The Obama administration is deliberating whether or not to use a drone to kill an American citizen living in Pakistan, who is a suspected member of al-Qaida and may be planning or helping to organize a terrorist attack against U.S. targets overseas, the Associated Press first reported last week.
In a speech last May at the National Defense University, the president said he would curtail the use of drones in order to turn the page on the post-9/11 era, but he also promised that the systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations would continue. This is the first time since that speech that officials are considering the use of a drone to takeout an American citizen overseas.
What some people may not realize is that according to the U.S. government, counterterrorism drone strikes have killed four Americans overseas since 2009. In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledges the death of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by a drone, along with three other men who he says were not specific targets. Holder's letter also says an American who is posing an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States and is located someplace where capturing this individual could be difficult could be killed by a drone.
The underlying question up for debate is whether the Obama administration should use a drone to kill this latest alleged terrorist who is an American citizen, or any other suspected terrorists who are American citizens, or whether these cases should be subject to judicial review. Some senators are calling for the establishment of a special drone court, which would support the president's plan to make counterterrorism efforts more transparent and consistent with checks and balances. The downside to this is that such a court would more than likely encounter too many constitutional and legal issues.
Critical thinking says that if the evidence proves conclusively that someone is a terrorist, then they should be targeted regardless of citizenship, nationality or anything else. Of course, the president will have to answer for it and make the case to the public, which has fueled a mixed reaction from both the right and the left. It's nice to say the government should never be in the business of targeting American citizens, but it's a new world, and a much more dangerous world. The level of threats we face both here and abroad is unprecedented, which means we have to take new steps to ensure public safety.
Prior to 9/11, we'd lived in a protective bubble for so long that most Americans (including me) felt like we were immune to terrorism. We were wrong, and thousands of innocent citizens died as a result of our naïveté.
If substantial proof points to an American citizen partaking in terrorist activities, the government should do whatever is necessary to thwart an attack while preserving the American way of life. If this means using a drone to assassinate an individual who is well-protected or hidden amongst rugged terrain that would risk the lives of our own forces, for example, then so be it. The world is a much more dangerous place than it has ever been. We're living in an era of briefcase-sized bombs and religious extremists with grand delusions of virgins and martyrdom who believe they are carrying out God's will. I sleep better at night knowing that my government is using state-of-the-art technology to protect us from these radical extremists -- American citizens or otherwise.
I'm a libertarian-leaning social liberal who cherishes personal freedom and opposes most forms of government intervention. However, any American who joins the enemy to potentially kill or harm other Americans is a defector who has declared war on the United States -- and deserves to be a marked man. In this case, the proactive approach is what's going to keep us safe.
In critical thinking, we break down issues through logic-based thought devoid of emotion, which helps us explain and understand things for what they really are. This may be one case where it's difficult to take the emotional aspect out of the equation, because after all, terrorism is an attack on our freedom, our liberty and our very way of life. The logic certainly backs drones when justified and after a comprehensive review and analysis, and the emotion adds fuel to the fire.
The terrorists wanted Americans to be living in fear of another attack after 9/11, but we have gone back to our pre-9/11 way of life. And I don't know about you, but after 9/11 I wondered if America would ever be the same.
The government's main role is to protect us, and as long as after a thorough review there is enough evidence that a citizen has in fact joined forces with al-Qaida and poses an imminent threat to the United States, and his capture is not feasible, drones should continue to be used to take out the enemy regardless of citizenship, to protect us and hamper all terrorist activity.