The new humane: killing terrorists instead of capturing them

posted at 3:35 pm on December 3, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Over the years, I have warned that the attempts to shoehorn wartime operations against terrorists through criminal courts would produce distorted decisions on fighting, especially on the desirability of capturing terrorists.  By treating terrorists captured abroad (as opposed to arrested in the US) the same as criminals arrested in the US, the government and the courts turn military and intelligence personnel into cops, and in doing so put at risk both the personnel and the tactics used to find, capture, and interrogate terrorists.  It sets all of the incentives towards killing terrorists rather than capturing them, which not only results in higher collateral casualties but also denies the US critical intelligence on other terrorists.

David Ignatius came to the same realization in yesterday’s Washington Post, wondering how we got to the new default, and wondering why no one seems particularly concerned about it:

Every war brings its own deformations, but consider this disturbing fact about America’s war against al-Qaeda: It has become easier, politically and legally, for the United States to kill suspected terrorists than to capture and interrogate them. …

The pace of drone attacks on the tribal areas has increased sharply during the Obama presidency, with more assaults in September and October of this year than in all of 2008. At the same time, efforts to capture al-Qaeda suspects have virtually stopped. Indeed, if CIA operatives were to snatch a terrorist tomorrow, the agency wouldn’t be sure where it could detain him for interrogation.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, frames the puzzle this way: “Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?”

It’s curious why the American public seems so comfortable with a tactic that arguably is a form of long-range assassination, after the furor about the CIA’s use of nonlethal methods known as “enhanced interrogation.” When Israel adopted an approach of “targeted killing” against Hamas and other terrorist adversaries, it provoked an extensive debate there and abroad.

This isn’t a deformation of war; it’s a deformation of politics.  And it really isn’t directly related to the enhanced interrogation techniques at all, but to the insistence of political leadership and the federal courts to insist on a jurisdiction that flies in the face of two centuries of American military and legal tradition.  Pushing terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ahmed Ghailani through federal courts perverts the normal operation of war, especially by imposing the same kind of legal liabilities used to restrict law enforcement in regard to American citizens and residents.

We have made it more costly and more difficult to capture terrorists, a task with plenty of difficulty already.  Once we capture them, the courts and this administration have made it clear that they have to be treated like a suspect in a criminal investigation rather than a foreign enemy of war.  Thanks to exposures in the media over the past few years, we can no longer hold them in secure and secret facilities while we get intel from them.  Barack Obama has all but made adding to Gitmo’s population impossible, so where do we hold terrorists if we do manage to capture them?   The only other option is rendition, which the current administration has left as a possible option but which is almost as politically impossible as adding to Gitmo.

Ignatius still doesn’t quite understand how we got here:

Don’t misunderstand me: It’s not that the Obama administration’s limits on detention and interrogation are wrong. They have applied clear guidelines to what had been, before 2006, a murky area. The problem is that these rules, and the wariness of getting into more trouble, have had the perverse effect of encouraging the CIA to adopt a more lethal and less supple policy than before.

The limits on interrogation are debatable, but those aren’t the problem.  We’re not killing terrorists rather than capturing them because we’re restricting interrogation to the Army Field Manual, which has nothing to do with later adjudication; we’re killing them because we have no real rational place to put them.  That’s due entirely to Obama’s detention policies and the judiciary’s arrogation of jurisdiction.  Thanks to the mess created by the Holder DoJ, we have no way to process them even if we did.

All of this was utterly predictable …. as is the befuddlement of Ignatius as to how we came to this pass.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

All of this was utterly predictable

Yup.

John the Libertarian on December 3, 2010 at 3:37 PM

The new humane: killing terrorists instead of capturing them

Works for me.

sharrukin on December 3, 2010 at 3:37 PM

The logical culmination of a political worldview that recognizes a threat but refuses to use tribunals or waterboarding because they are unseemly. (because the rights of US citizens apply to enemies in war, natch!)

rob verdi on December 3, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Unexpected.

Dark-Star on December 3, 2010 at 3:38 PM

All of this was utterly predictable

Not if you’re a liberal with your head up your anal orifice.

GarandFan on December 3, 2010 at 3:39 PM

…we’re killing them because we have no real rational place to put them.

The ObamaCare death panels called, Ed. They want to know if they can quote you on this one.

CyberCipher on December 3, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Tell it like it is: CIC Obooba has a take-no-prisoners policy in place.

Hail to the Chief!

Akzed on December 3, 2010 at 3:43 PM

US Drone Attack Raises Uncomfortable Questions for Germany ['Obama Is not God'] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,732684,00.html

debg on December 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM

“Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?”

