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Xeni Jardin at 5:40 pm Fri, Sep 30, 2011
People are saying how terrible it is that the US Government assassinated a US citizen but as a non-US citizen myself I take exception with them assassinating people generally.
To be fair, he seemed like a Very Bad Man.
Yeah but so are Bush & Cheney, but their assassination would be a crime too.
“What constitutes due process is whatever we can cobble together to make it sound good.” And so begins the next phase of our decline. . . .
Well, so much for Liberty and Justice for all. Bush and Cheney’s war crimes weren’t enough, now Mr. Peace Prize Obummer needs to get into the act.
Welcome to Der Homeland of the lynch mob.
I’m glad you have so much sympathy towards a person who would have no issues with removing your infidel head from your shoulders if you refused to bow to allah five times a day.
You are in a delusional world where you think that nothing can harm you. Taste reality: You can die from a car bomb created by an islamic fundie just as easily as any person in uniform. That man would have had no trouble ordering your death and the deaths of your family if he thought it would advance his cause. And you know what? He would not have even cared that you or died, just as long as enough infidels died to gain media attention.
If you have seen any of my posts on the various blogs that use disqus, you can see that I am anything but an avid supporter of the U.S. government. But I do support my survival and that of my family, my friends, and my neighbors. I fully support whacking anyone who advocates bombing schools, markets, places of worship, throwing acid on children, or stoning people as part of a religious law. If there was a button I could push to cause the immediate death of every person on earth who supports any sort of holy war that includes violence, I’d push it even if the cost was that I also die.
You need to snap out of your haze long enough to realize that those people are not resistance fighters combating a foreign invader. They are engaged in a religious war against all non-islamic people. As in any religion, there are people who would like to spread their faith to the world. But I’ve yet to open my door to find a pair of jehovah’s witness carrying AK’s and wearing bomb vests on my doorstep and demanding that I submit to jehovah.
Anyone who can proclaim that their faith makes it okay for them to kill anyone who decides not to submit to that faith are no better than mad, rabid dogs and should be put down. I don’t care who or what they worship. Yes, the foaming at the mouth christian fundies are certainly included.
Dude, how many people have these terrorists killed in comparison to how many we’ve killed in response to their actions?
How many lives have we affected with the gutting of our laws and our fear-based system of control since 9/11?
These people aren’t much of a threat but they are a great pretext for a system of fear and control.
You don’t have to have sympathy for the person targeted to be upset at the targeting process. You just need to be able to extrapolate to those you do have sympathy for. The government’s public position is that they don’t need to prove anything to anyone ever, and can assassinate anyone at anytime based on information that they need not let anyone else check. As applied here, it got the right result. It can easily be applied elsewhere to get the wrong result.
If they launch a missile at someone I know, then I’ll be concerned.
What the Obama administration did by assassinating Awlaki, a US citizen, is fundamentally no different than Russia’s assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London, and yet the US and UK at that time expressed shock at Litvinenko’s poisoning. Obama ought to be impeached for this little violation of the Constitution, but he and his cowboy justice pals Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will most likely continue to live a corrupt and free life.
The Awlaki killing doesn’t really compare to Alexander Litvinenko’s assassination; for one, the US freely admits they killed Awlaki, who was involved in planning terrorist attacks and wasn’t exactly readily accessible for “extraordinary rendition”. Compare this to Litvinenko , who had been tried previously, in person and in absentia, and traveled without a security staff.
At worst, Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a whistleblower, most of his writings were about how horrible it was that Russia was backing terrorists, unlike Awlaki, nobody claims Litvinenko inspired, much less directed, others to blow things up.
War is war. Awlaki made his bed, now he can rot in it.
You left an insulting reply (which seems to have disappeared now) about my statement above. I am not a newb. I did pay attention in school. The last US congressional declarations of war were against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania on 5 June 1942. Look it up.
I don’t know where it went. I can not find it, either.
It was deleted. Insulting other commenters is against our comment policy.
I wish you would have told me so that I know what it was that was offensive.
