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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Consequences

Arabs call it Rub’ al Khali.

The Empty Quarter.

Most Westerners have never heard of this place. 

Few outsiders, very few, ever venture there.

The Rub’ al Khali is a vast, vast forbidding sea of sand and searing brown rock, a desolate lonely place that takes up more than a third of the Arabian Peninsula, including a large part of Saudi Arabia itself,  along with parts of Oman, the UAE, and Yemen.  It is the largest sand desert in the world. During the day temperatures can reach 125°F or more and the ground is so hot that it will literally burn skin and raise blisters. It is as if the sun is somehow closer to surface of the earth here than elsewhere in the world. And then, at night, under a vast milky river of crystalline stars the likes of which are rarely seen anywhere else on earth, you can die shivering of hypothermia.  The air is thin and as dry as the surface of the moon, you can feel it sucking the moisture right out of your body leaving your nose bleeding and your skin cracked and bleached like old leather.

It smells of flint and powered cement.

On the southern edge of the Empty Quarter lies the Yemeni administrative province of al-Jawf.  It’s cooler here and sometimes it even rains,  there are small towns in the central highland desert, dusty places where people still herd camels and tough little goats.  In the wet years there is enough rain to plant crops of wheat and barley and to scratch out a living from the poor soil. During those years, runoff from the crops forms into streams that will evaporate before they reach the sea, leaving behind a crust of salt and a poisonous rime of chemical fertilizer.  The people there have this look, as if they are one and all ancient, raised whole from the hardscrabble by malicious djinni and weathered by wind driven sand, desiccated, carved from beef jerky and left to dry in the sun.

This forsaken place has always been a fairly lawless land, a natural base for pirates, criminals and cutthroats, bandits and pissant warlords. 

It is fitting then, that in recent times al-Jawf, on the edge of the great Rub’ al Khali, has become a hiding place for terrorists.

Last Friday morning, in the desert five miles outside of a small al-Jawfi town called Khashef, a party of men stopped alongside the dusty road.  Muslims, they knelt in the desert and made their mid-morning prayers.  Then, while it was still reasonably cool, they ate breakfast.  Figs perhaps, strong coffee, hard cheese and bread maybe. 

This would turn out to be a mistake.

They should have kept going.

Al-Jawf is a dangerous place, even in the best of times, and lately it’s become even more deadly. New predators patrol the skies alongside the sharp eyed desert hawks. 

Perhaps they heard their death approaching.  The American drones are ghostly silent – sometimes though, if the wind is just right, you can hear their thin keening buzz from a distance.  Or maybe they saw those slim black silhouettes outlined like the grim reaper’s shadow against the blinding blue sky.  Of course they would have been alert for just such an attack.  They were, after all, some of the most wanted men in the world, dangerous and cunning and experienced. They had all been hunted from the sky before.  They would have watched for those deadly raptors the way a desert mouse watches for a hawk.  And so, somehow, they sensed death approaching.

Like the mouse, they ran.

Four of them made it to an SUV and attempted to reach the relative safety of Khashef. 

Another mistake, and the last one they would make. 

The AGM-114 tactical missile is small, comparatively cheap, accurate, and deadly. They’re designated Hellfire – named for the weapon’s original mission: HELicopter launched FIRE-and-forget.  They were designed to kill tanks – later it turned out they worked pretty well against a wide variety of targets, including SUV’s.

Hellfire, if ever there was an appropriate nickname for a weapon, that would be it.

Two of the missiles dropped off of the drones’ munitions hardpoints and streaked towards the fleeing SUV – and the end was inevitable at that point. Once the missiles are locked on, it’s all over but for the bang. 

Four men died in the explosion.

And in that moment, in that hellfire, the world became a measurably better place.

Those men were terrorists, committed, enthusiastic, and unrepentant.  They were terrorists in the purest sense of the word – in that they deliberately created, encouraged, promulgated, and enabled terror.  Terror was not a byproduct of their campaign, it was the very reason for its existence.  It doesn’t matter why.  It doesn’t matter if they felt justified or moral or compelled by God. They were terrorists and they reveled in it.  The only argument is in the details and the degree.

These men were not only the self-proclaimed and sworn enemies of America, they were the nemesis of civilization everywhere, including and especially in Yemen. 

Quite simply, these men declared war on the entire world and thus made themselves the enemies of every single man, woman, and child on the planet.

Two of them, as it happens, were also Americans.

And therein lies the rub.

 

President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was once pilloried for saying, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” (often misquoted as “never let a good crisis go to waste”).  Crass? Maybe. Maybe it was just crass to say it so bluntly (Oddly, Emanuel’s enemies are the ones who pride themselves on speaking plainly and who eschew political correctness, perhaps they simply couldn’t abide seeing their own thoughts reflected back at themselves. But I digress).  Crass or not, Emanuel was simply stating a basic tenet of all politics, Left, Right, and other.

Never let a crisis go to waste. 

Here’s the corollary: If there is no crisis, create one. 

And here’s the rest of it: Never, ever, let a victory by your political opposition go unchallenged.

In some cases, it is hard to tell if the pundits and the politicians calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama today truly believe what they are saying. In other cases, the intent, and the astounding hypocrisy, is perfectly clear.

I spent three days reading comments from people across the political spectrum, the general response to the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki seems to fall into four basic categories: A) USA! USA!  B) Ok, but I don’t like how we did it,  C) Boo, we shouldn’t be engaged in targeted killing, period, and D) Al Whosis now?

I think category (A) is self-explanatory. 

Let’s take the rest in reverse order:

D) If you’re an American of draft age or older, don’t suffer from some form of debilitating brain damage, and can eat pudding without help and you don’t know who Anwar al-Awlaki is, you’re a big part of what’s wrong with America today.  Don’t comment, don’t offer an opinion, don’t stand on the corner waving a misspelled sign demanding the resignation of the president, and for God’s sake please don’t vote. Get yourself another fudgesickle out of the freezer, go back to watching SpongeBob and be quiet.

 

C) Targeted killing.  I have never understood the moral objection to this.  Oh don’t get me wrong, sure it’s immoral.  So what?  Killing is killing, you can gussy it up all you like, it’s still killing and it’s all immoral.  That’s the way it is, you’re just arguing over semantics. If you’re on the receiving end, it doesn’t make one good goddamned bit of difference if death finds you from some random bit of shrapnel or if the bullet has your name written on it. Dead’s dead. Trust me on this, I’ve been there.  After a decade of war, so have a hell of a lot of us.  Killing people on the battlefield, zapping them in the electric chair, putting poison into their veins, or dropping hellfire on them from the sky – it’s all killing. Morality has got not one damned thing to do with it.   Frankly I fail to understand how it was more moral or honorable or even economical to let thousands of people die during the revolution in Libya, for example, than to just drop a Tomahawk on Khaddafi on day one. Bang! There, the asshole’s dead. Toss his body over the balcony railing and let the mob use it for a piƱata, we brought sticks, no pushing there’s enough for everybody. War’s over. Long live the Arab Spring and don’t forget who your friends are.

