The Imperialist Federal Government as “judge, jury and executioner”

The federal government is now giving excuses for why it can kill Americans with drones, without first giving them the right to trial, or even for threat of imminent attack!  Just when are we going to realize that our government is slowly removing our Constitutional rights from us?

US News notes:

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a talk at Northwestern University Law School in March, endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans provided that the government determines such an individual poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the memo obtained by NBC News refers to a broader definition of imminence and specifically says the government is not required to have “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/05/16855539-judge-jury-and-executioner-legal-experts-fear-implications-of-white-house-drone-memo?lite

On this issue, we should have both liberals and conservatives upset that our liberties are at risk on this slippery slope.

59 thoughts on “The Imperialist Federal Government as “judge, jury and executioner”

  1. I find the use of drones very problematic but I find your hysteria somewhat problematic as well. How is this different than gun laws in some of our states that allow us to kill someone if we simply believe he (or she) poses a threat to us?

  2. What…, you guys think the CIA or US Military never secretly killed bad guys around the world in the past?

    Clandestine foreign assassinations have been going on since at least the end of WWII. Especially assassinations where the CIA and the Mafia had joint operations. The only things different now are that it’s admitted to, and it’s done with a machine instead of sending out a spy or a covert military special-operations hit squad to do it.

    The main questions are whether or not the targeted people really need killin’, and whether or not there are collateral deaths of innocent people. Individuals using knives and guns to take out a target usually are more precise than a drone-fired missle which takes out a whole building or a car-load at a time.

    One of the reasons drones are needed now, as opposed to doing it the old fashioned way with spies and military special-ops (who also need to work with foreign intelligence assets to track and identify targets), is that the Clinton administration dismantled much of our foreign intelligence operations. Another reason is that the US media and Wikileaks have, at various times, published lists of names of foreign assets (local people in those foreign countries who feed information to our spies) , causing them to be arrested and killed, which not only removed many sources of our intelligence, but hindered our spies, and discouraged anyone else from providing information because they fear being betrayed, because we can’t keep secrets.

    In the past, as far as we know, the decision-making of who to kill was kept in the military and CIA. What’s different now, or is now known publicly, is that the decision-making and approval goes all the way to the top, through appointed administration officials.

    Please don’t think that Obama, or Bush before him, actually decide or decided who to kill. They merely *approve* who to kill from a list of names, and recommendations and reasons that is presented to them. There is a lot of research, data gathering, ground work, and multiple levels of analysis and strategic decision-making at various levels by career people in the CIA and military intelligence that go into composing the hit lists before it even gets up the chain to any appointed official to look at.

    I think it boils down to who you trust more, career intelligence people in the CIA and military, or administration officials appointed by an elected president. Do you want elected and appointed officials micro-managing what are essentially military operations? Or do you want the elected/appointed folk just setting overall goals and tasks?

    I’d rather trust the professionals, the career intelligence and military. Why? Because look at what happened in Vietnam when appointed administration officials tried to micro-manage the Vietnam war. From Kennedy, through Johnson and Nixon, they and their appointees hamstrung our military and prefented them from completing any objective. Unless the objective was to just waste money and lives.

    I’ve been paying attention to this kind of stuff for decades. There is nothing new here. I’d rather have the elected people and their appointees set overall goals and objectives for our military and intelligence organizations, and then step back and not micro-manage the dirty nitty-gritty. In the end, yes, there are some bad guys in the world who need killin’. Always has been, always will be. We just gotta make sure we get the right ones, and hurt as few innocent people in the process as possible.

  3. Don’t know about the reference to guns, but I tend to agree a bit with Don. The ‘hysteria’ isn’t necessarily universal. Does anyone here have strategic military experience? I’m just curious because that does give perspective on the issue. We are talking about Americans that have decided to put themselves in specific situations and locations that directly show they are not patrons, rather willing to be seen with known terrorist or enemies to the country.

    Whether I agree with it or not isn’t the point. All I am trying to do is provide a touch of perspective, instead of trying to constantly portray President Obama as an “Imperialist” or “Marxist”, even though most American politicians fall in the same quadrant on the spectrum: Conservative/Authoritarian.