After listening to this Bloggingheads discussion between Robert Wright at Scott Atran:
it sounds like al-Awlaki was one of a very few propagandists that have successfully inspired al-Qaʿida type tactics, so while this is perhaps worrying on legal precedent grounds, I am glad to see the man gone.
Unless al-Awlaki *hypnotized* people into becoming terrorists, I say “not cool”.
He exchanged quite a few emails with Maj. Nidal Hasan, who, if you remember, killed 13 and wounded 29 at Fort Hood. He was also a spiritual advisor to two of the 9/11 hijackers and participated in al-Qaʿida planning before and after those attacks. Despite being born in the United States, this is a country that he loathed and was actively involved in the planning of attacks against it. More importantly, as Atran noted, he is one of the very few clerics who have compelled radical Muslims to express their grievances through the atrocious acts of violence that we associate with al-Qaʿida.
I understand why those of a legalistic bent would not be fond of what happened and I certainly wish that the Obama administration had found a way to capture or kill him that didn’t erode our legal standards, but it is a mark of tunnel vision to ignore the many innocents that were killed as a result of this man’s teachings. Hypnosis may not be the right word to describe his form of indoctrination, but it is pretty close.
I don’t think that anyone’s teachings, no matter how bad they are, should be censored (especially not via assassination). What’s the difference between this and Stalin having Trotsky killed while the latter was in Mexico?
And anyway, isn’t Obama compelling American soldiers to express their grievances through the atrocious acts we associate with the US military?
The victims of Stalin’s gulags are more deserving of pity than Trotsky, who lived by the sword and died by the sword, and probably would have ruled in a similar manner to Stalin if he had won out in the power struggle. Obviously we (thankfully) don’t have the same political structure as the Soviet Union and our rulers are not quite as sociopathic, so it is unfortunate that al-Awlaki was killed in a legally questionable manner.
As for freedom of speech, even U.S. law doesn’t protect against incitement (i.e. if your “teachings” include the righteousness of popping off octogenarian ladies in grocery store parking lots execution-style, you are not free from prosecution when your followers actually do it). Given that al-Awlaki’s teachings encouraged the killing of Americans, I am in no way sad to see those views silenced.
As for the U.S. Military, as Commander-in-Chief, Obama does bear ultimate responsibility for its actions, though unlike the diffuse and cult-like organization of al-Qaʿida, the U.S. Military is an institution of the state with a clear chain of command. I suppose its up to your political views to interpret what that means.
“Obviously we (thankfully) don’t have the same political structure as the Soviet Union and our rulers are not quite as sociopathic”
Not yet, anyways…
The winners write history.
Indeed. There are many Presidents who have committed far more egregious abuses of our Constitution during a time of war than Obama with this assassination. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, arrested all pro-Confederate members of the Maryland legislature during the Civil War. As a northerner, I’m glad that he did so on the balance, but I can’t deny that such a decision makes me a bit queasy.
As for freedom of speech, even U.S. law doesn’t protect against incitement
Even if I take it for granted that this is actually a crime (and I don’t necessarily), is the penalty for illegal speech supposed to be death?
Seriously. If you yell fire in a crowded theater, are you supposed to get the gas chamber?
If you yell fire in a crowded theater, are you supposed to get the gas chamber?
Not since Brandenberg vs Ohio (1969).
Imagine Joseph Goebbels had been an American citizen. In the course of WWII I would have been glad if we had managed to assassinate him. Likewise, in this course of this (admittedly much less dramatic) warfare against al-Qaʿida, I am in favor of assassinating the propagandists that are the organization’s lifeblood if we do not have the capability to capture him.
This isn’t so much yelling fire in a crowded theater as telling disaffected Muslim youth a pack of lies in order to have them kill Americans in a warlike manner. If possible, I would like him to be take out of action in a manner that reflects the maximum possible propriety, but if assassination in the only option, I’d certainly take it over nothing.
So the next time the US tells the Muslim world that we are a nation of laws and morally just and they just laugh at us and point to things like this, we’re not feeding into their own propaganda?
So the next time the US tells the Muslim world that we are a nation of laws and morally just and they just laugh at us and point to things like this, we’re not feeding into their own propaganda
When the US chides China for human rights abuses, haven’t you noticed that Wen Jiabao’s chronic cough sounds like ‘gitmo’.
