NBC News recently obtained a Department of Justice white paper that lays out a justification for killing American citizens allied with al Qaeda and operating overseas. The paper outlines three major requirements for the use of lethal force against an American citizen in this circumstance: (1) a senior U.S. government official must determine that the citizen “poses an imminent threat of violent attack,” (2) “capture is infeasible,” and (3) the operation will abide by the law of war. Some additional words fill out the paper but those three criteria are the basis for the justification. People on the Left and Right seem upset about this because of concerns about due process when accused of a crime. Here’s my take on this.
WE ARE IN A WAR.
I really think a lot of people need to get a grip on reality and accept that we are in a war. It seems like only people who are veterans or have friends and family overseas understand that we are still fighting a war that began long before September 11, 2001 (9/11), but was made painfully obvious on that day. As a collective body we citizens seem to have forgotten that almost 3,000 people from many countries died that day on our soil by attacks launched from overseas unless you consider the “launching” to have been from the point of departure airfields in this country. Had we been able to shoot down those aircraft does anyone think we should not have done so even though innocent Americans would have died? I didn’t hear anyone objecting to stopping suicide aircraft right after those attacks because it would be better to kill 100 passengers than let nearly 3,000 or more die. Now people want to object to killing a murderous fanatic operating in another country allied to the same fanatics that launched the 9/11 attacks. The objection is outrageous because we are in a war.
I can tell you this much. My only war was an easy one compared to previous wars and operations today. I’m a Desert Storm vet. I can assure you if some lunatic had jumped up in front of me with a weapon during combat operations I would have shot him dead and then worried about his country of origin. If someone had called in a target for the field artillery battalion in which I was the operations officer and the target description was Americans and Iraqis plotting to kill Americans, I would not have hesitated to cease their existence. That was a war. We are in a war now. Enemy combatants overseas are enemy combatants. Period.
Now I do agree that killing an American without due process within the borders of the United States requires careful thought. I’m not ready for law enforcement of any government agency to start dropping Hellfire missiles in American backyards. I hope we are never so desperate for survival that we reach the point where that question is asked. But killing Americans overseas who are plotting with al Qaeda is fine with me. If they want due process, come home and stop trying to kill their fellow citizens. Do you really think in World War II we would have had this conversation?