  4. I think we need to separate out the issues.

    A
    1)Are drones just another tool of legitimate warfare? Yes. In some ways they may be preferable to sending troops on the ground because the human cost is potentially less. If we have clear enemy combatants that we can take out via drones, that is not necessarily a bad thing. So, the use of drones is not the problem.
    2)Do drones cause more collateral damage than other methods of bombing and warfare? No, in some cases they cause less collateral damage. A lot less (compared to carpet bombing, for example).
    3)Should the U.S. government use drones judiciously during warfare? Yes.

    B. Next issue: what is our military purpose?

    1)Have we clearly defined what our military goals are, keeping in mind that we have a $1 trillion/year debt and have limited resources? No.
    2)Are we seriously considering cutting our military spending given our debt? No.
    3)Have we found ways to lower our military footprint and change our strategy? No.
    4)Do we seriously consider and empathize with the perspectives of foreigners who may be offended by our overreaching military strategy? No.
    5)Have we considered that our constant military presence in other sovereign nations may be creating more enemies than friends? No.
    6)Are we following a constitutional strategy where we only go to war after Congress has declared war? No.
    7)Are we following the advice of the Founders, who said we should avoid entangling alliances? No.
    8)Are we considering that creating a constant warfare state is bringing us bigger, out-of-control government, rather than smaller, limited government?
    9)Have we carefully considered the morality of creating a military state and the warnings of the Book of Mormon about warfare? No.

    C — Use of drones against Americans.

    1)Was Anwar al-Awlaki (an American citizen living in Yemen) a bad guy who had declared war on America? Almost certainly yes.
    2)Was this ever proven in a court of law, and was he given a trial by jury and due process (called for in the Constitution)? No.
    3)Are Americans presumed innocent until proven guilty? Yes.
    4)Is there a provision in the Constitution for dealing with treason? Yes. Was it followed? No.
    5)Was al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also a US citizen, killed by a drone? Yes. Was he ever given due process? No. Do we know why he was killed? No. Is it possible he was killed simply for being related to a probable bad-guy father? Yes. Is it also possible he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and was collateral damage? Yes.
    6)Is it worrisome that Americans are being killed without due process? Definitely.
    7)Is it worrisome that many American state and local governments — and the federal government itself — may be using drones inside the United States? Yes.
    8)Can we imagine a possible future scenario where a president begins using drones to target Americans inside the United States without due process? Definitely.

    D Hypocrisy

    1)Would the left be up in arms about the drone program if a Republican were president? Need we even ask?

    To sum up: Is the United States federal government acting as “judge, jury and executioner” in ways that are alarming with regard to drones? Yes. Is there another way? Definitely, but we need to change strategy and proclaim peace, rather than war.

  5. dallske,

    I spent 20 years in the US Air Force. I’ve worked under a lot of commanders in chief, from Reagan to GWBush. What I can say in regards to your question is that all military decisions fall under purview of the Constitution.
    If there is a declaration of war against Yemen or Pakistan, then by all means we should employ everything to stop any aggression. However, there isn’t. There are terrorists that live in various locations around the globe.
    So, we have to determine whether there is an imminent threat of danger or harm to the USA or its allies. In the case of people out in the desert in a car thousands of miles away from us, not likely. However, if such people are involved in currently implementing some kind of attack, then the government can proceed: AFTER it has its case reviewed by a judge. This ensures due process, which is among our rights as US citizens.
    If a president can now use deadly force against anyone deemed an enemy of the state, without due process, just how long into the future will it be, before we have a president who tries to eliminate American citizens at home, whom they feel to be a “threat”?
    Freedom requires we take the risk of giving all Americans due process. This is why we have a separation of the executive and judicial branches in our government, so that a president cannot be “judge, jury and executioner” all at the same time.

  6. Thank you ram, I was honestly looking for better military perspective than my own. I still think it is quite a leap going from embedding yourself with the enemy in a country that allows it to thrive, to trying it within the U.S.

