US drone strikes on targets


Sir, – David McClean (June 11th) describes President Obama’s policy of assassinating suspected terrorists as “illegal”. While not necessarily condoning the US president’s actions on a moral level, I disagree with such a characterisation.

Going as far back as Magna Carta there has been a legal distinction between war and peace. While police in the United States require a warrant to search a private home, it would seem strange to suggest that US military personnel should have sought judicial approval as they went from building to building during the second World War.

The legal status of men such as Abu Yahya al-Libi is somewhat similar to that of Confederate soldiers during the American civil war. During the conflict the United States government (legally) killed thousands of its own citizens without due process. Such victims were effectively stateless as the federal government never officially recognised the Confederacy. While the distinction between terrorist (ie one who engages in sedition) and criminal is far more blurred in the modern world, the principle remains the same. – Yours, etc,


Columbia University,


New York, US.