Did you know that in just one four-year period, tens of thousands of Americans were killed by the government without a trial or even a hearing?
It was called the Civil War, and thinking of it should remind us of a couple of things when we’re following the debate over U.S. drone-strike policy. 1) Citizens who fight with the country’s enemies forfeit certain privileges other citizens enjoy. 2) The rules of war are different from the rules of criminal justice – a soldier does not pause in the middle of a battle to read the enemy his rights.
The drone debate heated up this week when a Department of Justice memo leaked to NBC News outlined the Obama administration’s justification for being able do unleash deadly force with drones in other countries, including the targeting of American citizens. The memo included specific guidelines – the citizen has to be a leader of al-Qaida or an associated force, there has to be an imminent threat and capture has to be impossible. But the way the guidelines were worded, it was clear that the administration was claiming the right to kill an American overseas based on the opinion of just one official.
Some critics harshly criticized President Obama for hypocrisy for taking even further anti-terrorism policies of President Bush that presidential candidate Obama had excoriated Bush for. But others said Obama was merely confronting the reality of being commander in chief and having to do whatever it takes to protect this country and its interests.