    I also think it is problematic to allow no flexibility to our military arm to give “on-the-spot” judgment to traitors and acts of treason by their own citizens. Law of Armed Conflict provides rules and laws that aren’t “restricted” by the Constitution. Military assets run into this problem all the time. I just don’t think this, like all other ‘let’s-blow-this-out-of-proportion’ topics can be directly linked to the near-future loss of our constitutional rights as average citizens living within the borders doing our everday thing.

    As far as, “Well the other side would do the same thing if our guy was making the calls.” Thank you for assuming garbage like that. As I said before, I find little difference between Presidents nowadays as far as political idealogy is concerned.

  7. Daliske, I never said anything about the “Well the other side….” Don’t put words in my mouth, or YOUR assuming I would say anything like that. What I said, is that tyranny and/or loss of freedoms sneak up on us. History shows that.
    Germans didn’t elect Hitler because he promised to wipe out the Jews. Germans elected him, because they were in dire economic straights, and he promised to fix the economy. He actually did temporarily fix their economy, by creating a massive government work force, building the Autobahn and rebuilding the military.
    That said, I have no idea which side would do what. I do know that Bush gave us the Patriot Act, which limits some freedoms, and I know Obama is now taking steps that further that erosion of citizen rights and protections under the law.

  8. BTW, flexibility for the military to have options in war are available: through acts of Congress. Again, our Constitution does not give carte blanche power to the executive branch, even in times of war.

  9. “In the case of people out in the desert in a car thousands of miles away from us, not likely. However, if such people are involved in currently implementing some kind of attack, then the government can proceed: AFTER it has its case reviewed by a judge. ”

    There is a panel of judges that review this stuff. It’s top secret stuff, so a lot of the material is sensitive for various reasons.. The notion that the judiciary isn’t involved in this matter is simply not true.

    Also, Mr. Al-Awlaki was doing a lot from his safe haven in the Yemeni hinterland.

    This is my military perspective as a Yemeni-dialect trained Arabic linguist working for the US Navy.

  10. “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

    Article 3, Section 3, of the US constitution. Evidence of treasonous acts on the part of a U.S. citizen is NOT license to kill them without due process of law. The Founders had committed treason against the King, which put them in danger of the gallows, and so they were conscious of how those accused of treason should be treated in the future. For that reason, they made special mention of treason in the Constitution, and afforded those accused of treason special protection, even BEFORE the Bill of Rights was added.

    This is a no-brainer. The use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens suspected of aiding al Qaeda is a blatant violation of special protections afforded in the Constitution.

    According to Senator Lindsey Graham, [It] “should reside in the commander in chief to determine who an enemy combatant is and what kind of force to use.” Really? In the words of one astute commenter:

    “The problem is that to accept this position, you have to put complete trust in the competence, wisdom, and ethics of the president, his underlings, and their successors. You have to believe they are properly defining and inerrantly identifying people who pose an imminent (or quasi-imminent) threat to national security and eliminating that threat through the only feasible means, which involves blowing people up from a distance. If mere mortals deserved that kind of faith, we would not need a Fifth Amendment, or the rest of the Constitution.”

  11. Also, it amazes me that so many Constitution-loving people turn a blind eye to this, and argue that the special protections granted by the Constitution for those accused of treason should be ignored. That’s a serious double standard.

  12. I don’t think people are “turning a blind eye”, nor espousing a “serious double standard” and I disagree the appointment of such a big leap from what is actually happening to your interpretations of what is happening.

  13. Question: did the 10,000 American confederate soldiers who died at Anteitam on September 17, 1862, have “due process”?

  14. Michael, we’ve been over it. There is a difference between killing someone shooting at you, and blowing someone up from a distance against whom you’ve spent months collecting evidence that they are guilty of treason.

    Please stop making that comparison.

  15. I think LDSP’s last point is very relevant. The purpose of due process is to protect even people we assume to be guilty. There are cases (and actually a lot of them when you study judicial history) where people whom everybody assumes to be guilty are not guilty at all. But if you have a trial with an impartial jury at least you can say that the person involved was tried before being convicted and sentenced. In al-Awlaki’s case we cannot (the claims that he was tried by a secret process are even more alarming because this is exactly what totalitarian states do).

  16. “There is a difference between killing someone shooting at you, and blowing someone up from a distance against whom you’ve spent months collecting evidence that they are guilty of treason.”

