Toure: America May Have Committed War Crimes Via Drone--but Keep Up Strikes Anyway

The MSNBC anchor adds, "I wonder if some in this nation are getting a little soft when they are defending the civil liberties of Al Qaeda members."

The progressive music journalist and television personality Toure has joined his MSNBC co-host, Krystal Ball, in defending America's drone war, even though he thinks war criminals may be running it!

That isn't misrepresentation or hyperbole.

"I know war crimes may have been committed via our drone program," Toure writes in a depressing opinion piece published Monday at, "but I am pro killing Al Qaeda leaders via drones even if they are American citizens. That is not a war crime. The authorization for use of military force gives the president that power and frankly you cannot join al Qaeda in a time of war and traitorously plot against us in a foreign country and expect Constitutional protection."

He ignores the fact that procedures for treasonous citizens are explicitly dictated by the Constitution, and that the controversial subject here isn't whether Al Qaeda members should be killed, it is the process that we use to determine that someone is in fact a member of Al Qaeda.

Later in his piece, he states, "a special court to oversee who is being targeted would be a good idea," then says, "I wonder if some in this nation are getting a little soft when they are defending the civil liberties of al Qaeda members," without seeming to realize the contradiction. He adds, "the drone program is a huge asset," then repeats, "I am not pro-drone." He can't bring himself to condemn what Obama has done, or to fail to condemn what Obama has done, so he "hedges" in a way that amounts to nonsensical self-contradiction.

Here he is addressing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki specifically:

If you are in al Qaeda working to kill Americans you should be killed. Anwar al Awlaki, an operational figure involved with multiple attacks, a man convicted in absentia by a Yemeni court of belonging to al Qaeda, a man hiding in a tribal area from which American soldiers may not have escaped, that man should have been killed.

Abdulrahamn [sic] al Awlaki, his 16-year-old son, was not in al Qaeda. He was killed while looking for his father who'd died two weeks earlier. Some say he was targeted, which would be tragic and a war crime, but some say he was not targeted but standing too near an al Qaeda official who was targeted.

We will never know.

I'd like Toure to understand why we'll never know. It's because American citizens and their representatives permit Obama to operate in secret, rather than demanding transparency and accountability. Dick Cheney, David Addington, and John Yoo made a fetish of an opaque, unconstrained presidency. Supposed guardians of Madison's Constitution like the Claremont Institute bizarrely went along. A conservative movement that claims we ought to deeply mistrust Obama's character and judgment is perfectly happy to let him secretly kill Americans without any due process. And a disturbing number of progressives and liberals who once articulated principled objections to this behavior, like Toure, now effectively ally themselves with Cheney and Yoo. They pay lip service to the idea of more transparency, but no more than lip service. They don't advocate putting drone transparency at the top of the progressive agenda.

They don't start protests calling for it.

They politely suggest it as an aside.

If the transparency never comes, they'll keep supporting Obama and speaking out as apologists for his drone program. Toure explicitly says that official secrecy may well be obscuring war crimes and the murder of a 16-year-old American citizen, but he still supports the man in charge. This won't cost him his stature as a prominent progressive with an MSNBC gig.

"I understand the fears of progressives, as Obama conducts a foreign policy that looks a lot like Bush's," Toure writes. "But we face a lot of the same problems that he did." Yes, we do face a lot of the same problems -- like pundits who become incoherent as the zealous defense of a president from "their side" overwhelms their previously stated principles and critical faculties. At this point it wouldn't surprise me if there were prominent progressives who'd defend Obama if he re-invaded Iraq and celebrated by landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit.

Think I'm wrong?

Okay, how about this: I wouldn't be surprised if a prominent progressive who thought Obama committed a war crime would react by writing a favorable opinion column about him at*.

Can't deny that!

*I wonder if some in this nation are getting a little soft on war crimes...

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