How many lives would that have saved? How much good will would that have bought us with the Libyans and the revolutionaries? What kind of message would that have sent to other America-hating, terrorist-sponsoring dictators?

Yes, I know, where does that end? Tehran? Pyongyang? Austin? There need to be boundaries, there needs to be oversight, there needs to be checks and balances and accountability.  There needs to be very clear rules of engagement.  But then this is true of any executive power – including wiretaps and detentions and renditions and no-fly lists. We’ll come back to that.

Yeah, but what about targeted killing of Americans?

We’ll come back to that too.

 

B) The President ordered the killing of an American, that’s unconstitutional, he should be impeached.

The basic argument being The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to wit:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

The Americans making this statement fall into two basic categories, those who have only recently discovered that the Constitution has parts other than the Second Amendment, and those that have been sounding the alarm for the past ten years.

If you’re a member of the first group, i.e. if you’ve spent the last decade calling the second group enemies of America and weak on terrorism and limp-wristed sissies, if you’ve spent the last ten years telling us why waterboarding and rendition and naked body scanners and warrantless wiretapping and warrantless property searches and no-fly lists and the secret provisions of the Patriot Act were such spiffy ideas, well, all I can say to you is, welcome to the party.

This is exactly what we’ve been warning you about.  If you give a rightwing conservative Christian America-lovin’ Texas patriot the power, you’ve automatically given his successor, the tofu-eating sissy socialist Muslim Kenyan-born Commie America hating Liberal, the power too.  You’ve got no one to blame but yourself, you stupid silly bastards. What the hell do you think we’ve been telling you? Now? Now, you’re all upset? Now you want a fair trial? (question, say we caught al Awlaki instead of blowing him up, could we have his terrorism trial in your state? Since he’s an American? Hello, is this thing on? Hello?). Now you’re all worried about the Constitution? Now?  Because the President blew up a couple of avowed terrorist shitheads who were trying to kill the rest of us? Seriously?

That’s rich, it really is.

Get yourself a fudgesickle, go sit on the couch and just shut the fuck up.  

Honestly, after a decade of watching Americans give up their rights one after the other, the fact that President Obama dropped the hammer on Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan bothers me about as much as stepping on a couple of cockroaches.

Frankly, I think both of them gave up any claim to Fifth Amendment protection long, long ago – they were no more Americans than Osama bin Laden.  They renounced their membership in our society and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. They swore to bring down the United States and her allies and to kill as many of us as they could.  Should they have been captured and brought to trial? Sure, in a perfect world.  But in the real world it just wasn’t possible, not without risking even more American lives. And I’m going to remind you right here that the people complaining most bitterly about this are the same folks who complained bitterly about risking the lives of US Navy SEALs to capture bin Laden or rescue Rangers.  How many more of their lives would al Awlaki have been worth to you?

The CIA had a shot and they took it. They liquidated a major terrorist without risking a single soldier’s life. Good on them.

Yeah, but…

There’s always that but, isn’t there?

Something I’d point out to you, this isn’t the first time.

We’ve killed Americans on foreign soil before. You grandfather did it.  In Europe.

That’s right.

Those Americans, the ones we killed, didn’t look like filthy Muslim terrorists either.

In fact they looked just like blond-haired blue-eyed all-American boys, because they were.

They were the American Free Corps, known as the George Washington Brigade – a unit of the Wafen SS

What’s that?  Yes, I see your surprised face. You didn’t know Americans fought for the Nazis, did you?

Some of them came from America of their own free will in answer Hilter’s call for all true Aryans to return to Germany, many others were turncoat American soldiers recruited from POW camps. And some were out and out traitors, like 2nd Lieutenant Martin Monti, an American pilot who defected from the US Army Air Corps by stealing a P-51 Mustang and flying it to Axis territory.  He then joined the Wehrmacht and was commissioned a Lieutenant in the German Officer Corps. He was assigned to make anti-American propaganda broadcasts under the pseudonym Martin Wiethaupt – not at all dissimilar to al-Awlaki or Samir Kahn (except for the fact that Awlaki was much more effective, by most accounts Monti was a shitty propagandist). 

A number of Americans fighting against America for the Axis were killed by Americans, and nobody shed a tear.  Monti? He survived the war, surrendered to the allies, was tried as a deserter and sentenced to serve a hitch in the US Army (I swear I’m not making this up). In 1948 the FBI caught up to him, and he was tried for treason and sentenced to prison, where he remained until 1960.

The simple truth of the matter is that these people, Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, John Walker Lindh, Martin Monti, the George Washington Brigade, and, hell, the citizens of the Confederate States of America gave up their rights, including any claim on the Fifth Amendment, when they declared war on America. 

Whether or not we give them back those rights is our decision, or rather that of our elected leaders – and if you don’t like that, maybe you should think carefully about who you elect. And maybe, just maybe you should think very, very carefully about the kind of power you want to give them. Just saying.

These men were terrorists, but they were also Americans. That makes them our responsibility. They were hiding in Yemen, and Yemen asked for our help in apprehending these criminals.

Robert Anson Heinlein, American writer, veteran, libertarian, patriot, once wrote: “A man shoots his own dog, he doesn’t farm it out. That doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse.”   He was absolutely right. These were our dogs, and our responsibility.

Bottom line, they could have surrendered. They could have surrendered at anytime, right up until 9:55AM last Friday morning. Even then, they could have faced the Predators, threw down arms and raised their hands and claimed their rights as citizens of the United States of America.

They didn’t.

They chose to die.

They chose to die as martyrs to a cause hostile to their own country. They welcomed it.

They chose to die as terrorists, not as Americans.

They made their choice, let them suffer the consequences.

82 comments:

  1. Yup, I like your point. Curious how the black guy in the White House has energized some who just didn’t seem “concerned" their Constitutional rights to privacy and their person were essentially eliminated during the Cheney/Bush years. Actually, shame on all of us for allowing these rights to be compromised in such short shrift.

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  2. Jim, can I post I hate you once just for the heck of it? I mean you don't give me any reason but it is a highly unused button on your blog and I don't want it to feel neglected...

