In the Orwellian world of Official Washington, the U.S. government is now wedded to the theory of “information warfare,” meaning that Americans who challenge national security policy may be treated as “unprivileged belligerents” under the new Law of War doctrine, retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce writes.
by Todd E. Pierce, Consortium News:
When the U.S. Department of Defense published a new Law of War Manual (LOW) this past summer, editorialists at the New York Times sat up and took notice. Their concern was that the manual stated that journalists could be deemed “unprivileged belligerents.” The editorial explained that as a legal term “that applies to fighters that are afforded fewer protections than the declared combatants in a war.” In fact, it is far more insidious than that innocuous description.
Here is the manual’s definition: “‘Unlawful combatants’ or ‘unprivileged belligerents’ are persons who, by engaging in hostilities, have incurred one or more of the corresponding liabilities of combatant status (e.g., being made the object of attack and subject to detention), but who are not entitled to any of the distinct privileges of combatant status (e.g., combatant immunity and POW status).”
The key phrase here is “being made the object of attack.” For slow-witted New York Times editorialists, that means journalists can be killed as can any enemy soldier in wartime. “Subject to detention” means a journalist deemed an unprivileged belligerent will be put into military detention if captured. As with any enemy belligerent, however, if “capture is not feasible,” they would be killed if possible, by drone perhaps if in a foreign country.
Currently, most U.S. captives deemed “unprivileged belligerents” are imprisoned in Guantanamo although some may be held in Afghanistan. It must be noted that the United States deems as an “unprivileged belligerent” anyone they target for capture or choose to kill.
That the New York Times’ concern only arose with publication of the new LOW manual suggests they may have been in a deep sleep since 9/11 as the Department of Defense (DOD) has openly worked to impose limitations on information sharing and news gathering since that event gave them a pretext. It is now a well-established pattern of the U.S. government to suppress rights guaranteed by the First Amendment whenever they can get by with it, as was seen with the New York Times own James Risen.
But the New York Times colluded with the CIA in censoring Risen’s reporting. Furthermore, they seemed to have ignored the U.S. government’s momentous argument of the unlimited power of the President to target journalists and activists for “expressive activities,” as the Department of Justice stated in the case of Hedges v. Obama, as described below.
It has frequently been noted there’s been an ongoing “war” against journalists since 9/11. The new DOD Law of War manual makes that official and potentially takes it to the highest level of conflict. While expressing concern, the Times’ editorialist does not seem to realize or care how ominous it is that the DOD now openly declares that journalists may be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” unlawful combatants, as the DOD manual provides, instead of hiding the fact in coded language as done since 2001. Inherent to those classifications is that they represent the “enemy” and can be killed by U.S. officials.
That will come as no surprise to those acquainted with the foreign journalists who have been targeted and killed by drones in places such as Pakistan. Nor will it surprise Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera journalist who was held in Guantanamo for years. But now it is clear that the same fate could be in store for U.S. journalists.
That coded language is embedded in the claim by Military Commissions prosecutors and the Justice Department that there is a “U.S. domestic common law of war.” What they claim is entirely based upon martial law orders of the Civil War and the military’s orders to remove Japanese-Americans from the their homes on the West Coast in World War II. All the cases they rely on for a “domestic law of war” today were judicially condemned during or almost immediately after the wars in which they were a part of.
U.S. Domestic Common Law of War
U.S. Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brig. General Mark Martins and his staff invented what they call the “U.S. domestic common law of war” in filings to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That invention consists only of the martial law precedents of the U.S. Civil War and the removal of the Japanese-Americans from the West Coast at the direction of General DeWitt. Both were later seen as examples of military despotism.
The American people have been inured by a deliberate effort of the U.S. military to accept invocation of the law of war as a talisman to permit any act by officials which would have been known as illegal before 9/11. But as the manual states: “Although the law of war is generally viewed as ‘prohibitive law,’ in some respects, especially in the context of domestic law, the law of war may be viewed as permissive or even as a source of authority. For example, the principle of military necessity in the customary law of war may be viewed as justifying or permitting certain acts.” (Emphasis added.)
“Military necessity” was the law of war basis for removal of the Japanese-Americans. Military necessity though indisputably a part of the law of war is a totalitarian precept when applied to a civilian population.
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