I just got a weather forecast for hell: temperatures are dropping and a deep freeze is expected.
Glenn Greenwald is right:
It was first reported in January of last year that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki. No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was “considering” indicting him). Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt. When Awlaki’s father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were “state secrets” and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts. He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner. When Awlaki’s inclusion on President Obama’s hit list was confirmed, The New York Times noted that “it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.”
After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.). It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its. The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world. The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.
The problem that the president has ignored and that those cheering the death of this scumbag have forgotten is that al-Awlaki is not a terrorist. He has not even broken the law. He is innocent.
Until he is indicted, tried, and convicted of crimes by a jury of his peers.Then we can drag his terrorist hide to the execution chamber, strap him down, and give him the hot shot. I have no problem with that scenario at all. If there is going to be a death penalty in America, certainly those who advocate the mass murder of American citizens and work to carry it out deserve it the most.
If al-Awlaki had been killed in a drone attack in a cave where he just happened to be hiding along with other AQAP terrorists, we could all hold our noses and say it was a legal hit — despite knowing it to be a transparent fiction — simply because there was no stated intent to single out the terrorist for assassination. A patina of plausible deniability encompasses the act; not satisfactory to purists like Greenwald but good enough as a legal defense.
Recall that our efforts to target Saddam’s and Gaddafi’s known hideouts and bomb shelters could be similarly justified because we were hitting “command and control” targets. If they happened to be where the bombs were falling — a wish devoutly hoped for — well, c’est la guerre.
Indeed, we are at war. And if an American citizen chooses to fight on the other side, he takes his chances like the rest of the enemy combatants.
But knowingly, coldly and with malice aforethought, if we put his name on a missile and use it to kill him, it becomes a shocking transgression against the Constitution and flies in the face of 222 years of American law and tradition. Al-Awlaki was not a terrorst. No court said he was. No prosecutor ever indicted him. No jury ever convicted him. He was, as I said, an innocent American citizen under the law.
Would I be making the same argument if Bush were president? I would hope so. The case of Jose Padilla was similar in the sense that Padilla was innocent, although he was eventually indicted, tried and convicted (not of trying to detonate a dirty bomb). But at the time that he was picked up and indefinitely detained, his rights were trampled upon by a government that used the excuse of being at war to justify his unconstitutional detention.
Targeting foreigners is one thing. Targeting your own for assassination is what the Soviets, Gaddafi and the Iranians do to their citizens.
I hardly think following their example makes us very “exceptional,” do you?