Given that the vast majority of the Muslim world does not believe the bile that comes from the likes of the late Osama bin Laden and the late Anwar al-Awlaki, and that they will not be producing new distorted narratives and encouraging future nihilists to follow their will, I think that the very narrow cult-like following that they attracted has been dealt a blow to its central nervous system.
I also want to distinguish between illegal and immoral here. While there are certainly legal questions surrounding this assassination, I do not consider it to be immoral. It took one of al-Qaʿida’s most effective propagandists out of service and likely saved the lives of many innocents over the long run.
As to the characteristics of the United States as a nation, we are first and foremost a nation of interests (just as all other nations are) and if you look at our laws, you will see that there are a fair number of ambiguities that can be exploited by whatever coalition of interest groups happens to come to power (both through elections and in the unelected bureaucracy). I do think that it is beneficial to be consistent in how one executes those laws and thus the legal uncertainty around this attack is not a good thing.
However, compared to our actions regarding Libya, where our interests were not at stake and our administration rather cynically interpreted both international and domestic law to pursue its ends, this act is only a small blip.
He was an American citizen. Too bad that none of this was proven in a court of law before we executed him. He wasn’t even indicted.
Welcome to post 9/11 America, where due process is expendable, and Democratic presidents are indistinguishable from, or worse than, their Republican predecessors in their response to alleged terrorists.
That was my response as well. Our Media is bought and paid for to try anyone in print before an actual judge or jury. It’s sad.
There’s little doubt that everything that @Meng_Bomin:disqus said above about Anwar al-Awlaki is true. Don’t blame the media for what happened; they didn’t put al-Awlaki on the CIA’s list for targeted killing or approve it.
The issue is one of whether the US abides by its principles, or whether it discards them when they stand in the way of (as Brainspore put it above) “immediate mission goals”.
If the notion of abiding by the rule of law is too inconvenient (because, for example, your target is in Yemen, and political realities at home wouldn’t allow you to extradite him anyway). the United States will just do whatever the hell it wants to, and make up clever legal arguments to cover its ass.
Yes, it is too bad. However, given that, rightly or wrongly, we are currently waging war against the non-state actor that is al-Qaʿida, I do think that attacking al-Qaʿida opperatives who have purposely relocated to Yemen both to evade capture and meet with others who plan to inflict harm on our nation is justified, and that’s true regardless of whether he had been born in Las Cruces, NM or Sanaʿa. Essentially, it would have been better to put him through formal legal process, but since that wasn’t really an option, we have a case where the perfect was the enemy of the good.
The same media that gave you all those facts about this guy is the media that said there were WMD in Iraq; all of which is called hearsay. Lots of undesirables have been executed based on hearsay, it usually called lynching and in America it was usually an ethnic minority who was lynched.
Due process was a great social advance for all, especially minorities; that advance has become retrograde in Der Homeland of the Secure.
Now if you doubt this, try to imagine the exact same scenario, only with China playing the part of Der Homeland and see if it still feels like the right thing to do.
If you insist in speaking in pseudo germanic dialect, at least try to pay attention to gender.
A pseudo free country deserves a pseudo Germanic moniker.
Scott Atran is not part of the media that you refer to.
My single question to you is, Where is your proof that this is who this man was? Why do I ask that? Because our Media is BOUGHT and PAID For by the same people who had him killed. You have been fed LIES. My reasoning for bringing this up is this is the first step of creating a Lynch MOB. NO ONE deserves what the US did to this USA CITIZEN. Next up, YOU on a platter for everyone to disparage and condemn for nothing more then speaking your opinion!!
It’s not my opinion that Americans should be slaughtered and as thus, none of my opinions are likely to invite the attention of the U.S. Military (or the CIA for that matter).
Actually, I should clarify that, lest I be accused of hypocrisy. I do not think that non-treasonous Americans should be slaughtered. Anwar al-Awlaki may have an American citizenship on account of his birthplace, but I’m pretty sure that he identifies as Yemeni and he has effectively waged war against the United States of America.
Makes no difference legally. You are a US citizen unless you formerly renounce it. Legally, he needed to be tried before being condemned to execution.