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  3. Oh, I sure that button will get pushed more than once on this post.

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  4. I posted a status update today about something like this. I have NO objection to targeting enemy leaders and taking them out. In fact, I greatly prefer this approach to sending out our young men and women to a foreign land to fight other people with no stake in the battle. Does this make our own leaders a little more vulnerable? Perhaps, but not by much. They're already targeted, if at all possible. This isn't an ordinary war with ordinary armies trying to hold territory. These are serious bastards capable of ruthlessness of a kind of which we can barely conceive. I've said before that we're on the same page in a lot of places that I wouldn't necessarily expect, but we're on the same page here. I am a liberal. I am not a pacifist. I am not an apologist. And I'll be damned if I'll mourn the death of proud, unrepentant killers willing to take up arms against the United States. And I don't even think we should BE there in the first place. I think it likely that our being there will only make the problem worse. But if you're going to fight, fight for real or go the fuck home.

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  5. Can't sleep, read Stonekettle Station...oh it won't help you sleep, but if ya have to be awake at this hour, it is good to have something worthwile to read!
    Thank You for another clear, smart, well thought out post on a subject that needed someone to say this! This will be reposted and linked to etc.

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  6. I struggle with the morality of this, but in the end, I'd rather have a targeted killing than a war that kills innocents any day of the week. I appreciate the analysis.

    Just a small editing note..."crisis" is the singular, whereas "crises" is the plural. You've used the latter where it should be the former in the Rahm Emmanuel part...

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  7. Frankly I'm as bothered by this as the thought of Sheriff Garret offing a reward for the capture of Billy the Kid, Dead or Alive. I think for $500.

    I.E. not at all.

    There are actions that put you beyond the protection of the Constitution. In one that occurs too often and is closer to home, take a shot or two at a cop.

    I use 'I hate you' to indicate that I'm upset at your ability to write, as in I can't.

    And now I go mop the kitchen floor as we have guests this weekend, taking an 8 year old to the Bronx Zoo.

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  8. You hit the nail on the head when you wrote how these same actions, done by the previous president, would have had the right-wingers and what-not peeing their pants in submission to show their support of that president. They would have been climbing over each other to loudly declare how it was the correct decision to protect Ammurrca and how those commie liberal sissy elitist terrorist-loving Democrats hated Ammurrca and didn't have the balls to do what was necessary protect this country, the land of liberty, land that I love, etc., etc.

    However, to play devil's advocate for a moment -- didn't Donald Rumsfeld advocate the use of more predator drones to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but then get raked over the coals because there *wasn't* enough manpower on the ground? So it does make Democrats hypocrites also for criticizing those decisions then, while supporting them now.

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  9. "Oh don’t get me wrong, sure it’s immoral. So what? Killing is killing, you can gussy it up all you like, it’s still killing and it’s all immoral."

    Yes, it is. And I am a wildly liberal person who owns a gun. I don't think that, if you have been proven a danger to the entire country, you get to call on the constitution. You get put down like the dog that you are, by someone who has devoted their life to keeping the rest of us safe.

    Bravo, Jim, as always. Keep on writing, keep on making us think.

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  10. I've posted this to my facebook. Thank you for expressing so clearly the frustration I've been feeling with all the fucking holier-than-thou hypocrisy

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  11. I've NEVER posted on your blog...and all I can say is WOW!! You have a wonderful way with words. The world for some reason has turned upside down...and I'm dizzy and I want to get off!

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  12. @Bill: However, to play devil's advocate for a moment -- didn't Donald Rumsfeld advocate the use of more predator drones to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but then get raked over the coals because there *wasn't* enough manpower on the ground? So it does make Democrats hypocrites also for criticizing those decisions then, while supporting them now

    Yes.

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  13. @Cindy, thanks. That's what I get for writing late at night ;)

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  14. Killing is killing... amen to that! Never been in the bulls-eye of a 'targeted killing' mission - the people that have shot me / shot at me don't count because I was simply a target of opportunity, they had no idea who I was except that I wasn't 'on their side'.

    But if that day ever came (and I'm fairly confident that it won't) I think I'd prefer to be taken out solo and surgically rather than see my wife, family, friends, or perhaps my entire apartment block go up in smoke at the same time.

    Some of these hand wringers should stop and consider what their ROE preference would be should they ever find themselves living next door to a valid enemy target disguised as a fellow citizen (which these guys clearly weren't!)

    Massive collateral damage or extreme risk to Allied fighting forces no longer has to be the norm... you can't win hearts and minds when you've accidentally turned them into a thin paste.

    As for the morality of targeting American Citizens? You can be born into your citizenship or you can earn it but either way, in order to keep it you have to be willing to follow rule of law... and one of the biggest cornerstones in that law is "don't kill / plot to kill / actively encourage others to kill your fellow citizens".

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  15. Bravo Jim--another solid post. As always, you bring in the historical backgrounds which makes it so much better than the drivel I've read elsewhere.

    Someone ought to send this to Glenn Greenwald and Jonathan Turley and Ron Paul and their acolytes.

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  16. The Case for Using Predator Drone Strikes Against Wall Street Executives:From a secret Justice Department memorandum obtained by the Rude Pundit

    http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2011/10/case-for-using-predator-drone-attacks.html

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  17. I'm far more concerned about the Justice Department’s secret memo drawn up to justify the targeted killings. While I doubt that they're going to use hellfire missiles inside the country, I am worried that the memo may set a legal precedent which could be used to target domestic “terrorists” with more conventional means of elimination. That memo has all my paranoia bells ringing; in the hands of a President Perry, or even the bland but scary robot known as Mitt, it could be very dangerous.

    Obama needs to release that memo, but I’m not holding my breath.

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  18. Great article Jim. Much more effective than my response on Awlaki ("he needed killin'").

    I think it's a good intellectual/legal discussion to have. You don't want this sort of precedent expanded to include everyday law enforcement (where some slippery-slopers will take it).

    Thank you for citing precedent. I doubt many people even knew of the American wing of the Waffen SS. Your blog post is the best article I've read on this incident to date.

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  19. Jim
    Once again you are seeing through the fog of WAR/propaganda/BS. We, as American Citizens, do have an obligation, or "social contract", when born or naturalized here. Stealing, murder, and the rest of the other crimes, including the Bankers of Wall Street, abrogates that contract. That puts one at risk of being "punished". The extent of punishment should be commiserate with the crime. Alas, that would be in a Perfect World. Please Jim keep the thought process going.

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  20. The difference, for me, is that he clearly was part of an organization that had declared war on the US. When he did that, he became a legit target. That makes him different from even the militia people who haven't overly declared war on the US.

