Debate: Do you support U.S. targeted killing in Yemen?
Protests against the return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been held in Sanaa in recent days.
June 9th, 2011
11:31 AM ET

Debate: Do you support U.S. targeted killing in Yemen?

Editor's Note: John Masters is an associate staff writer at CFR.org. This essay comes from CFR.org's Expert Roundup on targeted killing. For more, visit CFR.org.

By John Masters

The Obama administration has escalated the campaign of targeted killings against suspected terrorists worldwide, increasing the use of unmanned drone strikes and so-called kill/capture missions on al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership both on and off the traditional battlefield.

CNN reports that the U.S. is upping its airstrikes in Yemen.

While some analysts tout successes, like the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, others say the strategy lacks proper legal boundaries, as in the targeting of an American jihadist, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

Should targeted killings continue off the traditional battlefield?

Constitutional lawyer Pardiss Kebriaei questions the legal basis that U.S. administrations have used to justify killing suspected terrorists off the battlefield, suggesting a violation of constitutional rights of due process.

Matthew Waxman cautions against overreliance on them as a counterterrorism tool but says so far U.S. policy is within legal bounds.

Pardiss Kebriaei: No, it's not legal

The aspect of the United States' targeted killing policy that is of greatest concern is that which permits deliberate, preemptive strikes outside zones in which the United States is engaged in active combat such as in Afghanistan.

In such zones, the intensity of fighting between organized armed groups creates a certain exigency that permits killing outside the usual confines of the law, which would otherwise require due process or excuse the use of lethal force only in narrow circumstances of self-defense.

It is that exigency - of war - that triggers the application of a different set of rules - the laws of war - and permits uses of force that would otherwise be unlawful and unacceptable.

The Obama administration's position, however, like that of its predecessor, is that those exigent circumstances exist globally - that an attack on the United States nearly a decade ago triggered a conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban that is being waged not only in Afghanistan but extends potentially everywhere, or, as the administration ambiguously puts it, "elsewhere."

Read: CFR.org's excellent coverage of world affairs.

But it takes more than declaring a global war for U.S. drone strikes to be lawful in countries as disconnected from the conflict in Afghanistan as Yemen. Whether a situation rises to the level of armed conflict and justifies more permissive rules for the use of force depends on how the facts on the ground, measured against objective criteria defined under international law, add up.

Where conditions of armed conflict do not exist, the law that governs the actions of the United States is the Constitution and international human rights law, under which the government can only carry out a killing after due process or as a last resort to address an imminent threat of deadly harm. Those are the standards, for example, that should govern the United States' actions vis-à-vis U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Wherever one comes down in the debate, however, it is impossible to discuss the issues other than in the abstract without greater specificity from the Obama administration about its targeting policy.

What, if any, geographical boundaries exist in this conflict, and how are they determined? What are the criteria for determining whether to target an individual? What are the criteria for determining whether a group is sufficiently "associated" with al-Qaeda? What are the conditions in which the administration believes it may act in self-defense? If imminence is part of the calculus, how is that term defined?

The abuse and arbitrariness that resulted from the Bush administration's insistence on secrecy, and the Obama administration's own purported embrace of greater transparency, should compel the administration to provide a fuller explanation of its targeting policy. Its failure to do so in more than broad strokes only adds fuel to existing questions and concerns.

Matthew Waxman: Yes, it's legal

U.S. strikes against senior al-Qaeda or affiliated terrorists in places like Pakistan or Yemen - most recently, the reported (but unverified) killing of al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant Ilyas Kashmiri - often give rise to accusations that the United States is engaged in unlawful "extrajudicial killing," "assassination," or violations of sovereignty.

In part because of the secrecy surrounding these policies, such legal claims often don't get thoroughly and specifically answered. However, lethal force directed against particular individuals outside a combat zone like Afghanistan is legally and strategically appropriate in limited circumstances.

The 2010 public remarks by State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh defending drone strikes (along with a 2006 speech (PDF) by his predecessor, John Bellinger, explaining the legal basis for the use of military force against al-Qaeda) are important documents because they outline some of the legal principles that govern U.S. targeting of al-Qaeda figures.

They argue that traditional international legal paradigms of armed conflict and self-defense may apply to some non-state terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and groups allied with it, but they also acknowledge that these legal paradigms–built primarily to deal with inter-state conflict–don't always fit well the challenges and dilemmas involved in combating non-state threats.

Legal constraints on U.S. actions include respect for state sovereignty (limiting where and under what conditions the United States could target) and law-of-war principles such as proportionality and distinction (limiting when and how the United States could target).

