On the [il]legality of drone attacks

The Lede blog in the New York Times today has a post by Robert Mackey, ‘Drone Strikes Are Legal, U.S. Official Says’. Highly recommend reading.

I’ve embedded a video from the post in which Harold Hongju Koh, the US State Department’s top lawyer, defends the ‘legitimacy’ of drone attacks and targeted assassinations.

As Mackey points out, Koh was a strident critic of the Bush Administration’s policies when he was the dean of Yale Law School; he even described America as part of ‘the axis of disobedience’ alongside North Korea and Iraq.

Hard to imagine now.

Jacinda Woodhead

Jacinda Woodhead is a former editor of Overland and current law student.

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  1. Lest anyone watch that video and be soothed by the lawyer’s weasel words and soporific intonation, let’s not forget that we are talking here about sky-borne robots blasting remote rural areas.

    1. Did I not make that clear? My apologies. I’m so overcome with rage whenever I think about UAVs and military lawyers on hand to justify war crimes that I clearly become inarticulate.

  2. On this point, there’s an interesting CIA document up on Wikileaks that discusses how the Afghan war might be sold in Europe. As Glenn Greenwald notes, ‘The Report celebrates the fact that the governments of those two nations continue to fight the war in defiance of overwhelming public opinion which opposes it — so much for all the recent veneration of “consent of the governed” — and it notes that this is possible due to lack of interest among their citizenry: “Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters,” proclaims the title of one section.’
    The CIA also identifies Obama’s popularity with Europeans as a major asset to be exploited in promoting these wars.

    1. I’m glad you brought that up, eekamouse. I read this document over the weekend and learned that the CIA’s first recommendation was for Obama to visit Afghanistan. And lo! behold! the next day he was in Afghanistan on a surprise visit.

      And I just read this at the BBC:

      The Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan will launch a long-planned offensive in the southern city of Kandahar in June, military officials have said.

      A US military source was quoted as saying the goal was to rid the city of Taliban forces before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in August.
      US troops are already leading a massive operation in Marjah, in the neighbouring province of Helmand.

      Extra troops ordered by US President Barack Obama have begun arriving.
      Some 6,000 of the 30,000 additional forces assigned to Afghanistan in December have already arrived, with the rest expected in the coming months.

      They told Reuters news agency it would include a militant “clearing” phase from June to August, followed by a smaller “secure and deliver government” phase that is expected to last at least until mid-October.

      They said US troops were already working on securing transit routes and persuading leaders of districts surrounding Kandahar to co-operate with coalition forces.

      Mr Obama, who made his first visit to Afghanistan as US president on Sunday, told US forces that they were there to help Afghans to forge a “hard-won peace”.

      1. Now I can’t find that part, but was struck by this insight:

        Messages that dramatize the consequences of a NATO defeat for specific German interests could counter the widely held perception that Afghanistan is not Germany’s problem. For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in Afghanistan could heighten Germany’s exposure to terrorism, opium, and refugees might help to make the war more salient to skeptics.

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