Yes.
The libs are so interested in protecting the rights of terrorists they have sentenced them all to death without trial.
Unintended consequences?

albill on December 3, 2010 at 3:45 PM

“It sets all of the incentives towards killing terrorists rather than capturing them,…”

So don’t be a terrorist…

Seven Percent Solution on December 3, 2010 at 3:45 PM

I’ve been saying this for years. When they make it impossible to interrogate or even hold prisoners, as it is “inhumane” or something, the only solution is to stop taking prisoners.

Done deal.

rogersnowden on December 3, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Big fan of dead terrorists.

Kini on December 3, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Well as long as it’s a clean shot it seems humane to me.

Lily on December 3, 2010 at 3:47 PM

I think that is a wonderful idea! Why hasn’t someone thought of that before? Kill the bad guys! They sure the heck try to kill us at every chance.
L

letget on December 3, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Slightly OT: Apparently anyone no in favor of tax cuts for small business owners are terrorists as well

ConservativePartyNow on December 3, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Oops meant to say anyone in favor

ConservativePartyNow on December 3, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Killing terrorists instead of capturing them? That’s a humane initiative I can get behind.

Give no quarter!

dczombie on December 3, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Well as long as it’s a clean shot it seems humane to me.

Lily on December 3, 2010 at 3:47 PM

IMO, if I had to choose between ‘enhanced interrogation’ followed by imprisonment in a maximum-security prison until I died of old age and a bullet to the head…I’d take the bullet.

Why do we keep them anyway after we’ve wrung them for info, if there’s supposedly no chance of release ever?

Dark-Star on December 3, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Whatever passes for Paki OKed targets in the “bad lands” are killed by drones because western infidels are prohibited from stinking up Muslim paradises with their actual presence. And whats the point of interrogating them? They will tell you that they are fighting to please Allah and promote Islam which will be dismissed and ignored and the focus will be on where Bin Hidin is hiding, or when and where the next airplanes will be hijacked or some other piece of worthless information.

It’s the Islam stupid.

BL@KBIRD on December 3, 2010 at 3:54 PM

When Obama decided to start Mirandizing terrorists, I predicted that something like this would happen. I’m not even slightly surprised at the result — only that it took so long for people to notice.

hachiban on December 3, 2010 at 3:55 PM

we’re killing them because we have no real rational place to put them.

Oh course it was predictable. Just as it is predictable that by killing them instead of capturing and interrogation, we now have less ability to disrupt which has now .. predictably.. got this administration performing sexual assaults on Americans before they get on a plane. Team Obama is scared and we all ought to be sacred too.

Texas Gal on December 3, 2010 at 3:59 PM

Boooshitler has left the building.

“We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.” -Barack Obama August 14, 2007

Here is a chart which shows the rather substantial increase in Obama’s rat killing compared to the hated boooshitler.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 3, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Oval office/Anal orifice…

anikol on December 3, 2010 at 4:02 PM

what about those instances where we have already captured a terrorist, can’t get Belgium to take one, and can’t put him through either a tribunal nor federal court? CAn we release him then nail him with a hellfire?

tongue in cheek.//

ted c on December 3, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Once again, the Democrats prove taht they’re wayyyy behind us. Conservatives have argued that for years.

Not that I mind killing terrorists, particularly. But it’d be nice if we could capture and interrogate some of them, too. In war, you need to have all options on the table. But making war is something the Democrats have no stomach for.

hawksruleva on December 3, 2010 at 4:05 PM

This is a return to how those who practice Private War should be treated. It is the last 100 years that distorted the practice via politics. Under Lincoln such people got a summary sentence and under the modern GC they are treated as spies and saboteurs… which is also a summary sentence.

It is trying to redefine ‘terrorism’ as something other than what it is that has distorted things. Waging Private War is reducing one to their savage state in nature BY CHOICE. It doesn’t matter if you do it for money, like Pirates do, or ideology, like Red terrorists do, or for religion, like Jihadis do. It is all unsanctioned warfare and requires we recognize it as savage man attack the foundations of all mankind.

You reserve civil trial for those who come in willingly to accept the decision of civilized man as to their fate… and that is a country-by-country deal as each can decide if you are fit for punishment or not. The crime is universal, the jurisdiction crosses all Nations because the activity undermines all Nations.

I’m all for closing Gitmo: process the individuals under the GC as spies and saboteurs and carry out the sentence. The place will be closed in a month all by the laws of war we signed up for and that Presidents before the GC and Hague held to for our troops.

ajacksonian on December 3, 2010 at 4:05 PM

This was the natural policy outcome. I dubb it “Code Pink”.

GardenGnome on December 3, 2010 at 4:06 PM

The media took the “torture” meme provided by the Democrat party and ran with it for years, in order to damage Bush. It’s the exact same thing with GITMO being a recruiting tool and daily dead Soldier counts, which you’d think don’t happen anymore if you only get your news from the TV. It’s all BS, but it made republicans look bad, so they ALL ran with it. How many reporters have you seen “waterboarded” to prove how torturous it was, FFS morning Radio shock jocks where doing it!

