In an Op-Ed on 4/12/2010, Robert Wright wrote about President Obama’s authorization to target a US citizen for assassination and his use of unarmed drones to kill Al Qaeda leaders in villages in Pakistan.
I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me 20 years ago that America would someday be routinely firing missiles into countries it’s not at war with. For that matter, I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me a few months ago that America would soon be plotting the assassination of an American citizen who lives abroad.
Shows you how much I know. President Obama, who during his first year in office oversaw more drone strikes in Pakistan than occurred during the entire Bush presidency, last week surpassed his predecessor in a second respect: he authorized the assassination of an American – Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Imam who after 9/11 moved from Virginia to Yemen, a base from which he inspires such people as the Fort Hood shooter and the would-be underwear bomber.
One of the responses to Mr. Wrights article comes from former Colorado Senator and Presidential candidate, Gary Hart,
As a veteran of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the U.S. (so-called Church committee), we discovered at least five official plots to assassinate foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro with almost demented insistence. None of them worked, though the Diem brothers in Vietnam and Salvador Allende in Chile might argue otherwise. In no case did it work out well for the U.S. or its policy. Indeed, once exposed, as these things inevitably are, the ideals underlying our Constitution and the nation’s prestige suffered incalculable damage. The issue is principle versus expediency. Principle always suffers when expediency becomes the rule. We simply cannot continue to sacrifice principle to fear.
The President has equivalent of John Yoo, who wrote the infamous torture justification memo, in Harold Koh who may have provided the argument for the Legal Justification for Targeted Killings of Americans Suspected of Terrorism
State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh’s speech to the American Society of International Law has mostly been read as a justification of the administration’s use of drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda targets. With the news that the Obama administration has targeted American-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for death, I went back to Koh’s explanation for why the drone strikes are legal. It seems to me that his arguments could possibly double as a justification of the government’s authority to kill al-Awlaki without due process.
Is this an effective policy? Does the assassination keep us safe? According to a little known study done by Jenna Jordan (warning: pdf file) of the University of Chicago, that would be a resounding “No”:
Her work suggests that decapitation doesn’t lower the life expectancy of the decapitated groups – and, if anything, may have the opposite effect.
Particularly ominous are Jordan’s findings about groups that, like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, are religious. The chances that a religious terrorist group will collapse in the wake of a decapitation strategy are 17 percent. Of course, that’s better than zero, but it turns out that the chances of such a group fading away when there’s no decapitation are 33 percent. In other words, killing leaders of a religious terrorist group seems to increase the group’s chances of survival from 67 percent to 83 percent.
Is Obama violating International Law by firing missiles into Pakistan, violating their air space and killing innocent civilians?
Is Obama violating the Constitution he swore to protect and uphold as a lawyer. a Senator and as President by targeting an American citizen for assassination without due process?
Is this making America safer?