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"and a US citizen (born in Denver) "

I've never understood the emphasis on this point.

You're either for or against drone attacks on presumed terrorists, I can't understand how US citizenship plays any role in it. If his father was involved in terrorism and you think drone strikes are OK, why would you have extra sympathy for him because he's a US citizen?

I don't think the US citizen aspect is worth mentioning, in fact I think it just makes people who are against drones seem a little unhinged. By the way I am against the use of drones (on Americans or otherwise).




> I've never understood the emphasis on this point.

All human lives are equally important from a moral perspective [1].

But from the perspective of a country's government -- any country, not just the US -- their own citizens' lives are the most important.

Imagine a man kills a woman -- a random stranger he met on the street. It's a terrible crime.

Now imagine a man kills a woman -- his daughter. Most people's gut reaction is that this is a worse crime than the previous example, because a parent he has a moral duty to protect his child.

Likewise, a country is supposed to protect its citizens -- so killing its own requires a stronger justification than killing non-citizens.

I'm not going to take the discussion off-topic by taking a position on the circumstances under which it's justifiable for a country to kill its own citizens or non-citizens. I'm just saying that a country's justification for killing its own citizens needs to be at least as strong -- and usually stronger -- than its justification for killing non-citizens.

[1] This paragraph is completely off-topic. "All human lives are equally important" sounds like a good and simple axiom for a value system. But it's interesting to try to think of situations where any of several people could be sacrificed to prevent some great evil, and the group figures out reasons to sacrifice some person or people with certain characteristics in preference to others. For example, "save the women and children first" is often said in disaster movies -- which implies their lives are somehow more valuable. Based on this anecdotal evidence, it appears that real human value systems often don't follow this axiom.


> "All human lives are equally important" sounds like a good and simple axiom for a value system.

Sounds like a useful simplification at most.


> a useful simplification at most.

As I footnoted, that's really what it is. But I used it to start my comment, because the parent's viewpoint may implicitly rely on it.


> If his father was involved in terrorism and you think drone strikes are OK, why would you have extra sympathy for him because he's a US citizen?

As of April 2010, the open, stated objective of the CIA was to kill Aulaqi's father (and others on President Obama's "hit list") and, if and only if he could not be killed, to arrest him, charge him formally, and bring him to trial.

In other words, "if we can kill him, we don't have to prove he was actually guilty."

I don't support the drone strikes against non-US citizens, but the idea that a single executive can issue capital punishment on a US citizen[1] without a trial is downright unnerving. Imagine if police officers wielded that same level of power - it's no different.

[1] The US Constitution does not provide the same levels of protection to non-Citizens, which is why drone-strikes on foreigners is still disgusting but not as terrifying (from the perspective of a US citizen).


  >[1] The US Constitution does not provide the same levels of 
  > protection to non-Citizens, which is why drone-strikes on 
  > foreigners is still disgusting but not as terrifying (from 
  > the perspective of a US citizen).
I hear this asserted frequently but it is simply not the case. There are a very few places where the citizenship requirement is explicitly stated (e.g. voting or holding public office), but generically the US Constitution refers to "persons" not citizens.

For a scholarly article on this topic, see: http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?ar...


> Imagine if police officers wielded that same level of power - it's no different.

Seems to me that there are plenty of police officers who try through the claim of self defense.


Citizens are entitled to due process. There are probably a bunch of other reasons i'm overlooking, but I get kind of uptight about the government ignoring the bill of rights.


The reason it's important is that regardless of whatever else the purpose of the laws of the US are to protect US citizens and maintain their rights. That's a fundamental, founding aspect of our country and heavily embedded within the constitution.

Here we have a situation where, to put it in the least glamorous light, a US citizen may be summarily executed for little more than being outside of US soil. That's a bit harsh but it's compatible with the track record so far. And if a US citizen has no protections outside of US territory then that implies non-US citizens have even less protections. To say that such a scenario is distressing is to put it mildly.

What happens when, not if, other countries build up their drone fleets and engage in similar low-level warfare throughout the world? Will the developing world become a de facto 24/7 battlefield contested over by the developed countries? Will the lives of most of the world's citizens be subject to nothing more than the whims of some bureaucrat or soldier in a richer, more powerful country?


That is a good ethical point but it's normally brought up because it's a legal issue. It's (even more) illegal for the US government to be assassinating their own citizens. Only international law would have anything to say about assassinating non-US citizen civilians.


Because US citizens have rights under the US Constitution?




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