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Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law





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The United States must be able to distinguish between common criminals and unlawful enemy combatants and then apply the appropriate rule of law to each category with unabashed clarity.

The confusion associated with comprehending fundamental legal concepts associated with how America conducts the "War on Terror" centers around the unwillingness of the U.S. government to properly distinguish al-Qaeda unlawful enemy combatants from domestic jihadi terrorists. Instead, the terms "domestic terrorist," "domestic jihadist," or just "terrorist," are frequently employed to describe all categories of actors--unlawful enemy combatants as well as common criminals--leaving both domestic and international audiences puzzled as to what rule of law should to apply to a given act of terror. If the American government cannot properly differentiate between an enemy combatant and a domestic criminal, it is little wonder that attendant legal positions associated with investigation techniques, targeted killing, arrest, detention, rendition, trial, and interrogation are subject to never-ending debate.

Without a significant about face in leadership that is willing to discern the basic difference between an unlawful enemy combatant and a domestic criminal, America's reputation will remain under a cloud of suspicion and confusion regarding the legality of its actions associated with two significant areas of critique: rendition and targeted killing vis-á-vis unlawful enemy combatants in the War on Terror. The Obama Administration must drastically improve its dismal performance in articulating and communicating that distinction to the public.

Recommended Citation

Jeffrey F. Addicott, Rightly Dividing the Domestic Jihadist from the Enemy Combatant in the “War Against Al-Qaeda” – Why it Matters in Rendition and Targeted Killings, 45 Case W. Res. J. Int’l L. 259 (2012).

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