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CIA Drone Kills Al-Awlaki, Second U.S. Citizen, in Yemen

Frankly, I’m wondering whether anything like this has ever been done before.  Apparently, a CIA drone killed two U.S. citizens in Yemen, one of whom was Anwar Al-Awlaki, a noted American-born Al Qaeda leader.  They killed him without trial despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits depriving any citizen of life without due process.  Last I checked, a drone missile wasn’t due process.  They also killed him nowhere near any battlefield on which any U.S. citizen was in jeopardy nor during any war declared by this country against Awlaki’s (Yemen).  Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, was also killed in the attack.  He was not on any wanted list at all.  His killing is even less defensible.  Now, enemies of the U.S. can argue we’ll kill you just for editing a magazine we don’t like.  As a member of the Charlotte Muslim community said:

“This is a very dangerous road when you go and kill someone like this,” said Ayeb Suleiman, 25, a medical resident. “He was just an editor. He was just writing.”

To be clear, I have no problem with apprehending anyone who organizes or is an accessory to any act of terror against U.S. citizens.  That’s the claim against Awlaki, though there have been absolutely no legal proceedings brought against him in any court, including any in the U.S.  I am fully prepared to see anyone, including Americans, who kill my fellow citizens punished to the full extent of the law.  If the U.S. had evidence it should’ve brought it.

Obama is now calling Awlaki the “director of external operations” for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a term no U.S. official has used before.  Until now, the only charges against him were that he was a fiery, gifted orator who detested the U.S. and its role in the Muslim world.  Awlaki was known as being an especial thorn in our side because he philosophically inspired a number of would-be terrorists who attacked us on our soil.  Now, after we’ve killed him and refused to provide any evidence of our claims about his guilt, we’re all of a sudden calling him a terror mastermind.  How convenient.

Even here, the NY Times says it outlines Awlaki’s “ties” to terror attacks, when all they can do is say that attackers listened to tapes of his before they went on a terror spree.  While I would’ve been be willing to see charges brought against him for incitement of such attacks…but killing him?  They certainly couldn’t get the death penalty against him in any real court.  Which is why they sentenced him to death by missile.  I only hope that those who passed this sentence don’t ever suffer the punishment themselves.  They at least deserve a trial before someone metes out such “justice” to them.

If you follow this logic to its chilling conclusion, the next time in U.S. history there is a movement like the Black Panthers or the American Indian Movement, which advocates violence against American targets, the U.S. government will be justified in murdering these future Bobby Seales, Huey Newtons, Leonard Pelletiers and Fred Hamptons without trial.  The only difference is that Obama killed Awlaki in Yemen and not in the U.S. itself.

I also opposed the assassination of Osama bin Laden.  Not only did he deserve a trial to determine his guilt, doing so would’ve raised America in the esteem of the world and further highlighted the value of international law.  As it was, we showed ourselves to be only marginally better than pirates plying the world’s oceans for prey.

We must be fully prepared for other guerrilla groups and nations to do precisely the same thing to our citizens–accuse them of being terrorists and claim the right to summarily execute them wherever they may be found without due process.  Let’s say that Yemen were a country that had the capacity to do this, and was inclined to pursue revenge against the U.S.  What would stop them, now that we’ve set such a precedent?  Alternatively, let’s say that Israel or the U.S. attack Iran and kill Iranians in significant numbers.  What’s to prevent the Iranians from pursuing a revenge terror attack against those who prepared similar attacks on their citizens?  The mullahs will rightly say that they learned their lessons well at the knee of their teacher, Barack Obama.  Who’s to say they’d be wrong?

David Cole writes similarly in the NY Review of Books:

In international law, where reciprocity governs, what is lawful for the goose is lawful for the gander. And when the goose is the United States, it sets a precedent that other countries may well feel warranted in following. Indeed, exploiting the international mandate to fight terrorism that has emerged since the September 11 attacks, Russia has already expanded its definition of terrorists…It may seem fanciful that Russia would have the nerve to use such an authority within the United States—though in the case of Alexsander Litvinenko it appears to have had few qualms about taking extreme measures to kill an individual who had taken refuge in the United Kingdom. But it is not at all fanciful that once the US proclaims such tactics legitimate, other nations might seek to use them against their less powerful neighbors.