    The evidence collected was actually evidence that he was planning terrorist attacks. He trained the underwear bomber and provided logistical support for that operation back in 2009.

    You can make an intelligent, cogent, rational argument that Al-Awlaki was, in fact, shooting at us.

    Disagree with me if you must.

  17. “In al-Awlaki’s case we cannot (the claims that he was tried by a secret process are even more alarming because this is exactly what totalitarian states do).”

    It’s secret because American lives — boots on the ground, agents on the ground, collaborators and intel sources — are on the hook if these details get divulged.

    Just because something is “secret” doesn’t ipso facto make it immoral, wrong, or evil. We Mormons ought to know that.

  18. Michael, PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION:

    Just what in the world is Article 3, Secion 3, of the Constitution for? Please tell me precisely the kind of people that section was meant to protect, and please use evidence to support your argument.

  19. (And yes, you can convince people that al-Awlaki was planning attacks against the United States. But, you know, you can convince me that a Chicago mobster is planning a drive-by shooting, and that doesn’t justify blowing him up from a distance without a trial. Evidence of an intent to commit a crime is not warrant to bypass Constitutional protections.

  20. “Michael, PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION:

    Just what in the world is Article 3, Secion 3, of the Constitution for? Please tell me precisely the kind of people that section was meant to protect, and please use evidence to support your argument.”

    You know the answer to this question, already. Common sense will tell you what this section is for. It certainly does not apply to a jihadist armed extremist AQAP member plotting to attack America, who by quirk of fate happened to be born in New Mexico.

    Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. He was attacked for it. But his basic principle was this: I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and these secessionists are trying to destroy the Union, I will defend the Union. If I have to suspend ONE law, in order to keep the other laws existing, then I will do so.

    This same sentiment applies to this situation. You guys are literally frothing at the mouth over the fact that we have a secret process for raining fire and steel on apostate Americans (extraordinarily few in number) who have taken arms against us and have joined a militant army that the civilized world is waging war against.

    Please take a step back and think carefully about the facts. You are sensationalizing this beyond all proportion.

  21. “You know the answer to this question, already. Common sense will tell you what this section is for. It certainly does not apply to a jihadist armed extremist AQAP member plotting to attack America, who by quirk of fate happened to be born in New Mexico.”

    Actually, common sense tells me that this is precisely the kind of situation that warrants special attention in this regards. We don’t just kill people because we have evidence that they have aided the enemy. The Constitution forbids it. The Constitution FORBIDS it.

    And you say, “But they are apostate—so Constitution be damned.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t consider you to be faithfully upholding your oath to the Constitution. I just don’t. You advocate and support that its provisions be ignored for the sake of convenience, and that is just plain downright scary.

  22. My point in weighing in on this issue is to illustrate that thoughtful, concerned, deeply patriotic Americans, who also love the Constitution, can come to a completely different conclusion about a course of action that the government has decided to take.

    Do I agree with every aspect of how the Obama Administration has managed overseas operations against terror cells? No, I do not. However, I do agree that killing these men is vital and saves lives. I don’t favor Obama at all, but his prosecution of the war on terror (now called overseas contingency operations) has been outstanding. Drones are here to stay, and as long as terrorists hide in villages and collaborate to kill Americans, I support taking them out.

    Now, I realize you have harsh words for me because I don’t subscribe to your narrow interpretation of what these drone strikes mean. But, please allow me to repeat that my interpretation does NOT mean that I don’t love, cherish, honor and support the Constitution of the United States.

  23. “But, please allow me to repeat that my interpretation does NOT mean that I don’t love, cherish, honor and support the Constitution of the United States.”

    Except in situations where it is inconvenient to comply with its instructions. That’s how I see it.

  24. The reason why that is significant is this: If you can’t pinpoint a group of people, or a kind of crime, that the provision was meant to protect—which is at the same time different from the time of crime al-Awlaki committed—then you don’t have a strong argument at all that the provision wasn’t meant to protect al-Awlaki.

