In the last two weeks, I got pulled into another round of the endless debate on the role of US forces in Korea, so I missed this yet further depressing story of the US government flirting with extra-judicial, not-really-very-oversighted killings in the field of Americans.
I worried a few weeks ago that the killing over Alwaki, a US citizen, without due process, had crossed yet another, and to my mind, major civil liberties threshold in the history of the war on terror.
And here we are again. As usual, Greenwald has all the depressing details that we would all rather not discuss. Among other things, he was an American. He was only 16. He was killed by accident. The government first tried to spin the boy as an older AQ fighter, but the most basic journalistic digging uncovered that as bogus. Wow. This is just appalling.
We really need to have the moral courage to say this to our own government. (I thought this is why we voted for Obama?) I used to really support the GWoT, and I concur that Islamism is clear challenge to Western liberalism that we must defeat, but this is just awful. If the government can just do this to multiple US citizens abroad, then doesn’t that set a terrible, terrible precedent? So who is beyond the pale, and what is the process (please tell us!) for making these sort of ‘hit-list’ determinations? The government didn’t even apologize or admit any regret as far as I know – for an accidental killing of a US, teenaged citizen. This can’t just go on and on like this. There must be some limit.
Note the problem is not the use of drones per se. Drones are simply a tool, and to the extent they limit the personal exposure of US forces, that is a good thing. However, it seem increasingly likely that, because drones limit US ‘transaction costs’ (i.e., the likelihood of US combat fatalities), drones tempt the administration to use forces in ways and places that would otherwise be politically impossible because of the possibility of US casualties. Unfortunately, this just reinforces the instincts of the imperial presidency unleashed by the war on terrorism. Certainly, the unregretted, accidental killing of a 16-year American should be proof of that.