Applying these frameworks to the recent raid on Osama bin Laden, as Koh did publicly recently, the United States has a strong argument that he could be targeted as an enemy commander in the ongoing armed conflict with al-Qaeda. U.S. actions in Pakistan's territory were also defensible because the Pakistani government was not capable or willing to deal with this threat. So far as I can tell from available information, the operation was planned and carried out in strict accordance with the laws of war, including due care to protect innocent civilians and rules regarding surrender.

As to strategy, lethal targeting is but one important tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Policymakers must be careful that the allure of lethal targeting operations, especially with high-tech weaponry like aerial drones, does not obscure the collateral damage that sometimes comes with such strikes - not only the human toll but the repercussions on other important elements of counterterrorism strategy.

What do you think?

More debate at CFR.org

Decapitating terrorist networks is an effective strategy, says Georgetown's Daniel Byman, capable of robbing a group of charismatic leadership critical to its success. But Afghanistan expert Kate Clark argues that targeted killings often produce an organizational chaos that unleashes a more radical generation of subordinates.

Post by:
Topics: Terrorism • Yemen

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Onesmallvoice

    What we're doing in Yemen is a national disgrace and needs to be stopped. Then again,nothing the right-wing thugs in Washington do surprises me anymore. Barack Obama has made only too painfully clear that doesn't have an ounce of decency in him. In fact,only a total sociopath could follow this obscene policy which only makes us look as bad as we are!!!

    June 9, 2011 at 11:55 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Yes, ask Obama! How many public enemies the U.S. has in Yemen? Whom does he want to target? How high is the bounty does he post on those wretched ones? Saleh – unlike Gaddafi – is out of the country!
      A good start would be to shell Sanaa and bomb the place to smithereens, then whoever Obama is after has to flee! The drones would have an easy job to track down anyone that breathes!

      June 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        By the way, when it comes to defending national interests, due process is out of place. In the law of war there is nothing as "bellum iustum". Targeted killing is just a cheap solution to get rid of an enemy without flexing one's muscles.

        June 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        @J.J.
        Where is your sense of humour?

        June 11, 2011 at 5:33 am |
      • Black Eagle

        I agree!!! KILLING IS WRONG FOR ALL TERRORISTS, AMERICAN OR FOREIGN! God gave the life, only God should take it away not OBAMA or OSAMA!!!

        June 11, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • tad

      you gotta be kidding. what planet are you from?

      June 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Reply
      • J.J.

        J. Von,you follow the the same logic as the terrorists; Which is, let's bomb a city and kill a lot of people, innocent or not, as long as they are from the other race.

        June 10, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • dwestwing

      You are wrong. Al-queda murdered 3000 innocent American citizens and announced they are at war with us. They don't fight fair though, and try to hide among civilians of many countries. We use our technology to return fire and eliminate them with as little casualties as possible to us and others. They have no where to run and no where to hide. They brought this on themselves and it is well within our right to hunt them down wherever they are. It's called justice.

      June 10, 2011 at 3:13 am | Reply
      • Tom

        yawwwwnn

        June 10, 2011 at 11:02 am |
      • Tom

        Is this all the crap CNN and FOX spoon fed you?

        June 10, 2011 at 11:04 am |
      • John Kassabian

        No, the U.S. killed plenty of innocent people in Iraq through economic sanctions during the 90's. Estimates are 100,000 children died due to the lack of medical supplies. We support dictatorships and murderers. Look at Yemen and Bahrain. The fact that we do this and do not mind our business is why 911 happened. It is called "Blowback". People like your self will cause a second attack on the US because you do not know history, or geography and support U.S. policy which is corrupt to the core. Have you not noticed everyone around you are broke. Stay at home.

        jk

        JK

        June 11, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • Pacoatemiami

      We are at war with Al Qaeda. They are the ones who declared war against us and continue to make war against us every day. Al Qaeda fighters are lawful military targets anywhere in the world, in my opinion.
      Also, have you noticed that the government of Yemen has not complained about these U.S. strikes within their borders... in fact they take credit for the successful ones. This is obviously because we have a deal with Yemen to allow these strikes.

      June 10, 2011 at 5:22 am | Reply
    • rkt210

      You're actually the sociopath. We are not indiscriminately taking out sections of geographical areas, we are taking out those who have attacked us and mean us harm. Those of you who invoke the constitution forget that our constitutional rights are not afforded to foreigners in a foreighn land.

      June 10, 2011 at 8:55 am | Reply
      • druid

        You are right, the constitution does not apply to foreigners on foreign land. But international humanitarian laws do prevail. Also, the constitution provides moral grounds that we can draw upon to try to determine whether certain actions are right or wrong in situations where no clear laws exist.

        June 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • ANDREW

      I do not agree with you at all.
      And to bad mouth your President by calling him a soiopath when he is trying to keep you ass safe shows you have no decency yourself.
      Those terrorists are trying to kill us.
      Your right on one thing, you do have a small voice.

      June 10, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      Enough with the PC targeted attacks .. let’s bring back carpet bombing!

      June 10, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
      • Delmar H. Knudson

        Precisely. Targeted is much better than carpet. Many "idealists" would object to assassinating Hitler; so instead we had a righteous war with 50,000,000 killed (probably not counting gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally retarded, insane and Jews).

        June 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
      • belj

        Think they pretty well have actually, if not actually carpet then widspread random unprecise bombing, hitting an area and hoping to get a few militants, meanwhile, not worrying about the innocents who get killed.

        June 11, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • madmatt

      As long as the strikes are targeted, I'm good.

      June 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • Glenn

      Once again, put down the government for trying to protect our citizens, by those that has never worn a uniform, expects to be protected, but now willing to do their part. They declared war on us , killed 3000 people who were not military, not counting the men and women that protect us. I believe we should go and get them no matter where they are and under which rock they hide.

      June 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Reply
    • Roger

      Name calling is so predictable from your side of the political spectrun. In the Viet Nam war, which was run by your Democrats(JFK, LBJ) they had the Phoenix Project, the objective of which was to assassinate so called known Viet Cong collaborators but was really a way for the warlords to kill their rivals. Can we call the Democrats in this case left wing thugs?

      June 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • ed sr

      We are going into someone elses backyard again and trespassing as usual...............the New World Order.......kill everyone who does not agree with the USA or NATO or the UN................kill...kill.....kill..................the NEW USA............welcome back to Nazi Germany................

      June 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Reply
      • SouthgateSam

        We are at war against terrorism. What part of the word war don't you ubderstand?

        June 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Thinker23

      The ONLY possible alternative to TARGETED killings of terrorists is UNTARGETED (random) killings and would LOVE to ask all those complaining about the TARGETED killings which one of these two alternatives they prefer. Any takers?

      June 11, 2011 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • belj

      I just viewed results for poll and ibalance has changed from substantially higher number against to being for US strikes, last looked on Thursday. I wonder why. Reliable reports from Yemen state that civilians are being killed and Saleh has given false info to US to encourage them to bomb certain areas. It's a terrible policy and think it will just result in increased hatred of US. Hardly surprisingly.

      June 11, 2011 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • Black Eagle

      I agree!!! KILLING IS WRONG FOR ALL TERRORISTS, FOREIGN! OR AMERICAN!! God gave the life AND only God should take it away not OBAMA or OSAMA!!!

      June 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • cocopuf

      Think of it as preventive action towards terrorism no matter where it is. We are targeting Al Qaeda there and preventing it from growing. We aren't targeting the gov't or its population in Yemen. You need to review all the terrorism that has been conducted in all that region alone against the US.
      I would rather take it to them, than to wait for them to continue to become a bigger threat to other nations too. 🙂

      June 12, 2011 at 9:10 am | Reply
    • StXavier

      I do not under stand some people in their thinking that it's bad to kill BAD people no matter where they ARE. An some people try to turn the table an say what if it was happening in this country that bad people are being killed by out sides my answer to that is WE the people have failed our selves allowing BAD people to exist here in this country an we have failed to take care of our own back yard an be thankful some one has come to our aid in getting rid of the undesirable people who don't give a dam about Innocent people killing them to foster their beliefs of their way of life.

      June 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
    • Rick From Los Angeles

      I am confounded by your claim that this is a disgrace. Targeted killing is a far better option then whole scale invasion. Also you have to be appreciative of the message such acts imply. Al'Qaeda can stirke us anywhere at any time, We are showing them that not only can we do the same, but do so more effectively.

      It's a Psychological deterrent to would by commanders in that organization. If American's can't sleep well because tomorrow comute maybe our last ride due to a Terrorist plot, then Terrorist plotters should not sleep well at night due to target assasination from Hi-Tech wizbang devices stalking them at while they sleep where ever they are hiding.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • luffing

      Save our soldiers from these crazies. Use drones everywhere and anywhere we can. We're at war for god's sake. The collateral damage is minimal.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • Picard 1

      It's liberals morons like you who would allow the terrorist in like the 9/11 crew who managed to pull off those tragic attacks. The real thugs are Al Qaeda and others like them and the countries who support their cause like Saudi Arabia (yes they do), Iran and Pakistan.