That does bring to mind one important question : why didn’t the US fake up a renunciation beforehand? Afterwards, just note that he’d “officially declared” he wasn’t a citizen?
It’d have been unethical and illegal, as opposed to the way it is now where it’s unethical, illegal and makes the country look even worse.
Because legally renouncing US citizenship isn’t you standing up in front of people and saying, “I renounce US citizenship.” It is a legal process involving paperwork and such.
Exactly – fake the paperwork, end up with a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (obtained through illegal process) and then they have their (sham-)legality.
(And since the procedure doesn’t appear to involve any sort of spoken proceedings, JUST paperwork, they could have forged it all rather easily.)Mind you, I’m not advocating this – just saying that if they were going to break a law, they could have done so in such a way that would have dodged THIS question.Instead, they’ve generated exactly the issues we’re discussing now.
This is a death through war, not a death by legal sentence. Yes, the effect is the same in that al-Awlaki is dead by an action of a state mechanism of the United States of America, but I think that calling this an execution rather than an assassination is inaccurate.
Yes but we made assassination illegal by an act of congress in the 1970′s for foreigners, let along US citizens.
He still had the same rights as any US citizen, including the right to due process and a trial.
A war on an idea cannot be considered a justifiable war in relation to an actual war on physical opponents committing crimes that can be used as evidence, so this explanation fails to achieve good reasoning for an untried execution.
From the information contained in the article it sounds as though his case maybe was straddling a line where the definition between citizen and military enemy are unclear. Personally I really wish we had erred on the capture and trial side, not the least reason for which being that our courts need to tread that territory and help clarify that line.
But, assuming it actually was true that he could not have been captured without undue risk, what do others here think we should have done? Waited for a future opportunity at capture, perhaps?
There’s not enough information there to make me feel qualified to have an opinion on whether he really was an “imminent threat”, but out of curiosity if we assume he was, what should have been done in place of an effort to kill him, assuming also that the above (capture not practical) were true?
“What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war.”
That’s legalese for “fuck it, nobody’s gonna miss him.”
Surely you noticed that few people seem to miss their liberties either ? Maybe that is the real point here.
…it is a mark of tunnel vision to ignore the many innocents that were killed as a result of this man’s teachings.
Likewise, it is a mark of tunnel vision to ignore the many people who will be inspired to commit acts of terror by his martyrdom or lose faith in America’s ability to adhere to its own stated values. You say he should have been assassinated because he was a recruiting tool? Well, we’ve just created another.
The C.I.A. has a very long and well-deserved reputation of pushing aside things like legality, democracy, and morality for short-term goals of dubious value. “The ends justify the means” would actually be a step up, because most often it’s “the immediate mission goals justify the means even if we create bigger long-term problems in the process.”
You say he should have been assassinated because he was a recruiting tool? Well, we’ve just created another.
I think that he was more effective alive than dead. Also, if Atran’s descriptions are correct (he’s an antropologist who has been studying jihadis for some time now) there are relatively few jihadi propagandists who have managed to find the type of following and develop the bizarre, twisted worldview (which among other things holds that NATO was fighting against the Bosnian Muslims when we intervened in Yugoslavia) that is found in al-Qaʿida and that al-Awlaki was among them and that he would not be easily replaced as a propaganda tool. So, I do think that his death will have a depressive effect on the number of converts to this sick distortion of Islam and thus reduce the risk of future terrorism.
It’s possible that his death will draw attention to him as a martyr, but given he is already notorious, I don’t think that his death will have the same effect as that of Sayyid Qutb.
“What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war” -wait, you mean the war that was never declared by congress? It has the same legal grounding as the war on drugs and the war on poverty. So, this is supposed to make us feel better about it?
