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Military Drone Attacks Are Not 'Hostile' 892

Posted by Soulskill
from the napalm-hugs-and-frag-grenade-kisses dept.
sanzibar writes "Not satisfied with the legal conclusion of the DOJ, the Obama administration found other in-house lawyers willing to declare a bomb dropped from a drone is not 'hostile'. The strange conclusion has big implications in determining the President's compliance with the law. If drone strikes are in fact hostile and the Libyan campaign continues past Sunday, he may very well be breaking the law."
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Military Drone Attacks Are Not 'Hostile'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:25PM (#36487838)

    "You know, you can call a shovel an ice-cream machine, but it's still a shovel, Mom and Dad"

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:26PM (#36487840)
    Pullleeez! If one was used on the US we would absolutely consider it a hostile act.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:28PM (#36487846)

    This is even worse than claiming that waterboarding isn't torture. WTF? I can't believe that I donated money to this douche in 2008.

  • "Not hostile" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:28PM (#36487850)
    The use of explosives by anyone on this forum would be considered "hostile" and would land them in jail. They can label it whatever they want, but you drop a bomb somewhere, you better expect a "hostile" reply.
  • It doesn't matter. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:30PM (#36487860)
    It is a coercive, destructive, military act, 100% consistent with what our Founding Fathers meant when they wrote "war". Therefore I don't give a crap whether somebody re-defines it as "hostile" or "friendly" or a "love tap". It's illegal as hell.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:33PM (#36487884)

    and it won't be a problem right? A small pulse jet powered drone can be built cheaply and a pipe bomb should do the trick. It won't be hostile at all. Obama is a jack ass and his supporters are all idiots.

  • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:35PM (#36487914) Homepage

    At some point we're going to get another irrationally warmongering hawk president. Can we get an iron-clad precedent set that in matters that matter the president isn't above the law, and can't just run around making stuff up?

    It's too bad that would have to happen with this president and not the previous one, who happened to be Houdini of inventing BS from thin air. Free-speech zones. WMD. Blocking Scientific Papers. Etc. But we can't just agree to ignore the law for presidents we like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:46PM (#36487976)

    Furthermore I'd say the US would consider an attack on the drone a hostile act.

  • Re:hopey change (Score:2, Insightful)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:48PM (#36487984) Homepage
    I can only hope that the Congressional leadership will grow a pair and cut off funding for some of these new kinetic military actions.

    And they would, too, if BO were a Republican. For that matter, 2/3 of the comments on this story would be angry demands that he be impeached if he weren't a Democrat. And, for that matter, where are all of the anti-war protesters? Why aren't they up in arms because we're "fighting a war in Libya?" Are they really against war, or only against any military action by a Republican? Enquiring minds want to KNOW!

  • rube here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by decora (1710862) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:55PM (#36488054) Journal

    i heard that Bush's people were harassing journalists, specifically Greg Jackson, a research assistant for Ron Suskind, who was writing Way of the World, a bit if an expose about the pre-Iraq war intelligence.

    they, according to suskind, detained Jackson, took his notes, and confiscated some of his stuff.

    i voted for Obama so that kind of thing would stop.

    and so the war would stop. and so that the assault on civil liberties would stop.

    im a 100% fucking idiot. i am voting for uhm... oh wait, we don't have write-in ballots here, and we barely have 3rd parties allowed on the ballot.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:02PM (#36488088) Homepage

    Well, yes. Remember that the US government is very pro freedom - the freedom of the US government to do whatever it wants and the freedom of everyone else to shut up and like it.

    America, Fuck Yeah!

  • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:02PM (#36488090)

    This just demonstrates that the two parties are just parts of the same machine. I would never donate to either side.

    If it's any consolation, here in Oz we switched from right to left (well far right to centre-right) a bit before you guys across the Pacific and it hasn't turned out much better for us.

