Mr. Cole writes: “Governments have always killed the enemy during wars, and it is not unlawful to do so. No one accuses Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt of ‘extrajudicial assassinations’ because their troops killed tens of thousands of enemy soldiers without charges or trials. That the Confederate soldiers were American citizens doesn’t change that fact.”
A war is a conflict between two sovereign nations (the Confederate States of America declared itself a sovereign nation). Giving credence to expanding the definition beyond that to fighting small groups and even individuals is most of why these debates are even necessary.
A one-time event, however horrendous, by an organization other than a sovereign state does not constitute a war, and as such, there really should be no question that indefinite detention and extra-judicial killings are illegal.
In a war, such as you describe above, the enemy combatants are generally easily recognizable by their uniforms. They act and move together in recognized units and usually follow the rules of war concerning prisoners, etc. Even civilian spies, in time of war, are given a trial before execution.
In every instance, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, we should have learned by now that fighting native guerrillas, even the midst of an actual war zone, is a stupid idea that only generates more anamosity and therefore more guerilla activity. Just because it now can be done remotely doesn’t make it right or make it an actual war.
It’s this notion that it is an actual war that gives government license to to attack individuals, including Americans and in at least one instance American children, under the AUMF. It’s the reason congress passed and the president signed into law an act, in the form of the NDAA, that essentially declares war on it’s own citizens.
A war is a war, and counterterrorism is counterterrorism, and we’ve been fighting enough of both lately that we ought to be able to tell the difference.
Presque Isle, ME
Feb 17 2013 - 12:04pm