This A-hole and everyone he works with are directly responsible for this “new normal”. It wasn’t the American people, it was YOU.

Mord on December 3, 2010 at 4:07 PM

This is the administration’s plan to close gitmo

Resolute on December 3, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Extra-judicial killings? Clearly this is the fault of Obama’s cowboy mentality.

Good Solid B-Plus on December 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Of course, the Democrats have long felt that death was the more humane alternative in pretty much any circumstance.

Old and sick? The Dems have a solution for that.

Being born into a low-income single parent household? Not if the Dems have any say.

Too many unemployed people? Have them drink some of this special water, created especially for the weak and useless.

My guess is that many liberals would find a certain level of American civilian casualties to be an acceptable alternative to stepping on the rights of terrorists. But in a pinch, just kill the terrorists instead of capturing them.

hawksruleva on December 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM

The problem is that these rules, and the wariness of getting into more trouble, have had the perverse effect of encouraging the CIA to adopt a more lethal and less supple policy than before.

“No problem” from where I’m sitting…

Khun Joe on December 3, 2010 at 4:12 PM

I’m all for closing Gitmo: process the individuals under the GC as spies and saboteurs and carry out the sentence. The place will be closed in a month all by the laws of war we signed up for and that Presidents before the GC and Hague held to for our troops.

ajacksonian on December 3, 2010 at 4:05 PM

But, but, the terrorists have rights! Granted, those rights don’t exist in either their country or birth, residence, or place of capture. But what does jurisdiction have to do with law?

hawksruleva on December 3, 2010 at 4:13 PM

killing terrorists instead of capturing them

Ahhh…yeah, so what’s the problem again?

Tim_B on December 3, 2010 at 4:14 PM

killing terrorists instead of capturing them

Ahhh…yeah, so what’s the problem again?

Tim_B on December 3, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Extraction of information.

the_nile on December 3, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Oh huh hoh please…..

It’s curious why the American public seems so comfortable with a tactic that arguably is a form of long-range assassination, after the furor about the CIA’s use of nonlethal methods known as “enhanced interrogation.”

The public never had a problem with that. It was entirely a media generated controversy to attack George Bush with.
If given the opportunity I think that people would stand in line for the chance to pour water on some terrorist’s face.

NeoKong on December 3, 2010 at 4:19 PM

“Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?”
Yes.
The libs are so interested in protecting the rights of terrorists they have sentenced them all to death without trial.
Unintended consequences?

albill on December 3, 2010 at 3:45 PM

No, they were so into tearing down Bush they sentenced them all to death.

tinkerthinker on December 3, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Saw this coming Nov 3, 2008, or maybe a little before.

mr.blacksheep on December 3, 2010 at 4:34 PM

This is nothing new.

War President Democrats like Clinton and now Obama know one clear thing: If you have no men on the ground, you get no blood on your hands.

“Death from Above” has always been the way for the Dems to fight war. It is clean, there are no cameras around, it is hard to prove collateral damage and it is classified.

It is perfect in it’s solution. No trials, no POW’s, no military commissions, no snooping New York Times reporters aching for a Pulitzer.

Rack em’ and stack em’!

Opposite Day on December 3, 2010 at 4:36 PM

added plus:

we get a lot less intel’, to boot!

reliapundit on December 3, 2010 at 4:38 PM

PBHO = War Criminal

Someone inform MorOn.org, stat!

Bishop on December 3, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Darn, just when my script for ‘CSI Kandahar’ is ready to go in the mail.

slickwillie2001 on December 3, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Our commie leaders who have more in common with AQ than the American people prefer this because dead men tell no tales

They are comfortable with pawns being immolated but are fearful of them giving up the gold

Sonosam on December 3, 2010 at 4:42 PM

It has become easier, politically and legally, for the United States to kill suspected terrorists than to capture and interrogate them.

No sh.t Shakespeare
.. and court costs are so much lower

J_Crater on December 3, 2010 at 4:43 PM

IMO, if I had to choose between ‘enhanced interrogation’ followed by imprisonment in a maximum-security prison until I died of old age and a bullet to the head…I’d take the bullet.

Why do we keep them anyway after we’ve wrung them for info, if there’s supposedly no chance of release ever?

Dark-Star on December 3, 2010 at 3:50 PM

No doubt if you asked them, they’d take the 72 virgin route.

Lily on December 3, 2010 at 4:53 PM

For years now the lefties have been trying to limit the use of drones. Expect them to ramp it up.

Blake on December 3, 2010 at 5:08 PM

I don’t understand why it took David Ignatius, or anybody, that long to figure this out. I noticed a couple years ago that we weren’t adding more prisoners to Gitmo. I mean; “Duh!”

