Lousy War-on-Terror Arguments Used to Justify Preemptive Strike Against Neighbors

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Well, this has just leapt into contention for Argument of the Year: 

"I think legally that term has sort of been evolving especially given changes of our government’s definition of 'imminent,'" attorney Robert Berry, who is representing Woodward, told Florida Today.

That's true, and I have complained before about the misuse perversion of that term ("imminent") to justify dropping bombs on people who might, at some indeterminate future time, pose a threat to America. See, e.g., "The Drone Memo: More Comedy About the Death of Freedom" (Feb. 6, 2013); "AG Sort of Explains When and Why the Government Could Drop a Bomb on You" (Mar. 6, 2012). Sorry, that's just not what "imminent" means.

But that is how the government has been using it, argued Mr. Woodward's attorneys, and so it must be a plausible construction of the word as used in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which authorizes deadly force to protect against "imminent death" or "the imminent commission of a forcible felony." That's why Mr. Woodward should be allowed to argue to a jury that he was legitimately making a preemptive strike against an "imminent" threat when he snuck up on some people having a barbecue and opened fire, killing two of them. Or so said a motion filed this week.

According to the report, there was a "feud" between Woodward and three of his neighbors. Police had been called "numerous times" but there's no mention in the report of any physical attacks. "[I]n the hours prior to the shooting," the motion reportedly says, "all three men were yelling at Woodward and … this type of behavior had been ongoing for over a month." They called him names and allegedly said "Come on, boys. We're going to get him." Again, this was "in the hours prior to the shooting," not immediately before the shooting. Is that "imminent"?

The term has "become more expansive than someone putting a gun right to your head," Berry was quoted as saying, at least partly because of the way the government has been using it. "It's things that could become, you know, an immediate threat." Did he start to say "could become an imminent threat," only to realize embarrassment was imminent? I bet he did.

The motion then reportedly doubles down on the argument by invoking the "Bush Doctrine," said to be "a concept that justifies a pre-emptive attack based on the need to defend from a threat." Like the threat posed by Iraq, Bush meant, and now the one allegedly posed (at some indeterminate future time) by Syria? The problem is that without using the concept (and actual meaning) of "imminent," that argument would also justify Pearl Harbor, or pretty much any other aggressive action, according to the aggressor. If the victim "could become, you know, an immediate threat," the gloves are off?

That argument shouldn't get to a jury in this case, whether or not Congress is willing to buy it.