…If…we continue to justify such practices in only the vaguest of terms [without offering proof of who we've targeted and why], we should expect other countries to take them up—and almost certainly in ways we will not find to our liking.

Martin Luther King said, inspired by Gandhi, that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” makes us all blind and toothless.  I’m ashamed to say that Barack Obama has turned his back on this wisdom from the roots of the non-violence movement.  Our president thinks an eye for an eye is pretty good counter-terror policy.  And remember, this is the guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize, fer chrissakes!  What a schande that award looks like now.  It goes to show you that you must never bestow an award on someone in the hopes that it will spur them to do the right thing.

I have never heard that it is part of the CIA’s mandate to kill U.S. citizens.  Is it now legal to do what never was legal before the era of Dick Cheney?  Are we going to allow Pres. Obama, a leader we expected to be different from Bush and Cheney, to become them in such an ugly way?

Israel routinely assassinates alleged Palestinian militants in similar acts of state-sponsored terrorism.  Those killings often extend to innocent civilians who are collateral damage from such attacks.  Like the U.S., Israel never offers any evidence of the victims’ guilt other than to claim they organized this or that terror attack &/or were a “ticking bomb.”  No one inside Israel, except the usual (and blessed) human rights NGO suspects,  raises a hand against such murder.  It is accepted pro forma as the price to be paid by a national security state.  Do we in the U.S. want to become that?  Do we want to become renegades from international law as the Israelis are?

Israel’s military, intelligence, and Likud government are delighted with this development.  It further confirms their own draconian approach to national security.  If we become as bad as they are, then they’re not so bad after all, right?

Cole further argues that there are examples of countries who’ve responded differently than either the U.S. or Israel:

As many countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Spain, and, Italy have shown, the fact that organized groups seek to engage in politically motivated violence does not necessitate a military response.

This must stop.  Of course, just as in Israel, neither the courts nor the Congress will lift a finger.  But I think it’s now time to bring a case in an international tribunal against the current and past presidents who both sanctioned such killings (of U.S. citizens).  This must be tested in a fair tribunal.  One cannot be found here in the U.S., unfortunately.  But in order to bring a case before the ICC, we must exhaust the system here first.  So I hope the ACLU, which has denounced this latest killing, will do so.  A rejection by the U.S. courts would set the stage for an appeal to an international tribunal.

I wouldn’t mind seeing those responsible for this killing and Salah Shehadeh’s both answering to justice in the Hague.  They’d be entitled to far more justice than they ever gave any of their victims.

Another misguided claim by Obama and those who embrace such acts of state terror: they don’t “break the back” of the enemy.  They don’t “dismantle” Al Qaeda.  There are always those who will arise to take their place.  Sometimes, those who replace their predecessors are even more competent and lethal than those who came before them.

I am at the breaking point regarding Obama.  I don’t see any way I can vote for him the next time around.  This hurts me because in some ways all the Republican candidates would be worse, some far worse.  But they, unlike Obama, haven’t betrayed their promise and their promises–the ones they made to me and voters like me to be different from the tyrants who preceded them.

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{ 38 comments… add one }

  • Jon September 30, 2011, 9:58 PM

    The murder of the 2 Americans in Yemen made me angry; then the tyrant, Pres Obama (sorry, Richard, but he’s a tyrant too) trumpets what he’s done in a statement before the press. Disgusting!

  • Jon September 30, 2011, 10:06 PM

    Why not start describing drone attacks on Americans as ‘due process’? As in ‘the press announced yesterday that 3 more Americans had been due processed.’

  • shmuel September 30, 2011, 11:43 PM

    I’m going to be unpopular here, and certainly not PC, but I think that these things have to be said.

    The US constitution, while being a fine legal statement and manages to guide democracy well, is not god given, is not omnipotent and cannot and does not cover every conceivable situation that has and will arise. The very fact there are “amendments” proves the fact that the “rights” contained therin are not immutable but change with the times.

