As it happens, the US is not the only entity turning towards a law-enforcement model in the war on terror. The UN has taken that approach as well, perhaps to a reductio ad absurdum that nonetheless will test Barack Obama’s decision on whether to pursue counterinsurgency strategy and his commitment to multilateralism at Turtle Bay. In a report to the General Assembly, the top UN investigator accused the US of breaking international law by killing terrorists through missile strikes:
US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said.
“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.
“My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he said.
US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.
“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.
If I set out to write satire, I couldn’t do it this well. Suddenly, killing one’s enemy has become a summary execution. Would an arrest be considered a mugging?
Note too that while AFP mentions collateral civilian deaths, Alston doesn’t make that distinction. The UN is concerned with whether the US has justification for killing Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, not whether we got the wrong targets. “Summary executions” mean that we have not provided these poor dears with proper due process to determine whether they should have been killed at all. It takes the law-enforcement approach to its natural, absurd conclusion, which is that armies are really nothing more than police officers with cooler weapons.
In a rational world, this would prove the utter uselessness of the UN in dealing with terrorism and terrorist networks. In the Obama administration, however, I suspect that they’re already attempting to justify themselves to Alston, or worse, modifying an effective program that kills terrorist leaders and disrupts their plans to satisfy “international law” that forces us to act against our own interests in war. The UN and a large number of Americans seem to forget that this is a war, not a domestic organized-crime problem, and that war means killing your enemies on the battlefield before they do the same to you, not finding a way to get them into court.
If this farce helped convince the Obama administration of that, it would be worth the laugh. Unfortunately, this is not an administration capable of — or inclined towards — telling idiots from multilateral organizations to pound sand.