April 14, 2010

THE CORPUS OF THE ENEMY IS THE BATTLEFIELD:

The Price of Assassination (ROBERT WRIGHT, 4/13/10, NY Times)

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.

Students of the law might raise a couple of questions: 1) Doesn’t it violate international law to fire missiles into Pakistan (especially on a roughly weekly basis) when the Pakistani government has given no formal authorization? 2) Wouldn’t firing a missile at al-Awlaki in Yemen compound the international-law question with a constitutional question — namely whether giving the death penalty to an American without judicially establishing his guilt deprives him of due process?

I’m not qualified to answer these questions, and, besides, it doesn’t really matter what the correct answers are. The Obama administration has its lawyers scurrying to convince us that the answers are no and no, somewhat as the Bush administration dispatched John Yoo to justify its torture policy. And these answers, regardless of their legal merit, will be accepted so long as Americans are convinced that being safe in the post-9/11 world requires accepting them.


As a purely legal matter, there is no sovereign -- and, thus, no law -- where non-state actors function with impunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2010 12:58 PM
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