  • by Pyrion (525584) * on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:06PM (#36488108) Homepage

    Bush got congressional authorization. Obama thinks he doesn't have to. That's the key difference.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:08PM (#36488112)

    No, it doesn't. As per usual it just gives the US permission to continue bombing a country and indiscriminately killing as they please. I guarantee you that if the situation were reversed and a "non-hostile" drone attack was conducted on the Pentagon or the White House, Obama would nuke the countries involved and then beat any survivors left to death with his Nobel Peace Prize.

    And you elected him. Not that your votes matter any more, but hey, maybe it's time to start pointing the finger at the asshole that you put in the Oval Office and start taking a hard look in the mirror, at your own values.

  • Re:rube here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:19PM (#36488160) Homepage Journal
    You thought the guy in office was a thug, so you voted for a Chicago machine politician hoping the thuggery would stop?
  • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:20PM (#36488164)

    No, it's not. Assisting NATO in overthrowing a cruel dictator is not even remotely fucking comparable to kidnapping and fucking torturing people . There is no comparison. There never will be a comparison. Torture is evil, always.

  • by Gryle (933382) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:22PM (#36488174)
    Yes, actually. Many of the new Republicans that got elected in 2010 feel Afghanistan and Iraq are the limits of what we can do and that the US is spending too much blood and treasure on foreign matters when we can't get our own house in order. I'm willing to bet they could get a non-negligible number of Democrats to agree with them.
  • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:23PM (#36488184)

    To fuck over Obama, same reason they do everything. They demanded that he intervene in Libya specifically so that they could use it against him. If he had refused to intervene, they would have used that against him too. Their one and only goal is to destroy him. They've come out and said so on multiple occasions. People just tend to assume it's a joke, or something.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:35PM (#36488250)

    "But we can't just agree to ignore the law for presidents we like."

    I voted for Obama because he said he would end the presidential lawlessness, end the wars, end the abuse of "state secrets" to block justice through the courts, close Guantanamo Bay and end the 4th and 5th Amendment violations that it represented, and protect whistleblowers. But since he was elected he has done the exact opposite, attempting to assassinate US citizens simply by declaring them enemies of the state with no process whatsoever, escalating the wars and even claiming the power to start more wars without consulting Congress, increased the abuse of state secrets to even prevent cases from being heard, refused to do anything about Guantanamo Bay and even opened up the greater black hole at Bagram, prosecuting whistleblowers to a far greater extent than any previous president ever did, and trying to prosecute Wikileaks under the Espionage Act. All of this is the exact opposite of what he said he would do when we elected him.

    The only power citizens have to punish presidential lawlessness is to refuse to reelect them, and when possible, elect the candidate who says they will undo the lawless behavior. And when the country did that, the guy we elected broke every one of his election promises and proved to be much, much worse. And Congress, as well as both parties, have proven to be enthusiastic supporters of all of this. Senator Russ Feingold, the only one who really cared about the rule of law, lost reelection last year. When both parties support government lawlessness, in Congress and the White House, when we elect those who promise to stop it and they turn around and expand upon that lawlessness instead, what option do we have?

    The precedent, I'm afraid, has already been set. Nobody who matters supports the rule of law any more; not Congress, and not the courts, nor the mass media, who are all too deferential to presidential power to want to do anything about it, not the parties who both want that power for themselves when they win the White House, and certainly not the executive who reaps the benefits. That sort of unanimity among the branches of government is what establishes precedent for a very long time, generations if not indefinitely.

  • by snl2587 (1177409) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:35PM (#36488258)

    Bush got congressional authorization by lying to Congress. Obama thinks he doesn't have to. That's the key difference.

    FTFY

  • by elfprince13 (1521333) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:39PM (#36488272) Homepage
    Right, because Obama stopped all of the abuses, and Bush never overthrew dictatorships as part of an international alliance. Oh. Right. Nevermind. That's just that whole selective memory thing again. Silly me.
  • by Grygus (1143095) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:45PM (#36488298)

    Bush got congressional authorization. Obama thinks he doesn't have to. That's the key difference.

    Bush got his authorization through intentional fraud and suffered no consequences. I'd say the different is semantic; the two acts are equally in violation.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:47PM (#36488318)

    It wouldn't be the first time that the US government claims the right to do things it holds are illegal for everyone else. We torture, we "cyberattack", we proliferate nuclear weapons and WMDs, we attack other countries and wage wars of choice, we violate other countries' sovereignty, all things which we prosecute and punish others for through international courts and extraditions, or would hold to be acts of war if done to us, even while we do the same to the rest of the world.

    And we slaughter innocent civilians from those drones almost on a daily basis, and treat it as if it was nothing. The terrorists killed around 3000 innocents, while we've killed something like 300,000, if not far more. To a far greater extent than al Qaeda, we are the terrorists.

  • its here and now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:54PM (#36488360)
    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @09:12PM (#36488456)
    "I don't give a crap" is not a logical non-sequitur. Further, the Constitution already gives the power to declare war to Congress, not the President. And further yet, the "War Powers Act" does not trump the Constitution, it merely clarifies Congress' policies regarding the waging of war.

    The President's power over our military is generally considered to be limited to the power to repel invasion, without Congress' prior approval. However, this is neither a repulsion of an invasion, or a War declared by Congress. Therefore it is an illegal act, regardless of how "hostile" it is, or not. Nor does the President have any Constitutional authority to re-define the law.

    Therefore, the President has committed an illegal act. And there is no non-sequitur in that chain of logic.
  • by innerweb (721995) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @09:23PM (#36488516)

    Another politician, another lie. I could start quoting Bush, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, ...

    They all made statements with the same stupidity as this. This is about law, not truth. If he can wrangle it that in *legal* terms, it is not hostile, then legally,it is not. Which is all he needs. As far as what it means in english (not legalsleaze), yeah, its as hostile as a punch in the nose. You have to remember for a politicians to get to the top, they normally have to get very good at legal sleaze. If they are not, they are not going to be able to support the people who pave their way with gold.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @09:39PM (#36488584)

    Oh horseshit. Neocons like John Yoo have long argued that anything a President does with respect to war is constitutional. You cannot just turn around and say that reasoning doesn't apply to Obama.

    You can't apply strict constructionalism only when a Democrat is in the White House. It has to apply equally to all Presidents. Like Reagan and his little secret wars.

    If you really want strict constructionalism the War Powers Act is clearly unconstitutional because it delegates a power specifically assigned to Congress to the President. I know it's attractive to Congress to dodge any kind of hard issue like deciding to go to war, and then later hoist the President by the short hairs for public effect, but in absence of an Amendment that's the way it is. You can't end run the amendment process by passing a law.

    So you can't have it both ways. Either constructionalist and the Congress has to actually declare war, or wink wink nudge nudge and the President can send troops wherever and whenever. No one way when a Republican is in power and the other way when a Democrat is in power.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @10:05PM (#36488692) Homepage

    Furthermore I'd say the US would consider an attack on the drone a hostile act.

    The US would consider port scanning a hostile act.

  • by neurophil12 (1054552) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @10:19PM (#36488756)
    Why can't people who start with a legitimate argument stop while they're ahead? My goodness. The "terrorists" (let's be specific, Al Qaeda) have killed way more than 3,000 innocents. That's just the approximate number of people they killed on 9/11. Since then they've killed plenty more. While one might argue that we (via the Bush administration) are responsible for many deaths because the war in Iraq led to destabilization and gave Al Qaeda room to operate and murder (both our troops and many civilians), your assertion that "we've killed something like 300,000" is an irresponsibly nonspecific charge. Moreover, it is silly to compare numbers that way when many (most?) of the deaths it seems you are saying we are responsible for are also the responsibility of those terrorists.
  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @10:30PM (#36488812) Journal
    This President is 100% - after all, he's won a Nobel Peace Prize, how can he be wrong about what is hostile and what is not?
  • by guspasho (941623) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @11:42PM (#36489202)

    "The "terrorists" (let's be specific, Al Qaeda) have killed way more than 3,000 innocents."

