The Security State Versus the Lawful State

I am not happy with the Governments current method of operating the Drone Program. I understand the laws the administration is operating under and the “national security” rationale for much of it. But I don’t buy all the “national security” arguments because there is a perfectly lawful way to go about prosecuting foreign wars that is both transparent and far more effective than the secret system being used now. The current system is still operating under some of the same 1% solution prescriptions that Cheney articulated after 911. Under that system it is important not to reveal “sources and methods” and to keep operational security until a target is destroyed. The 1% solution was Cheney’s idea that if one had to kill, torture or harm 100 non-combatant civilians to get to one bad guy, it was worth it. The current policy also represents the same attitude even if we have formally repudiated the 1% policy. “Mistakes will happen. If a civilian is in the way that is collateral damage.” The roots of the current system go back to World War I. But that doesn’t make them right. We are still using arguments that were used to justify the rendition and torture programs. For example the administration justified killing Awlaki on the basis:

“Just as the AUMF authorizes the military detention of a US citizen captured abroad who is part of an armed force within the scope of the AUMF, it also authorizes the use of ‘necessary and appropriate’ lethal force against a US citizen who has joined such an armed force,” reads the memo, written by former Justice Department lawyer David Barron, who also analyzed and rejected arguments that killing Awlaki would be tantamount to murder.” Guardian Article

This may be true. But there is a better process than the use of secret committees and processes for dealing with violent or criminal behavior than that. It is called “Rule of Law.” Essentially when someone leaves the country and joins an insurgency:

  1. The USA should hand down an indictment
  2. Issue a “Wanted Dead or Alive” warrant for the person.
  3. Put a Bounty on his head.

If we had done that on Awlaki then it would have been relatively easy to justify hitting him with a drone strike later. Heck some greedy Yemeni might have done it for us.

There isn’t that much difference between the two approaches, except that if Awlaki were charged with something he’d have the opportunity to report in and turn himself in for a fair trial and get his day in court. As it was the government has the legal authority to kill or detain traitors who take up arms against this country under older laws than the AUMF, but that doesn’t mean they should do it that way. Essentially Awlaki was an outlaw the day he took up arms against us.

Use of Force Guidelines

I’m writing because I had an argument with a Con who was essentially telling me that Obama was a tyrant because he authorized the drone strike against Awlaki. The guy made a whole lot of straw arguments. And I got angry at him partly because he kept repeating them after I told him how and why they were straw arguments. But I also was angry because I’m not comfortable with secret wars and the use of secret evidence to justify military action where there is no declaration of war. Rule of law also demands that we not engage in security state practices at home or abroad. It is not good for the long term survival of our democracy. The Right Wing is unhinged about this largely because the man with the decision power is Obama. They should be working with us to change the policies.

Further Reading
Form over substance:
Related Articles:
Bottom up Repression
Privacy Protections and the Security State

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