  25. OK, I stopped literally frothing at the mouth now. Let me address this:

    “This same sentiment applies to this situation. You guys are literally frothing at the mouth over the fact that we have a secret process for raining fire and steel on apostate Americans (extraordinarily few in number) who have taken arms against us and have joined a militant army that the civilized world is waging war against.

    Please take a step back and think carefully about the facts. You are sensationalizing this beyond all proportion.”

    I have thought very carefully about the facts. My thoughts lead me to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon shows us exactly how to deal with these types of situations. The model is purely defensive war, i.e., we peacefully retreat from the militarized zone, proclaiming peace to all, and defend our borders. We maintain a strong Navy to protect international waters. We tell the world that we are neutral and will not join any entangling alliances. We peacefully trade with all nations. And if we have declared enemies, we give them public trials before killing them. My prediction is that we will have a lot *fewer* enemies if we take these steps.

  26. Let me give an example out of Mormon history.

    Joseph Smith was arrested about 38 times in his lifetime. Each time he had a jury trial, he was acquitted. The one time a government agency decided to be judge, jury and executioner in his life was in 1844, when the Carthage Greys (state militia), who were supposed to protect Joseph, instead were involved in a strategic strike on the Carthage Jail.
    It seems they felt him to be an imminent threat to Illinois and the nation, and so waived his due process rights.
    Of course, this also happened in Missouri with the extermination order. There was no due process afforded the Saints, and they were forced to flee to another state for safety.
    More recently, blacks trying to gain civil rights were often jailed or attacked without being given due process. Being tried by a jury of white men in the South did not ensure due process for a black man framed for a crime 1/2 century ago.

  27. Methinks Michael Towns literally does not understand the meaning of the word “literally”.

  28. At issue is the final question by Judge Napolitano, “How long will it be before the presidential killing comes home?”

    I would suggest 2-3 generations and then into the 4th generation we’ll see the killing at home, unless we “repent” of this course we’re on. Of course, since things snowball in this day and age it could happen sooner.

    The problem is not that we are killing bad guys. We’ll that’s a problem and it’s a tragic necessity perhaps of human nature.

    The problem is the legal justification to make this happen undermines constitution principles. This is simply terrible legal precedent, even if it may “make sense” that these guys be taken out.

    But the truth is really rather simple. There is nothing those guys in Yemen can do to kill us, short of pressing a button linked to a bomb or ICBM. I’m not even sure if, legal, we should be killing them for providing rhetorical support or information to people who want to kill us.

    They’re in Yemen! “Imminent” truly has no meaning if a guy in Yemen, without the means of a state controlled ICBM type arsenal, etc. is an imminent threat to the USA.

    The word that would be more precise, but not as legal, would be a “potential threat” or “hopeful threat”.

    If I’m hoping and even at some levels planning to commit some act of terrorism, and even have conversations with others about it that are overheard by spies (electronic or otherwise), it should not be the right of the President to have me killed. And apparently, it’s not even the President’s jurisdiction according to the reports, just an informed official?

    If I’m “in the act” (which would mean planting a bomb, boarding a plane, etc. etc.) then you are correct. If I’m planning or hoping to do something but thousands of miles from the target, you have two choices according to our rule of law: arrest me, wait for me to actually be an imminent threat and kill me.

    Why is this important? Because evidence is required in an accusation. We’re talking about killing people for something they might do or are planning to do!

    Don’t you get a little uncomfortable that perhaps the government could be mistaken in its use of this power? If not, why should we have any burden of evidence or incarceration in other instances if we’re so confident the government makes the right decision every time?

    Another thought, the reason we have so many more crimes be labelled as felonies is so the federal government can get more and more involved them (I might add, as “we the people” expect “government” to “do something” about every social problem). Don’t we think it’s likely to see more and more cases rise to the level of “imminent threat” as we expect government keep us safe?

    Like I said, I’m not so worried about it happening now in this administration or the next. But this is a terrible foundation to build a nation on.

  29. “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

    It seems to me this article of the Constitution can be read (at least) two entirely different ways (the wonders of very old English grammar!). They are:
    1. You can be convicted of treason on the testimony of two witness (doesn’t say a thing about where the testimony takes place or who evaluates it) OR if you are dumb enough to confess in open (I assume this means public) court. OR
    2. You can be convicted in open court by EITHER the testimony of two witnesses or if you are dumb enough to confess.

