As we begin to get some posts and discussion on Shadow Warfare, I’m sure I’ll be wading into some controversial areas and no doubt on occasion be forced to state my own opinions – something we really tried not to do in the book, in a quest for balance. The book does cover a number of contemporary and controversial subjects including “targeted” killing – which SW shows to be a practice of long standing associated with covert action – and for that matter the issue of targeting American citizens considered to be terror threats for capture, or killing in the event that is not possible.
Targeting American citizens in foreign countries and more particularly in locations with virtually non-existent central government and legal systems (such as Somali and Yemen) remains a subject of ongoing debate and media coverage – coming up in headlines and articles again this week:
The author of the article in this link is nationally known and someone with far more knowledge and experience than I would ever claim, however two things jumped out at me when reading the article. First in discussing Anwar al Awlaki, his characterization lacks a few details – including the fact that in a public broadcast Awlaki described himself as a “traitor to America”, that he openly praised terror attacks on Americans and called for volunteers for jihad attacks on America and Americans. I’m not going into the pro and con arguments about Awlaki’s history, mistreatment etc, that’s covered at length in other sources but Bergan’s description seemed a bit limited and also made no historical reference to the treatment of Americans who broadcast propaganda for the Germans and Japanese during WWII.
Bergan also leaves out a bit of historical context, including the fact that one of the first actions following the attacks of 9/11 was for President G.W. Bush to issue covert action Executive Finding which declared that the CIA had blanket approval to conduct covert action against Al Qaeda leadership and associates – that direction allowed for the hunting, capture and killing (if capture was not feasible). That finding remains in effect until overturned by a new finding or preempted by Congressional legislation. One of the fundamental points relating to findings is that they exist and are required in order to inform Congress of covert acting. That gives them various opportunities to respond to actions which they feel should not be supported – although as we detail in SW Congress virtually never does that.
Of course the whole question of enemy combatants and the treatment of American citizens who either give aid and comfort to the “enemy” or support attacks against America or Americans could easily be resolved if Congress had or would yet declare war on radical jihadi terrorists (yes I know the wording might be a bit complex but I have to believe that we do have an adequate supply of lawyers for such tasks).
Barring that, Congress could rise up and revisit the Authorization for Use of Military Force that it provided President Bush at his request immediately following 9/11. That AUMF continues in force to the present – and at this point is beginning to look rather like the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, legislation passed in response to a very specific incident and never intended to be just to support military action for over a decade. Its rather ironic in that Congress was requested to pass the AUMF legislation and that the move was endorsed by comparing it to the Tonkin Gulf resolution was came to be viewed as a presidential “blank check”.
Depending on how you look at the dates, the AUMF is actually on the verge of passing the time span of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which was eventually repealed. To this point I’ve seen no sign that Congress even remembers it, much less has considered new legislation to replace it.
— obviously the overall issue is far more complex than this and as one of the publishing industry reviews about to come out on SW points out, our coverage of constitutional and legal issues should be sufficient to “sate” readers interested in those areas…. Larry