      June 16, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply
  2. Belj

    No. I wrote to someone the other day it seems Obama is turning into a bit of a 'kiling machine', not in person but by orders. It is really alarming how vicious this administration is, and for example, they have been striking areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan knowing they are heavily populated with civilians. Whether they kill militants or not, and sometimes they do, they certainly have killed more civilians than they ever admit. But it's the whole policy, and members of Congress were clearly expressing concern. Bush didn't pursue a policy this agressive. I find Obama quite chilling, to be truthful. That isn't a view of him I held previously but have come to feel that. I don"t think he is following law, leaving aside civilian casualties, in the way he is pursuing 'militants.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • John

      Barack Obama has now proven beyond any reasonable doubt just how much of a sociopath that he truly is and that's the problem here. He needs to be indicted for crimes against humanity and tried before an international war crimes tribunal and dealt with appropriately. In short, he should be in prison somewhere never to see the light of day again!!!

      June 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Reply
      • CadronBoy

        Amen. You couldn't have said it better - Obama is one evil SOB. With airstrikes in Yemen, bombing Libya to smithereens in order to assassinate Ghadaffi, more missle strikes in Pakistan, ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, empowering Hamas and fanatic Shi'a Muslims with a call for a "contiguous" Palastine based upon 1967 borders, aiding by neglect Iran and North Korea's nuclear fulfullment - well I could go pon and on. The man is traitor to our country and global peace and prosperity. He's an imbecile. A puppet. And a murderer. As you say a true "sociopath" that should be put behind bars.

        June 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
      • Lee

        Do you also think Bush should be indicted with war crimes? Or is this merely because Obama is a Democrat and black?

        June 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
      • rkt210

        You are obviously young and idealistic. You have no concept of the evil in this world and how to deal with it. The members of these terrorist organizations are not going to stop the killing on their own. Think about this while you sit in your parents' basement watching MTV. You could very easily have been visiting the WTC on 9/11. What would your opinion be then?

        June 10, 2011 at 9:01 am |
      • Picard 1

        Really John? Your a bigger idiot than "onesmallvoice" is. If you want to indict anyone how about putting GHW Bush on trial? Do i really need to go into what that Jacka$$ and his cronies did while in office?

        June 16, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • dwestwing

      Are you people blind? Al-queda murdered 3000 innocent American citizens and announced they are at war with us. We are returning fire against their continued assault. Geez, you people have a short memory and just don't get it.

      June 10, 2011 at 3:22 am | Reply
      • unretired05

        They aren't blind they are al-Qaeda or their supporters. That's why they think it's fine to attack US civilians or allies anywhere in the world, but if the US strikes back it should be illegal.

        June 10, 2011 at 6:59 am |
      • Jaq

        Yet you go and kill 100,000+ innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan and call it casualties of war. I'm sure those who survive with loved ones killed by US troops are going to grow up loving all things American.

        June 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Patrick

      You’re pathetic Lee.
      Having trouble defending the winner of the Nobel peace prize so you pull the race card. And what does Bush have to do with Obama’s actions? O that’s right he doesn’t… another sad defense.. That’s as bad as those who start blaming Christians when Muslims are criticized.

      And for the record I’m an independent and an Atheist.

      June 10, 2011 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • Delmar H. Knudson

      Those who support a supine policy of endless negotiations, and surrendering principles for "peace" with Saddam Hussein, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Josef Stalin (Yosif Vissarionovich Dzugashvili), Hitler, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, and the list goes on ... ; should be indicted for the unintended consequences of rape, torture, and death to millions.

      June 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  3. Wiz

    How can it be legal to assasinate someone ? they can dress it up however they like but that is basically all they are doing , not to mention to innocent people that get in the way .
    Or is it that Yemen is now on the brink of falling to the protesters and as an Ally of the west that cant be allowed to happen , and all the killings are actually a method to calming down the rebellion because thats in the best interests of the western alliances who just seem to think themselves untouchable

    June 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      Shooting at leaders, while not sporting by old European conventions, has been standard practice (and legal) ever since rifles were accurate enough to place aimed shots at range. Killing senior terrorists is the same thing; if we blow up an al Qaeda planner, we save the trouble and blood of killing a few dozen of his recruits. Not even to mention saving American lives, which is the ultimate aim of everything we do.

      June 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Eric is referring to the Revolutionary War (US) and is absolutely correct.

      Tell me the difference between one soldier killing another, and the targeted attack of that soldier’s leader.

      June 10, 2011 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • heh

      "How can it be legal to assasinate someone ?"
      Assassination is a legal in war per the Geneva convention.

      June 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  4. Marcus

    The use of unmanned killing machines ("drones") by the US to kill innocent people is illegal and immoral.

    June 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • sambo

      Nope. you're wrong

      June 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Reply
    • WBMike

      As illegal and immoral as taking control of airplanes and flying them into buildings – yeah, we get it. Don't be so naive that they wouldn't do that again in a heartbeat. Are we to sit back, let them organize, grow stronger and wait for the next attack??

