International Law, Due Process And The Execution Of A Boy

Robert Gibbs blames the death of a teenage American boy on his not choosing a better father. I'm surprised at how many people I know who don't have a problem with the U.S. relying on armed drones. "Hey, they save American lives," one friend

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Robert Gibbs blames the death of a teenage American boy on his not choosing a better father.

I'm surprised at how many people I know who don't have a problem with the U.S. relying on armed drones. "Hey, they save American lives," one friend said. "If they kill a few other people, that's too bad. So do regular bombs." Would I be exaggerating to say that Americans are now largely desensitized to our video-game wars?

To me, this issue is no less than a fight for the heart and soul of America. Now, we certainly have gotten used to the erosion of due process and civil rights since 9/11, but it strikes me that we have largely ignored it for far too long, and that this is something worth fighting for.

I'm often accused by his fans of "hating" President Obama and attacking his policies out of some imagined spite. Really, it's just that I remember the alarms raised by the progressive blogosphere when George W. Bush started the war on terror, and I simply can't bring myself to excuse the same excesses of power and empire just because it's a Democrat in the White House. We've switched from torture to assassination -- is that supposed to be moral progress?

I am deeply and profoundly disturbed by the story of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone two weeks after his jihadist father was killed. It seems clear to me that this attack was meant as a symbolic warning. Why else would the United States of America blow up a 16-year-old American boy and then announce his death to the world as that of a military combatant? Why else was he targeted?

For the sins of his father?

Glenn Greenwald is right when he describes moral indifference toward drone attacks as sociopathic. And sadly, we won't really cry out full-force against such depravity until it is a Republican president who's ordering those deaths. And that Republican president will say, "But President Obama did it, and no one said a thing."

A U.N. investigative group is set to examine whether the civilian casualties caused by America’s covert targeted killing campaign are violating international law, according to an official at the organization reported by the Guardian.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur for counterterroism, says his investigation will focus on drone strikes in particular. In Emmerson’s view, the global, indefinite scope of the targeted killing campaign and some of the specific tactics involved may be unlawful under both international human rights law and international humanitarian law:

The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US. The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone programme of targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.

The drone strikes have unquestionably killed civilians, but precise estimates are hotly disputed. This is partly as a consequence of the opacity of Obama administration casualty counts, which, among other things, label “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”

The legality of drone strikes is also a subject of heated debate among experts, including thoseinside the administration. Some maintain that strikes violate the law because they take placeoutside of formally declared or authorized war zones, but others disagree, arguing that conflict with non-state actors like terrorist organizations should be evaluated by more permissive legal standards than state-to-state warfare.

Evaluating these claims is made more difficult by the Obama administration’s refusal to provide a formal, public legal justification.

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