The claim is sophistry masquerading as sophistication. If all the world were a courtroom, where the decisive weapons are precedent, persuasive arguments and subpoenas, the ACLU might have a case -- if Awlaki's father has legal standing, which is doubtful. Earth, however, is populated by people who have profound disagreements over values that undergird the most basic laws. The civilized are willing to negotiate those disagreements. Barbarians like Awlaki are different. They will murder Molly Norrises en masse to impose their will. The barbarians are outlaws.
Which is why we give the president authority to decide to kill them when they try to kill us, since they are beyond the reach of law.
ACLU grandstanders may have objectives beyond Awlaki. Their sneaky little case ultimately challenges the president's authority to fight any war, but particularly the Global War on Terror. Its Oct. 8 court filing fixates on Predators and U.S. targeting methodology. It appears the ACLU doesn't care much for either. Essentially, ACLU lawyers are asserting the right to oversee and overrule real-time battlefield decisions made by U.S. security agencies.
Al-Qaida banked on this kind of lawfare waged by legalistic pettifoggers to blunt U.S. counter-terror capabilities. In 2001, al-Qaida plotted a war without borders, one designed to frustrate nation-states that recognized political boundaries. Laws al-Qaida flouted would thwart America's counterattack. Al-Qaida would fight and win in the gray zone while lawfare litigators tied down American power with legalistic knots.
Predator, however, surprised al-Qaida. Its deadly shadow haunts the nowheres al-Qaida thought were sanctuaries.
Keep the Predator circling over Awlaki. The ACLU case should be dismissed with extreme prejudice.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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