    Sure, they've killed many thousands of innocent Middle-eastern Muslims too, and a few hundred other Americans before and since, but it was the 9/11 dead, and only those 3000-ish, that motivated the US to war. But they've killed thousands, and the US has killed hundreds of thousands. It's orders of magnitude more.

    "your assertion that "we've killed something like 300,000" is an irresponsibly nonspecific charge."

    See the estimates for yourself. In Iraq alone the numbers are astonishing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Terror#Casualties [wikipedia.org]

    It's impossible to be more specific because the US has refused to bother counting the war dead beyond its own soldiers, which has left us with independent estimates that partisans then assail for also being partisan. It also doesn't help the US' credibility or good will among their victims' families that they don't bother track the number of dead.

    And yes, when it comes to aggressive wars, it is absolutely reasonable to blame the aggressor for all the war dead, even those killed by the enemy, because without the aggressive war none of those people would have died.

    "Moreover, it is silly to compare numbers that way when many (most?) of the deaths it seems you are saying we are responsible for are also the responsibility of those terrorists."

    Do you have an estimate? I can find none on Google. Every number I've ever heard has been in the thousands, not hundreds of thousands, not even tens of thousands.

    But the idea that you could possibly attribute most of the war dead in the US' wars to al Qaeda is utterly ridiculous. al Qaeda numbers in the few hundreds, that's an estimate the US DOD freely admits. While the US has hundreds of thousands of soldiers and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on its wars. The wars are asymmetrical, al Qaeda are few and very ill-equipped. It's just incomprehensible to imagine how they can possibly be responsible for anything even approaching the numbers killed by the US.

    The point I'm trying to make is that the US has responded to a terrorist act of death and destruction by indiscriminately raining down death and destruction a hundred or thousand-fold on innocent Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, and now - or soon - Libyans. It's far, far more death and destruction than can be attributed to al Qaeda on 9/11, or since, or even "the enemy" if you want to include "militants" or "insurgents" - which are basically people who want us to stop killing them and leave their countries. If the US is justified in that, what are those countries, and their allies, justified in doing to the US?

    If they bombed the US with drones would it be okay because it isn't "hostile"?

  • by Marrow (195242) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @11:50PM (#36489244)

    They are firing shells, missiles, burning fuel, and consuming resources including time and attention. Once, shells, missiles strike their target, they are gone for good: burned up. The fuel is burned up. The time is burned up. None of these things can then benefit us or anyone else in the future.
    If we spend money on tools that we need to make more things in the future, then spending the money may help our economy. But only if the amount of money we can draw from those added resources exceeds what we spent.
    Every time the US declares war (or fails to declare it), its really a war against its own people. Its an excuse to funnel billions of dollars down a rat-hole that has no oversight, and no end in sight. Can you think of another country just before WW1 and WW2 that was addicted to war? Look what happened to them.
    Our leaders think they can gamble at any stakes and take all the winnings for themselves. And if they lose, they can parachute out to some haven and leave the people with the crushing debt of their mistakes.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:30AM (#36489548) Homepage
    And of course, none of those "smart weapons, guided missiles or small...bombs" have ever killed anyone but the bad guys we were targeting. Ever.

    Do I need to include the "</sarc>" tag at the end of this post, or is it obvious enough?
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:48AM (#36489594)

    So, since Bush waged two wars without a declaration of war, nor repelling an invasion, therefore President Bush has committed at least two illegal acts?

    No, he hasn't. President Bush obtained authorizations for use of military force from Congress for the war against Al Qaeda (War on Terror), and against Saddam's Iraq. Legally they are equivalent to declarations of war.

