Why drone strikes on Americans are right and wrong.

An upcoming Senate confirmation vote on President Obama’s nomination for the 1st U.S. Court of Appeals has reopened the discussion about the Obama administration’s use of drone attacks. According to Fox News, the Obama administration is preparing to publicly reveal a memo explaining its legal justification for using drones to kill American citizens overseas.

The decision comes as the Senate is to vote this week on advancing President Obama’s nomination of the memo’s author, Harvard professor and former Justice Department official David Barron, to sit on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Are drone strikes on Americans right or wrong? I think there are two key factors to consider, but first a bit of background.

Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader born in the United States, was killed after being targeted by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.

The drone strike that killed al-Awlaki also killed another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month in another drone attack.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for The New York Times, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, filed a Freedom of Information Act suit to demand the documents explaining the legal justification be made public. In January 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that she had no authority to order the documents disclosed, although she chided the Obama administration for refusing to release them.

Well, I have an opinion about al-Awlaki’s case as well, and I’m quite certain what I’m about to say will bring forth a firestorm of comments — so be it.

Anwar al-Awlaki made himself an enemy of our State and in so doing, by fleeing to a foreign land to embrace our enemies, he abdicated his rights as an American citizen and became the enemy — as well as Samir Khan.

Nidal Hasan was a traitor who took up arms against his country, while in uniform, and killed Americans – since he was here in America, he was given a trial and has received a proper sentencing.

But are we supposed to believe that when Americans turn traitorous, take up arms against their country, and flee to the side of the enemy, they should be sought after with a warrant for their arrest? So who do we send to knock on the door in some foreign land – most likely in bad guy Islamist territory — to read a person their rights, and ask them to come back to the US and face trial?

John Walker Lindh was captured during an assault, discovered to be an American citizen, faced trial and was properly sentenced — that I concur with.

However, if these Islamists, who are home grown, believe they can disavow their allegiance to America, take up arms with the enemy, flee this country and put forth their vile propaganda and support to kill Americans AND are above reproach — then we lose.

I am against the Commander-in-Chief using drones like he’s playing some video game and “getting good at killing people.” Targeted strikes are wrong when they are directed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as did a previous liberal progressive, President Lyndon Johnson, who approved bombing targets during the Vietnam War from the Oval Office.

But when you take up arms against America and support the murder of your fellow countrymen from the land of our enemy, you are no different than the enemy. And sorry to say, if you are the child of someone such as Anwar al-Awlaki who can make a reasoned choice, you should choose America, not the treasonous way of your father. In that case, a drone strike is right.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t always agree with you, but this time you are 100% right. I’m still glad Sen Paul is standing up and getting this argument out there for debate.

  2. Wis he going to justify the use of his killing machines against the people in this country? And he will use them, have no doubt about that!! People that voted for him are starting to wise up to his lies and now he will have to “change” course and call his weapons upon us.

  3. According to just war doctrine, for a rebellion to be justified against a government, the government has to be shown to take away the individual natural rights of the citizens. Killing American citizens without due process is one example. Searching a citizen’s person, property or effects without a warrant and without probable cause is another. Infringing on the citizens’ right to bear arms by enacting laws that limit the size of a magazine to less than what a military standard would be or any other attempt at gun control including redefining mental instability is a third. I’m certain that there are many other actions that a tyrannical government imposes on it’s people that are happening today. When the rebellion is just, it only requires a leader to gain followers for it to achieve competent authority. Nearly all other options have been attempted and have failed. The right intention is there. The probability of success seems great to me. The only thing missing is the proportionality of response. It seems that the citizenry have some catching up to do.

  4. “I am against the Commander-in-Chief using drones like he’s playing some video game and “getting good at killing people.” Targeted strikes are wrong when they are directed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as did a previous liberal progressive, President Lyndon Johnson, who approved bombing targets during the Vietnam War from the Oval Office.”

    If so, from where and by whom are the drone attacks approved? You indicated your agreement with the use of drones in the last paragraph, but I am unclear as to what you propose is the correct process. I would not want the President to have unilateral power to single out those Americans who he felt were “dangerous” because his criteria might be quite biased.

    You can argue that some cases are “obvious,” but there is the real possibility that the “red line” might be drawn way too close to home.

    • I thought A.W. was very clear on when a drone strike is justified. It is when an american citiezen disavowes his U.S. citizenship and goes to fight with the enemy of U.S. to kill U.S. soldiers in the battlefield. To me, that U.S. citizen has given up his rights under the constitution.