    On a related point treason is a lot lower bar than many in this thread are stating. The plain language of the Article lists three separate activities which can constitute treason [Or maybe two separate things the "OR" is between the first and second items listed - which implies the second and third might be a combined one. But in any event it lists either two or three actions NOT only one.]:
    1. Levying war against the Untied States,
    2. Adhering to the United State’s enemies (that could cover almost anything!), and
    3. Giving those same enemies aid and comfort.
    Certainly the typical terrorist suspect who is targeted by these drones easily meets all three standards, let alone one of them (which is all the plain language of the article requires). In other words the Constitution sets a very low bar here. If we are worried about how the government is interpreting this we should probably focus on getting laws passed which define what it is allowed to do rather than trying to rely on some very vague and permissive language from over 200 years ago.

    What Thomas asserts (and I think he is correct) is that there actually are courts evaluating the evidence – but they are not “public” courts. If interpretation #1 is “correct” then that’s allowed, if interpretation #2 is “correct” then it is not. Given that we have used non-public processes in the judicial system for treason trials (and others) in the US for a very long time, and that the Supreme Court has bought off on them several times, it seems to me that the current interpretation of the Article in question by the Supreme Court seems to be #1.

    That is not to say I agree with the interpretation, it does scare me. But to attempt to do as a recent poster said, i.e., fight wars only after the invading folks are inside our borders, and (in my words) live in a bubble (that is some how combined with trading relationships with the rest of the world), is simply not a viable strategy UNLESS you are willing to dramatically scale back our standard of living and our responsibilities to the rest of the world. Missionary work outside the borders of the US would likely take a huge hit as US citizens would now be much more on their own when they were outside of our country (and going on a foreign mission might well be a death sentence), and we (as a country) wouldn’t be pushing a freedom agenda around the world. My personal opinion is that is too much to give up. The world is a very messy place, Satan has a great influence in it, and we are likely to live in conflict (deadly serious stuff) right up until the second coming.

    I don’t have a good solution to offer, other than to encourage Congress to pass laws detailing the judicial (or other) process (secret or other wise) that must be followed before someone is killed (US citizen or otherwise). And then require documentation for each targeted killing (remote, drone, or otherwise).

  30. My reference should have been to “Michael Towns” not to “Thomas” – my apologies.

  31. Sorry, I should have said: “You guys are metaphorically, virtually, imaginatively, paradoxically, semantically, allegorically frothing at the mouth over this.”

  32. Michael
    The founding fathers of this nation based the constitution on the concept of rights, limited government, and enumerated powers. Within a couple hundred years we drifted extremely far from their intent and purpose and expanded governmental power and invasiveness in millions of ways they’d never imagine.

    Now imagine the founding fathers had codified secret killings with no oversight, except by those authorizing the killings in the first place. Where would be 200+ years later?

    I submit again that regardless of whether or not the people in these case are “bad guys” that “need to die” we are doing it all wrong and in the worst way possible for the future of our country.

    How about this. This is a Republic. The voters should be informed about what’s going on and discuss policy and elect leaders. These issues aren’t even discussed. We don’t even get hypotheticals that don’t reveal pertinent evidence to evaluate the merits of a particular policy. Instead, “they” cover it up and hide it away and then claim whatever justification for their actions necessary after it’s brought to light.

    How can the people bear any responsibility or even have any legitimate role in government if “the government” divorces itself and it’s policy making on the most sensitive of issues from the people.

    A true leader, brought into office confronted with these realities would bring them to the people and have a national debate, dialogue and move forward.

  33. Ether 8:19 For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.

    We don’t understand “forbidden” any more than we understand “thou shalt not kill”. Is the targeting of Americans by their own government, even on US soil, really unjust? And what if their children are blown up in the process? If we crave justice then that’s what we should expect.

  34. I think the BoM parallel here is NOT between Al Queda (or terrorists in general) and the Lamanites. The terrorists in Yemen, or Al Queda, are like the state-less outlaw Gadianton robbers in their mountain hideouts. Al Queda is not a nation or country. We shouldn’t think of the relationship between the US or the West and terrorists in the nation-vs-nation dynamic of WW I or WW II.

