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On Ron Paul and Awlaki

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Love how you all ignored what Zip said.

Though nobody responded directly to Zip, his statement was very general, so I think we shouldn't have too much trouble taking some of the other posts and applying it to his statement.

What does that mean? When did Congress ever micro-manage wars? No, Ron Paul is wrong and this is an ordinary exercise of the executive function.

It's not a matter of micromanaging, I don't think Paul would argue with you on that. I think he would say he has a beef with Congress taking its "power to declare war" and declaring "the President shall now have the power to make war on any persons in the future he deems a terrorist based solely on his say-so." I think he would say that amounts to a little more than just micromanaging, and wouldn't be a valid application of the war powers clause.

Then Paul might be guilty of intentionally deceiving his listeners with his carefully calibrated list of activities that deliberately omits that Al Qaeda qua organization is a war target and that means (at the minimum) everyone who boasts and broadcasts his Al Qaeda affiliation worldwide. It would make no difference at all if Awlaki was not in Al Qaeda in 2001, anyone and everyone associated with AQ from now until forever is a war target.

Accepting for the moment that it is constitutionally valid, even if Congress were to somehow declare a general war on anyone and everyone deemed to be a terrorist, or deemed to be associated with terrorists from now until forever, allowing the President to choose who is a terrorist and who isn't without having to provide evidence, then I think Ron Paul would simply say this is a wrong thing to do, and we can take him to mean that he simply opposes this strategy.

Now we could imagine the response being that the target himself says he is a part of AQ, but still, Ron Paul might answer that this is no proof of anything. If I say I murdered someone, we still must investigate and find evidence that I did, otherwise the charge might simply be a minor false reporting charge. There are many pseudo- and wannabe terrorists who claim things like this all the time, who broadcast their alleged affiliation, who even claim credit for attacks, after all.

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I'm definitely not a fan of Ron Paul, but the general principle at work here is somewhat worrisome. It is, as far as I know, the first time an American citizen has been deliberately killed by its own government without a prior trial, and it does set a precedent. I'm sure Awlaki deserved to die given what he did, but that is not the most important issue at stake here. The fact of the matter is that in our legal system precedents matter, and the fact that the government killed one of its own citizens through a completely intransparant procedure with no regards to due process is a bad precedent. Yes, right now we are using it on terrorists abroad, but there is no clear constitutional differentiation between a US citizen's rights in the US and abroad when it comes to these situations. Yes, our current administration may only use it to hunt down heinous terrorists who deserve to die, but establishing this method of killing as an acceptable way of doing business could very well mean that at some time in the future it will be used against US citizens who are "suspected terrorists" on our own soil.

Given that DHS is already looking closely at people who have anti-government leanings, it is not completely outside my imagination that a different government at some point in the future could designate someone completely innocent of any wrongdoing besides being opposed to the then current administration as a threat that can be eliminated in the same manner.

I would certainly hope that this event is followed by a series of safeguards put in place to ensure that it does not one day happen to an undeserving person. I certainly do not trust all senior government officials enough to simply expect ALL of them to never abuse a power like this.

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Love how you all ignored what Zip said.

His answer was too simple for most of them. Some people think everything has to be complicated, and when an answer is given that cuts right to the point, and right to the first principles, I believe in their mind it looks too simple to be true so they just ignore it, and continue with a war of words that in actuality obfuscates the actual answer.

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I am surprised that people who generally oppose the power of the state can so readily accept the murder of an American citizen (or anyone) without any real evidence of guilt being presented with the government arguing that it doesn't have to bother supply any proof. Aside from the Constitutional / legal protections, what about the right to life? Can the government ignore that on a whim? On the say so of a bureaucrat? or should it have to provide evidence?

Aulaqi's character and alleged actions are irrelevant, the only things that matter are that the government violated the Constitution, violated his rights (and therefore set a precedent to violate the rights of every man, woman and child). This hawkish, neo-con, dare I say collectivist, nationalistic approach to foreign policy is confusing to me, I find it contrary to the rest of Objectivism. The government says we are at war, he was an enemy, we killed him and we are supposed to accept that? If this was the case, the government should declare war, against a stated enemy that can be defined objectively. If he was an enemy, let us have the proof. By all accounts Aulaqi was not going to be nominated for "Patriot of the Year" but editing a jihadist magazine is no a sufficient justification for killing him nor is alleged involvement in actual terrorist plots in the past. Don't get me wrong, if we were in imminent danger, if we had a 'Jack Bauer' situation where they had evidence that he was currently implementing a plot against the US, then the government were entitled - indeed, morally required - to take him out (and any innocent bystanders). However, this does not appear to be the case.

A legal, just solution was there, charge him, issue a subpoena and try him in absentia if necessary, if you get a guilty verdict declare open season.