      We're doing what we said we'd do when WE were attacked and that is FIGHT TERRORISM. I could care less how they do it. Assassination? So be it.

      I am glad Obama's administration has the guts to make these tough decisions instead of waiting around. We're being proactive in this fight.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:52 am | Reply
    • rkt210

      Your point is ridiculous. Once I fire a bullet, it becomes an unmanned killing machine. Rejecting the technology we have is just ignorant on your part.

      June 10, 2011 at 9:08 am | Reply
    • Jaq

      I'm sure the tens of millions affected by the 2 wars are really going to grow up loving the US and it's allies. Americans harp on about 3000 killed on 911 and they were just fellow citizens, and Americans outside of close family and friends were largely unaffected – but the result is that you're so passionate about 'fighting' terrorism. Now imagine those in Iraq and Afghanistan, how passionate will they be and become having actually lost a loved one!!!

      June 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  5. Michelle G

    I don't support the killings/assassinations/murders or whatever you want to call it. I just find a certain cognitive dissonance with the idea of condemning oppressive leaders in the Middle East who kill anyone who threatens them with the idea that the US can go around killing anyone we feel is a threat.

    And I just don't get this idea of whether it is "legal" or not. How about is it ethical or not? Just because something is legal doesn't mean it is right.

    June 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  6. R James

    The U. S. should keep it's nose out of other folks business. We should not be trying to police the world. We can't even police out own country. Stop the endless wars bring our boys and girls home. U.S. we are broke, worry about your own folks.

    June 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  7. CadronBoy

    Obama has to be stopped. The man is out of control. How many innocent lives must be lost before he is put to pasture? How many sovereign leaders must be assassinated before Obama pursues a more diplomatic stance in dealing with other countries and leaders? How many bombs and missles must fall before we the people of the US say "enough is enough"? How many buildings, transportation and communication centers, docks and railroads must be destroyed before Obama is booted out of office? No doubt - his murderous rampage places him near to apex of being the most blood thirsty President we have ever had. He must be stopped!

    June 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    • sambo

      Gimme a break. 90% of the blacks in a reacent poll said they would vote for him again. You can't stopped stupidity, not even with union teachers

      June 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Reply
      • druid

        Your command of the English language shows us who the stupid one is.

        June 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • WBMike

      Wow. It must be nice to live in your fairy tale world. Blood thirtsy?? He's protecting us by striking first at people who clearly would take any opportunity to kill innocent Americans. And he's the bad guy? Get real.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • Ranger

      You call our president a traitor? You should be hanged for treason you selfish piece of trash. I lived in NYC during the attack from these animals in the Middle East that we are targeting and attempting to contain. You call our president blood thirsty, if it wasn’t for our militaries actions and sacrifice you and I might have fallen to terrorist acts, not to mention this country might be speaking German or Japanese as our primary language. Be glad you live in the country and have some pride. Or move to the Middle East, I am sure your selfish opinion will change real quick with terrorist car bombs going off and tearing you to shreds.

      June 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  8. Bianca

    This is absurd question. There is NO legal way to target anything in another country. As a member of UN, US should know better. But, US and many other Western countries clearly feel that they are superior, and no laws, international obligations and other such "old fashioned" things apply to them.

    In the case of Yemen, it is REPUGNANT. For a long time, under the radar, US was targeting southern region in the name of fighting Al-Qaeda. As everyone who knows anything there can tell you, there is no such thing as Al-Qaeda in Yemen. This was a way to support dictator Saleh and his decades old oppression. He, in turn, used oil money to buy US arms and pay for training of his private army, called "Republican Guard". Four months ago, people stood up to the tyrant, and were killed daily. Instead of giving them some support, we acted like nothing was happening, and instead focused on the protests in Syria. Saleh was safe and secure. With US targeting South, his chief enemies, and him killing the protestors on the streets, life was good as any dictator's life can be. But then, when tribes had it enough and called in their armed men, tables turned, and Saleh was out of the country in days. Now, seeing that his son may not be able to hold the power, US is RESUMING TARGETING SALEH'S ENEMIES in the South. South is not filled with terrorists, but with people who want to get out of Yemen. South was FORCIBLY grabbed by Saleh, and they do not wish to stay in Yemen. As they are likely to succeed, US is targeting them. Why does Saleh regime, and US care about the South so much? It is because of OIL. The only oil in Yemen is in the south, and this is where Saleh gets all his money to buy expensive military gear from US, and pay for the advisors, trainers, etc. This is an UNHEALTHY CONFLICT OF INTERESTS. Supporting the President by targeting his enemies is a really rotten thing to do.