    They may not be hurting us at this very minute, but they eventually come out of their hideouts to do harm, just like the Gadianton robbers. Both Lamanites and Nephites thought it necessary to go after the Gadiantons and root them out to prevent further depredations. (Though at times, the Lamanites did try to convert the captured Gadiantons before killing them. But even then, if the captured Gadiantons didn’t swear to be peaceful, they were executed.)

    The American terrorist, Al Awlaki, is kind of like a Nephite dissenter who became a Gadianton robber. As soon as he had clearly “joined” the Gadiantons/terrorists, he lost his priviledges, and should be treated just as a non-nephite who joined the Gadiantons.

    Look up the original definition of “outlaw”, as someone who places themselves “outside” the law. There was a distinction between an outlaw and a criminal. Criminals had certain rights that outlaws did not. Al Queda is not a criminal organization, it is an outlaw oranization.

    sincere question: Are we officially at war with the state-less Al Queda? I don’t remember or fully understand what legal authorization the congress had given Bush or Obama in terms of going after stateless terrorists. Maybe we should officially declare war on Al Queda, even though it is not a state.

    Also, we have heard the term “enemy combatant.” Someone can be an enemy combatant, such as Awlaki, even if they are not holding a gun and pulling the trigger, or have a finger on a button. If someone has become an enemy combatant, whether a trigger-puller, or a leader of trigger-pullers who is making arrangements for attacks on us, they have effectively declared war on us. and I think that gives us justification in responding militarily.

    If we haven’t, perhaps we should officially declare war on Al Queda and its affiliated organizations.

  35. Bookslinger, I suppose that is one interpretation of BoM history. You’ll note that the only way they finally destroyed the Gadiantons was to gather together, repent, and await the invasion of the Gadianton robbers in their own lands.
    Later, the Nephites would attack the Lamanites to prior to any imminent attack, and Mormon tells us that the Lord quit protecting them at that point.

    We use the war on terror to justify killing American citizens and little children from afar. Yet, we call them terrorists when they kill American citizens and little children. How are we justified by American or International law? Why should we not be viewed as evil by them, when our actions are no better than their own actions?

  36. Book, I agree with your comparison of the Gadianton robbers and al Qaeda. I would just point out, as Rame did, that the way that the righteous Nephites beat the Gadiantons was to wage a purely defensive war, retreating to their fortified positions, waiting for attack and beseeching the Lord for protection. This is clearly not the strategy we are pursuing.

    I don’t think we should run US policy based on BoM examples entirely because, frankly, it will never happen. But we should learn the lessons of the BoM, which are if you wage aggressive offensive warfare and do not rely on the Lord for protection you are almost certain to fail.

  37. Bookslinger – the Gaddianton robbers did not want to kill for the sake of religion. They did not want to kill for the sake of seeing their enemies as evil. They did not want to kill because they believed they were acting out prophecy. I believe these are the intents of AQ.

    In fact, the Gaddianton robbers only resorted to killing when they could not achieve their aims, which were that “all those who belonged to his band to murder, and to rob, and to gain power, (and this was their secret plan, and their combination).”

    Perhaps I’m wrong in this, but it seems to me they weren’t just focused on mindless killing for violence’s sake. But it looks to me like their desire was power, and wealth. And they’d would absolutely kill and conspire secretly to acquire and then maintain it.

    That being the case, I think we have parallels to Gadianton right here in our nation. There are many who combine in secret to acquire power and wealth, and resort to robbery. If they don’t have to murder to achieve their aims, why should they?

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist seeing “Gadianton robbers!” everywhere. I guess it’s a great thing there desires for power and wealth are so easily obtained that there isn’t much killing going on. But I do worry that many of those who have conspired would resort to killing if and when they see their power legitimately threatened.

    Sorry for the tangent…

  38. Bookslinger, despite the parallels, or lack of parallels, there’s still a pesky little thing you are ignoring: the U.S. Constitution and its special protections towards those who commit treason by siding with and aiding our enemies.

