Scott Lemieux, via Kevin Drum, argues that people are getting way too worked up about the targeted killing memo. Everything's fine"
Much of the coverage of the memo, including Isikoff's story, focuses on the justifications offered by the Obama administration for killing American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (two alleged Al Qaeda operatives killed by a 2011 airstrike in Yemen.) In some respects, this focus is misplaced. If military action is truly justified, then it can be exercised against American citizens (an American fighting for the Nazis on the battlefield would not have been entitled to due process.) Conversely, if military action is not justified, extrajudicial killings of non-Americans should hardly be less disturbing than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. The crucial question is whether the safeguards that determine when military action is justified are adequate
As I wrote in his comments section to this:
There is an immense chasm of difference between killing an American on the battlefield dressed in a Luftwaffe uniform in the Battle of the Bulge and authorizing assassination of American civilians without any sort of due process (Please don't tell me that presidential conferences and an excel spreadsheet constitute due process). The donning of an enemy uniform is a sort of admission of guilt, to which there is no parallel here. A better comparison would be: Would it have been right for FDR to have, say, Charles Lindberg killed for supporting the nazis and nazi-style eugenics? How about having a Congressman killed who refused to fund the war on terror - after all, there are plenty of people who would argue that person is abetting terrorism and appeasing Al Qaeda by not voting for the funds.
Before the election, when asked to post possible reasons to vote for Romney, the best one I could think of was that at least under a President Romney, the natural opponents on the Left of targeted killing and drone strikes and warrant-less wiretapping and prosecuting whistle-blowers under treason laws would find their voice, rather than remaining on the sidelines in fear of hurting "their guy" in the White House.
By the way, I know this puts me out of the mainstream, but Presidential targeted killing and drone strikes on civilian targets bothers me whether or not Americans are targeted. I don't accept the implicit notion that "foreigners" have fewer due process rights than Americans vis a vis our government. I believe the flaw goes all the way back to the AUMF that was directed against a multinational civilian organization rather against a country and its uniformed military. I don't believe this is even a valid definition of war, but even if it were, there is no way the traditional rules of war can apply to such a conflict. But here we are, still trying to apply the old rules of war, and it is amazing to me to see denizens of the Left leading us down this slippery slope.
Update: As usual, Glenn Greenwald seems to have the definitive editorial on the targeted killing memo. It is outstanding, top to bottom. Read it, particularly if you are on the fence about this.