  • by Fjandr (66656) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:52AM (#36489608) Homepage Journal

    I expect you're one of those that argue dropping bombs are Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrorist acts over a military one.

    Even if you excuse the first bombing, the second has none. You don't save the lives of soldiers by deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians if you wish to keep the moral high ground, and especially not twice in a row without even giving them the opportunity to surrender after the first.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:57AM (#36489624) Homepage
    I won't argue the facts that you presented here; there is no doubt in my mind that you are far more acquainted with them than I. I will, however, argue that we are not on any moral high ground, nor are we building many friends around the world with our actions. As a result of 9/11, we have since pretty much invaded four sovereign countries -- one of which (Pakistan, the other three being Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya) is ostensibly our ally (at least for now). We at least had some legitimate claims to Afghanistan, since they were clearly in cahoots with OBL. Iraq was ostensibly about removing an power mad dictator who was allegedly creating weapons of mass destruction. When none were found, we changed out tune to "well, he was in league with the terr'ists, and killing his own people"...much like our justification for invading Libya. But if that were really our motivation, then why aren't we in Syria or Yemen? Why didn't we get involved in Egypt or Tunisia? Why did we send just a token presence into Somalia in the '90s? Why were Libya and Iraq the only countries where we care that the leaders are attacking their own people?

    I'm sure it's just pure coincidence that both Libya (#17) and Iraq (#12) are much greater producers of oil [wikipedia.org] than Syria (#32), Yemen (#36), Egypt (#28), or Tunisia (#53).
  • by julesh (229690) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @02:32AM (#36489698)

    Hilary Clinton vs Sarah Palin at the next election would be hilarious and an unbeatable demonstration that America has totally jumped the shark.

    I think you guys did that when you elected Ronald Reagan. I mean, WTF?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 19, 2011 @04:41AM (#36490086)

    They are firing shells, missiles, burning fuel, and consuming resources including time and attention. Once, shells, missiles strike their target, they are gone for good: burned up. The fuel is burned up. The time is burned up. None of these things can then benefit us or anyone else in the future.
    If we spend money on tools that we need to make more things in the future, then spending the money may help our economy. But only if the amount of money we can draw from those added resources exceeds what we spent.

    This is a good argument, but it is not true. Munitions have a shelf-life. When they reach the end of their shelf life they need to be disposed of safely. Doing so is about ten times as expensive outside a war than inside one. For some reason, nobody cares about the environment in a war.

    I have no idea if the munitions used are actually end-of-life.

  • by hey! (33014) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @08:46AM (#36490722) Homepage Journal

    Well, our having this discussion is a bit like non-geeks discussing computer topics. They use relevant terms, but not necessarily with their correct meaning. "Real-time" is a term whose misuse often makes me cringe.

    We can't even understand what this argument is about without at least looking at the legal briefs. Clearly the administration isn't claiming that dropping bombs from a drone is a benign or friendly act; they're making the argument that it does not fall into a class of actions defined by some specific law (in this case the War Powers Act I think), and referred to by the shorthand "hostilities" in the text of the law. If the law in question says something like, "A 'hostile action' for the purposes of this act is one in which (a) (b) or (c)," then what we're talking about is whether the Libyan operation qualifies under those terms, regardless of whether it is "hostile" according to the common definition of the word.

    I support the Libyan operation, because it's a rare opportunity to take a state sponsor of terrorism out of the picture at relatively low cost. But I think the operation should be authorized by Congress first. That won't happen because the current congress is all too willing to play with critical national interests for short term electoral advantage. At any other time this would be a no-brainer, but for now it's a non-starter. For that reason I would not be surprised if the Administration is bending the law past the point of breaking in order to get the job done. But it is quite possible that a reasonable argument could be made that an operation in which US personnel aren't placed in harm's way *might* not fall under the definition of "hostilities" laid out in certain laws.

    To know whether the position taken is as ridiculous as it sounds, we'd have to see the actual arguments being made, as opposed to some dumbed down, hand-waving media account.

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