  39. “Look up the original definition of “outlaw”, as someone who places themselves “outside” the law. There was a distinction between an outlaw and a criminal. Criminals had certain rights that outlaws did not.

    So, if we find evidence that my next door neighbor is planning to plant a bomb in a mall, and may have even gotten blueprints for the bomb from an al-Queda operative, can we just blow up his house and kill him? He is, after all, an outlaw—exempt from all legal protections—because he has associated with our enemies.

    Outlawry is an old legal concept that never really crossed the Atlantic ocean and never really survived past the 1700′s.

  40. “They may not be hurting us at this very minute, but they eventually come out of their hideouts to do harm, just like the Gadianton robbers. Both Lamanites and Nephites thought it necessary to go after the Gadiantons and root them out to prevent further depredations.”

    In the actual story, the Nephites refused to go into the mountains and root them out, for fear of alienating God and losing His divine protection.

  41. Further book, there is a legal way for people to lose their citizenship, and hence their protections:

    1. Convicted For An Act Of Treason Against The United States

    Treason is a serious crime, and the Constitution defines the requirements for convicting someone of treason. Treason is waging a violent war against the United States in cooperation with a foreign country or any organized group. It includes assisting or aiding any foreign country or organization in taking over or destroying this country including abolishing the Constitution. Treason also consists of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the US government or of betraying our government into the hands of a foreign power. If you are caught and convicted of treason, you can pretty much count on losing your US citizenship as well as serving lots of jail time.

    So hold a trial in absentia, prevent evidence, hold a legal proceeding, remove his citizenship, and THEN sentence him to death.

    http://www.newcitizen.us/losing.html

  42. Ldsphilospher: “outlaw”, in the original meaning, was used in the United States and territories during the settlement era.

    You’re also conflating, or maybe I am, the Lamanites and Gadiantons. The Nephites and Nephites did join forces at one time to go after the Gadiantons. Later, the Nephites gave up tying to get the Gadiantons out of their mountain hideouts because they were dug in too well.

  43. Later, the Nephites gave up tying to get the Gadiantons out of their mountain hideouts because they were dug in too well.

    Go back and read that story. That’s not the reason they didn’t go up into the mountains. It wasn’t, “It’s too difficult,” it was, “We fear God forbids it.” You really need refresh yourself on the details of that story.

    They did team up and actively root out the Gadianton robbers from amongst themselves (I’m sure with due process of law), but I think you’re confusing the stories.

  44. Actual quote:

    “Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

    “But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.”

  45. RE: Actual quote:
    “Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

    “But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.”

    I doubt those verses could be taken as general principle revelation. I think it is very location specific and battle tactic specific. Notice there was zero qualms about destroying the robbers, just clarification on the very best way to do it.

    Now the anti-Nephi-Lehi’s provides a significant example of not fighting offensively, or defensively, or at all. Just let the bad guys kill you and God might cause them to have a bad case of guilt and several of them will convert. I don’t see anyone advocating that approach to dealing with the terrorists.

    In short the general principles about war and defense in the Book of Mormon can (I think) be summed as follows: Being a pacifist is the highest order response, but it will usually get you killed. In the long run that’s OK because you will be resurrected and it might make a positive difference in the likelihood of the bad guys reforming – and that nets you eternal brownie points. Such a course is not required though. Second, long suffering with eventual defense (just like is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants – on the third time you are justified in defending vigorously). Third, self defense – you don’t have to let anyone kill you, or your family, if you don’t want to. Fourth, eliminate threats Captain Moroni doesn’t put up with even his own country’s citizens who disagreed with his tactics, nor did he coddle those they were fighting against.

    In short I think you can find support for almost any approach in either the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or the Doctrine and Covenants. In the final analysis we are citizens of the US and we need to try to get Congress to debate the issues and set clear limits. Then we need to prosecute members of the Executive Branch when they overstep those limits. (In this case that would likely be Bush II and possibly Obama).

  46. I’m not trying to make it a hard fast rule. I’m just saying that Bookslinger remembers the story wrongly, and that this is making it difficult for him to understand the position of those who feel that strictly defensive warfare is the only type of warfare permitted in the Book of Mormon.

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