October 2nd, 2011

The Applauded Assassination of an American Citizen

In one of the most pivotal political scenes in the Star Wars series, Padmé Amidala observes Senator Palpatine using the Clone Wars to justify the arrogation of emergency powers. Palpatine gains control over the Senate and judiciary, declares martial law, and transforms the Republic into the first Galactic Empire—naming himself its emperor, of course.

The crowd goes wild, with Senators and observers alike loudly cheering this development. Leaning over to her companion, Padmé makes an insightful analysis which has application to so many similar events in our own day: “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.”

The past few days have once against brought this fictional event into unfortunate reality. A vast majority of Americans have, in the past few days, been either indifferent to or elated with the news of the death of Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemeni-based individual alleged by the government to have been involved in planning operations for al-Qaeda.

What’s different about al Awlaki is that unlike most of the other individuals branded as “enemy combatants” by the government, he was a U.S. citizen. He was born in the United States, earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University, earned an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University, and worked on a Doctorate degree in Human Resource Development at George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

In April of 2010, the Obama administration put al Awlaki’s name on a list of individuals approved for targeted killing—meaning an authorized man-hunt, off any general battlefield, in which the offensive, premeditated murder of that person would be deemed permissible by the government carrying it out. That this man was an American created only limited concern within the government, delaying the inevitable disregarding of that fact for a few weeks.

No indictment was ever made. No evidence was presented of his guilt. When Awlaki’s father sought a court order to prevent Obama from murdering his son, the Department of Justice argued that the issue involved “state secrets” and thus the courts could have no say in the matter. No judicial review or pretense of oversight was even sought by the administration.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically mandates that “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” As with almost all of the other amendments, along with entire swaths of the original document itself, the government has defied any constitutional restriction and flagrantly arrogated to itself, as did Palpatine, the authority to defy the existing law in order to impose an authoritarian dictatorship.

And the people applaud. Of this, Glenn Greenwald comments:

From an authoritarian perspective, that’s the genius of America’s political culture. It not only finds ways to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process). It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.

The people’s “representatives” have by and large shown an extremely bipartisan reflection of that general agreement with this assassination. Two examples illustrate the mood on Capitol Hill:

“It’s something we had to do,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The president is showing leadership. The president is showing guts.”

“It’s legal,” said Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “It’s legitimate and we’re taking out someone who has attempted to attack us on numerous occasions. And he was on that list.”

And so the list becomes a self-authorizing justification for murder. After all, it is now assumed that anybody on the list is indeed guilty of the alleged criminal behavior. Never mind that due process exists specifically to require that the government prove the allegation rather than simply asserting its truth on their word alone. And yet, when challenged, the Obama administration simply insists that Awlaki was guilty because they say so.

It’s important to keep in mind that the government routinely makes allegations that have no basis whatsoever in fact. The examples of Brandon Mayfield and José Padilla, among numerous others, portray a government which is repeatedly wrong; taking such fabrications at face value, then, becomes laughably absurd. In short, the government has no credibility. Asking us to believe its allegations—especially when it wants to kill an American citizen—without presenting any evidence demonstrating their accuracy is completely improper.

Due process exists for an important reason, namely, so that the government cannot simply claim that I committed a crime and then punish me for it, all while refusing to let me challenge that allegation. Barack Obama, the Nobel peace prize-winning laureate that he supposedly is, has made himself judge, jury, and executioner of a fellow American citizen. He has assassinated another American who he felt deserved to be on a special list created for the purpose, and he has been widely supported by the bloodthirsty, bipartisan cadre in Congress and throughout the country.

It is quite possible that Awlaki indeed was plotting attacks against people and places in America. Yet until the Constitution is respected and followed, until people like Awlaki are given their day in court, and until the government renounces its secretive refusal to allow the courts to review its decisions, the government cannot and should not be trusted. What could have legitimately been a defensive act is, instead, a murderous, dictatorial decree wherein the President of the United States has claimed the authority and audacity to snuff out the life of a fellow citizen with no due process or external review.

12 Responses to “The Applauded Assassination of an American Citizen”

  1. Connor
    October 2, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Lest it be looked over amidst the other links provided, this exchange between the White House Press Secretary and Jake Tapper, and ABC reporter, is a must watch.

    This video clip of the alleged “terrorist” is also insightful.