When you drop the bar so low, when you give government free reign to tackle "terrorism" don't be surprised when the government starts locking up "enemies of the state" like Leonard Peikoff and Yaron Brook.

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I am surprised that people who generally oppose the power of the state

Objectivists do not oppose the power of the state when it is operating within its proper domain. Government is all about force, including war. Awlaki was at war with the U.S., and the U.S. with him.

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I am surprised that people .. can so readily accept the murder of an American citizen without any real evidence of guilt being presented with the government arguing that it doesn't have to bother supply any proof.

I couldn't agree more. Due process was created for a reason. Trials give people the means necessary to make a defense for themselves: evidence is presented, challenged, and an ultimate decision is made. Who knows what the real facts are? They were never presented. Every article I've read so far refer to Alwaki's speeches that promote violence (remember Malcolm X, anyone?), which by themselves aren't a violation of any laws. Disagreeing with his opinions is not enough to kill him.. and whether this has any connection or not, his son was also killed in a US air-strike. Seems a little shady to me.

"Although there’s still no evidence that Anwar Awlaki was responsible for any actual or planned Terrorist plots, a newly released WikiLeaks cable seems to provide definitive proof of what Amnesty International has long claimed: that the U.S., in late 2009, carried out an air strike in Yemen using cluster bombs that killed dozens of innocent women, children and men. It’s so telling how much intense and unquestioning media attention was devoted to depicting Awlaki as an Evil Terrorist, and so little devoted to the dozens of innocent people actually killed by the U.S., under the direction of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, in the very country where Awlaki lived." [1]

Even shadier..

"President Obama alleged that Awlaki "directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010." Awlaki denied directing these attacks in a February 2010 interview with Al Jazeera, though he admitted he liked the idea of attacks on U.S. military targets." [2]

Of course no one would openly admit they directed a (failed) terrorist attack, but this is what trials are for: finding the truth and making rational decisions based on the evidence (or lack thereof).

Edited by Michele Degges

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The argument that we are not officially at war is moot. Being officially at war requires us to declare war on a nation, not a combative force which operates within one or more nations. Paul's argument is irrational. It boils down to the assertion that if a person acquired U.S. citizenship prior to engaging war against the U.S., he is not subject to acts of war in defense of his aggression. If that premise is followed, then Al Qaeda or the Taliban, or any other non-state force could simply enlist naturalized U.S. citizens, or have a number of its members become naturalized under false pretenses (reference Faizal Shahzad's explanation for attacking the nation that granted him citizenship on the basis of his proclaimed loyalty - "You're the enemy. I lied!"). Under those conditions, our armed services would find themselves engaged in daily combat with a force that might contain U.S. citizens. The prohibition against taking direct offensive action against U.S. citizens would mean what? They could only defend themselves? They would be forced to lay down their weapons and go home?

As long as the gov't provides a clear, objective definition of "enemy combatant," it matters not whether that combatant happened to have been naturalized by the U.S. In fact, the argument could be made that we have more jurisdiction to kill naturalized Americans operating as terrorists in foreign land than we do to target foreign citizens who at least may be defending their land, in their own minds.

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We are at war with Al Qaeda. Awlaki was part of Al Qaeda. Nothing more need be said, but there was a panel that reviewed his status and whether or not he merited the expense of a series of drone strikes to kill him. Case closed.

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The argument that we are not officially at war is moot. Being officially at war requires us to declare war on a nation, not a combative force which operates within one or more nations. Paul's argument is irrational. It boils down to the assertion that if a person acquired U.S. citizenship prior to engaging war against the U.S., he is not subject to acts of war in defense of his aggression. If that premise is followed, then Al Qaeda or the Taliban, or any other non-state force could simply enlist naturalized U.S. citizens, or have a number of its members become naturalized under false pretenses (reference Faizal Shahzad's explanation for attacking the nation that granted him citizenship on the basis of his proclaimed loyalty - "You're the enemy. I lied!"). Under those conditions, our armed services would find themselves engaged in daily combat with a force that might contain U.S. citizens.

Except this was not what happened, al-Aulaqi was not killed in daily combat. It was a targeted strike. If al-Qaeda recruit US citizens, try them in a court. If you need to kill them to stop an imminent attack (e.g. suicide bombing) then do so - but you will have to back that up with evidence of guilt at a later stage.

Police in London shot a suspected terrorist, they pinned him down to the floor of a tube train and they shot him in the head. Sadly, it turned out that the "terrorist" was an entirely innocent Brazilian man with no connections to Islam or terrorism of any kind. The police lied, contradicted themselves and tried to cover it up. This is why we have due process. This is why we need to hold to government to account. I don't have a problem with the shoot to kill policy, my problem is in giving government an entirely free reign to do as it pleases without being subject to any kind of judicial oversight.

