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Al Qaeda Doesn't Merit Due Process

November 19, 2002

In "The 'Good Guy' Turns Assassin" (Opinion, Nov. 17), Laura K. Donohue wrote that the killing of the six Al Qaeda members in Yemen "was the first time [the Bush administration] has done so outside Afghanistan; [and] it is the first time it has done so in a country with which the U.S. is not at war." She rightly says, "We aren't at war with Yemen. We are at war with a method, which is something much more amorphous." In fact, the U.S. was never at war with Afghanistan. Further, the CIA operation was probably conducted with the cooperation of Yemeni authorities.

Donohue stated, "Congress gave the Bush administration the power to determine who is a terrorist and to go after him anywhere in the world." Anywhere, that is, that is beyond the reach of law enforcement. Marib province, Yemen, is ruled by tribal warlords. Military action is the only option when the enemy operates beyond the reach of law enforcement. Law enforcement officials are arresting Al Qaeda suspects in the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia.

The enemy has blurred the line between law enforcement and military action. Now that the enemy has raised the stakes of inaction, we are left to act while the academic world debates the fine points. Donohue's decidedly Western approach is one of our cultural strengths. The enemy is exploiting that strength as a weakness. Our failure to recognize this is easily as dangerous as the power that has been legally granted to the president by Congress.

William West

Los Angeles

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I do not consider the missile attack on the Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen assassinations. It was a military strike on a military target. If our enemies don't wear uniforms, don't mark their vehicles with insignias and don't have any goal other than martyrdom, the U.S.' war with terrorists is difficult to prosecute. But it is war.

I applaud Secretary of State Colin Powell's and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's fortitude in dynamically and quickly retooling our military and intelligence agencies for fighting a clandestine enemy within the framework of the Constitution and U.N. Charter. The CIA has always been an armed agency. And President Ford's executive order was meant for heads of state, not malicious, suicidal super-villains. Words like "assassination" and "suspected terrorist" only serve our enemies' interests, and the memory of Sept. 11 is still much too vivid and horrible to discount their acts as crimes worthy of due process. The enemy over Pearl Harbor would not have had such a luxury.

Mitch Twersky

Culver City

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