White Memo: Is killing a suspect the same as killing a known terrorist?

Published: February 9, 2013
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If the American drone policy remains the same as evident from the White memo, then the issue of Islamic radicalism might never be resolved. PHOTO: REUTERS

This is in response to the recent blog on The Express Tribune by the name of, Can the US Government kill American Citizens?

Although I agree with the author on the point that any person found guilty of treason should be punished, I would like to add a few points of my own, and clarify some confusion caused over the White memo.

A brief summary of the White memo is provided below:

1) The White memo lays down the legal justification for targeting persons through drones. US Citizens, who are al Qaeda operational leaders, members and sympathisers, are the intended targets.

2) USA assumes that al Qaeda is continually planning terrorist activities and thus US drones can strike al Qaeda suspects anywhere, any time. Even if the attack was never planned in actuality, nor had any threat appeared, but just on the off chance, US Administration can authorise a drone strike so that any ‘supposed’ threat might be neutralised.

3) If you can’t capture a “suspected” terrorist for questioning and interrogation because you “think” that, your troops might encounter mortal risk, then just carry out a drone strike and save the trouble of interrogation and tedious judicial process.

4) According to the memo, even if there is no evidence that the suspects are an imminent threat, but only believes and suspects that they “might” be an imminent threat, the USA has the authority to strike them whenever and wherever.

5) Without even confirmation from interrogation and just on the suspicion that the suspect has not renounced the terrorist activities, the USA can assassinate him.

6) USA assumes that killing of suspected al Qaeda members before they even become imminent threats is justified because the US Administration thinks so. So, please repose your faith in it and don’t question it.

7) The memo doesn’t define the word ‘imminent’. It doesn’t tell how imminent a threat has to be in order for a drone strike to be called. From the document, one gets an impression that if US officials think that such and such persons will come together to plan something sinister, they become qualified targets.

Dear readers, this is an extraordinary document, the implications of whose contents are horrific.

USA is fighting violence with more extreme violence. The issue is not about killing known terrorists who are US citizens. The issue is about killing “suspected terrorists” about whom the government will not share any information, nor the decisions will be available for judicial review, so that the government is not answerable to judiciary and cannot be held responsible even if the drone strike missed the intended target and killed innocent civilians.

There is a huge difference between killing a suspect and killing a known terrorist.

Yes, those US citizens who are promulgating extremism and threatening the US president must be brought to book, but killing and assassinating before the crime was even committed?

Before they are even brought under trial?

That is just plain barbaric and puts US administration at par with al Qaeda.

Through this memo, one gets the impression that the US government is advocating a ‘shoot first ask questions later’ policy and one has to ask, whom will it benefit?

The first benefactor of this drone war would be al Qaeda itself. Remember, al Qaeda and its allies are fighting not just on the military front but on the ideological front as well. It is a hateful and detestable ideology that won’t be just eliminated by drone strikes but only gain followers due to unjustified American violence.

The second benefactor would be the neo-cons and defence contractors. The neo-cons, thanks to Obama, have just continued George W Bush’s policies without any hindrances and the appointment of Bush era CIA torturer John Brennan proves that.

The defence contractors would benefit because of increased orders for more drones and associated technologies, which would mean more cash rolling in.

Even if we assume that drone attacks have achieved intended military results (corroborated by the near wipe out of top al Qaeda cadre), then do they guarantee that the hateful ideology of al Qaeda would just disappear with it leaders?

Thanks to continuous military adventures and arrogant outreach efforts by USA, al Qaeda’s offshoots have spread far and wide, who act quite independent from the mother organisation and are even more eager to spread destruction.

If the American drone policy remains the same as evident from the White memo, then the issue of Islamic radicalism might never be resolved.

Frankly, I found the White memo as repugnant as Mein Kampf.

Read more by Jamaluddin here or follow him on Twitter @einsjam

Jamaluddin

Jamaluddin

A student of Information Systems Management at Latrobe University, Melbourne. He tweets @Einsjam (twitter.com/Einsjam)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.