    If he had surrendered, he should have had a trial in the US court as a full US citizen. But as you said, Jim, he didn't take advantage of that opportunity.

    Also, it's not the first time we killed a US citizen in the pay of al Qaeda in Yemen with the use of a Predator drone. In fact, I believe that was when everybody suddenly said, "Hey, those things got missiles."

    My guess is shortly we'll hear about a sealed court order with his name on it.


    nergative - when my geek cred gives me the werewithal to go to the dark side.

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  21. "...US Navy SEALs to capture bin Laden or rescue Rangers.."

    Wait a second, Chip, Dale, Monty, Zipper, and Gadget were put in danger? Gardget?! This won't do, won't do at all.

    Sorry, couldn't help myself.

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  22. Ok, as one of those Option B "Hmm, I don't know if I like this" type people, you just made me feel better about the whole thing.

    So if that was your goal, you have succeeded. Um, thanks I guess.

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  23. I have no problem with targeted killing of people who have made active war on the US and its people.

    I feel strongly that any US action must be as precise as possible, both to avoid making ourselves equally indifferent to the lives of the innocent, and to reduce the numbers who ally with AlQueda to avenge the deaths of their friends and family, especially when they were innocent bystanders.

    I think Mr. Obama has done a much better job of targeting the bad, and protecting the innocent than his predecessor.

    While I have no problem with the use of a hellfire missile, it does leave a crater rather than an intelligence trove. I suspect that there are fierce arguments about whether to send in a team like the one that got Bin Laden, with the associated risks and intel rewards, versus a quick and certain kill that leaves a dead end. I wonder what might have been on Awlaki's laptop.

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  24. I think Tim McVeigh falls into this category as well. American who was a terrorist, killed by the US. Not a single tear shed by me for either of these deaths.

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  25. What the hell do you have against fudgsicles, man? I have a whole box in my tiny freezer and I like to eat them while watching Band Of Brothers, where I learned about Americans fighting for the Axis.

    Thanks for this. Thought provoking and wonderfully stated.

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  26. Holly,

    The difference between McVeigh and Al-Awlaki is that McVeigh was arrested and tried in court. Al-Awlaki was not. THAT's the precedence some are worried about.

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  27. That's because McVeigh surrendered to law enforcement. If he had fought, shot at law enforcement for example, he could have been summarily executed alongside that highway without any trial - and the cops would have been within the law. Al-Awlaki had the same option, he just made a different choice.

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  28. @ Holly W.:

    McVeigh was certainly a terrorist but he was captured and tried before receiving his death sentence. That middle step is important.

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  29. As one o' them evilutionist Gawd-hatin' tree-huggin' libruhl Demoncrats, not to mention Navy veteran, Boy Scout, and patriot, I hate the so-called Patriot Act with a passion.

    That said, I think executing al-Awlaki with a Hellfire missile was the correct thing to do. What civil liberty violation? He was a traitor who took up arms against the US. He attempted to violently overthrow the elected government, which is one of the ways of giving up American citizenship.

    All those Tea Baggers talking about "Second Amendment solutions" had better remember this.

    Those GOP-baggers who supported the Patriot Act should tell me how else they would have treated this guy... Locked him up in Guantanamo Bay ('scuse me, "Gitmo" fer yew chickenhawk Baggers), violating _other_ civil rights like habeus corpus? You guys were too chicken-shit to allow real trials on US soil, so don't tell me that's your plan now. Flaming hypocrites.

    Now what the heck does the GOP/TP have left to say? That a bullet would have been cheaper in these hard economic times? Hah, no, just kidding. Missiles mean more profits for no-bid contractors. Maybe they can advocate for billing the cost of the missile to al-Awlaki's family... just like that bastion of true capitalism, China.

    Those GOP/TeaBaggers are just jealous that President Obama's record of killing high profile terrorists is better than former President Bush. Bush said about Osama bin Laden, just 6 months after 9/11: "I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you." (Sorry, now I'm going off on a rant. Stopping now.)

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  30. Thank you. I have been thinking about this all week. In exactly the context you stated. You are right about the fact that these terrorists gave up their rights as Americans.

    I don't have nearly the historical, or military, background you do to feel that I could make an informed decision on how I felt about this killing. Thanks for validating me.

    While I don't feel any better morally about killing someone, I do very much support the concept of "killing your own dog". And so we did. Good on you Obama.

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  31. Again, it's an important distinction that McVeigh surrendered when confronted by law enforcement. If he had attempted to escape or resisted arrest, he could have been shot out of hand - and his Fifth Amendement rights would have been moot. It happens all of the time.

    Using the example in the post, if Martin James Monti, who in 1944 surrendered to American GI's in Italy still wearing his SS uniform, had fought or attempted to evade capture instead, he would have been shot down without question - and certainly no regard for his Constitutional rights as an American. However, he surrendered, and was given his rights under the laws of the United States. He ended up in prison and eventually became a free man, but he could have been executed for treason in time of war. al-Awlaki had exactly the same option, and since (as the suddenly constitutional conservatives point out) he was never indicted or convicted of actually killing an American, he too might have become a free man someday.

    Instead, he resisted arrest, and in that, well, let's just say that he's probably lucky it was the CIA on the other end of that C2 link instead of the NYC PD.

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  32. Hmm, I'm against targeting american citizens on principle but this is so deep into grey area it might as well be black.

    This citizen was…..

    a) 7,000 miles away from home. (random number inserted for "lots")
    b) there of his own volition
    c) hanging with known terrorists
    d) admitting allegiance to said terrorists i.e. NOT a reporter (who can expect to get blown up for simply being to close to the fire)

    That pretty much puts you in my "too stupid to live" file. Yah, it would have been great to capture him and pick his brain but I wouldn't risk the life of a mangy dog to make that happen.

    Had he been in Mexico or Costa Rica or floating in a boat off the coast of the Bahamas I would possibly have more objections.

    This wasn't Moss the environmentalist throwing stink bombs at Japanese fishing vessels. This was an honest to goodness, kill people with explosives, terrorist. If Moss starts using guns and explosives he gets the drone strike too.

    Too stupid to live doesn't know jack about borders. Wave a gun in the direction of a state or federal official and expect to get equally perforated.

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  33. Remember the action at Ft. Hood last year? Wasn't that disgruntled major sort of a protege of al-Awlaki? He killed a bunch of unarmed American soldiers, his messmates, and probably planned to die himself, but didn't. Malik Nadal Hasan's damage could be directly attributed to the American in the Arabian desert, so anyone who says that "he never actually killed anyone" doesn't really get the whole chain-of-command idea.

