be envious of.  Eventually it would spread, because no matter the person, we all yearn for utopia, it why nearly all religions promise it.  We all want it.


    This cult breeds and feeds terrorism (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 07:06:12 PM EST
    It did before we got there, we are trying to challenge that.  I don't know if we will be successful, but the globe will deal with this whether we like it or not and this could end up being much worse than anything any of us would ever want to see.  Like if this cult ended up with a Pakistani nuke.

    There are all sorts of cults out there, there is even a cultishness to the military though surviving the current realities have checked a lot of cultish beliefs and behaviors.  There are different levels of cultish though, the most successful require isolation during indoctrination and ritualization practices and the Taliban is top shelf when it comes to this just like our military is.

    When you combine how they pass summary judgement and kill people who offend them and then display them publicly though, they have trumped us.  Add to that how anyone trying to bury the bodies or remove them so that the trauma can end will share the same fate, you have potent seemingly inescapable omnipotent brainwashers.

    How many kids in Taliban ruled regions have the strength of spirit to want something else for themselves?  Sorry, but even me growing up in that situation, I will be siding with the "winners" in that "civilization".  Freedom of thought and spirit are obviously for the dead people and the people who want to be dead people.


    Not to be Mean (none / 0) (#25)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 08:52:34 AM EST
    Your aspirations while great fail to acknowledge that this cult, the American one, are in their country killing far more innocent people them those dastardly terrorists could possibly dream.

    And while they have terrorists, I think Iraq would argue there is little difference between terrorists and the American military.  Both claim killing is the way to a better tomorrow.  

    The difference of course is we are more efficient at piling up the bodies.  I am positive, both the Afghans and Iraqis have been far more 'terrorized' then any American.  We fear flying, they fear bombs in their homes, bullets in the streets, one can be avoided, the other can't.  You tell me who has been terrorized more.

    And not to be mean, and rather obvious, but your post is pretty much the claim I made.  Your team is doing bad deeds for the right reason, which is exactly the same reasoning used by any cult doing bad deeds.  You argue 'freedom of thought' they argue 'freedom from satan'.  The only difference is.... absolutely none.  They are both a load of S spoon fed by leaders to justify horrible deeds.  Just because you don't feel indoctrinated doesn't mean you aren't.  And I don't mean you specifically, I am in there as well.

    Now, he's hell bent for destruction
    He's afraid and confused
    And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
    All he believes are his eyes
    And his eyes, they just tell him lies
    - Bob Dylan

    So, the people with whom you have (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 02:07:22 PM EST
    conversed would disagree with Greenwald?  Why?  Because hatred by children of U.S. occupation is not widespread?  

    Nope (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 02:26:47 PM EST
    And they will all tell you that when they are in Kabul they are safe with the kids on the streets.  They are safe to play with them, hang out with them, but those children and their parents have a completely different mindset they live by.  

    The children of the Taliban are FIRST raised in isolation.  And you will believe exactly what those crazy old men want you to believe or their Allah will remove you from being one of the living things.  Education and knowledge are evil, anything of the West is of the devil.  We have people who would like to live like this in our country too, but it is hard in this country to raise such isolated God filled hate filled children because they are exposed to too many things that make them question that.  And if you kill them for doubting your spiel there are consequences here.  In Afghanistan though, tough $hit for you if you are unlucky enough to be born of the Taliban.


    Targeted killing is better than ... (none / 0) (#4)
    by lyzurgyk on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:30:19 PM EST

    ... full-scale invasions.

    We're not solely responsible for making the world a battlefield.  

    What are the best options for dealing with terrorists in "ungoverned lands"?

    last night, and Bon Jovi is one of his buddies. I saw the footage of Jon on the sidelines with Belichick and I thought immediately of you!

    I had to look up (none / 0) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:04:19 PM EST
    who Bill Belichick is, and when I did, I found this clip of him and Bon Jovi singing Wanted: Dead or Alive. How's that for coincidence?

    I Have a Gripe (none / 0) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 05:14:25 PM EST
    More of a request.

    Can you stop, for the love of god, linking great music to evil stuff.  It's been ruining songs for me, but this one especially...  Now I will never again hear this song with virginized ears and thoughts of a misspent youth...

    After today, just jaded thoughts of my tax dollars putting bullets in brown people for my safety, awesome.

    The song has nothing to do with anything in this post, the title is word play about being an outlaw rocker. Why link beautiful music to to murder ?

    Can't grant the request, sorry (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:58:12 PM EST
    Of course Bon Jovi didn't have this in mind in the 80's or 90's when they wrote Wanted: Dead of Alive or Blaze of Glory. It wasn't intended to be literal. But I like posting songs that come to mind as I'm reading the day's news. Sometimes it's a song title, sometimes it's a sentence or two in a lyric.

    This is a blog about politics and crime, I can't just post music with a caption that says, "I like this song" without making some connection. How about if you just think of the videos as my excuse to post music I like and make it  relevant in some way to the theme of the post and don't let it get to you. Music should be fun and a stress-reliever.


    Worth a Shot (none / 0) (#26)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 09:22:39 AM EST
    Your space.

    I'll offer an alternatives alternative or two, Masters of War, and the Pearl Jam live version.


    I can't help thinking about how other nations can (none / 0) (#21)
    by jawbone on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 07:34:05 PM EST
    use the Obama (and before him the Bush/Cheney) administration's reasoning and justifications to then go after US citiziens, anywhere, any time, with any means available.

    Drones will not be just out prerogative in the near future (not that they aren't now; we just have the best...so far).

    Assassination will be justifed as cutting off the "head of the snake," with our government and its officials being a snake and its head(s) to some other nations.

    We are establishing ground rules and performing actions which will without doubt be used by other forces to justify actions against us.

    And we do things in secret, as they will, making direct retaliztion difficult.

    How do we pass a bill to erase the constitution? (none / 0) (#22)
    by mcl on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 11:50:09 PM EST
    How does that work legally, exactly?  I'm curious form a legal standpoint.

    Amendment five of the constitution says that no citizen shall be deprived of life or liberty except by due process. How exactly do we take a scissors and cut that part of the constitution out by passing a bill?

    The next logical step of course involves the targeted killing of U.S. citziens within America. You'll be sitting around in a restaurant and some guy will stand up and shoot a diner in the head. Then he'll hold up a badge and announce "I'm an agent of the Department of the Homeland Security, folks, nothng to see here."

    I imagine more than a few people would clap (none / 0) (#23)
    by Edger on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 08:00:02 AM EST
    if they saw that happen in a restaurant, and say things like "The guy deserved it. He must have been a terrist or the agent wouldn't have shot him." :-/

    I don't believe (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 08:04:45 AM EST
    This relates to American citizens (yet).  As such, the Fifth Anendment does not apply.

    An argument on moral and ethical grounds is a completely different matter.