Battleland

Don’t Get “Inspired” by al-Qaeda, Because We Might Kill You

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Are you feeling “inspired to take action in furtherance of the goals of al-Qaeda —the organization and the ideology—including by engaging in violence regardless of whether such violence is targeted at the United States, its citizens, or its interests?”

Well, look out. We might kill you.

That’s because the new kind of “war” against terrorism is stretching the law, tactics, technology, and morality in all kids of ways. I’m not saying we should not be whacking terrorists with drones. In some cases, we probably should. But let’s not let these moments pass without some thought.

Mark Thompson has an interesting post up this morning about U.S. drone strikes. He notes that the United States is now using the unmanned aircraft to kill suspected terrorists in at least six different countries that we are aware about: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also notes that with the exception of Iraq and Afghanistan, the authority for waging war in those countries is murky — and so is the word “war.”

Well, so is the word “enemy.”

The White House this week released with some fanfare the latest counter-terrorism strategy. The document makes it clear we are at “war.”

The United States deliberately uses the word“war”to describe our relentless campaign against al-Qaeda . However, this Administration has made it clear that we are not at war with the tactic of terrorism or the religion of Islam . We are at war with a specific organization—al-Qaeda

You know things are getting complicated, however, when the “definitions” section of your war document contains a lengthy section on the enemy. In this case, the White House confirms that the enemy includes “Affiliates: Groups that have aligned with al-Qaeda.” The enemy is also defined as, “Adherents: Individuals who have formed collaborative relationships with, act on behalf of, or are otherwise inspired to take action in furtherance of the goals of al-Qaeda —the organization and the ideology—including by engaging in violence regardless of whether such violence is targeted at the United States, its citizens, or its interests.”

If I get this right, we can kill anybody we want who fits those seemingly broad, sweeping, and flexible definitions.

I’ve been to the military’s Combined Air & Space Operations Center in the Middle East where the military decides who to kill in Afghanistan and Iraq using airplanes and drones. From what I saw, the military works really, really hard to make sure they get the bad guy and not others.

Let’s hope all U.S. agencies are doing the same, and that no president takes all this authority and gets weird on us.

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