Star20 on December 3, 2010 at 5:09 PM

it’s for their own good….they don’t like water in their noses.

ted c on December 3, 2010 at 5:13 PM

and da Peace Prize go toooooooooooo

roflmao

donabernathy on December 3, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Next up, “delayed or deferred death”

This is a compromise that has you capture and interrogate them, then instead of warehousing them, you take them back and push them out of the helicopter at 500 feet.

You had the option to kill them originally, so why should you be denied the option at a later date ?

J_Crater on December 3, 2010 at 5:15 PM

“Nuke ‘em from orbit. “It’s the only way to be sure. . . .”

BigAlSouth on December 3, 2010 at 5:47 PM

They want to be martyrs anyway, so I say we help them out.

Machiavelli Hobbes on December 3, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Terrorists on the battlefield are fighters out of uniform, not defending their individual homes. Even if caught in their homes, they are known to have conducted attacks out of uniform. This makes them war criminals, subject to summary execution.

Now, if only SCOTUS with its increasing love of imported law would learn to like the recognized articles of war, we would be able to straighten this out.

njcommuter on December 3, 2010 at 6:34 PM

This wartime situation, or “another fine mess you’ve gotten me into”, is very much like the TSA handling of fliers. Only the flyers are being ‘waterboarded’ more openly. Way to much politics. If only the AQ types were thought of as ignobly as flliers we’d know everything we’d need to in very short order, and could send them all to Antarctica as a new homeland when they’ve spilled the beans and are no longer welcome back in their ‘hood.

Robert17 on December 3, 2010 at 6:39 PM

Has anyone here heard that the drones have been equipped with biometric targeting since about 2006?

Conan on December 3, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Yet another: “What if Bush dis this”

I’m all for the let Allah deal with it position.

Dingbat63 on December 3, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Start with the premise,
“Obama’s not an idjit”
Things just don’t make sense…

Haiku Guy on December 3, 2010 at 7:33 PM

This is nothing new.

War President Democrats like Clinton and now Obama know one clear thing: If you have no men on the ground, you get no blood on your hands.

“Death from Above” has always been the way for the Dems to fight war. It is clean, there are no cameras around, it is hard to prove collateral damage and it is classified.

It is perfect in it’s solution. No trials, no POW’s, no military commissions, no snooping New York Times reporters aching for a Pulitzer.

Rack em’ and stack em’!

Opposite Day on December 3, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Remember our intervention in Bosnia? Trying to sort out the sheep from the goats from 30,000 feet?

“Just wait until those Apache Helicopters arrive!!!”

Haiku Guy on December 3, 2010 at 7:40 PM

They are just practicing for when the food riots start here.

gbear on December 3, 2010 at 9:51 PM

Many things have come to fruition (or shall I say ‘fruitition’) since the ultimate REMF came into power.

Our REFM-In-Chief has seen to it that:

1 Prisoners at Gitmo are treated with more respect than groped and goosed airline passengers at airline terminals.
2 Criminals breaking and entering into this country illegally are protected by the very DOJ that is supposed to prosecute them. Many are catapulted into direct lines for citizenship ahead off legal (and useful) aliens who mistakenly followed the rules.
3 Terrorists are acquitted by inner city (largely black) juries whereas political witch hunts (ex Tom Delay) are rewarded with guilty verdicts.
4 The only way Democratic (hence “real) criminals can go to jail is to be born in one.At least Hillary Clinton was caught red-headed by Wikileaks gathering blackmail info in foreign heads of state.
5 US Armed Forces combatants (translation the Army and Marines-Navy and Air Force-except for pilots-see almost no direct action)are having homosexuality forced down their throats (I hope not literally) by REMFs who couldn’t tell the difference between and artillery shell thump and the pop of a champagne bottle.
6 Combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan who fought heroically, against all odds, and, at least winning in Iraq (and winning in Afghanistan before REMF-In-Charge took command), have been vilified, demonized and criminalized by their own congressmen and cowardly REMF officers.
7 Now we must treat terrorists as if they were some special royalty and are prevented from info gathering that would save lives for fear of rebuke from other nations (who routinely murder and torture thousands of their own without fear of punishment or even censure.)

MaiDee on December 3, 2010 at 10:33 PM

Many problems could be alleviated by the prompt, vigorous interrogation of terrorists followed by their execution. That we’re not doing this, when it’s within our rights to do so, is the primary reason innocent Americans are being subjected to needless groping at our airports.

So, when are we going to start asking our leaders when they intend to get serious in this war? Do we want to allow our enemies to win (by radically altering our lives) or do we want to eliminate the problem once and for all, and get back to living our lives in peace?

BackwardsBoy on December 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM

I’m OK with it.

jeanie on December 4, 2010 at 9:09 AM

We all on the right saw this coming. Anyone with common sense should have.

In war, an effective prisoner system makes killing less necessary. The converse is also true.

juliesa on December 4, 2010 at 9:46 AM