    Having been born in the UK and live in Israel, my experiences are with two of only three countries in the world that don’t have a constitution (the third is Pakistan). It means that I’m not always looking for some greater good that was invented or evolved which will guide me to decide how I or my government should act in various circumstances.

    Your constitution guarantees “due process” – verily an important concept, but is it always relevant? Should not there be somewhere a discretion given to certain powers to overide this right should circumstances dictate. In your opinion were the attempted assassinations of Hitler “non-constitutional” by US standards? Can you not consider any case where a wanted person might be executed where it is saving innocent lives by doing so? Should US soldiers risk their lives to capture a known murderer if a drone could kill only the murderer?

    Sometimes there is justice that is not in the courts or in the constitution, but is a gut feeling of our leaders (not the masses who lynch), who we elected, and while not infallable, see the whole picture where there might be missing pieces in what we see. Of course, sometimes our lesders lie, but in the long run isn’t it better to give them some slack and not blindly shout “constitution”? And if they accidently got the wrong man (which is not claimed here), then even that is justifyable, many an innocent man dies for a good cause.

    Again not PC, but “west” is good and “al-qaida” is bad. Fullstop (Period in American). Obama did the right thing even if non-constitutional.

    The same constitution that guarantees due process also guarantees the right to bear arms – so what are the guns for? For enforcing due process?

    And lastly (sorry for being so lengthy), the fact that “the other side” may use the same tactics doesn’t frighten me, they did it first which is exactly why the west has a need to use the same tactics to fight them. You can’t fight lawlessness with the vellum on which the constitution was written.

    • Richard Silverstein October 1, 2011, 12:03 AM

      US constitution, while being a fine legal statement and manages to guide democracy well, is not god given, is not omnipotent and cannot and does not cover every conceivable situation that has and will arise. The very fact there are “amendments” proves the fact that the “rights” contained therin are not immutable but change with the times.

      That’s an awfully strange way for a lawyer to talk. I guess only a lawyer living in a country without a constitution can talk so cavalierly about a nation that does have one. In fact, our constitution was deliberately written so that it COULD deal with many situations the founders couldn’t have foreseen. And it’s done that remarkably well over 200+ yrs. And it also allow for passing amendments when enough citizens & representatives believe the document should be amended. We’ve done that 25 times and can do so again. But you & Obama know that if they proposed changing the 5th amendment guarantee of due process protection they’d get nowhere.

      is it always relevant

      Is due process relevant? And again, I simply marvel that a lawyer of all people should ask that question. Of course it’s ALWAYS relevant. Esp. to a citizen deprived of his rights, to a man sentenced to death without due process, to a convicted felon who actually turns out to be innocent of his crime. That’s WHY we have due process so that such travesties cannot happen.

      Should not there be somewhere a discretion given to certain powers to overide this right

      No, never. If Obama wants discretion then let him get it legally and no extra-legally. There’s a reason why we have a Constitution and a reason why we have impeachment powers when presidents violate the Constitution. There is no chance Bush or Obama could be impeached. But they both committed impeachable offenses.

      In your opinion were the attempted assassinations of Hitler “non-constitutional” by US standards?

      A zoch in vay. Such a red herring argument. Deal with the real person in this real case & not the hypothetical case having no bearing on this. The case at hand involved Anwar Al Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, not the world’s greatest mass murderer. If I wanted to talk about Hitler I would have. I didn’t.

      As for “saving innocent lives”…can you prove that killing Awlaki saved innocent lives? Or any lives? No you can’t. All you can say is that had we not killed him innocent lives probably would have been lost. But since when is a government allowed to murder someone because he might in the future cause the death of another?

