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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
Let's continue the examination of the lawfulness of the killings of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan I began in my post, Off With Their Heads! (Many comments there; Amygdalaversion here.
(That various other non-citizens, including Muhammad Salme al-Naaj and Abdul-Rahman bin Arfaj, and another several Yemenis, were killed is another debate, but they should not be forgotten, either.)
Consider the justifications presented for these killings:
Section 3 - Treason Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
It's almost as if the drafters of the Constitution considered this!
Our Constitution specifically defines "treason" and the only way someone can be convicted of it. As You Know, Bob (everyone), the U.S. Constitution is superior to U.S. laws, which can't violate the Constitution. So al-Awlaki and Khan can't have been put to death because they committed "treason."
The President has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.
#2: It was justified to kill them because of their propaganda and speech.
Unfortunately for this argument, the Constitution also rules it out with the little-known, obscure, First Amendment freedom of speech.
Let's move on to more serious arguments.
But first let's jump to the White House presenting its official response as press secretary Jay Carney explains, and is questioned by Jake Tapper (!) of ABC News:
TAPPER: You said that al-Awlaki was “demonstrably and provably involved” in operations. Do you plan on demonstrating or proving –
CARNEY: I — Jake, you know, I should step back. I — he is clearly — I mean, “provably” may be a legal term. I think it has been well established, and it has certainly been the position of this administration and the previous administration, that he is a leader in — was a leader in AQAP; that AQAP was a definite threat, was operational, planned and carried out terrorist attacks that, fortunately, did not succeed but were extremely serious, including the ones specifically that I mentioned in terms of the would-be Christmas Day bombing in 2009 and the attempt to bomb numerous cargo planes headed for the United States; and that he was obviously also an active recruiter of al-Qaida terrorists. So I don’t think anybody in the field would dispute any of those assertions.
TAPPER: You don’t think anybody else in the government would dispute them.
CARNEY: I think any — well, I wouldn’t know of any credible terrorist expert who dispute the fact that he was a leader in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and that he was operationally involved in terrorist attacks against American interests and citizens.
In fact, all sorts of experts question whether he was "operationally involved" and so did the U.S. government. January 13, 2010:
[...] In fact, until last fall, most Yemenis had never heard of the American-born cleric living in their midst. Those most familiar with him were a small group of Western counterterrorism officials and experts — and even they thought al-Awlaki was of relatively little consequence. [...] The Administration is trying to be careful in its assessment of al-Awlaki. Officials recognize that in demonizing a jihadist, they may create a monster they cannot control as the U.S. seemingly did in 2003 when it identified Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi as the top al-Qaeda leader in Iraq at a time when he was little more than a relatively obscure Jordanian terrorist operating north of Baghdad. The notoriety was a bonanza for al-Zarqawi, as mujahedin streamed to join his group. As for al-Awlaki, "the best way to describe him is inspirational rather than operational," says a senior U.S. official. But, as this official points out, "the inspirational element is motivating people to take action. Where do you draw the line?"
[...] What distinguishes al-Awlaki is not his record; other preachers have had demonstrably closer links to al-Qaeda and jihad. It is his target audience. Al-Awlaki aims his sermons at young Muslims mostly living in the U.S. and Britain. [...] Jarret Brachman, author of Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice and former director of research at West Point's Combating Terror Center [...] who monitors jihadist websites, reckons that al-Awlaki's sermons are "totally harmless nine times out of 10 ... but in the 10th, he starts to breathe a little fire." Much of the brimstone can be found in his blog posts, in which al-Awlaki states baldly that Islam and the West are in conflict and argues that all Muslims should join the holy war. [...] The exact nature of al-Awlaki's operational role remains in dispute. "There's nothing to suggest that he's sitting down and planning attacks," says Ben Venzke of IntelCenter, a private intelligence contractor.
I can go on with endless cites casting doubt on his involvement in operations.
But back at the White House:
TAPPER: Do you plan on bringing before the public any proof of these charges?
CARNEY: Again, this is — the question is — makes us – you know, has embedded within it assumptions about the circumstances of his death that I’m just not going to address.
TAPPER: How on earth is it — what is — I really don’t understand. How — he’s dead.
CARNEY: You –
TAPPER: You are asserting that he had operational control of the cargo plot and the Abdulmutallab plot. He’s now dead.
