Like it or not, there is a war on between the United States and the forces of Islamist terrorism. Among the leaders of America’s enemies was Anwar al-Awlaki, who happened to have American citizenship.
Now in war, people are killed. This includes the leaders of one’s enemies – whether they are on the battlefield, in an office in their nation’s capital, or in some other location. They are customarily viewed as lawful targets. But that has not stopped the usual band of “blame America firsters” from wailing and gnashing their teeth over the fact that our military forces took out this enemy of America.
Take Glenn Greenwald, who waxed indignant this morning.
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.
What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. . . .
Greenwald, of course, conveniently fails to note that al-Qaeda has made the world its battlefield and foreign soil its base of operations. Indeed, under the Greenwaldian paradigm, the civil war should have been conducted by police officers with warrants and handcuffs, not the Union army – after all, those killed in the war were American citizens who were never given their day in court, nor did they receive so much as an indictment.
And then there is the ACLU, once again siding with those who hate America and America’s values.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said, “The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President – any President – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.”
ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner said, “Outside the theater of war, the use of lethal force is lawful only as a last resort to counter an imminent threat of deadly attack. Based on the administration’s public statements, the program that the President has authorized is far more sweeping. If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the President does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state.”
Oddly enough, no one has ever claimed that a president has the power to summarily execute any American any where in the world without review. What has been claimed – and what must be claimed if the president’s power as commander-in-chief is to have any meaning – is that a sitting president can and must be free to target the leaders of trans-national organizations engaged in belligerent acts against the United States, even if they happen to be American citizens.
And then there is CAIR, which traditionally mouths condemnations of terrorists while actually condemning America – which I must admit sounds somewhat more patriotic in this statement than either the ACLU or Greenwald.
"As we have stated repeatedly in the past, the American Muslim community firmly repudiated Anwar al-Awlaki's incitement to violence, which occurred after he left the United States. While a voice of hate has been eliminated, we urge our nation's leaders to address the constitutional issues raised by the assassination of American citizens without due process of law."
The reality, of course, is that use of the word “assassination” makes it clear that they’ve already decided that the terrorist is a victim while the US has done evil – making it clear that they really are repudiating the US while embracing their Muslim brother.
But most disturbing is the statement of presidential candidate Ron Paul, who disgraces the nation, the state of Texas, and the Republican Party with his latest outrageous words.
Ron Paul aggressively criticized President Obama today for al-Awlaki's death.
"No I don't think that's a good way to deal with our problems," Paul said in a media avail after his remarks at the Politics + Eggs event here. "He was born here, Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it's sad.
"I think what would people ... have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn't assassinate him, who certainly he had done it. Went and put through the courts then executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this."
Does he feel the same about Bin Laden? "
Not exactly. "Because he was involved in 9/11 and I voted for authority to go after those individuals responsible for 9/11," Paul said. "Al-Awlaki nobody ever suggested that he was participant in 9/11."
By his logic, if Congress votes the president the power to “assassinate an American citizen without trial,” then it is perfectly OK – despite the fact that this would constitute a bill of attainder of the very sort banned by the Constitution. Never mind that this would constitute the passing of a bill of attainder, a power specifically denied to Congress. So let’s quit thinking about this guy as a legitimate – much less serious – candidate for the GOP nomination for the presidency.
And while we are at it, can we get away from the notion that there is something illegitimate about killing someone outside of the United States – American citizen or not – to decapitate an international terrorist organization that is engaged in terrorism against the United States. Those who make war on the United States are not the victims of "assassination" -- they are legitimate military targets.
UPDATE: Here's are two unusual -- but unsurprising -- sources for the "blame America" rhetoric of assassination.
At the Washington-area mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki preached a decade ago, there were few tears over the death of the influential al-Qaida figure who more than anyone gave the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center its unwanted association with international terrorism. But some found the way he was killed to be un-American.
* * *
Leaders of the mosque issued a statement saying that although al-Awlaki "encouraged impressionable American-Muslims to attack their own country," they deplored "extra-judicial assassination" and believed the drone attack "sends the wrong message to law-abiding people around the world."
* * *
Edgar Hopida, a spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, attended al-Awlaki's classes at [San Diego's al-Ribat al-Islami mosque] and said nothing he heard prepared him for the violent rhetoric the cleric went on to preach from Yemen. But he opposes the way the U.S. responded.
"Our main concern is with the fact that our government committed an extrajudicial killing on one of its own citizens without due process," Hopida said. "... He was just marked for assassination, which is against our foundation as Americans."
Folks from the mosques where al-Awlaki preached and 9/11 highjackers worshiped have a problem with the US takeing out a terrorist kingpin. Why am I not surprised?
UPDATE II: Bravo to Don Surber, who notes that Anwar the Dead Terrorist DID, in fact, get his day in court:
The facts are, al-Awlaki was given due process.
From another lawyer, Kenneth Anderson: “When it became public that the Obama administration had put Al-Aulaqi on a target list, the ACLU filed suit on his behalf through his father; it made international law arguments that included the proposition that he was outside of the war zone and hence could only be sought through law enforcement methods, as well as domestic law arguments that this amounted to the execution of a citizen designated by the President without judicial process. The suit was .”
So the American-born Yemeni got his day in court and the judicial system said (blank) him.
You can argue with the outcome but al-Awlaki had his day in court. The judge looked at the lawsuit, said pfft and that was that.
Well said, sir!
And might I add the following: