Charles Krauthammer’s defense in the Washington Post (Feb. 15, 2013) of President Obama’s limitless power to kill any living thing on the planet in the name of opposing terrorism may carry some charms as a catechism. But — to paraphrase an aspersion cast on the Charge of the Light Brigade — it is not law.
Krauthammer rhetorically asks, “By what right does the president order the killing by drone of enemies abroad?” He answers, “imminent threat under the doctrine of self-defense.”
But Krauthammer is unable to cite any provision in the Constitution or laws of the United States that crowns the president with the authority to decide unilaterally who is an “enemy” to be exterminated. Proffering no definition of that term, Krauthammer champions authority in the president to designate any person he wishes as an “enemy” with no review by Congress, the judiciary, or the American people. The neocon oracle is unalarmed that Obama brandished that godlike power to assassinate a U.S. citizen, the 16-year old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, with a Predator drone in Yemen while the boy was eating dinner.
Contrary to Krauthammer, President Obama regularly targets for killing persons who are neither imminent threats to American lives or limbs nor dangers to national existence. The legal definition of “imminent” in Black’s Law Dictionary is “near at hand.” Mr. Krauthammer asserts that a “freelance jihadist cell in Yemen … actively plotting an attack” creates an imminent threat. But he is unable to adduce a crumb of evidence that Predator drone killings either have been or are confined to that circumscribed category of alleged terrorists.