The prohibition against taking direct offensive action against U.S. citizens would mean what? They could only defend themselves? They would be forced to lay down their weapons and go home?

Again, the "prohibition" is against "direct offensive action" against (ie murder of) citizens - who are not engaged in the act of terrorism - without trial.

If the US army is under attack in Afghanistan, they should destroy their enemy and check their passports later.

If they are surveilling a suspect they can not just blow him up on the say-so of the President.

I don't think the distinction is too difficult.

As long as the gov't provides a clear, objective definition of "enemy combatant," it matters not whether that combatant happened to have been naturalized by the U.S. In fact, the argument could be made that we have more jurisdiction to kill naturalized Americans operating as terrorists in foreign land than we do to target foreign citizens who at least may be defending their land, in their own minds.

If al-Aulaqi was actively engaged in terrorism against the US, I would not have a problem with military action that kills him in the commission of terrorism. This is not what happened. I would not have a problem with a targeted assassination if the government had a) gone through the proper legal channels of a declaration of war against a specified enemy B) trying him in absentia or c) at least provide some evidence of his guilt after the fact.

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Objectivists do not oppose the power of the state when it is operating within its proper domain.

And the proper domain for government is killing its own citizens?

Government is all about force, including war.

Of course it is, but that does not give the government free reign to do as it pleases in order to fight that war.

I assume you oppose the draft?

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The argument that we are not officially at war is moot. Being officially at war requires us to declare war on a nation, not a combative force which operates within one or more nations. Paul's argument is irrational.

We are at war with Al Qaeda. Awlaki was part of Al Qaeda. Nothing more need be said, but there was a panel that reviewed his status and whether or not he merited the expense of a series of drone strikes to kill him. Case closed.

Declaring war on a criminal group that isn't a part of a nation is irrational. We are at war with Al Qaeda. Grames was part of Al Qaeda. An executive panel has reviewed his status and determined that there is nothing more to be said.

We are at war with Al Qaeda. agrippa1 was part of Al Qaeda. An executive panel has reviewed his status and determined that there is nothing more to be said.

Evidence is irrational. Proof is irrational. Courts of law are irrational. A panel in the executive branch has determined it so. Case closed.

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There will now be an incoming hellfire missile on anyone whoever we determine "merits it" based purely on our say-so. No evidence, proof, or judicial procedure is necessary. Have a nice day and enjoy your freedom.

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And the proper domain for government is killing its own citizens?

The distinction is between criminal suspect and enemy combatant. The "citizenship" aspect isn't relevant. That's what I'm getting from the debate.

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Declaring war on a criminal group that isn't a part of a nation is irrational. We are at war with Al Qaeda. Grames was part of Al Qaeda. An executive panel has reviewed his status and determined that there is nothing more to be said.

We are at war with Al Qaeda. agrippa1 was part of Al Qaeda. An executive panel has reviewed his status and determined that there is nothing more to be said.

Evidence is irrational. Proof is irrational. Courts of law are irrational. A panel in the executive branch has determined it so. Case closed.

Some points:

What is it about a civilian courtroom that gives it a monopoly on the ability to be objective? I say, nothing. The proceedings of the panel reviewing Awlaki's status were not public, but if they knew at least as much as I do from what is public knowledge then they reached a justifiable and objectively correct conclusion.

Second, no matter how precisely worded a declaration of war is there is always going to be some borderline case requiring a decision on a particular person's status as a combatant. That is why the military has regulations, rules of engagement and a military justice system as a check on their own decision process. All of that was installed by Congress itself as an exercise of its power to regulate the military. Congress has both instructed the military to kill Al Qaeda and provided methods and funding as to how to do it. There is nothing at all irregular or unlawful about the killing of Awlaki.

Joseph Goebbels never killed anybody, would he have escaped the Nuremberg Trials with his life had he not committed suicide? I think not, nor should he have. Unlike Goebbels, Awlaki had a hand in plotting particular operations and spoke with the perpetrators. Awlaki earned his explosive death.

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What is it about a civilian courtroom that gives it a monopoly on the ability to be objective? I say, nothing. The proceedings of the panel reviewing Awlaki's status were not public, but if they knew at least as much as I do from what is public knowledge then they reached a justifiable and objectively correct conclusion.

Well, see, I want to say that the above is very dangerous. It's not that any one person has a monopoly on "being objective," it's that we have the idea of constitutionalism, where the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are distinct and separate. The executive can "be objective," but I think being objective in the constitutional sense prohibits them from assassinating people based solely on their own say-so. It is part of the idea of dictatorship where the executive chief of state is the sole decider of all that will be "objective" or not, including himself.

