The recent death of terror leader Anwar al-Awlaki marked a great victory in American efforts to dismantle foreign Islamic terror organizations aimed at killing more Americans and our allies.
Al-Awlaki’s death in a drone strike is yet another blow deadly to al-Qaeda and their most active affiliate. The world is a better place without him in it. He has been tied to numerous attacks and killings, perhaps most notably (at least here in the U.S.), with the Fort Hood shooting. Without a doubt, he was an enemy of the United States, and has the blood of innocents on his hands. Nobody should shed a tear over his meeting a violent end.
However, it is exactly these reasons, the fact that this was an evil person and a ruthless terrorist, that I’m intrigued by the government handling of his death. This is an emotional case study to be sure.
Regardless of all of the aforementioned facts, there is a major issue to be considered in all of this: al-Awlaki was an American citizen. With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul who has pressed the issue, I have heard very little mentioned on this point, and those that have (typically pundits on talk shows) have completely dismissed that fact as irrelevant. Considering the list of horrific crimes, innocent victims, and acts of evil that characterized al-Awlaki’s life, I am not surprised that nobody seems eager to, in todays soundbite society, put themselves on the side of criticizing the shooting order of one of the worlds worst terrorists. The emotion that is inherent in a situation like this may make a conversation I am trying to have impossible.
By the terms of our Constitution, an American citizen is entitled to due process. My political opponents as well as some courts have made it clear that somehow illegal immigrants and foreign terrorists are entitled to due process, Constitutional rights, and all the benefits and protection of a citizen. How then is it that a citizen is not entitled to these benefits, rights, and treatment?
Do not misunderstand me; I am not advocating for the blanket restriction of force against a terrorist in this circumstance. I am simply pointing out a contradiction in the position of many in politics. Furthermore, I do believe this sets a dangerous precedent. I don’t know about you, but as a general rule, I am not at all in favor of having the government assassinate American citizens. This is a very, very dangerous first in our history.
I believe there were ways the government could’ve prevented such a dangerous beach of public trust in this case. Was al-Awlaki a dangerous enemy of the state. Absolutely. Was the death of al-Awlaki necessary to preserve the lives of Americans and our allies. You betcha. That said, there was no indictment.(pending or otherwise), no conviction, no criminal charges filed, nothing in the legal system that could be pointed to as even a half-hearted attempt at due process. Further, perhaps the Congress could have taken the action of revoking al-Awlaki’s citizenship, which would have made out open season on this evil killer. We haven’t even been told by the Obama Administration if there was a heightened standard of evidence for al-Awlaki based on his American citizenship. Had any of this occurred, this entire discussion (or at least a large portion) would be a moot point.
The emotional charge of this situation fascinates me. This is one of those ‘ticking bomb’, worst-case scenarios that people talk about in debates or as an academic exercise. How much liberty, what rights, what part of the Constitution are you ready to shred for the sake of killing our capturing a killer? Are you willing to risk the possibility that someday that same governmentmay decide to take aim at you our a loved one? Nothing in government happens all at once; it is always incremental. So, the first step towards empowering a government over the citizenry is always the most dangerous.
I hope that all Americans think of these important issues as we move forward.