      Sometimes there is justice that is not in the courts or in the constitution…a gut feeling of our leaders

      Yes, there is. It’s known as vigilante justice or state sponsored terrorism. I’d rather YOUR country be known for it & not mine. And hey, the lynch mobs of the American South had gut feelings about the guilt of their victims too. You say “not the masses who lynch” as if there’s a distinction bet. the killers and their leaders, but in fact many lynch mobs were sponsored by the legally elected government leaders of their day. Again, it’s a form of state sponsored terrorism.

      see the whole picture where there might be missing pieces in what we see

      I’m just an old-fashioned guy. I like to see evidence. I don’t like to take someone’s word for anything this important. In Israel, you see things differently. You’re willing to make that pact with the devil. Thank God, there are many of us here who don’t buy that approach though our president seems ready to embrace yours.

      in the long run isn’t it better to give them some slack and not blindly shout “constitution”

      No it isn’t because that way lies tyranny.

      if they accidently got the wrong man (which is not claimed here), then even that is justifyable

      In fact, we have a popular saying which is prob. as popular where you were born: better 1,000 guilty men go free than that a single innocent man die. And I’m damn proud of that saying. And I won’t allow any politician to sully the purity of that saying as Barack Obama has done today.

      Obama did the right thing even if non-constitutional.

      It wasn’t “non-constitutional” it was UNconstitutional and again that’s an impeachable offense according to that pesky, ornery, annoying document called the U.S. constitution.

      You can’t fight lawlessness with the vellum on which the constitution was written.

      The whole point of having a constitution is to show that we conduct ourselves in a civilized manner and don’t live by the laws of the jungle. You can live by those “laws” if you wish. You & yr country will never last as long as ours has if you continue with such abuse.

      • A.H. October 1, 2011, 8:14 AM

        I agree with you, but… (on the constitutional point)

        By the same logic the constitution recognizes that the executive may from time to time violate it, and allows the legislator to impeach him/her for it.

        Note – “allows to”, not “forces to”. The decision is explicitly left to the politicians by the constitution.

        • Richard Silverstein October 1, 2011, 1:29 PM

          The constitution doesn’t allow the president to violate it. It specifically prohibits him fr doing so & gives Congress the prerogative of impeaching him if he does so.

          • A.H. October 1, 2011, 3:00 PM

            Prerogative – as in, leaves it to Congress to decide whether the president should be impeached, as opposed to saying “if the president violates the constitution, he is impeached”.

            i.e. – the constitution recognizes (and I think this is the point above) that Congress will need to assess such situations on a case by case basis, and that it’s not all black and white.

          • Richard Silverstein October 1, 2011, 10:44 PM

            The constitution makes it difficult to impeach the president because the founders realized that impeachment should be a last resort situation. It’s why Bush wasn’t impeached though he’d committed impeachable offenses as has Obama in my judgment.

          • Haver October 1, 2011, 6:04 PM

            the constitution recognizes (and I think this is the point above) that Congress will need to assess such situations on a case by case basis, and that it’s not all black and white.

            No. The Courts have the necessary jurisdiction to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency to perform a duty owed to a plaintiff under the terms of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution using a writ of mandamus. See for example the Title 28 § 1361.
            http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/usc_sec_28_00001361—-000-.html

            These questions were addressed in the early days of the republic by the Supreme Court in cases like Little v. Barreme, 6 U. S. 170 (1804). The Court held that when members of the armed forces carry-out unlawful orders issued by the President, they do so at their own peril. The defense of superior orders is inapplicable and those responsible remain civilly and criminally liable. http://supreme.justia.com/us/6/170/case.html

            The Nuremberg principles and the Rome Statute reaffirm that the defense of superior orders is inapplicable and that, regardless of the content of municipal law, international responsibility arises under international criminal law – even in cases involving heads of state.

          • Haver October 1, 2011, 6:16 PM

            P.S. In case this isn’t clear, the members of Congress have the Constitutional Authority to determine punishments for offenses against the laws of nations.

            That doesn’t mean that they can grant themselves or others immunity from prosecution for their own roles in joint criminal enterprises responsible for illegal acts committed against others in the territory of another state. Those crimes fall within the jurisdiction of other countries and the ICC.

            That’s why the Congress and the Executive branches spent years coercing other countries into concluding agreements dealing with non-surrender of US citizens to the ICC.

          • A.H. October 2, 2011, 5:39 AM

            Haver, if the constitution compels congress to impeach the president in this case, and congress is neglecting its constitutional duty, why isn’t someone asking the courts to force congress on this subject?