    June 9, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • 2011 now

      This is really sickening with no God around or JUSTICE WE HAVE NATIOINS WHO ABUSE INTERNATIONAL POWER TO CREAT MORE VIOLENCE
      I THOUGHT ONE SHOULD USE A PEACEFUL WAY TO HELP RESOLVE OTHER COUNTRIES CONFLICTS NOT ADD ON MORE CONFLICTS = MORE BLOOD SHED AND SUFFERINGS

      June 10, 2011 at 6:10 am | Reply
  9. SarahPalin

    Of course we rich republicans support targeted killing. Even in the US.

    June 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  10. OneOfTheSheep

    "Constitutional lawyer Pardiss Kebriaei questions the legal basis that U.S. administrations have used to justify killing suspected terrorists off the battlefield, suggesting a violation of constitutional rights of due process."

    He's kidding, right?

    We're not looking at a Duchess of Queensbury contest, but a contest of survival with no quarter given. There are no rules in a knife fight to the death. He seems unaware that al-Qaeda initiated attacks against America from both Afghanistan AND Yemen, eventualy bringing down the twin towers and attacking the Cole while peacefully docked. Did the innocent victims of those attacks enjoy "constitutional rights of due process"? NO!

    Any state, ideology, religion or otherwise identifiable entity of hostile intent as threatens another must either be confronted or yielded to. When their mode of operation is coming together out of nowhere like a "flash mob" to engage in illegal activity without wearing identifying uniforms, only to fade into the local citizenry, and kidnap and behead those who oppose them make the very idea that the Geneva Convention or laws of civilized behavior apply to such beasts is ludicrous. The idea that the "national sovereignty" of wherever these perpetrators happen to be hiding should shield them from appropriate retribution for their acts against others is equally idiotic.

    June 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
    • sambo

      I know all this; but what is the square root of 2????

      June 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  11. sjdsh

    USAsssination could care less if it's legal and hasn't for quite some time. Too bad... this gov no longer represents its people,many of whom do care very much.

    June 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  12. brown

    Nobody is getting out of this gig alive. Kill them all!

    June 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  13. newk55

    oh yeah For example Remember the american born cleric Anwar al-awkai and al-qaeda they are located there we are going to get them
    Itts pay back time

    June 9, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  14. Dave Johnson

    Let's stop knocking off the Al Quaeda leaders and just sit around and wait for the next 9/11, right?

    June 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  15. Paintbrush

    Everyone is outraged with Obama as a indiscriminate killing machine by orders, but just how much of you do you think stand a chance of being treated fairly if you were to to caught by the people who hate America. Do you think your rights wll be respected? Who you think you will be properly represented in their courts? Do you think you will have due process? So when America is threaten how do you propose to act. I for one would not lie down and whine about being abuse by enemies to the USA. In that regard, I do appreciate Obama protecting American here at home and abroad.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Reply
  16. Karen Holmes

    The root cause of terrorism is not that some people are good, and some people are bad, and the bad people want to hurt the good people, as President Bush stated. It is that people "on the bottom" have no voice, and must raise their voice to be heard, oftentimes to the point of violence. To ally ourselves with oppressive regimes, that deny their people a voice, and go in to that sovereign nation to assassinate them without due process of the law in a legitimate court system makes us look like bullies, and creates a major backlash against us. This policy does not protect our nation, but makes us vulnerable to retribution.

    No one has the right to harm innocent people, and they should be charged with crimes against humanity for doing so. The problem is that from their perspective, they are patriots, not terrorists, and standing against oppression, and we stand on different legal principles. The solution is to open a dialogue and to find out what their issues are, and regard them, and if there is no way to bring them to justice to end the practice of terrorism, then a recognized and legitimate international court system should be instated. In other words, swing the pendulum back to the center.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:58 am | Reply
    • druid

      Well said Karen, and great suggestions.

      Here is a thought to illustrate your point. To a Mexican family that has lost a loved one in their drug related violence, WE may appear to be the terrorists. After all, they see us providing material support to the drug lords (money and guns). How would we react if Mexico started a similar targeted killing policy against US citizens?

      June 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  17. Rod C. Venger

    While I favor such targeted killings, I also think we're probably operating outside of the law in some cases. In the case of OBL we can easily argue that he had the chance to surrender and instead chose to slug it out. Sovereign territory issues aside, he "probably" made the choice to fight and so he died.