      • Indeed. What then? Double standards are always a problem, especially when the standard is unclear. I think the standard must be that the individual is actively engaged in the planning and/or participation of… violent… acts against a country… and the country in which he is taking such actions is unwilling or unable to prevent that individual from taking those actions.

        Mere verbal protests or politics does not meet that test.

        If a group or individual Chinese citizen were actively involved in planning or participating in an act of terror against China while in the U.S., it would be incumbent upon the U.S. to prevent that action in cooperation with the Chinese government… but not necessarily by a pilotless aircraft. Conversely, a Chinese citizen in the U.S. who was actively protesting Chinese government actions would not be a legitimate target and any Chinese action against that individual within U.S. borders could be construed a hostile action against the U.S.

        Regardless, the point I was making was, if Allen West objects to the decision being made by the White House, what is the process of which he approves and who is the appropriate person to issue the order?

      • First off, Remotely Piloted Aircraft are not “pilotless”. They are controlled by a commissioned officer pilot and an enlisted sensor operator.

        Secondly, the military using an RPA is no different than using an F-15 or an A-10. It’s still a weapon system and under the same controls as a traditional aircraft.

        Third, ignore everything Hollywood and TV does with RPAs, no movie or TV show has ever come close to accurately portray how these aircraft are used in real life. Take my word on it, I’m a sensor operator. Quite frankly, this new season of “24” is now ruined because of how ridiculous their technical inaccuracies are.

        Fourth, the scenarios you’re suggesting with Russia or China conducting strikes within our border aren’t just ridiculous, they’re simply never going to happen while the USA is still a country. The strikes that we conduct overseas are with the permission of the government of the nation that we are flying in. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t just randomly flying RPAs into other countries without their permission just to kill people on a mysterious list.

  5. Let the military do their job in deciding how to take out traitors outside the US borders, such as they are. The traitors that live inside our borders, even those who live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, should be thrown in jail and brought to justice immediately, if not sooner. Will they be brought to justice? Probably not, not unless you and Trey Gowdy go after them, Sir!

  6. When known terrorists adopt another country, isn’t there a provision that their citizenship can be revoked, just as drunk drivers can have their driver’s license revoked? Maybe it’s thought that U. S. citizenship is such a right that it can never be revoked? If that’s the case, the only other choice is to revoke their lives.

  7. Col West, the only thing I disagree with here is your incorrect usage of the word “drone”. They are Remotely Piloted Aircraft. Drones are used for aerial weapons testing and air-to-air target practice. RPAs are a weapon system with dedicated pilots and sensor operators who take their jobs very seriously – we hear the comments about it being a video game and it’s highly offensive. We know what we’re doing and we know that there are lives on the other side of that video screen: either that of our American/coalition comrades or those of our enemies, those are people and not just computer pixels.

      • It’s true. I’m not the pilot, I’m the enlisted Sensor Operator. We work long hours and rotate shifts frequently. We’re held to the same regulations and standards as crews on manned aircraft and in some cases, regulations have been waived because we weren’t physically in the aircraft (they’re getting away from the waiving). It’s not an easy job and it is stressful. We’re also unique in that the primary portion of the sortie is flown directly from homestation. I’ve gone to work, struck a target with a Hellfire missile, and was at home floating in my pool at the end of the day. Make no mistake about it though, I know exactly what I did and I don’t think I’m playing an enhanced version of Call of Duty.

    • I’m curious mark, as a remote weapons system pilot…where do you and your colleagues stand when the order comes down to fire on domestic citizens (say after the fed goes too far and Americans revolt against tyranny! Will you fire on american citizens? If yes…then I agree with west on the term drones…if not…thank you!

      • I’m not a pilot, I’m the Sensor Operator (the enlisted crewmember). To answer your question question, just because elected officials have forgotten their oaths, it doesn’t mean that we have forgotten ours. The crews controlling these aircraft are Americans who take their jobs and their oaths very seriously.

        BTW, most of the military is conservative and the current WH resident isn’t very popular.

      • Yeah with the way things are going with the VA and the treatment of current operators in theater, it’s amazing any of his orders are followed anymore. I sure as hope there will never be another Benghazi. Where soldiers stand down and let their brothers die! I feel for the soldiers who bare the guilt of “I could have….”

      • I just watched a marathon of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, OIF/OEF vets talking about battles and combat on the American Heroes channel. This line was said in every episode from every generation, “You’re not fighting for apple pie, mom, or even America when you’re in combat. You’re fighting for the guy next to you just as he’s fighting for you.” Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter why you’re fighting while you’re there, you just fight – for yourself and your brothers in arms. You can’t control the politics but you can have a say in who gets to go home.

