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Drones Raise Legal, Moral Questions

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Anwar al-Awlaki (credit: Muhammad Ud-Deen)

Anwar al-Awlaki (credit: Muhammad Ud-Deen)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

As soon as President Obama announced that Al Qaeda cleric and American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki had been killed by a drone missile attack in Yemen last week, various political reactions hit the airwaves.

For the first time in a long time, Congressional leaders of both political stripes were in agreement, praising the President for giving the order to use the drones to take out the Al Qaeda leader.

However, reactions also included those from the ACLU which questioned the President’s authority to order the execution of an American citizen and to use the drone technology in Yemen.

In response to the legal questions, the White House released a statement saying that the order was completely legal since al-Awlaki was considered an enemy combatant actively working to attack the U.S., with no clear way of arresting him exisiting.

While outlining the legal justifications, the statement did little to stymie ACLU arguments that the President should not have the power to order the execution of an American citizen without due process.

Lawyers far smarter than I will continue to argue and analyze the legal questions and issues associated with this issue.

However, the moral questions are ones that will be left for politicians and their constituents to answer. And for that part of the discussion, the debate seems far more one sided.

It would be difficult to find an elected leader who will come out against the idea of hunting down terrorists that want to kill Americans with technology that, while not perfect, does a very effective job of keeping our soldiers safe.

It’s even hard to find citizens who don’t support the idea of using technology to fight the war on terror, instead of putting thousands of soldiers in harm’s way in a land that rarely rolls out the welcome mat to their presence.

I personally agree that while the use of drones in foreign countries isn’t perfect, or lacking legal questions, it is by far the preferred way to combat terrorism.

Terrorists are not going to go away, even after we eventually leave Iraq and Afghanistan. The simple fact of life is that terrorists are like cockroaches and rats; they exist everywhere and will never be completely eradicated.

However, if we can manage them using the one clear military advantage we have as a country, we should keep doing it and do whatever we can to support it.

I realize that this opinion is not without controversy. There are many who will wonder aloud if the United States should be stooping to these questionable methods to hunt down terrorists. Accidents have proved that the use of drones is not a perfected technology.

However, to those points I would make the following assertion. Terrorists have completely changed the game and if the United States refuses to adapt, we will eventually be beaten. Traditional strategies have proven to not always be successful and we can implement the use of the drone technology and still adhere to American standards of fairness and justice.

We cannot forget who we are or forfeit the moral high ground when faced with a challenging situation. However, we must also refuse to surrender the fight against an opponent who keeps changing the rules. If the rules are pliable, so must be our strategy.

If the war on terrorism is ever to be one that sees a successful conclusion for the United States, we must find a way to adapt and win.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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