(On Screen): I've written about the shadow war which is going on. It is deadly earnest, and people live or die as a function of its success or failure. When our shadow warriors fail, we usually know but we rarely learn of their successes.
But today they scored a major victory and have admitted it. A car in Yemen exploded, killing the six men inside it. One of them was Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a top member of al Qaeda, and the others were certainly part of that organization or allied ones.
Initial reports were confused; the car had exploded but no one was quite sure why. At first they thought maybe explosives they were carrying had detonated accidentally. Then there were rumors of a helicopter nearby. Now it's come out that they were killed by what was almost certainly a Hellfire missile fired by a Predator UAV under CIA control. If so, it would have been flying high enough so no one on the ground would have known it was there.
This was a victory, indeed a major victory. Not only were those in that car our enemies and legitimate targets of war, but the fact that we were able to reach out and touch them that way will put the fear of God into all our other enemies around the world, who will at all times wonder whether the CIA has an eye-in-the-sky watching them, too. It is rare for the shadow warriors to be able to go on the offensive, and it must be particularly satisfying for them when they do it and bag such a high profile target.
But I fully expect someone, somewhere, to object to this and to try to claim that we should have "arrested" him and "given him a trial" rather than killing him. Even money that someone eventually characterizes this as a "war crime".
Update: CNN has put up a poll referring to this as "execution without trial".