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  34. @Mary

    The government has never claimed that Hasan was following al Awlaki's direct orders, only that al Awlaki may have had influence on Hasan. Splitting hairs, yes, but it makes a difference in a legal sense.

    Here's the ironic part, if the US Government couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that al Awlaki actually killed anybody or participated in actions against the US, or issued orders that resulted in actions against the US, or even was actually in charge of any part of Al Quiada - then if he had surrendered and faced trial, there's a real possibility that he could have gotten off on the 1st Amendment. Of course, he'd need Zombie Johnny Cochran as a defense lawyer, but still.

    Of course, that's assuming that he wasn't just dumped in a hole in Gitmo forever without a trial.

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  35. Well done as always Jim. The person I often think of in these cases is Ezra Pound - an American who worked as a propagandist for the Fascist government of Mussolini when they were at war with the United States. Although he was so barking mad that when he was captured, he was let off from a capital charge of treason by reason of insanity. Obviously the presiding officer at the trial had read the Cantos ;-)
    Keep up the good work.
    B.

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  36. Oh and thanks, by the way... now I want a damn Fudgsicle.
    B.

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  37. Starship Troopers FTW!

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  38. I always learn something from your blog posts. Thanks, and keep it coming. I've still got a lot to learn.

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  39. Jim,
    you do a disservice to all of us couch sitting, fudgesicle eating, spongebob watching Americans. With all the crap with congress, the bad economy, and general insanity in the world, some of us find solace these simple pleasures. Please don't send the knuckleheads and no-minds to sit with us, we have them with us the rest of the day.

    As always, good post.

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  40. Bravo. Period.
    Thank you once again for calling it like it is.
    And hats off for your indomitable courage in doing so.

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  41. great blog. i was linked here from a forum i frequent, and think i'll follow it. thanks for your writings.

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  42. The targeted killing of Osama was a hot debate among friends and family. It raised a lot of questions around here and there were more than a few voices raised, books slammed and "grrs!" I like that, we think, democracy lives in our house. I like your blog because your honest, rascally, and witty.

    As unpopular as it seems over in my circles, I agree with the "this is war and they got killed, sorry if the means don't fit your storybook color by number idea about HOW they were killed."

    It does rub another smaller voice that says "well death is an answer" but had they given themselves up, would it be The answer? I admiit I am a hopeful, I have this underlying thought that if given the chance almost anyone can be talked to and under the right conditions turned around.

    I'm wandering. We're past the point of pulling out when we've sent our soldiers in and deploy our automated weapons, does hostile occupation allow for a conversation, or are we set to launch drones through the next (??) years while people are converted into extremists and launched against the Western World?

    You make the mice on the wheel go round-and-round, thanks for the morning stimulation. :)

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  43. Well, if the ultimate punishment for high treason is still death, then these men got exactly what they had coming to them.

    end of discussion.

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  44. Thanks for (again) writing in a way to help us think and see things a little clearer on this topic. It was easy for me to form an opinion on this, but with your knowledge and the facts you've given here, I'm able to make a more informed opinion.

    I agree with you here. And there, and usually everywhere! Except about the Fudgecicles. :)

    bd

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  45. Those first two paragraphs read like the opening of a novel. When is that coming out?

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  46. Nick from the O.C.October 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    "The reason that the penalty for treason is death is because the perpetrator belongs by conviction to the enemy."

    (Paraphrasing, from memory, Cmdr. Spock as James Blish wrote the dialog.)

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  47. Thanks for blogging on this. When I heard the news, part of me said, "Hmmmm...." and part of me said, "Fuck yeah!" I still haven't reconciled it all in my own thoughts yet, but at least I feel a little more informed.

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  48. The targeted killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki was an unqualified success but I’ve been around the block enough times to wonder what unintended consequences may arise out of such a successful operation.
    I believe this is neither the beginning nor the end of our quest for the hearts and souls of this planet but simply a middle step and the aftereffects could be much more complex than we have imagined.

    We have always prided ourselves on the world’s concept of our country as the gold standard of democracy governance and technology. Unfortunately, that notion has rapidly diminished in some parts of the world in recent years and some will use the disposal of Al-Awlaki as an example to be used in ways we may not have anticipated.

    Terrorist governments (and there are plenty of them out there) now can use similar explanations for targeting rebels against their own regimes in much the way we have justified the targeting of Al-Awlaki. And any nation that is currently sheltering refugee insurrectionist leaders from such regimes should be prepared for the arrival of assassins from terrorist nations doing the bidding of its leaders, all in the name of peace and order within their own countries. In fact, I suspect that we are sheltering a good number of such rebel leaders and we need to be prepared to deal with attempts on their lives on our soil. I’m not sure we’re ready for such events.

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  49. Well, to be clear, if McVeigh had been shot avoiding arrest, it would have been over the line. After all, the initial stop was because he had a hand-made license plate, not because he was wanted. Using lethal methods in that case would have been just a little too much, "Dad, you shot the Zombie Flanders!" "Flanders was a zombie?" for my money.

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  50. Bravo. Well said and I really couldn't agree more. Thanks for inserting some reality in this absurd debate.

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  51. Killing = Killing.

    Personally, I think that the Constitution SHOULD be upheld and GWB and BHO both be called out on the carpet for their subordinates' actions. They are where the buck stops. They are the ones ultimately responsible.

    Do I feel remorse about Al-Alakqi's death. No. Not even one little jot. But I do fear my government when it sets aside the very foundation of the USofA. And I fear myself when I encourage my leaders to do just that.

    If we don't like the 5th amendment: TOO DAMN BAD. It's there and it is the law. If we don't like it, we can call a constitutional convention and change it.

    Yes, I know I'm not being consistent. And now let me speak of hobgoblins and little minds.

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  52. First, thank you for the incredibly poetic description of the Empty Quarter and its people. I assume you've been there and that's how you know how it smells.

    Second, as a charter member of your group B), thank you for a clear statement of why we should have done that - and why it is absurd that all these fudgesickle-eaters are suddenly complaining about the civil rights they blew away ten years ago. (What do you have against fudgesickles?)

    Third - damn, I wish I could write like that!