            The answer is that it’s actually a bit more complicated than that (as opposed to – he violated the constitution and should clearly be impeached), and that’s the point.

          • Haver October 2, 2011, 9:11 AM

            Haver, if the constitution compels congress to impeach the president in this case

            Strawman alert! In 1973 the Office of the Legal Counsel published a non-binding advisory opinion which said that indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. That opinion has never been upheld by the courts. Nothing in Article II explicitly grants the President immunity from indictment, prosecution, or conviction for any crimes committed.

            In any event, judgement in cases of impeachment extends no further than removal from office. Article 1 section 3 says that the party convicted remains liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.

            The Courts also have the necessary Constitutional and statutory authority to order any federal or state official to do or refrain from doing any act in the lawful exercise of their functions using a writ of mandamus.

    • Haver October 1, 2011, 3:17 AM

      The US constitution, while being a fine legal statement and manages to guide democracy well, is not god given, is not omnipotent and cannot and does not cover every conceivable situation that has and will arise.

      That line of argument has already dismissed by the Supreme Court in Reid v Covert.
      http://supreme.justia.com/us/354/1/case.html

      In an opinion joined by Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, Justice Black explained that the President and the Congress are merely creatures of the Constitution and that

      When the United States acts against its citizens abroad, it can do so only in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution, including Art. III, § 2, and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

      The Court explained that the prohibitions of the Constitution were designed to apply to all branches of the National Government, and they cannot be nullified by the Executive acting alone; by the Executive and the Congress acting together; or by the Executive, the Congress, and the Courts combined.

      The very fact there are “amendments” proves the fact that the “rights” contained therin are not immutable but change with the times.

      The fact that there are amendments that prohibit the government from depriving citizens of their lives or liberty without due process establishes the fact that when two-thirds of both Houses of Congress deem it necessary and the proposed changes are ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States they become part of the Constitution in accordance with the agreed upon procedures contained in Article V of the Constitution. It does not imply that the President is permitted to amend that document in a manner not sanctioned by Article V.

      • shmuel October 1, 2011, 8:03 AM

        I was in no way intending to imply that the constitution as at present allows the President to act as he did, I’m sure that Haver is much better informed as to the law of the US. My point was that there OUGHT to be some way of allowing discretional leeway in certain circumstances to deviate from the constitution.

        If there is no way “around” the exact wording of the constitution in security matters or in order to save lives (the equivalent of “pikuach nefesh” in halachah) then the blind following of the written word of the constitution becomes like worshipping an immutable god – a concept that is unthinkable in my perception of society.

        I don’t know whether the killing of this particular person was a justifiable homicide, morally, or not, but there has to be some way of allowing the President the possibility of making the agonising decision to kill a person, even without due process, when he thinks it justifiable in order to save lives.

        Charles Dickens once said: “if that is the law, then the law is an ass” – so sat I too regarding this particular facet of the constitution.

        • Haver October 1, 2011, 11:07 AM

          If there is no way “around” the exact wording of the constitution in security matters or in order to save lives (the equivalent of “pikuach nefesh” in halachah) . . .

          In a series of cases since 9/11 the Supreme Court has affirmed the the President’s powers to detain “enemy combatants,”including those who are U.S. citizens, as part of the necessary force authorized by Congress.

          US jurisprudence also allows for the use of deadly force in self defense, but employs the “Caroline” test. It was developed in the 19th century and reaffirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal. The necessity for self–defense must be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

          My point was that there OUGHT to be some way of allowing discretional leeway in certain circumstances to deviate from the constitution.

          I thought that it was fairly obvious from my earlier post that we were discussing acts that give rise to individual criminal responsibility under international law even if such acts do not constitute a violation of the domestic laws or Constitution of the United States. The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all judicial guarantees is prohibited at all times under the terms of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

          Furthermore, the World Court ruled in the S.S. Lotus case that:

          “the first and foremost restriction imposed by international law upon a State is that – failing the existence of a permissive rule to the contrary – it may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another State.”