So there is the Grames that wants the executive to be able to decide if its own actions are objective or not and the rest of us to just shut up, then there is the Grames that "liked" and posted in this thread.

Morally, a man has the right to retaliate against those who initiate force. … Yet, if he is living in a society of other men, it is not enough that an individual determine in his own mind that his use of force is retaliatory. Since whether an act of force is initiatory or retaliatory is not self-evident, and since a man who initiates force is by that fact a threat to society, any man who engages in force that has not been proved by objective means to be retaliatory must be considered a threat … [A]n act of retaliation that isn't first proved to be an act of retaliation is indistinguishable from an act of aggression...

What, then, are "objective means"? To determine that an instance of force is retaliatory, men must know what the act of force was, the general standard by which guilt is to be determined, and what evidence was used to meet that standard in a particular case. Every member of society must have access to this information. And, of course, each of these elements must be objective (the laws, standards of evidence, and the evaluation of whether the evidence in question meets that standard).

[T]he point is not that individuals are unable to make objective determinations of what constitutes retaliatory force -- it's that objectivity demands they prove it to every other member of society.

Edited by 2046

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[T]he point is not that individuals are unable to make objective determinations of what constitutes retaliatory force -- it's that objectivity demands they prove it to every other member of society.

The arena for proof in this case at the lower level deciding particular cases and deciding whether or shoot or bomb this or that person is the military and executive branch, because Congress explicitly told them to do so. The higher level arena where every other member of society was involved is the Congress itself directing the military who to wage war on. If the military goes wrong, it is up to the Congress to correct it and individual citizens through their representatives. The domestic judiciary simply cannot be second guessing declarations of war or even authorizations of use of military force so long as the Congress is validly exercising its constitutional power within the separation of power scheme.

This is not a case of the President deciding to kill someone in a personal pique of anger. No Congressman pulled the trigger or issued operational orders but Congress is hip deep in the death of Awlaki by ordering and funding the use of force to eliminate Al Qaeda. Congress retains the power to stop whatever it does not approve of.

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As in post number 26, though, all Congress said was basically hey, we hereby tell you that you can do whatever you want to whoever you want based on your discretion. So that's why we're disagreeing.

Not "whoever you want".

"Al Qaeda" is a concept having the meaning of the individual persons referred to. It is a concept that serves just as well as the concepts of "Germany" or "Japan" in those declarations of war. Determining who was German and who was Japanese was not an insuperable obstacle to prosecuting that war, and it is not much more difficult in finding members of Al Qaeda. Especially when those members of Al Qaeda are in the public relations branch and openly boast of being Al Qaeda.

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United States declaration of war upon Germany (1941)

Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

(Signed) Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives

(Signed) H. A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate

Approved December 11, 1941 3:05 PM E.S.T.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt

And then the first big thing America did in Europe was land troops in (edit: Tunisia? Morocco? I forget), ready to shoot Frenchmen under the Vichy government. Do you have a problem with that too?

Edited by Grames

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I see your point, that Congress authorizes the executive to go after the bad guys, and the executive has a bit of leeway to determine who the bad guys are. I just think it's a bit dangerous declaring war (not that they actually declared war) on anyone and everyone deemed to be the "terrorist" du jour, it leaves quite the range of discretion open there in assassinating people. So, coupled with the general level of increasing police state measures, Ron Paul (and I agree with him on this) would rather "give the Devil the benefit of law for my own safety's sake."

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The objections to these type of actions are moot if one understands that the enemy properly defined is state sponsored Islamic Totalitarianism and it's proxies, and that it's irrelevant if one of those proxies happens to be an American citizen or not. For example, would it have been proper to just arrest and prosecute an American who took up arms with the Nazi's during WW2 or kill him as he was fully acting as, and in conjunction with, the enemy?

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The objections to these type of actions are moot if one understands that the enemy properly defined is state sponsored Islamic Totalitarianism and it's proxies, and that it's irrelevant if one of those proxies happens to be an American citizen or not. For example, would it have been proper to just arrest and prosecute an American who took up arms with the Nazi's during WW2 or kill him as he was fully acting as, and in conjunction with, the enemy?

I don't think that it is clear that al-Aulwaqi had "taken up arms." He'd been a spiritual advisor to a terrorist and edited a magazine. He was hardly killed on a battlefield. The problem is that it is not clear, we just don't know what al-Aulaqi was or what he had done. That was for a court to determine, not the whims of the executive branch.

To use your example, if a US citizen working for Hitler was on a battlefield, kill him without compunction. If he was just editing a Nazi magazine in Bavaria, then you have no justification for killing him. Arrest him if you can, if not try him in absentia.

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