Mon Dec 10, 2012, 06:28 PM
KoKo (80,816 posts)
Obama Writing "Rules" for Killing People with Drones
December 9, 2012
Obama Writing "Rules" for Killing People with Drones
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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner.
Michael is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. He's chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He's a board member of The Real News Network. Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHEAL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
Good to be with you again, Paul.JAY: What are you following this week? RATNER: Well, you know, we've been following at the Center for Constitution Rights for a long time the issue of drone killings by the U.S. administration. That's targeted killings that are done by drones.The Center brought the first cases a year or two ago on trying to stop the drone killings of American citizens in Yemen, particularly Anwar al-Aulaqi, who was a American-citizen cleric who was preaching a lot of very, very tough stuff. We were unsuccessful, and the administration killed him with a drone. They then went on and they killed his son a few weeks later. His son is Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi. His son is completely innocent of anything, not even a bad speech, 16 years old.
And we now represent the grandfather, Nasser al-Aulaqi, on behalf of his son Anwar and on behalf of his grandson, who were killed by drones. Why it's come to the fore all of a sudden is last week the Obama administration—you know, they leak these things when they want to leak them, but they leak the fact that they were debating writing the rules for how they should kill people with drones. It all seems very bizarre. The excuse was that they were getting rules in place just in case a new administration took over that wasn't theirs and they wanted to have a set of rules for how you kill people with drones. And so that's what they're debating. The context of the debate is crazy. The context is: should we just kill people who really want to have their finger on the button and are about to bomb the United States? Or do we want to help out in some of these local civil wars in various countries? Do we want to just kill militants?
What should we do? The real problem is—lots of problems, but one is there's already a set of rules (and that's called international law) that tells you who you can't and can kill. And the administration has gone way beyond those rules since the Bush era, but under Obama it's taken on a particularly nasty turn. He's used, like, scores more drones than the Bush administration used. The estimates are that 2,500 people have been killed by drones, of which perhaps 800 are civilians, more or less. But even of the group that are supposedly not civilians, the definition of who can be killed is very loose. It's very loose in a couple of ways that make it illegal. One is they're using drones outside of any war zone. They're using them in Yemen. They're using them in Somalia. They're using them in Pakistan. The second reason is they're using what are called signature strikes. A signature strike is one in which they don't actually know the name of the person they're going to assassinate or kill, but the person is in the vicinity of other, quote, "militants", and therefore they think that person has the characteristic of a militant or a terrorist, whatever word they use (and we don't know, 'cause the rules are secret), and they decide they're going to kill him. So you're talking about a set of policies and practices that are already utterly violative of international law, and now they're going to try and come up with some kind of rules that are still going to be violative of international law. We have rules, they're there for a reason in international law, and it's to stop exactly what the administration is doing
JAY: Now, if it's a violation of international law and in theory these are laws that the United States has ratified, then doesn't that make it a violation of American law?RATNER: It does, actually. That's correct. These international treaties do make it a violation of American law. And we actually have two lawsuits going. We had the initial lawsuit going to try and stop the killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi. We lost that case, not on the merits; we lost it for, I think, a very foolish reason. I mean, the judge took it seriously. We argued it for two hours in court. And the judge said in the end, well, this is a decision that has to be made by the politicians, the political branches, the president and Congress. Of course, Congress has never said anything, but I'm not sure we want them to say anything, considering who they are. And it's not for a court. But if it's not for a court to decide whether the U.S. can murder, in these cases that we brought, American citizens, then who's it for? What our arguments were is that particularly as American citizens—but I think it applies to anybody who's going to be murdered by a drone—is that you have to have a level of due process. You can't just have the president on his own deciding that anyone anywhere in the world can be murdered by a drone. Yesterday it was Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia, Afghanistan. Tomorrow it could be London, it could be Buenos Aires, it could be somewhere else. There's no limits to what the president can do.
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