Report: Anwar al-Awlaki Killed In Yemen

The report originates from Yemen’s Defense Ministry. Awlaki was American-born… one of two American citizens on whom Obama is known to have put out secret targeted assassination orders, i.e., “hit” contracts.

Details are scarce. Four other “suspected Al-Qaeda members” were killed with him in a “Friday morning air raid in the northern al-Jawf province.” It is not known whether a U.S. drone killed them. And U.S. officials aren’t talking.

Many of you know my position on this. If Awlaki engaged in war against the United States and was killed in combat, that’s one thing. If Awlaki was assassinated, far from any battlefield, on orders from Obama, that’s another thing altogether. America doesn’t take its revenge in targeted assassinations of its citizens, however evil they may be. Someone needs to remind Obama of the concept of “due process”: it’s not optional… we owe it to American citizens accused of criminal acts.

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  • upyernoz  On Friday September 30, 2011 at 10:51 am

    why does it matter that he was a citizen?

    (i’m not being sarcastic. i’m just trying to figure out where this citizen/non-citizen distinction that everyone is using comes from)

    • Steve  On Friday September 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      You are of course correct, ‘noz. Citizenship is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, nor, as best I can remember, in any part of the Constitution that addresses due process. Everyone has those rights under American law. The only reason it matters here is that if Awlaki were not an American citizen, and his alleged crime were committed in Yemen, there would be no basis to deal with him under American law rather than, say, Yemeni law or international law. America cannot simply go abroad looking for criminals who are not Americans. (America can declare war, but declarations of war seem to have fallen out of fashion in our lifetime… and declaring war on a noun instead of an active entity has proven singularly ineffective.)

      That said, it is particularly chilling that an American president should choose to target an American citizen for assassination, one who has not been convicted of or even tried for a crime in the U.S. If the citizen is directly involved in combat against the United States and is killed in combat, well, c’est la guerre; they could probably be prosecuted for treason if they lived. But if a president has the unitary power to order any American assassinated, what protection do any of us have? What do we do if, say, Rick Perry becomes president, and he hears Jesus whisper in his ear that he should kill all liberals? A presidential power to order assassinations effectively nullifies much of the Bill of Rights, and with it, much of English law since 1215.

      In the Clinton presidency, we tried and convicted terrorists, including citizens who were terrorists, in a court of law; convictions were obtained and punishments assessed and carried out. We need to return to that procedure.

      • upyernoz  On Friday September 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

        I agree that we should go back to putting terrorists on trial in a civilian court. i just don’t think that whether the alleged terrorists is a citizen should be relevant to the question of how we treat them. human rights are human rights.

        i’d be pretty outraged if some other country announced that it had the right to murder me whenever it wanted. if we make a rule that u.s. citizens have to be tried but everyone else can be executed summarily why would any other country ever want to view the u.s. as a friend?

        • Steve  On Friday September 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm

          “i just don’t think that whether the alleged terrorists is a citizen should be relevant to the question of how we treat them.”

          I thought I said that in my last paragraph: “… convicted terrorists, including citizens who were terrorists…” but let me make the rest of it explicit: “… and noncitizens who were terrorists.”

          I agree that human rights should be protected for everyone. Between their imperfect knowledge and their imperfect officers, the courts may not do a perfect job of that, but they’re the best we’ve got. They’re a damned sight more likely to “get it right” than is a presidential assassination order.

          In my original wording I did NOT intend to argue for American exceptionalism. That’s more than our current president and everyone in Congress can say.

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