In today's Spokesman Review we read about Attorney General Eric Holder defending the decision to kill a U.S. citizen living abroad.
Holder presented a three-part test for determining whether killing an American citizen is legal: "...the government must determine after careful review that the citizen poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S., capture is not feasible, and the killing would be consistent with laws of war."
Thank goodness there's a careful review.
How did we get to a position that would've been considered abhorrent 20 or 30 years ago? Congress did not declare war. It passed an authority to use military force. We are not warring against a country. In response to an attack by a fanatical religious terrorist group we established a Global War on Terrorism. Where before we treated terrorism as a crime, we elevated its status to one requiring a military response. We compiled lists of terrorists and their organizations resulting in a definition so broad and encompassing Congress had to pass a bill stating the African National Congress was no longer a terrorist organization so Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and former leader of the African National Congress, could travel unrestricted to the United States.
Fear played a huge part if escalating and justifying our response as it still does today. It would be more appropriate for the If You See Something, Say Something program to apply to our own government's actions.
The Guardian has a more thorough version of the article.
"Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen – even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaida in a foreign land – is among the gravest that government leaders can face," Holder said. "The American people can be – and deserve to be – assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws."
"The constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."
And now, after careful review and consistent with our values(?) and laws(?), due process means we can kill American citizens with a missile launched from an unmanned aircraft.
I wonder what our response would be if another country killed one of its citizens in the U.S. and justified it by saying, "This was done only after careful review determined that the citizen posed an imminent threat of violent attack against us, capture was not feasible, and the killing was consistent with laws of war."
"Oh, and sorry about the innocent civilians we took out with him."
The New York Review of Books blog has a thoughtful article on this subject.