Tuesday, October 25, 2011

VAU Afgh 101: Extrajudicial Executions

This is part of a series of eight "virtual teachins" on U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

[UPDATE: As reported in the Chicago Tribune in its June 19, 2012 article entitled U.N. investigator decries U.S. use of killer drones, Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has said, "The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings ... (and) reiterates his predecessor's recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture 'human targets' and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent."]

The crime of Extrajudicial Executions is described on the website for Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes. Here, we will look at the specific legal basis for charging perpetrators as war criminals for Extrajudicial Executions, and list sources reporting relevant U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

Viewers of this page are strongly encouraged to contribute comments and additional sources in the comments section!

If the American public knew the nature of the crimes that its government was committing in Afghanistan, could it possibly sit still and not force an end to the war, and the removal of U.S. military, intelligence, and contractors from Afghanistan?

The crime of Extrajudicial Executions is described on the website for Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.

Why does the law prohibit extrajudicial execution? In my view, the ultimate reason is that extrajudicial execution always undermines confidence in the functioning of all law. Thus, it is even simpler and less controversial than moral arguments. Consider:

EVEN IF a person is objectively "guilty" of some crime, i.e. no organized finding of fact is necessary (a condition which, if you think about it, is in fact virtually impossible to meet -- do we really know the facts before we establish the facts?); and . . .

EVEN IF the death penalty is accepted as an appropriate penalty for a crime of which the person is known objectively to be guilty (a condition which is rapidly becoming inoperable); in other words . . .

EVEN IF the machinery of state power is operating from a basis of truth and legitimate authority, still . . .

THE PROBLEM REMAINS that extrajudicial execution lacks due process, and thus has little if any chance of being seen as legitimate in the eyes of the public (where "the public" inevitably consists of any and all people who lack some kind of magical safeguards against being victims of state power).

All war crimes have the effect of de-legitimizing the entire basis of the State; extrajudicial execution de-legitimizes the State with extreme speed and thoroughness.

Two well-publicized examples of extrajudicial executions in the past year have been the assassination of Osama bin Laden by a commando team in May, and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by drone attack at the end of September. There have been countless others, including a very large number carried out by drones.

The Noam Chomsky evaluation of the bin Laden assassination is a very good assessment of the problem of extrajudicial execution.

Michael Ratner discussed the Awlaki assassination in The Guardian: "The law on the use of lethal force by executive order is specific. This assassination broke it – that creates a terrifying precedent." A report in the NY Times established that the Obama White House developed a justification for the Awlaki assassination a year prior to the event in a secret memo. This means that all people were subject to lethal force by the United States government on a basis that the United States government intended to claim as legitimate and lawful, but which was unknown and unknowable by anyone.


Return to the main VAU Afghanistan 101 page.

Photo credit: Al Hayat wa Dounia newspaper


Related posts

Virtual Antiwar University (VAU) 101 focuses on eight categories of U.S. war crimes, selected from Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.

(See VAU Afghanistan 101: US War Crimes )

If the public will join us in asking the question "Who decides?" about drone executions, I believe they will rapidly come to realize that they are utterly dissatisfied with what the government is saying.

(See Who Decides? (When Drones are Judge, Jury, and Executioner) )

Eric Holder addressed a group of Northwestern Law students and others. Afterward one audience member summed up the speech as he left: "He pretty much said he can kill anyone he wants." The details of that speech will turn you more topsy-turvy than anything Alice experienced when she ventured through the looking glass.

(See Eric Through the Looking Glass)

By now, everyone knows about the New York Times article describing Barack Obama's personal administration of drone killing around the world. What few people are willing to face up to is that Obama 2012 partisans actually see this as a way to get a lot of Americans to like Obama: "This is the candidate; you MUST support him!"

(See Being a Team Player for "Mr. Forceful": Obama and the Dems )

"My advisers have run the numbers and they have indicated that, at the current rate of decrease, U.S. war crimes could reach zero by 2015, or 2016 latest . . . . "

(See Obama on Drones: The Democrats Respond )

Yet another Iranian scientist has been assassinated. In an environment in which the U.S. is beating the drums of war against Iran, we do not have the option of closing our eyes and acting as if we don't know what's going on.

(See Congress: Who Is Behind Assassinations In Iran? )