    In the case of drone attacks, there is no opportunity to surrender. After 9/11 the US created a series of crimes, such as "Material Support of Terrorism" and "Terrorist Training" along with many others, and has used them to great effect in capturing and killing the enemy. At their core though, these charges are merely "conspiracy" charges, charges for which the penalty is death. Imagine a few of us here in the US, getting together and conspiring to undertake some act or kill some person. Would sudden death from above be a justifiable response? Not unless it could be shown that the actions we were conspiring were literally at hand. I think from a legal standpoint we're on quicksand, but that said, I don't have a problem with it. These third worlders know the score. They knew we're hunting them and they still persist. Too bad for them and no loss to the world when they get blown up, forewarned or not.

    June 10, 2011 at 1:01 am | Reply
    • brecht

      Rod C. Venger wrote " These third worlders know the score. They knew we're hunting them and they still persist. Too bad for them and no loss to the world when they get blown up, forewarned or not"

      I guess racism is alive and well in America. Thank goodness for our Nazis!

      June 10, 2011 at 8:41 am | Reply
  18. dwestwing

    Al-queda murdered 3000 innocent Americans and then announced they were at war with America. Therefore, it is well within our rights to search them out wherever they are and eliminate them. We will make no distinction between the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. We will use whatever technology we have to return fire and defend ourselves. We would not be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan if not for their attack on us. They brought this on themselves and have no where to run, no where to hide.

    June 10, 2011 at 2:56 am | Reply
    • WBMike

      100% agree with you DWestwing.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:58 am | Reply
  19. Kevin

    I support killing muslims anywhere, anytime, for any reason...or for no reason at all... Keep up the good work.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:03 am | Reply
  20. Pat

    How many times will we violate the sovereignty of other nations,
    before other nations come up with a reason to do it to us?
    Someday, foreign troops will occupy American soil,
    and our actions in places like Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, et al,
    will be used as evidence against us in the Court of World Opinion.

    As Ye sow, so shall Ye reap.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:39 am | Reply
    • Mumbo jumbo

      Exactly. The US should just roll over and allow the terrorist organizations to do as they want.

      Stop killing these poor planners of bombings!!! Stop the slaughter of these humanitarians out for jihad!!!!!

      June 10, 2011 at 5:23 am | Reply
    • Jaq

      I couldn't agree more – if its fair game for us to bring democracy to the world by peace or force, surely we can accept others doing the same to us.

      The threat of communism didn't end that long ago, the west pushed capitalism whilst the east pushed communism, however we in the west were outraged by this, why?

      June 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  21. Jared

    Yes, keep the strikes going. The Yemen mission is in support of a standing government that has requested/accepted our help and aid, and the strikes in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan have all been in the cause of fighting an active war, and enemy militants, and their leadership are therefore legitimate military targets for killing.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:43 am | Reply
  22. FSL

    Wht the F*** is wrong with Americans.. Its start of new colonialisim for the US having presence in every continent. Its more to protect interest of Isreal and have their share of oil from Arab countries. ITS HISTORY..NO Empire has survived for long, and everyones time comes. Fear god.

    June 10, 2011 at 6:09 am | Reply
    • Pliny

      FSL...let me tell you 'WTF is wrong with Americans".

      What is wrong is that we didn't start doing this a LONG time ago.
      What is wrong is that we didn't teach the entire muslim population a lesson on 12-Sep-2001
      What is wrong is that idiots like you call this 'colonialism' when it it nothing more than JUSTIFIED SELF DEFENCE.

      And I will not, in your words, 'fear god'. But I will gladly support anything that teaches the terrorists and their supporters (all 1.3 billion of them) to FEAR ME.

      June 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
      • Jaq

        You want them to fear you??? you should fear them, 1.3bn are waking up, look at the news and what's happening in the Middle East, hope you enjoyed your life style, as soon as the oil is turned off, no more clothes, food, cars ,transport of any kind, it's the middle ages – it's the west that needs to fear the consequences if it's actions and following the US into a burning pan.

        I'm all for America to wage every war, I just don't want our lap dog leaders to follow, reap what you sow

        June 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  23. studdmuffins

    Like so many of their victims, I hope the terrorists all die a very violent, frightful death at the hands of those they choose to attack. It is pure chicken-sh.t tactics to blow up a train, bus, car or building without specific warning.

    June 10, 2011 at 6:13 am | Reply
  24. Chille

    Interesting how the majority of Americans who claim to support their Constitution and claim to be Christian are advocating both clearly unconstitutional activity on behalf of the United States and activity that Jesus of Nazareth counseled against. Jesus preach that Christians were to turn the other cheek, practicably because the revengeful warring between the tribes was tearing the people apart and making them fodder for the kings and temple priests, and because it was morally wrong. The Commandments say to Thous shalt not Kill, Thou shalt not Covet, Thou shalt not bear False Witness, but war is exactly about all of those thing, killing for things you want but don't have, and lying in order to accomplish that goal. It is time for America to come home and to go back to, or maybe even for the first time be, a Christian nation, of the Christianity that Jesus taught. It is time to return to the prime directives, to turning the other cheek as the standard for our personal actions and to the Constitution as the guide for our government actions. Hate and revenge has only made us more enemies, destroyed our economy, put the average American more in debt, while making the wealthy elite more wealthy. It is time for the "change" that Obama promised but didn't deliver. There is only one man still promising to deliver that change, to bring our men and women home, to stop making enemies, and to stop putting us in debt - and that is Ron Paul. The Neocons have mostly taken over both parties and made them both "war parties," only Paul and a few other have stood apart, but more each day, even in Congress are starting to stand with him. With our support we can make change happen. It is already.

