5 years ago
So apparently al Qaeda propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in Yemen by a CIA-led strike. So this raises some important questions.
First off, while my friend Michael Ledeen wants to support the Green movement in Iran, I want to do this along with (a) reversing the executive order on assassinations issued by President Ford, (b) assassinating General Suleimani, Hassan Nasrallah, and a whole host of other unsavory characters, and fomenting an insurgency inside of Iran. I pleaded for killing Baitullah Mehsud before his name became a household word, and toasted his demise when it happened (Edit: And now that I think back on this event, quite literally I laughed out loud and celebrated his death, just as I did Zarqawi). I haven’t changed any of my views. So let’s not level silly charges that I’m going soft or becoming a leftist.
But we have just rained ordnance down on a U.S. citizen by executive order. Does anyone see any problems with this? I (think I) have divorced myself from the fact that Mr. Obama approved this; as my readers know, I am no supporter of Mr. Obama. But while I think less highly of the high value target program’s effectiveness than he does, I supported his approval of the mission against UBL. UBL wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
In this case, though, things are different. The constitution affords certain protections to U.S. citizens. I discussed this with co-writer Glen Tschirgi and he suggested some alternative solutions to the dilemma. For example, Congress could have issued a bill that strips U.S. citizens of their citizenship when a person identifies with a formally designated terrorist entity. There might be a set of other reasons that a person must relinquish their citizenship. Now, to be sure, I can think of problematic aspects of such a solution, such as the fact that we would be relying on the accuracy and viability of the U.S. State Department’s program of identification of terrorists, or possibly corruption of the process.
But the fact of the matter is that we didn’t pursue any of these approaches. Awlaki was still a U.S. citizen when we executed him under executive order. For some odd reason, that little thing called “due process” keeps coming to mind.
UPDATE: Kevin Williamson weighs in a bit at NRO. David French responds at NRO with what I consider to be an uncompelling argument. The issue doesn’t focus on the term “assassination.” The issue focuses on the protections afforded by the constutition to U.S. citizens. If it’s legal to execute U.S. citizens without due process, then queue the argument up. I’ll listen. And this isn’t analogous to stumbling upon a shooter on the field of battle who happens to be a U.S. citizen. This is the premeditated targeting of a U.S. citizen without due process. Again, queue up the argument for this. Tell me how this fits within our legal framework?