If the constitution can be ignored in this one special instance, than it can’t be relied on for any of us. All it takes is a wrong address for a no-knock warrant, and anyone could be on the receiving end of this type of “due process” . Tell me again how we’re the land of the free…
Quite right. When was the last time the US Congress exercised their constitutional role and declared war? (1942, I think.) This isn’t just a detail of technicalities. This means that law doesn’t matter when the powerful don’t want it to matter. The US has flouted its basic law (that’s the Constitution) since about day one — consider Indian treaties. If gov’t ignores inconvenient laws, why shouldn’t the rest of us? Fuck legality and morality and ethics, just DO IT. This attitude informs the cops who whack peaceful protesters, and the financial whizzes who rob us blind and provoke the protests, and… oh, you get the picture. Legality is a bad joke. I’m not laughing.
December 7, 1941 was the “day that will live in infamy.”
Congress declared war against the Imperial Government of Japan the following day, and against the Government of Germany on December 11, 1941.
The last US congressional declarations of war were against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania on 5 June 1942. Look it up.
Obama has been very compromising, for good or ill, so far.
But this compromise, this one is with the wrong guy. I hope Obama can play that fiddle like charlie daniels himself.
I’m sorry, but al-Awlaki goes in the “fuck it” file, along with Osama bin Laden. Remember when Obama promised to shut down Guantanamo and try the remaining detainees in US courts on US soil? Republicans flat out refused, partly because they weren’t giving Obama any slack, and partly because because each one of the moth-eaten prisoners was a Vercingetorix who also had the supernatural power to cause brave men like themselves to crap their pants just by being on the same continent as them. And these were people tough enough to justify torturing other people!
The Democrats, especially the ones in New York, just plain chickened out. I forget Holy Joe’s position, but who cares?
I imagine that, after all this, Obama just said “fuck it” and if Republicans and hawkish Dems handed Bush a legal superweapon they can’t take back, Obama might as well use it to clean up the mess his predecessor left. And the CIA got to have some pre-Church Committee fun again.
Doesn’t help all those dead wedding guests in Afghanistan, though.
When did we declare war again? What state are we at war with?
This is more like the “War” on Drugs than any actual war. What are our victory conditions in this “war?” When will we know it is over? How will we be able to tell?
You are in a delusional world where you think that nothing can harm you.
I know I can be harmed, but I’m more concerned about heart disease, cancer, car accidents, falling in the shower, and everything else that is more likely to harm me than terrorism. Aren’t you?
The President of the USA is the chief executive of the armed forces, many of whose members are currently deployed in very dangerous places around the world. Sometimes they die because of his policies; occasionally because of things he personally authorized. I imagine he takes that pretty hard.
John Kerry had a good line once: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” President Obama might well have such a question in mind when he signs off on an assassination order for someone like Anwar al-Awlaki. In his position I might be able to explain to the parents of a soldier who died apprehending a militant fugitive that their son or daughter died because America doesn’t assassinate its own citizens via drones and secret bits of paper. I might be able to explain to them how we use courts and prisons and due process.
I don’t think that would comfort them, much.
I don’t care for your jingoism.
We either have a system of rule of law or we don’t. If we don’t, all bets are off.
I didn’t mean to be jingoistic, but I appreciate that it’s a sensitive point.
As for the rule of law and all bets being off, I think we were well past that from the first moment of the republic. The rules are words, and the application of those words changes with the times, individuals, and scales involved. Competing interests are often weighed against each other in law, and justice for one interest often requires injustice for another
It’s an imperfect system. Elements of it have been improved over time, while other elements have gotten worse. Which have done which would depend on whom you asked. But I don’t think the assassination of Mr. Awlaki means the rule of law is terminal or illusory; it was just never what you thought it was, and won’t become what you want it to be.
Has anyone else seen the advertisement in the sidebar at the bottom of page one of this article? This seems hard to believe: does the advertiser know what “Strange Fruit” even means?
The DHS calls itself “das US-Heimatschutzministerium”., while the German wikipedia refers to it as das Ministerium für Innere Sicherheit der Vereinigten Staaten Make of that what you will.
what’s really tragic here is that Obama was a civil rights lawyer and taught constitutional law. Just wonder what his old professors at Harvard Law School are thinking now if any are still around…
There is no legal way to “renounce citizenship through your actions.” That’s why we have treason charges.
The only legal way to renounce citizenship is to explicitly renounce it and go through the legal process of doing so.
Your personal definition of citizen is not legally binding. The laws of the USA are.
Rule of Law, buddy.