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Drone attacks on al-Qaida are legitimate page 2
Charles Krauthammer's op-ed column on complaints about drones in the war on terror

Date published: 2/17/2013

continued

Answer: Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war--no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in-arms.

Lincoln steadfastly refused to recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation. The soldiers that his Union Army confronted at Antietam were American citizens (in rebellion)--killed without due process. Nor did the Americans storming German bunkers at Normandy inquire before firing if there were any German-Americans among them--to be excused for gentler treatment while the other Germans were mowed down.

3. Who has the authority to decide life and death targeting?

In war, the ultimate authority is always the commander in chief and those in the lawful chain of command to whom he has delegated such authority.

This looks troubling. Obama sitting alone in the Oval Office deciding what individuals to kill. But how is that different from Lyndon Johnson sitting in his office choosing bombing targets in North Vietnam?

Moreover, we firebombed entire cities in World War II. Who chose? Commanders under the ultimate authority of the president. No judicial review, no outside legislative committee, no secret court, no authority above the president.

OK, you say. But today's war is entirely different: no front line, no end in sight.

So what? It's the jihadists who decided to make the world a battlefield and to wage war in perpetuity. Until they abandon the field, what choice do we have but to carry the fight to them?

We have our principles and precedents for lawful war-making, and a growing body of case law for the more vexing complexities of the present war--for example, the treatment of suspected terrorists apprehended on U.S. soil. The courts having granted them varying degrees of habeas corpus protection, it is obvious that termination by drone is forbidden--unless Congress and the courts decide otherwise, which, short of a Taliban invasion from New Bruns- wick, is inconceivable.

Now, for those who believe that the war on terror is not war but law enforcement, (a) I concede that they will find the foregoing analysis to be useless, and (b) I assert that they are living on a different and distant planet.

For us earthlings, on the other hand, the case for Obama's drone war is clear. Pity that his Justice Department couldn't make it.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.


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