  8. I agree completely but only up to the point that this cannot be done on American soil. This point wasn’t mentioned in the article, and more than likely Mr. West agrees with this point, but it needs to be stated due to the mentality of the left and whom they consider to be traitors. Look at the rhetoric that Howard dean is spewing and remember who the DHS believes are the terrorists. They basically believe that anyone who doesn’t agree with the POTUS is a right wing separatist.

  9. Amen Col. If You leave American soil and live amongst the enemy, you are the enemy. Those that disagree then join the rotten s.o.b. in these countries. If they have sworn allegiance to the enemy, but stay on American soil to give intel to the enemy hunt them down and kill them in away possible. They have given up their rights as American citizens.

  10. The problem I see is like all barry’s other abuses is he will change the rules to match what he wants. While I agree with killing a traitor who takes up arms in another country against the USA. barry will decide that what’s the difference between a traitor in another country and a traitor here within the borders of the USA. To him None. If he controls the phone and a pen and the courts then he thinks he can do whatever he wants.
    Before you know it he will claim that the TEA PARTY or Conservative Patriots are traitors in his eyes and feel free to attack them with drones.

    • Hell he’s already using the IRS, ATF, OSHA, DOJ, AND THE FBI. It’s only natural for someone like Obama who lived in a Lawless city like Chicago and surrounded by Communist ans Anarchist Radicals would use any means necessary to achieve his objective which is the destruction of the USA and any that would oppose him and his accomplices.

  11. Mr. West, I respectfully disagree. While it may seem naive and
    idealistic of me, I believe that our rights of due process apply to all
    American citizens, even those that hold deplorable beliefs, and even
    those who commit deplorable actions. It seems to me that if you can take
    the right of due process away from al-Alwaki, then you can also choose
    to take it away from me…or anyone else, regardless of where we are.

    I don’t have answers about how we would go about bringing him back here
    to stand trial, I leave that to people who are smarter than I am.

    I do know that the consistent erosion of Americans constitutional
    rights for the past several years has made me leery of anything our
    elected officials do, and I believe that if we open the door a crack,
    they will just shove it all the way open and force their way in. I’d
    rather we find a way to deal with these citizens that falls within their
    rights. We’re a smart, resilient nation with a fantastic military,
    surely we can do better than vigilante justice.

      • May I ask how you know that? After all, al-Alwaki was invited to the Pentagon to speak months ahead of 9/11. What was his targets? What was he going to do that his death saved “more lives” than his being taken. I genuinely ask if there is information that he was going to take lives.

      • His conduct was never an issue until after 9/11. if he was such a great guy why did he flee to Yemen? Why did he declare war on the west? Why was he promoting jihad? why was he with a known terrorist group in Yemen? By taking him out it delayed his plans and his Al Qaeda group had to reorganize which gave time for the Yemeni army to delay even more acts of terror in an outside of the country.
        What ever phobia you and others think I have its my way of staying vigilant. Why do Muslims in America want Sharia Law imposed, why are they wanting prayer time in schools, try that being Christian or Jewish. Have you heard any Islamic Cleric oppose what is happening in todays world. “NO” This is a growing cancer that is a threat to us all. al Awlaki was a major player in that region. So don’t feel sorry for him

  12. How long will it be before they begin targeting people here? They have already declared returning vets domestic terrorists, will the next protest or demonstration be ended with a hellfire missile, that’s the problem, this administration has shone a total disregard for the law and constitution.
    This just opens the door for what ever means they want to use to subjugate the American people.

    • Agree Krell, it is only a matter of time befroe they start using armed drones on Americans here, they already can, using the NDAA, arrest you without a warrant hold you indefinitely in a cell without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts. This was put into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 or 2012 by BOTH the White House and the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate with their full support and blessing. Then Obama comes out after he was caught lying about it and saying well he’ll never do such a thing to the American People. Yeah Right.

  13. It is long past time to get the traitor, obuma out of office. Impeach the traitor
    . Then charge him with treason, murder, fraud, forgery, and perjury(contempt of congress).

  14. LTC West is right here, as any non-conspiratorial and patriotic person will understand. However, I don’t understand his caveat about the strikes being run by the office of the President. (This pResident is a Muslim and a traitor, but that’s a matter having to do with the American people being scared to impeach a Black guy.) In concept, though, as Commander-in-Chief, if the President wants to micromanage a war, it is his or her prerogative. Bad strategy and tactics, perhaps, but within prerogative.

  15. I thought being caught in the enemy’s uniform behind enemy lines was prima facie spying! Shouldn’t “Dr.” Nidal Hassein be tried as a spy rather than a “work place violence” offender?

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