Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The CIA Kills People (or not, actually)

There seems to be a new issue for folks to get worked up about: the CIA wilingness to discuss assassinations of Al-Qaeida leaders after 9/11.

I admit to being a bloodthirsty barbarian. Having said that, it seems to me the whole discussion is an exercise in hypocrisy. As even the summary in the NYT correctly notes, such assassinations aren't necessarily so horrible:
Current and former officials said that the program was designed as a more “surgical” solution to eliminating terrorists than missile strikes with armed Predator drones, which cannot be used in cities and have occasionally resulted in dozens of civilian casualties.

I liked that euphemism: drone attacks have "occasionally" resulted in "dozens of civilian casualties". As regular readers will know, the numbers are more likely to be thousands, and not so occasionally, either. Still, the reality of war is far removed from most people's world, while theorizing about it can be done by anyone with a propensity to chatter:

But any targeted killings make many international law specialists uneasy. Hina Shamsi, an adviser to the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at New York University, said that any calculation about inserting a kill team would have to consider: the violation of the sovereignty of the country where the killing occurred; the different legal status of the C.I.A. compared with the uniformed military; and whether the killing would be covered by the law of war.
“The issue is a complex one under international law, and it encompasses all
of the contentious issues of the years since 2001,” Ms. Shamsi said.

International law. The ultimate arbiter of human relations.

No comments: