Shock And Awlaki

« October 2011 »


So now that I've reduced my research pile from a mountain to a coal-mined, mountaintop-removed mountain, I can turn to more topical... topics. And what's more topical than Friday's military action/assassination/execution/murder of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

This move should make you squirm in your fucking chair. And while I shouldn't have to point this out to any of you, it is possible to be generally pleased that al-Awlaki is dead on account of him being a bastard, while simultaneously being generally displeased by the manner in which his death was brought about. To wit.

First, of course, al-Awlaki had American citizenship. Which means, as unpleasant as it may seem, the guy had rights. I know due process has been passe in America for a long time now, which is why Bradley Manning is still rotting in a hole, but the law doesn't say anything about getting to use drone aircraft to bomb only really really unsympathetic Americans. It's not the "occasionally alienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

Second, al-Awlaki was targeted primarily for the crime of trying to convince other people that al-Qaeda was right. He gave a lot of English-language speeches, recruited Westerners, etc. In addition, the Obama administration has implicated him in one failed bombing and one failed bomb smuggling. So if we believe the absolute worst anyone has accused him of, al-Awlaki was guilty of attempted murder, which does not carry the death penalty at either the state or the federal level.

Third, al-Awlaki was never arrested, charged, tried, or convicted of any of these crimes. We are told he committed them, that all the evidence is secret, and that we should trust the people telling us that we blew up another bad guy. And you know what? Push comes to shove, in this particular instance, I think it's pretty likely that yes, we blew up a bad guy. But the whole point of our system of checks and balances is that I shouldn't have to decide that it's "pretty likely" that the latest guy we bombed was dangerous enough to warrant a bombing.

Fourth, we bombed him in Yemen. We've been bombing people in Yemen for a while now, which I think brings the total number of countries in the Middle East where we're drone-bombing people we don't like to... all of them except maybe Saudi Arabia. That's a lot of bombing, and it's a lot of bombing that raises a whole other set of international legal issues about the use of force, which, like the issues with the American legal system, we're all agreeing to ignore.


"It was a very good strike. The president ought to have that kind of authority to order that kind of strike, even when it involves an American citizen, when there is clear evidence that he’s part of al-Qaeda."

When Dick Cheney tells you you've done the right thing, that is a sign that you need to seriously re-evaluate your moral priorities.

Maybe you trust the Obama administration to get this right, and maybe you even recognize that at least, when Obama wants someone dead, at least he doesn't start a ten-year trillion dollar war to do it. But the Bush administration erased a shit-ton of rights in the name of the War on Terror. When Obama came into power, he could have left those as is, or he could have started restoring them. Instead, he expanded on them, and applied them to American citizens like al-Awlaki (and Manning), and ensured that it will be even tougher for some future president to restore the basic rights of due process for ALL American citizens.

So, yeah, time to start squirming.