  2. Kelly W.
    October 2, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    But to allow Awlaki a genuine, fair trial would also expose the government’s and CIA’s role in creating al Qaeda in the first place.

    This is why no one in Guantanamo has ever had a trial, and why the CIA continues to “rendition” people who could spill the beans against government complicity.

    This is also the reason no one has ever been held accountable or tried for the lies of Weapons of Mass Destruction or the attacks of 9/11.

    This is also the reason why Osama bin Laden – a one-time agent of the CIA (Tim Osman) – was allegedly shot and “dumped at sea.” Instead of bringing him to trial to risk too many facts coming to light, they conveniently get rid of him by concocting some far-fetched story.

    To allow any of these people a fair trial would only invite too much information to be exposed. It is far easier to just “eliminate” them, even if the cost is the lives of innocent people, written off as collateral damage.

    When a country’s leaders authorize such killings, they are only admitting their own guilt.

  3. Connor
    October 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Here is an excerpt from Ron Paul’s op-ed on the issue:

    On Feb. 3, 2010, Dennis Blair, then the country’s director of national intelligence, admitted before the House Intelligence Committee that “Being a U.S. citizen will not spare an American from getting assassinated by military or intelligence operatives.” This open admission by an Obama administration official, not even attempting to keep it classified or top secret, sets a dangerous new precedent in our history.

    The precedent set by the killing of Awlaki establishes the frightening legal premise that any suspected enemy of the United States – even if they are a citizen – can be taken out on the President’s say-so alone. Part of the very concept of citizenship is the protection of due process and the rule of law. The President wants to spread American values around the world but continues to do great damage to them here at home, appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree.

  4. October 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    The 5th Amendment also contains this text: “except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger”.

    I do not quote that to legitimize an assassination of a US citizen, but to point out that the real problem is the Orwellian war we involved in.

    On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I wondered, “how much revenge is enough?” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta answered my question, “we will never stop fighting them.”

  5. Connor
    October 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    John, that text refers only to the first clause of the amendment:

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger…

    In other words, the exception of war or public danger is specifically applied only to that provision—not to the due process clause.

  6. October 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    It would be interesting to put a short list together of the Bill of Rights that are eroded to the point where they basically are non-existent and what was one of the major modern things that put the nail into them or put it almost to death. I think I might work on it and post it here. Here would be an example:

    1st Amendment
    Status:Partially Dead
    Reason:No religion in government schools.
    Explanation: Mass exodus of a religious people to non-religious, no way to integrate child’s education directly with religious ideas.

    4th Amendment
    Status: Dead
    Reason: [Un]patriot Act (one of many others)
    Explanation: Surveillance on citizens, etc.

    I’m not well versed in these things but I know a little bit. It would be interesting to see a list like that though, there’s no way for it to be all inclusive because there is so much out there. If anyone else would be interested in doing it, it would be interesting to see.

  7. October 3, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Those that think it cannot happen here probably have forgotten about the Extermination Order against the Mormons, clearing Washington D.C. of the Bonus Army and the infamous raid on the Branch Davidian compound.

  8. October 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    This is a little lengthy, so I apologize in advance.

    I posted this response to a previous blog post. It is even more relevant to this one:

    “I’ve recently been listening to a book on cd called ‘In the Garden of Beasts’ by Erik Larson. It chronicles the events in Germany that lead to the rise of Hitler, the holocaust, WWII, etc…

    It is amazing to me how the citizens of a country, who believed their country was a ‘free democracy’, a country that was essentially at peace with the world, allowed their country to fall quickly under the power of a totalitarian regime. It happened over the course of just a few years and it has EVERYTHING to do with the topic of this post.

    We’ve all heard this statement before. It originated from Martin Niemöller, an early supporter of the Nazi regime who became disillusioned once it was too late. I think for a lot of us the statement has become a bit of a cliché, and perhaps we view it as being overly simplistic:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Having listened to the above-mentioned book I have to say that it really was that simple. People were going about their lives, going out on weekends having a good time, going to dinner, going to a show, etc, and all the while the nazis were committing atrocities all around them.