TAPPER: Can you tell us or the American people — or has a judge been shown — ?
CARNEY: Well, again, Jake, I’m just –
TAPPER: How did –
CARNEY: I’m not going to go any further than what I’ve said about the circumstances of his death and the case against them, which, again, you’re linking. And I think that –
TAPPER: No, you said that he’s responsible for these things. I’m –
CARNEY: Jake — yes. But again –
TAPPER: Is there going to be any evidence presented?
CARNEY: You know, I don’t have anything for you on that.
TAPPER: Do you not see at all — does the administration not see at all how a president asserting that he has the right to kill an American citizen without due process and that he’s not going to even explain why he thinks he has that right is troublesome to some people?
CARNEY: I wasn’t aware of any of those things that you said actually happening. And again, I’m not going to address the circumstances of al-Awlaki’s death. I think it’s — again, it is an important fact that this terrorist, who was actively plotting – had plotted in the past and was actively plotting to attack Americans and American interests is dead. But I’m not going to, from any angle, discuss the circumstances of his death.
Trust the King!
So does the President have this power under the AUMF?
Constitutional law professor Marty Lederman has the most authoritative analysis, starting by responding to the official explanations by Deputy National Security Advisor Jack Brennan:
[...] It’s evident that a principal purpose of this section of the speech concerning the use of force, especially outside the “hot battlefield” of the Af/Pak theater, is to further distance the Administration from the “Global War on Terror” framework that infected U.S. characterizations of our counterterrorism strategy shortly after September 11th. ”[W]e are at war with al-Qa’ida,” emphasizes Brennan – not with all terrorists the world over. (Brennan explains that our “ongoing armed conflict with al-Qa’ida stems from our right—recognized under international law—to self defense.
This is not news, or controversial. See, e.g., U.N. Resolution 1373 (Sept. 28, 2001). There is no such self-defense rationale available as a matter of the jus ad bellum with respect to all international terrorist groups.)
But what about Brennan’s references, early in his speech, to al-Qaida “adherents” and “affiliates”? Although Brennan explains that “adherents” of al-Qaida–including “individuals . . . with little or no contact with the group itself” – have become a serious national security challenge because they can and do conduct attacks in the United States, the U.S. is not at war with each of them. That is to say, the U.S. is not resorting to the use of military force against them. Brennan also points to the danger of al-Qaida “affiliates”; but he does not suggest that the U.S. practice is to use military force against all al-Qaida “affiliates,” either. As the Administration’s recent National Strategy for Counterterrorism explained, “‘Affiliates’ is not a legal term of art. Although it includes Associated Forces [i.e., cobelligerents of al-Qaida and the Taliban engaged in the conflict against the U.S., against whom force may be used], it additionally includes groups and individuals against whom the United States is not authorized to use force based on the authorities granted by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. . . . The use of ‘Affiliates’ . . . is intended to reflect a broader category of entities against whom the United States must bring various elements of national power, as appropriate and consistent with the law, to counter the threat they pose.” In other words, military force is authorized against al-Qaida, the Taliban and their cobelligerents. But the increasing threats from groups and individuals who are more loosely inspired by or affiliated with al-Qaida will appropriately be countered using other tools of counterterrorism strategies, apart from the use of force.
This couldn't be more important. The official U.S. position is that we are not at war with "al-Qaida 'adherents' and 'affiliates' simply because of that status.
So that claim flies out the window.
So how about that "worldwide battlefied" some assert? What's the actual legal scope?
[...] Brennan then moves on to a matter about which “there is some disagreement”–namely, “the geographic scope of the [armed] conflict.” [...] Brennan acknowledges that there are some in the international community—”including some of our closest allies and partners”–who take the view that the armed conflict with al Qaeda and its associated forces is limited “only to the ‘hot’ battlefields.” [...] Brennan does not say that the armed conflict with al-Qaida is “global”–that it extends the world over. But he does strongly imply what has been evident for some time, namely, that the U.S. believes the conflict extends at a minimum to locations (such as Yemen and Pakistan) from which enemy forces regularly plot and launch attacks against the U.S.
Brennan’s primary point of emphasis, however, is that even in those locations, where the U.S. is of the view that the restrictions and immunities of “armed conflict” are in effect, it is not the Administration’s view that it can or should use lethal force without limitation: ”That does not mean,” Brennan said, that “we can use military force whenever we want, wherever we want.”