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  53. Scotty in IllinoisOctober 8, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Well written as always, but the consequences will be far reaching and adverse.
    I claim right to dissent by virtue of having opposed this sort of criminal usurpation under previous administrations. Matter of fact, in 2003, I signed on to help a young state senator who was aspiring to higher office based upon his opposition to crimes committed in our name and on our dime. He taught constitutional law at the time, and was alarmed, as many of us were, at a president who was snatching so much unchecked power. Now he’s done something that Cheney either didn’t think he could get away with, or didn’t think of doing.
    This isn’t a step down a slippery slope. It’s a jump into an abyss, and you pointed out yourself how and why it is just that. Al-Alwaki wasn’t deprived merely of due process, but of any legal process at all. A group of anonymous functionaries within the National Security Council decreed that he was subject to a summary death penalty, period, with no trial and no appeal.
    His parents went to court to challenge the finding, but their suit was dismissed when the Justice Department claimed that the evidence against him was a state secret. That was the extent of legal process in this case.
    Yeah, he could have scrambled their plans by walking into the embassy in Sanah and surrendering himself, but there wasn’t an arrest warrant, there wasn’t a Notice to Appear, there was just a non-judicial decree to kill him wherever or whenever he was located.
    Civil libertarians who are protesting this operation aren’t mourning the demise of a persecuted or innocent character. We’re protesting a president’s calculated and deliberate repudiation of the rule of law in order to posture as tough on terror. That the GOP is hypocritical in protesting this action after cheering on the Bush era crimes is not surprising. Hypocrisy is their nature. Dems who protested Cheney’s abuses and cheer this one are duckspeaking, as Orwell called it.
    What makes this case an outrage and an insult to the rule of law is that there were alternatives that would have given a pretext of legality to what was done. For example, the case of the Nazi saboteurs during WWII, Quirin et al, established the legality of military tribunals in time of war, and their jurisdiction over American citizens acting as enemy combatants. Trial before such a tribunal in absentia would have been a reasonable alternative, but, as you conceded, there wasn’t really much evidence against him.
    Instead we now have a binding legal precedent that a secret group of anonymous functionaries- a very real Government Death Panel- can strip any of us of our citizenship and declare us outlaws, in the classical sense of the term: living outside the protection of the law.
    We’ll regret this, and probably sooner than later.

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  54. What Scott said, far more eruditely than I could manage, though I cannot ever claim to having helped Obama, having done not a single thing for or against any of the last elections candidates.


    And 2 points for the Orwell references to all who supplied them.

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  55. Hence the title of the piece: Consequences.

    The point of the article is while Anwar al-Awlaki suffered the consequences of his own actions, we must live with the consequences of ours.

    This is what happens when you remove the constitutional process - such as disbanding the FISA court in the name expediency and laziness (I worked for NSA for twenty years, trust me, I know a little something about FISA).

    Scotty used the word "criminal." Sorry, Scotty, unfortunately the actions discussed here and those of the previous administration are no longer criminal - they are perfectly legal under our new secret laws. And, unfortunately, in many cases because of the political climate and the fearful mob, they are often the only options left to the Commander in Chief.

    These are precisely the consequences this blog has been warning people about for the last five years.

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  56. I've sometimes thought that the real horror of torture and assassination by one's own government isn't just the horrors of what they do to others; non-citizens or citizens, enemy or innocent. (while not discounting the horror of that....)

    The real horror is that these people come home and they live with the world view that it's perfectly acceptable to torture or assassinate other human beings once you've worked up a justification. Then they move right in next to the rest of us.

    It's like having a thin steel cask of nuclear waste right next door. Mostly it will be ok; but in a certain percentage of cases it very much WON'T be ok. They've learned that others can die horribly to meet their goals; that's acceptable.

    And we really don't have the numbers to assess that risk.

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  57. Pangolin,

    I think you are missing the bigger picture. There will always be people who torture or assassinate for the government or for organized crime or for a "cause" (terrorists/activists) or for corporations or anyone else who has the money and lack of morals, hypothetically. If you deny it, then why does the phrase "rubber hose" bring to mind illegal police interrogation instead of home gardening? It happened here.

    No, the real problem is when we, the general populace, start to think such tactics are acceptable for a good cause. The next step after acceptance is silence, where we know it can happen to "bad guys"... but don't want to talk about it. Or it becomes unpatriotic to do so.

    Without a vocal opposition, the definition of who is a "bad guy" can change to include not just terrorists, but criminals, then those who oppose the government. Chile under Allende had that happen in the 1970's, with hundreds of "disappearances". Don't tell me that "it can't happen here". We are all human, all around the world, and we are all just as capable of acts of atrocity as well as compassion.

    We have the so-called Patriot Act, and people are coming to accept it. I fear that soon it will be a permanent law instead of needing periodic renewals. That is acceptance.

    al-Awlaki was legally executed without a trial for being a traitor and a threat to the US. I agree with that, but I fear the kind of thinking that made it legal. The so-called Patriot Act, passed quickly in a time of fear, strips us of legal rights for which we would go to war if it were imposed upon us by another nation. Extraterritorial indefinite detention of prisoners of war is based upon fear. I detest the moral cowardice of the right that makes it hard to try our enemies in our own courts of law. Why should our own legal system not be good enough or strong enough to withstand its' own use against traitors and terrorists? I fear and abhor the mindset of fear, of security at any cost, cloaked as patriotism.
    regards,
    Jerry

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  58. I miswrote. The disappearances in Chile happened under military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Salvador Allende was the democratically elected president of Chile, overthrown by Pinochet with help from the CIA. But don't worry, citizens, those thousands of disappearances and deaths were all in a "good cause", fighting Communists. Just like fighting terrorists today is a good cause.
    See https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/chile/index.html for more details.

    No, I don't think we have learned anything in the intervening 40 years. Fear trumps the values we say we support.

    Jerry

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  59. Don't forget he was tried and convicted in Yemen, so even if we couldn't convict him, he certainly would have faced consequences.

    Either way, that's besides the point everything in this article is spot on and the administration did the right thing.

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  60. Extremely well-written blog post.

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  61. Well said to both Jim and Scotty, I have no hesitation about the perminate removal of threats to either myself, my family or my country, but I have an additional concern.

    I will never forget a conversation I had with a B-52 crewmember about the time Viet Nam was winding down. He would fly for a few hours in his million dollar aircraft, push a couple buttons at 45,000 feet and return to base to do the same tomorrow. "This war ain't near as bad as people say."

    That was true until he saw pictures of the mangled bodies of the women and children who survived the bombs he was dropping. He had completely blocked any thought of the consequences of pushing that button because he didn't have to directly view the result.

    It has been said piloting of a drone is no more than difficult or engaging than your average video game. The piolot can be thousands of miles away, in absolutly no danger, no discomfort, and no reprocussions.

    Killing, whether legal executions or in time of war, should not be some remote, faroff, abstract occurance. Justified or not, legal or not, necessary or not, killing should be in your face nasty business. Both the person who kills and the person who orders the deed should be required to smell the smoke of burning flesh, hear the dieing screams and deal with inocent familys left behind.

