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

By: /
8 February, 2013
By: Erna Paris
Award-winning author, journalist, and historian

The question is revealing because it appears to assume that targeted assassinations are merely problematic when they kill American citizens. Killing one’s own, so to speak, makes things infinitely worse, but under international law, the U.S. president does not have the right to target any person for direct assassination. The underlying question that needs to be asked is, what is the ongoing status of President Bush’s “war on terror.” Although President Obama let it be known that the “war” is over, he has effectively made it permanent with these secret drone assassinations.

Not too long ago it was understood that wartime enemies were to be captured; that killing these prisoners was a crime; and that even the worst of the worst deserved a fair trial (think Nazis and the Nuremberg Tribunal). The Obama administration’s “capture or kill” lists are euphemistic. Only the “kill” part is truly operative and that strikes me as a slippery-slope problem for the U.S. and all law-based democracies.

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