For one thing, “international legal principles, including respect for a state’s sovereignty and the laws of war, impose important constraints on our ability to act unilaterally—and on the way in which we can use force—in foreign territories.” This is of a piece with the views repeatedly expressed by Harold Koh and others, as I explained here, that the Administration is committed to conducting the armed conflict in compliance with the laws of armed conflict, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, fundamental customary law norms (e.g., the principles of distinction, proportionality, humanity and necessity), and, as Brennan stressed, norms of state sovereignty (including those in article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter), which generally prohibit the use of force in another sovereign state unless either that state consents, or the state’s government is “unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions” that are permitted to the U.S. under the doctrine of self-defense.
The official U.S. position naturally acknowledges there are strong legal limits to U.S. application of military force. We can't "use military force whenever we want, wherever we want.”
What is a key limitation? The threat must be imminent.
Claims that al-Awlaki and Khan presented an imminent threat of other than posting to YouTube, blogging, speaking, and writing, seem extremely shaky, at best.
[...] Well, as Brennan elaborates, even those allies who would deny the expanded scope of the armed conflict beyond “hot battlefields” agree with the U.S. that a nation may use force in self-defense against an entity or state that is “planning, engaging in, or threatening an armed attack against U.S. interests,” even outside of the “hot battlefield,” if the threat of such action is “imminent.”
[...] And Brennan explains that outside the “hot battlefields” the U.S. is not using force against enemy forces without discrimination among them, as it would be entitled to do in an armed conflict, but is instead hewing to what would be permissible if the U.S. were only acting on a self-defense theory, i.e., what would be permissible even in the absence of an armed conflict [...]
The U.S. government does not claim the whole world is a battlefield. They carefully distinguish between the "hot battlefield" of Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
[...] First, Brennan’s speech intriguingly suggests that, at least in practice, U.S. use of force outside the “hot battlefield” may be even more restrictive than a traditional self-defense model would indicate. He states that U.S. efforts in such locations “are focused on those individuals who are a threat to the United States, whose removal would cause a significant – even if only temporary – disruption of the plans and capabilities of al-Qa’ida and its associated forces.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Brennan also carefully stated:
[S]ome have suggested that we do not have a detention policy; that we prefer to kill suspected terrorists, rather than capture them. This is absurd, and I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight. . . . I want to be very clear—whenever it is possible to capture a suspected terrorist, it is the unqualified preference of the Administration to take custody of that individual so we can obtain information that is vital to the safety and security of the American people. This is how our soldiers and counterterrorism professionals have been trained. It is reflected in our rules of engagement. And it is the clear and unambiguous policy of this Administration.
If it's possible to capture, policy is to do that: not kill.
Another argument favoring acting against al-Awaki and Khan was that the harboring nation was/is "unwilling or unable" to act.
The question of our relations with Yemen, President Saleh, and the mess that is Yemen would require at least another post, if not a series, and is gets into the practical question of just how badly the U.S. may be hurt by our military and political support for Saleh, in the wake of his massacres, and double-playing the U.S. arguably even more, or as much, as Pakistan, so I'll let that lie for now, but whether Yemen was "unwilling or unable" is both a very real legal question to argue, as well as whether we were wise to take this act.
Mostly lost in the debate over the legality of killing cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is a strange twist in U.S. law: While the Obama administration contends al-Awlaki's U.S. citizenship didn't prevent the CIA from targeting the alleged terror leader with a drone, the government didn't have the right to take away that citizenship.
"It's interesting," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at Friday's daily briefing amid a barrage of questions on the airstrike that killed al-Awlaki in Yemen. Nuland said she asked State Department lawyers whether the government can revoke a person's citizenship based on their affiliation with a foreign terrorist group, and it turned out there's no law on the books authorizing officials to do so. "An American can be stripped of citizenship for committing an act of high treason and being convicted in a court for that. But that was obviously not the case in this case," she said. "Under U.S. law, there are seven criteria under which you can strip somebody of citizenship, and none of those applied in this case."
But it's okay to kill citizens without judge, jury, trial, or even making public the legal memos asserting it's okay.