          Killing an accused person in the territory of another state – away from any battlefield – without any warning or attempt to obtain a surrender or make an arrest is a crime. For example, the regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land annexed to the Hague Convention of 1907 have been part of the body of customary law since the days of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Article 23 provides that it is especially forbidden: “To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army”; “To declare that no quarter will be given”; or “To kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered”.
          http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/195

  • pabelmont October 1, 2011, 4:55 AM

    If the USA Constitution did not FORBID this special form of “due processing”, it would nevertheless be necessary for the Constitution to ALLOW the president to order an assassination.

    He has therefore violated the Constitution twice, by ultra vires action (action not authorized) and by action formally forbidden.

    THIS PRESIDENT REFUSED TO PROSECUTE Bush & Cie. for torture, kidnapping, etc. We are living in bad times, even as measured only by these measures.

    • Haver October 1, 2011, 5:20 AM

      THIS PRESIDENT REFUSED TO PROSECUTE Bush & Cie. for torture, kidnapping, etc

      When he was in the Senate, Obama voted against the Military Commission Act and the other pieces of legislation that immunized US officials; permitted the President to redefine the term torture (to permit acts that were otherwise prohibited by the UN Convention Against Torture); and to imprison civilians indefinitely who had been illegally deported at Gitmo.

      I’m certain that those US laws violated the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But even if Obama wanted to prosecute the offenders, the principle of nullum crimen sine lege and the Constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws would make that difficult or impossible in a US Court. However, Richard is correct. These acts have always been crimes punishable under international law. They were committed after the Rome Statute entered into effect. So, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC or the courts of other countries exercising national or universal jurisdiction. For the most part, the offenses have been committed on the territories of other states that can accept the ICC’s jurisdiction in accordance with Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute.

      • Haver October 1, 2011, 5:23 AM

        Clarification: that should have read to imprison civilians indefinitely at Gitmo who had been illegally deported from other countries.

  • Michael Shepard October 1, 2011, 5:17 AM

    By the logic of the Obama administration, a drone missile could be sent to Paul McCartney’s house to ‘take him out’ since McCartney penned the song ‘Helter Skelter’ which Charles Manson insisted inspired him to kill Sharon Tate in the infamous California murders. That’s the standard here.

    Awlaki wrote and gave talks on the internet. To my knowledge, he never fired a gun in the direction of an American. There’s a saying ‘you can’t cry FIRE in a crowded theater.’ I have heard this applied. Awlaki told people to take aggression to the US. But did we kill him because we were the ones he hoped somebody would attack, or because we believe that nobody should go on the airwaves and cry FIRE? In last week’s New York Times Sunday Magazine, on the cover, is a picture of Muammer al Qaddafi, and a quotation from some angry Libyan rebel/citizen, reading: ‘I want Qaddafi to die. Not just once. Every minute, every hour.’ Some of read it and chuckle. ‘Boy this guy hates Qaddafi.’

    But that’s a (former? semi-current?) head of state. What’s to stop a loyalist in Libya from trying to assassinate the fellow who is drawing support through the cover of the New York Times?

    If we can take out anyone internationally who ‘inspires’ violence against the USA, doesn’t that justify any other state ( or loyalist) that wants to assassinate those who say threatening things about their governments or countries?

    • Haver October 1, 2011, 5:36 AM

      By the logic of the Obama administration, a drone missile could be sent to Paul McCartney’s house to ‘take him out’ since McCartney penned the song ‘Helter Skelter’ which Charles Manson insisted inspired him to kill Sharon Tate in the infamous California murders. That’s the standard here.

      Not really. The standard here is that the government can put you on a secret list of people to be assassinated based upon the fact that they suspect you of being suspicious. No one is accountable for explaining how or when your name got added to the list. That might reveal sensitive and faulty classified intelligence sources and methods like the ones behind the highly publicized errors found in the TSA no-fly list.

  • Bob Mann October 1, 2011, 7:37 AM

    The “blind and toothless” quote predates both MLK and Ghandi, just as an FYI.

