Copeland: Should the U.S. president have the right to kill American citizens when conducting counterterrorism operations?

By: /
8 February, 2013
By: Daryl Copeland

Former diplomat; research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

The increasing incidence of selective assassination, often using robotic devices such as drones and involving extensive collateral damage, is the latest worrisome development in the ill-conceived Global War on Terror.

If the principle of rule of law means anything, then neither American citizens, nor anyone else should be subject to even the potential use of deadly force in the absence of declared war or due judicial process.

Terrorism is a threat, but its consequence has been wildly exaggerated in the service of special interests. Relative to the more profound suite of planetary challenges, including those associated with climate change, diminishing biodiversity, environmental collapse and a host of other issues rooted in science and driven by technology, political violence and religious extremism barely register.

Persistent underdevelopment and chronic insecurity, generated in large part by unmet basic human needs, represent the underlying problems.

The Obama administration’s reliance upon extra-judicial killing will exacerbate anger, alienation and resentment, and in so doing create new enemies. With its international image and reputation already under great stress, that is the last thing the U.S. needs.

The persistent pursuit of legal remedies, backed by patient police and intelligence work, represents a superior alternative, in both moral and practical terms.

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