Cliff May

‘Think about the mothers!”

That was the anguished cry of one of the protesters from Code Pink, the left-wing women’s group that four times interrupted John Brennan’s confirmation hearing last week. She was apparently referring to the mothers of such al-Qaeda leaders as Anwar al-Awlaki — killed by a drone strike that was ordered by President Obama and counseled by Brennan, Obama’s White House counterterrorism adviser and now his nominee for director of central intelligence.

If we do as the protester demanded, two possibilities occur: (1) Al-Awlaki’s mom shares her son’s ideology and is therefore proud that he died a martyr waging jihad against satanic infidels, or (2) she loves her adopted homeland of America, has a tempered reading of Islam, and is therefore mortified that her sweet little boy grew up to become a terrorist blown to smithereens by his fellow countrymen.

Let me waste no time in putting my drone cards on the table: Al-Qaeda and other self-described jihadist groups have declared war on America, and are waging war against America. Congress has passed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that gives the president the power to capture and kill members of AQ and allied groups. He should do so aggressively and unapologetically.

Drones are useful because they don’t expose American combatants to danger and they have the potential for pin-point accuracy. Enemy belligerents, including those who hold American passports, should not be mistaken for criminal defendants. Judges should not be confused with generals.

I do think there ought to be congressional review and oversight of drone operations and “kill lists.” And members of Congress — and the public, too, I believe — should be allowed to consider the process the administration has in place for targeted killings, not least those involving American citizens.

I’ve been trying to stay focused on these substantive issues but it’s hard not get at least a little distracted by the intellectual inconsistency — it’s generous of me not to say hypocrisy — of those who called President Bush and Vice President Cheney “war criminals” for utilizing such “enhanced-interrogation techniques” as sleep deprivation on about 100 terrorists but who have been loath to criticize President Obama for sending thousands of terrorists to the Big Sleep.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.