Friday, February 15, 2013

Reason #276: Citizenship

As I've made clear on this blog multiple times in the last, my feelingsabout drones are nothing if not complicated. I've said a lot here on the subject already, but there's one angle from which I haven't yet approached it, which has been a bigger and bigger deal in recent weeks: the nature of US Citizenship.

Innocent civilians are being killed by drones. The administration isn't coming out and saying that, as far as I've seen, but no one is really denying it. The main controversy right now--especially now that a big portion of the secrecy complaint has been mitigated by John Brennan's confirmation hearing and by the release of internal memos on the subject--is whether drones should be used against American citizens. Anwar al-Aulaqi being the prime example--a New Mexico-born Colorado State grad who went on to work with Al Qaeda out of Yemen until he was killed there in 2011.

Pretty much every debate I've seen on this is about al-Aulaqi's legal status as an "enemy combatant", which comes from joining a group engaged in open warfare against the United States, which is not--in my opinion--what is happening right now. Al Qaeda, by Obama's own admission, is currently a shadow of its former self, and even at its worst, I don't believe we can technically be at war with a nongovernmental entity. But that--and the "War on Terror" generally--is a whole different can of worms, and totally separate from my opinion that al-Aulaqi was absolutely a fair target.

See, my problem is not that he was an American citizen; my problem is that citizenship is even part of the discussion.

The Declaration of Independence does not say that all citizens are created equal. Nor does it say that all citizens are endowed with the inalienable rights of etc, etc. It says all men. Sure, it took us a little while to add women and black people to that category, but the point is, at no point is "men" presented as a legal classification; in fact, the aforementioned inalienable rights aren't said to come from the law, or even the Declaration itself, but from God.

Again: I'm not crazy about the drone strikes. While it's reasonable, I believe, to see them as necessary, I think they are still unquestionably immoral acts, and depending on how dogmatic you want to be, they could even be called evil acts. But the notion that killing nameless Pakistani children is somehow less disheartening than killing Anwar al-Aulaqi because they're not American citizens disgusts me. I am a pragmatist at heart, and I don't expect complete moral purity from my president. But I do expect consistency. A life is a life, no matter what paperwork it came with.

Further Reading

Reason #207: Number Twos

Reason #256: Classified

Obama: Americans deserve to know more about drone war

Wikipedia: Anwar al-Aulaqi

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