Earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated in a speech that the US government has killed 4,700 people with drones:
“We’ve killed 4,700. Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”
The count of 4,700 is strikingly close to the tally offered by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as noted by Micah Zenko. Zenko writes
It is notable that Graham’s estimate nearly matches the TBIJ’s highest estimated range for “total reported killed” in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia: 4,756. Either Graham is a big fan of TBIJ’s work, or perhaps he inadvertently revealed the U.S. government’s body count for nonbattlefield targeted killings.
Perhaps more alarming is Graham’s brazen disrespect for either the laws of war as provided by International Humanitarian Law or the Constitution of the United States. Speaking about Anwar Al-Aulaqi:
“He’s a guy that was born in the United States, he radicalized Major Hasan, the guy at Fort Hood,” Graham said. “He helped plan the underwear bomber attack that failed. He’s been actively involved in recruiting and prosecuting the war for Al-Qaeda He was found in Yemen and we blew him up with a drone. Good.
“I didn’t want him to have a trial…We’re not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war. I support the president’s ability to make a determination as to who an enemy combatant is. It’s never been done by judges before. I support the drone program.”
My question is, does Graham feel equally comfortable justifying the killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, 16-year old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi? Is it “good” that the US brutally murdered a 16-year old boy in cold blood? Forget the fact that these are American citizens for a moment – is it ever okay to kill people in this manner with no due process?
I’ve gone through the argument that the US can extend its “armed conflict with Al-Qaeda” beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan here. In that same post, I discussed how the US policy of pre-emptive attacks does not concord with what is defined as an “imminent threat” in the context of international law. In short, the US cannot arbitrarily expand the borders of its armed conflict with Al-Qaeda to wherever it sees fit, and it cannot arbitrarily include groups or individuals who do not take part in that common command structure that defines Al-Qaeda.
Situating the discussion within this framework – and not the one that Graham so blindly buys into simply because his government tells him it is right – it is clear that the targeted assassination of Anwar Al-Aulaqi – and that of his 16-year old son – violated his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. The recent lawsuit (Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta) filed (again) by the ACLU and CCR adds the violation of
the prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the Fourth Amendment, and, with respect to Anwar Al-Aulaqi, the ban on extrajudicial death warrants imposed by the Constitution’s Bill of Attainder Clause.
A US Senator feels the extrajudicial killing of individuals is legally and morally justifiable? Bad. Very Bad.