    If you can do this and still say it was the best (only) course available. If you fully understand the gravity of hitting that switch or pulling that trigger and still think it's the right thing to do, then go ahead. But you have to know.

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  62. DMoffit, Some time ago I asked Jim a question along this line. Though my concern was more about whether by killing so remotely, without giving the enemy any chance to engage the attacker, do we actually endanger the civilian population who are sitting far from the conflict and not expecting to be targeted, simply because they are targetable.
    Even if one wanted to play by the rules, if one is frustrated in every attempt to harm the military forces of your enemy, will you not eventually take on their civilians?

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  63. Stuart,
    You are absolutly correct and you fears are being realized as we speak. Our current war on terrorism is the direct result.

    Radicals who believe they have been unfairly targeted by US policies, and being unable to change US policy by attacking the embasys and the military directly have turned their attention to the civilian population (9/11).

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  64. Jim,
    As usual, you cut through the BS and got the points out there for even the layman to understand.

    I am, however, marveling at this "secret finding." Now, you know that I'm all for the appropriate forehead encountering the appropriate warhead, and al Awlaki was an appropriate forehead, in every sense.

    But there's that but. He was an American citizen. The Obama Administration apparently did its due diligence, though, and asked the DOJ to put forth a finding on this particular issue. And DOJ gave em the go-ahead, basically signing his death warrant.

    In principle, I can't fault the finding, or the result. However, I'm getting less and less comfortable with political hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle, and trying to understand how this finding remains classified during the "most transparent government ever" in our history.

    I'm not jumping on the bandwagon with the "pic of bin Laden's corpse or it didn't happen" group of whackadoodles, but I do think that it's incredibly important that this finding be scrubbed and rendered unto the citizens. It makes sense. If this guy had surrendered, he'd have been tried in a court, whether a tribunal or a federal court. There'd be a record, even if that record had gaps where classified evidence was presented. This finding basically shortcut that process, creating a method for trial and conviction in absentia, and I think that means it needs to be a matter of public record, so that, if anyone disagrees with it, they can vote with that in mind.

    Because if you think it's scary that the current POTUS has this power, imagine what might happen if one of these sideshow clowns from the other side of the aisle succeed him.

    0350 on Guam. Hafa Adai, boss. I'm still breaking gear. Hope the weather up there's still pleasant.

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  65. Jim, I was thinking some of your arguments apply also to the fighting over how to kill wild life for "wild life management." Frankly, I thought the bullets in the dens of sleeping wolf pups plan was the more humane method. But that's another subject.

    War is war. Dead is dead. Those four men were at war with us as well as with others. They wanted to torture, kill, and use American soldiers when they could. They brutalized anyone they thought it would serve them to brutalize, and they felt justified because they were at war. Just because we have better weapons so we can fight smarter and safer doesn't mean we are wrong to do so. That's how war works. It's better to be on the side with better and smarter weapons.

    Rules in war zones are different than rules for Americans on the home front. That doesn't mean officials should be able to abuse the system, scapegoating or making examples of anyone, but when it is someone the world knows is a hard-ass, murdering SOB willing to take out anyone of us, then they are enemies of the state, of us. Better they die than the children I helped raise who are now members of our military branches. Better they die than my own children losing good friends to the fight. Better they die than any of our nation's children. I care about our seniors in arms, too.

    I'm not a soldier, and I consider ethics in my personal decision- making every day, but if I were told to choose between shooting those four people or passing on it to continue longer than is necessary the sacrifices of years, emotional states, and life and limb young people I know and love are facing right now, I'd shoot them myself and feel no ethical guilt over it whatsoever. Those four earned their deaths.

    We pay our military to kill those SOB, torturing, murdering sort of people so we don't have to though. I mean, we aren't paying them to just stand around looking sexy hot and rugged in their uniforms.

    This isn't new, as someone else commented it is. Very naive to think so. BTW, George H Bush had a terrorist snatched out of the sky by our military. Technically it was illegal, but not many cared since the snatched was a murderer of innocent people. (I can't remember anymore, but was he the same guy responsible for the tourists attacked on a ship and the man in the wheel chair thrown overboard because he was Jewish?) Did the rest of the world demand satisfaction? Nope. Most have forgotten all about it.

    "nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;"

    Jim, someone forgot to tell Alaska legislators, prosecutors, and judges that. I don't think any of them have read the federal or state constitutions in a long time, if ever.

    Now I'm going to go get a lemon Popsicle and watch South Park instead of Sponge Bob.

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  66. I think you're talking about the MS Achille Lauro, beemodern, although it was Reagan who was in the big chair at the time. The gentleman in the wheelchair was named Klinghoffer, or something similar.

    There was a fairly big standoff between Italian police and Team Six that day, if memory serves.

    Enjoy the popsicle. And thanks for reminding me of that episode. Been a while since I thought that far back. I think that was the first time I ever watched the news of a terrorist event; the US Embassy in Tehran thing was too early in my childhood. No...the Beirut barracks bombing was a year or two earlier, wasn't it? I was seven...sorry.

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  67. Leon Klinghoffer. 1985. You were seven. I was with the Saratoga Battle Group chasing them around the Eastern Med. Not one of our better deployments as I recall - though we did eventually get the bastards.

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  68. Jim, sometimes I'd like to bottle you and feed you to the masses forcibly (in a good way).

    I seriously wonder how many of these people that are calling for the rights of Al bobba Ka boom to be observed secretly cheered and drank cheap bottles of under the counter whiskey when Congresswoman Gifford was nearly murdered in front of a grocery store.

    It makes me seriously wonder what kind of people I have dedicated the last six years of my life to when they cry for the impeachment of a man elected to manage the country over the lawful actions of the CIA on the soil of a friendly county by there request.

    Every morning when I shave my face I look in the mirror and remind myself that the things I've done good bad or indifferent are done for the ultimate greater good of this nation.

    I don't always agree with what I am told to do but there are a lot of people who know a hell of a lot more than I do about what is going on. perhaps there is a time for people to simply not ask questions of their government.

    Accept a good thing has happened and enjoy the rest of your day at the mall, some of us have a job to do.

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  69. This is the US we're talking about. If people stop questioning the government, there is something horribly wrong. Killing a US citizen, without trial, is suspect. Al-Awlaki had it coming, no question; he chose poorly. Al-Qaida doesn't play fair, and trying to play fair in spite of this won't work. None of that means that debate should be stifled, though.
    People questioned the use of torture, and good for them. We were the white hats for 225 years, and Bush chose to piss that away. This country lost a lot of support over that issue. I don't hear the same protests from other countries over "targeted killing", since it beats non-targeted killing hands down. No more "destroy the village to save the village". Yay!
    So bring on the debate! The more the better. It makes our country stronger to have honest debate.