    The people chose to ignore the most basic principles of liberty and justice because the ends supposedly justified the means. For instance, between June 30 and July 2, 1934, Hitler and the Nazis carried out a series of political executions. The event came to be known as “The Purge.” All-told, the nazis admitted to murdering over 80 people. By some estimates the true number was closer to 1,000.

    Whether 80 or 1,000 though, the people knew that it had taken place. They knew that due process was not followed. They knew that according to the most basic principles of law and justice, the killings amounted to cold-blooded murder. But they did nothing. In fact, when Hitler addressed the public and claimed that the killings were done to preempt a consiracy to overthrow the German government, the people generally supported the action.

    Nevermind that no such conspiracy ever existed. The fact of the matter was that the overwhelming majority of those killed were bad men. Many of them were, themselves, guilty of committing ruthless atrocities. They were scum, just like Warren Jeffs, and just like Muammar Gaddafi.”

    And I could now add “just like Anwar al Awlaki…”

    I have little doubt that Awlaki was an enemy of the United States, a coward, a terrorist, etc, that deserved to be brought to justice, but those who applaud the assassination have a major paradigm problem. I have read their statements. I have heard their arguments. They go something like this, “Awlaki was a terrorist! He wanted to kill us all! He said he hated the US and he left the US. He does not deserve constitutional protections!”

    I will agree that he probably does not “deserve” constintutional protections. The problem is that the rest of us do, and you simply cannot pick and choose who gets them.

    My response to some of those that applaud the assination was something like this. So just to be clear, if I am accused of doing something bad, at the very least it has to be proven that I actually did somethihng bad. But if I am accused of doing something very, very, very, very bad, then suddenly it makes sense that they shouldn’t have to prove it? It makes sense that as long as the President believes I did it (or says he does) that he can order my assassination?

    I have been falsely accused by a government agency in the past. I am glad that no one within that agency had the power to unilaterally pass judgment on me. I fear that this open defiance of the due process that is gauranteed to all US citizens by the Constitution, and the accompanying “thunderous applause” will set the precedent for more of the same. Who will be safe?

  9. October 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    I thought Obama was opposed to “torture” and holding terrorists without mirandizing and three hots and a cot and all the perks. Then he goes out and butchers everyone on the not-so-secret hit list. What a flying hypocrite that Sotero. Where’s Code Pink when you need them, off on some flotilla?

  10. Nathan000000
    October 8, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    This reminds me of President John Taylor’s reaction to a lynching in Salt Lake. When Sam Joe Harvey, a black man who murdered a law officer, was lynched in 1883, President Taylor spoke at the officer’s funeral and condemned the mob that had avenged him, saying that “he wanted all men to have the benefit of the law.” Harvey was clearly guilty and deserved the punishment, but it was no excuse to forego his constitutional right to a trial, and President Taylor made sure that everyone knew that.

  11. October 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    @Liz Obama’s record on human rights has been pretty terrible thus far – I can’t name anything he’s really resolved on that front. And until somebody is actually convicted of a crime the term “suspected terrorists” or “alleged terrorists” would probably be more appropriate – the issue here is that so many people are being arrested without charges or any evidence presented of guilt.

  12. December 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Quoting from a movie and recommending an ABC television clip are the real fundemental things wrong with America. I thought the FLDS rejected Hollywood culture! Going under the hypnotic spell of Los Angeles moving imagery is really the problem, as I think Warren Jeffs will attest. Take for example the real point of Star Wars- to portray the Empire of the Galaxay as evil and planet Earth’s culture (led by L.A. we discover) to be the “plucky lil rebel”. Probably, however, the real Empire of the Galaxy is Jehovah’s many powerful civilizations of the many planets where peace, decency, love, and good feelings are the rule. Opposing this is Earth’s mankind following the Devil (as all show-business people do) and mounting a small, useless anti-God rebellion based on the sinful pracices of Satan and Hollywood. Although “visitors from afar” (Angels) have visited us to tell us this, Satan continues to push this rebellion and here we see Hollywood persisting in this by characterizing the civilizations of the Galaxy as “evil”. As our space program gets ready to conquer the Galaxy, “our” movies characterize the sinful earthlings as the good people. How like Ronald Reagan, an actor, calling the well-meaning Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” when really it is Reagan’s own Hollywood that is the Evil Entertainment Empire! I never watch any television nor do I watch movies, so I won’t be seeing the brainwash the ABC video clip dishes out!

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