Friday, September 30, 2011

al-Awlaki and Khan

From AP and Twitter: BREAKING: Yemen Defense Ministry says another American in al-Qaida, Samir Khan, was killed with al-Awlaki.

The standard for assassination gets lower, looser and more diffuse. What is the official line right now on how an American gets themselves into a zone where due process can be ignored? Apparently it can happen if (a) you make yourself a foreign soldier- that's one way. Now apparently it can also happen if you associate or are in proximity to someone they want to kill.

If you assume very high competence and exemplary ethics on the part of the so-called "elite" special forces who do it, and there actually is a coherent story about why they are assassinating the person in (a), it's one thing. I have objections to that in the first place. But two huge problems are accidents and deliberate abuse of authority. If I don't know what the rates/ratios are like and don't have evidence, it's because state secrets and classification are used to keep from the public the information we should be entitled to use to decide whether the tradeoffs are worth it.

So in the voice of a calm centrist practicing Occam's Razor, what is the new colloquial rule of thumb that separates Samir Khan from you and me? Don't go overseas at all? Don't travel to countries where terrorists have come from? If you hear on CNN that the U.S. is trying to kill someone and you see them coming, run away? What if you work for an NGO? What if you're a journalist?

As I have said before, I am worried about the conflation of new slivers of people who are angry over the economy and austerity, into the umbrella of terrorists. If a government feels under stress, if governments are out of money, if we have austerity, no jobs and blackmailing radicals in the House, I think this also puts a stress on the ethical standards and quality standards that a centrist is taking for granted in assuming that it can't happen here.

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