    June 10, 2011 at 8:45 am | Reply
    • Yakobi.

      Cripes, another sockpuppet of the nutjob Ron Paul. If you people want to live in a vacuum, move to North Korea!

      June 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • druid

      Go Ron Paul!!! He is the only candidate that is not in corporate America's pocket...guess that makes him a non-starter. 😦

      June 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  25. Gunny

    Remember that phrase from a certain song, "What's so CIVIL about war anyway?" Now maybe I paraphrased it some but you get the point don't you. I'm not arguing with any of your comments, just stating a comment. I wasn't affected by losing someone during 9/11 but it hit me hard. I'm not saying that the US has certain rights to do things all the time either. However, it does seem interesting to me to see something in the world happen and most of the countries around the world, not all, I said most, wait to see what the US is going to do to assist that area in need, be it aid or war acts. It's not fair and it does happen that lives are lost. That's terrible.

    War was declared on the US and it's allies. And again, there is nothing civil about this...especially when we as humans, not Christians, Jews, Muslisms, etc. but humans vocalize how civil we are and yet we kill each other without stopping to even care. We as humans show little compassion in these cases. It's us vs. them or me vs. you! You or they have do die so I or we don't. That's our thought process.

    I like to read about the times when suffering and want are eased by true acts of kindness. Giving to those in need. Yes, there are some of you reading this that say, "Then go read those articles and stay out of these types." You are more than justified in your thoughts and feelings. They are your feelings and thoughts. I respect you even if I don't agree with everything you state. Doesn't mean that I want you to die. We're different. Isn't that what is truly awesome? We ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

    I hope each of you have a wonderful day.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:07 am | Reply
  26. oldguy

    Where was CNN's moral uncertainty regarding terrorists 'rights' between 2001-2008?

    CNN editors, along with the vast majority of mainstream media (ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NYTs, Wash Post...) were loudly outspoken in attacking the previous administration over perceived injustices and the 'shredding of the Constitution' - denying due process to GITMO prisoners, the use of CIA 'black site' prisons, extraordinary rendition and (GASP) water-boarding. Yet, now CNN wants to have a debate about the legality\morality of running a Hellfire missile up the tail-pipe of an alleged terrorist in a foreign country?

    Besides the blatant hypocrisy in CNN's treatment of different administrations, they now act surprised, even stunned, that President Obama would carry out these operations. Why? Candidate Obama told you he would do this if elected, yet instead of questioning the legality\morality of it back then, Sen Obama's position was hailed as a 'new' approach by the Democrats to fend off attacks by the Republicans that Dems were soft on terrorism.

    The painful reality is that sometimes you have to go to war against the enemy you have, not the one you wished you had.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
  27. Ted

    This is an action that will come back to bite us in the butt.When the U.S. violates its own constitution and The U.N. and N.A.T.O. violates international law it's only a matter of time until there is NO constitution and the U.N. dictates world law.The leaders who advocate this type of murder and the people who support them remind me of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.The U.N. is headed in the same direction.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • Yakobi.

      If we listened to you, we'd be living under Sharia law.

      June 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Reply
    • Mickey25

      Aside from the fact that none of your arguments apply in this matter, isn't it nice that you have the luxury to freely disagree with those who keep you and your family safe and free? I guess expecting some gratitude to those who risk their lives on your behalf would be asking too much.

      June 12, 2011 at 2:57 am | Reply
  28. PhooBar

    What part of 'assymetrical warfare' did y'all not understand?
    Our enemies don't wear uniforms, and there are no battle lines drawn.
    Hunt them down and kill them where ever they are.
    There will be collateral death, but the difference is that we try to minimize it.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:38 am | Reply
  29. Tony

    Targeted killings have been happening non stop pretty much since governments have existed. The only difference now is that people are free to debate if they are legal or not, without disappearing themselves. The individuals being targeted in this instance are in Jihad with the United States, meaning they are at war with the country. Since those individuals don't represent a country, then the U.S. is at war with those individuals, and is within its rights to treat them as combatants.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:42 am | Reply
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