[...] First, counterterrorism cooperation “with Yemeni security agencies improved significantly in recent months,” despite the deepening political crisis and spreading instability, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.
One report noted that Yemen had been allowing more drone flights, increasing the amount of information it provided the United States, and even allowed Americans to participate in interrogations of detained militants.
Reportedly, it was information that Yemeni intelligence 00 obtained by interrogation - shared with the United States three weeks ago that led to Awlaki, who was reportedly given the code name Objective Troy. After two weeks of surveillance, Awlaki was killed by several Hellfire missiles while travelling in a Toyota pickup truck along with between three and six others, including American-born Samir Khan, and Muhammad Salme al-Naaj and Abdul-Rahman bin Arfaj, members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That the United States actually improved counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen during President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s exile further undermines his long-standing claim that his rule is essential to fighting al Qaeda in his country.
While a CIA drone reportedly killed Awlaki, a number of other military assets were also involved in the operation. The Washington Post reported that Joint Special Operations Command drones “came across the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti.” In addition, according to a CBS Evening News report, if the CIA drone missed Awlaki, “carrier jets flying from an amphibious carrier off the coast were ready,” and “there was even an option for sending in Marine Ospreys with special operations forces to collect any intelligence left after the strike. But that was never used.”
Third, U.S. officials claimed that Awlaki had a much more “operational” role in AQAP after his death, than they had before. In the past two years, Awlaki had been described as “inspirational,” “charismatic,” an “effective communicator” who’s “internet presence magnifies the threat.” In May, FBI Direct Robert Mueller warned that Awlaki “has taken on a significance that he certainly did not have way back when.” Yet, most officials described him as not being intimately involved in operations, such as Leon Panetta, who testified to the Senate in June that “because he’s very computer oriented and as a result of that, really does represent the potential to try to urge others, particularly in this country, to conduct attacks here.”
Dropping USSOCOM troops, with air support, as we did with bin Laden, in a capture attempt, would seem to have been an option. Perhaps al-Awlaki would have been killed in the attempt, but it's unclear why an attempt wasn't made.
The killing of Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki is unlikely to weaken the terror group’s determination to attack the United States, a new study released Monday said.
While the death of Awlaki was a “tactical victory for the U.S. counterterrorism efforts,” the report by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center says it is “unlikely to impact AQAP’s [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s] operations in Yemen or its desire to attack the interests of the United States.”
Instead, the real key to eliminating Al Qaeda’s viability in Yemen and crushing its ability to attack the U.S. lies in removing its Yemeni leaders, including Nasir al-Wahayshi, who are responsible for the group’s operational coherence.
The study warned that by ignoring the local dynamics in Yemen when calculating AQAP’s capabilities, the U.S. risks miscalculating the effectiveness of military action and inflaming anti-American sentiment.
The report also said America’s counterterrorism policy must include a complete assessment of the challenges and limitations AQAP faces in Yemen.
And while a more representative Yemeni government or the fall of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is unlikely to have a significant short-term impact on AQAP’s ability to attack the U.S., “a more accountable and transparent Yemeni government presents a serious strategic challenge to the group’s long-term survival,” the report said.
The center’s study was based a year of fieldwork completed from 2008 to 2009 by the author, whose name was withheld from the report, and written before the killing of Awlaki.
This is the kind of post you do well. It's really worth doing to have the details spelled out in a post that can be linked to -- when the inevitable "Why *shouldn't* bad guys be assassinated? They're bad guys." remark turns up.
An excellent examination of a complex and crucial topic.
One wonders whether our stretch of the political spectrum would have accepted this troubling (if in some ways satisfying) action with so much silent equanimity if it had been ordered by Bush rather than Obama.
Pleased as I am that al-Awlaki will never again trouble us, the precedent that has been set is a disturbing one.
Well done post, a lot of truth in it, and I agree capture would have been a far better idea than assassination (my suspicion is that high profile terrorists are assassinated instead of captured to avoid the resulting civil/military court legal battle), however, I would like to raise the issue of the Civil War. The Confederate soldiers could not be tried in courts as would be necessary for treason to be declared, yet they could be fought as traitors. I admit the Civil War was a more extreme case than one Al Qaeda leader, and it does set horrendous precedent to assassinate US citizens under any circumstance, but I'm not sure this is a legal issue.