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  70. Thomas More made some of the same points about war centuries ago in "Utopia." He considered sending citizens to fight a war as a last resort. Assassinating the opposition's leaders was the first resort. Oddly, the leaders who start wars generally don't want to be in the front lines.

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  71. @Vettriano222 and Jim : Thanks. Wow. It was even further back than I'd remembered! I was 28 and winding down my activism stage because I didn't feel safe taking my baby to protests and marches. The Jerry Falwell and TV evangelists God Squad was heating up so I'd quit going to things I worried zealots might erupt against the liberals and/or feminists.

    I remember at the time when I read criticisms of our snatching him from the sky, thinking that even though I was absolutely no fan of the Reagan administration, I didn't give two hoots whether our nabbing him in another country's air space was legal or not. He needed nabbing and we did it without apology. I supported that decision because in that specific case, it was a necessary and right thing to do.

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  72. I also agree with Vettriano222 and John Healy. We do need to be careful and we do need openness. Ours is not a system that is supposed to be run in the shadows with many secrets from the populace. We do need to continually question, hold accountable, and debate. That's how a representative democracy works if it is a healthy one.

    BTW, after 9/11, that young American man we arrested in Afghanistan, who was living with the Taliban, I was unhappy with our government over him. We arrested him as an enemy combatant but he'd not been involved in 9/11. Because he was Taliban we designated him an enemy combatant, tried and imprisoned him. I think our government innappropriately made an example out of him. It wasn't necessary. There were obvious explanations for how he ended up there and stayed. The government did not show the young man to be beyond redemption and we had no evidence that he'd ever actually sought out Americans to attack. We went there and attacked them. We had good reason to, but nevertheless, that's how it went down in regard to him.

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  73. The insights I get from reading this "column" astound me. For the record though I too am jealous of your writing skills.

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  74. @ John Healy;

    "We were the white hats for 225 years, and Bush chose to piss that away."

    Really..?!

    John, you seem a nice, well-meaning guy, but you've missed a few things in your education: Kindly go look up the kind of foreign policy Woodrow Wilson supported, other than the First World War. Look up the history of the word "Filibuster." Look up the origin of the phrase "Banana Republic." Look up William Walker.

    That's just a start, in one small corner of the world.
    Bush the Younger didn't start it. Nor was it Ronald Reagan, nor JFK, nor even Woodrow Wilson. Bush the Younger was following in a grand, lengthy tradition of throwing our weight around like a bully - We've done it a LOT over the past 225-odd years.

    We have not, ever, been the "white Hats." Nor was it Bush the Younger who first pissed off world opinion IRT the good ol' USA. The best we can claim is to have been less dirty than many other powerful nations. Oh, and that we sometimes feel guilty about indulging in naked power politics and blatant self-interest.

    Which is, frankly, no small claim.

    But merely being 'better than the others' does NOT give us the right to claim sainthood. There is a reason the USA is hated in many odd corners of the world, and it behooves us to be aware of why that is. Among other things, we'll be less frequently embarased when we sound off in support of our nation.

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  75. ...foreign policy Woodrow Wilson supported, other than the First World War. Look up the history of the word "Filibuster." Look up the origin of the phrase "Banana Republic." Look up William Walker.

    I'm somewhat surprised you didn't mention Panama, maskedman.

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  76. Sure, I could've mentioned Panama, too. Or maybe Cuba. Or any of a number of places - I was keeping it narrow. Anyone who wishes can find their way to the other places from the hints found in Nicaragua.

    I'm not really surprised that our dirty little secrets are not much taught - It's *embarrassing* how we were, so often, so many places.
    On the other hand, we've done a lot of good along the way too. I guess that makes us "Grey Hats." But if we don't acknowledge the bad stuff, we can't avoid doing it again, either.

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  77. Thank you, MadMan for correcting the "white hat" myth.

    Also, you're right that the U.S. hasn't been the dirtiest player among nations. Although I agreed with and understood the criticisms of our European allies' citizens regarding our determination to invade Iraq, their hypocrisy didn't escape me.

    Many problems the U.S. involved ourselves in were inherited from the Europeans and their centuries of brutally colonizing, enslaving, and stealing the natural resources of other peoples around the globe. It doesn't excuse us from our own culpability, but our sins do not whitewash the past (or current) sins of our allies either.

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  78. "Fear trumps the values we say we support."
    Jerry hits THAT nail right on the old headarooney.

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  79. So, Mr. Stonekettle, where do you stand on waterboarding? >, <, or = hellfiring?

    Inquiring minds and all that. Now excuse me while I get my fudgesickle, get back to my couch, and shut up.

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  80. It's a false comparison, there is no great then, lesser than, or equal between the two.

    Waterboarding is torture. Torture is a violation of the rules of war. It's a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It's a violation of the UCMJ. Waterboarding and other mistreatment of prisoners is dishonorable and disgraceful, its immoral and unacceptable and it's against everything the United States stands for. Torture is always unacceptable.

    The use of drones, per se, is neither moral or immoral in and of itself. It is simply another weapon system as described in the above essay. Most of the moral outrage over the use of drones is manufactured and based on a lack of understanding of the situation. Drones are not proscribed by the Rules of War, the GC, the Constitution or the UCMJ as are other weapons (such as Willie Pete, for example). Which not to say that the power (like any other) can't be abused, or that it shouldn't be closely monitored and reviewed and held to account.

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  81. Your post here Jim Has brought back memories long buried. You describe The Empty Quarter beautifully, "It smells of flint and powered cement". Those words took me back over 30 years, to my own experience there. A very similar situation, involving a spectacularly nasty man, myself and a few other guys. This kind of extra-judicial killing has a long history behind it, especially in this area of the world.
    I envy you your ability to write so well. I believe on this blog the custom is to give a virtual case of beer when you first post, I have not done that yet. So here you are everyone as an apology I'll make two cases, one of Dark Star Imperial Stout and one of Harveys Imperial Stout!

    http://www.harveys.org.uk/beers/bottled-beers

    Scroll down about 2/3's of the way down the page

    http://darkstarbrewing.co.uk/news/double-baltic-imperial-stout-goes-back-to-russia-in-cask-and-bottle/

    As you probably have now realised I'm a bit of a Stout lover.
    Once again sorry for being so remiss as not to have donated sooner!

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