    I believe that George Perry Graham is the first person on record with that comment in the very early part of the 20th century in a Canadian parliamentary debate.

    There is, in fact, no conclusive evidence that Ghandi ever actually made that remark.

  • Miriam October 1, 2011, 5:40 PM

    Since I am not a lawyer I have a more direct way of comprehending what has been done by this government in committing extraterritorial targeted assassinations. ( a term we’ve gotten quite familiar with having read about the proclivity that Israel has for this sort of vigilante justice).

    Assassination should never be a “strategy” of a just nation under rule of law…and as former USAF Officer, I took my oath to uphold the Constitution very seriously.

    It pains me to believe that I took that oath more seriously than the president but apparently this former instructor of Constitutional law is unfazed with the idea that he can do what ever he and his military advisors choose to do rather than perform with integrity and follow the letter as well as the spirit of our Constitution and governing laws.

  • editorsteve October 1, 2011, 7:16 PM

    There are all kinds of precedents that suggest that despite what the Constitution literally says, US citizens can be killed in time of war without due process and without later prosecutions. Thousands of citizens of the northern states were killed during the Civil War in non-combat situations, usually (not always) while they were in Confederate states. Likewise by US bombing of “strategic” (that is, mainly civilian but with war-supporting activity) cities in Germany, Japan and elsewhere in WWII.

    That doesn’t make any of this morally right, or even good policy, but it is in line with very, very long-standing practice. I’m not surprised that Obama would sign on, or at least not waste scarce political capital demurring.

    As for voting for Obama, yes, help a Republican (especially from the current crop of candidates) get elected, and watch more of the Supreme Court go right-wing…. Didn’t the election of 2000, which led directly to war in Iraq, destruction of campaign finance reform, non-enforcement of environmental laws, and now possibly the overthrow of national health reform teach the ultra-left anything? Obviously not.

    • Haver October 1, 2011, 9:06 PM

      There are all kinds of precedents that suggest that despite what the Constitution literally says, US citizens can be killed in time of war without due process and without later prosecutions.

      The United States isn’t at war with Yemen or Pakistan. You are forgetting about the progressive development of US and international law. Under the Supremacy clause of the Constitution, the post WWII treaties reflecting developments in customary international law are part and parcel of the law of the United States.

      Acts of US government officials against civilians located in areas away from battlefields during the US Civil War were subsequently dealt with in line with the Supreme Court decision in Ex Parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866).
      http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=71&invol=2

      The events of WWII resulted in the subsequent adoption of the prohibition against the threat or use of force in the UN Charter; Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949; and the first proposal from the International Law Commission for the establishment of a permanent international criminal tribunal in 1949.

      In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld the Supreme Court held that Common Article 3 still applies to conflicts between the US and non-signatories like al Qaeda terrorists. That’s true, so long as the conflict, which is “not of an international character”, occurs in the territory of one of the 193 other High Contracting Parties.
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-184.ZS.html

      Grave breaches of Common Article 3, including passing of extrajudicial sentences and carrying-out executions are war crimes under Title 18 § 2441.
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/usc_sec_18_00002441—-000-.html

      In Samantar v. Yousuf the Supreme Court held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act does not provide immunity from civil liability to foreign government officials for acts that otherwise violate treaties or the law of nations, e.g. the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, 106 Stat. 73, note following 28 U. S. C. §1350. The same statute allows aliens to bring suits against US officials.
      http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/28/IV/85/1350

      http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/samantar-v-yousuf/

      So there is ample precedent for civil and criminal liability in such cases.

      • Haver October 1, 2011, 9:18 PM

        A further clarification is in order. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention would also apply domestically to any non-international US conflict. The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court is one of the acts that is prohibited at all times.

        The US and the other members of the UN Security Council adopted statutes for the ad hoc criminal tribunals in the formal Yugoslavia and Rwanda which recognized the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 as part of the body of customary international law that is binding upon all parties engaged in armed conflicts. Those statutes were annexed to Chapter VII resolutions and constitute decisions that are binding upon all UN members states.

      • editorsteve October 2, 2011, 9:06 AM

        I was responding totally to the US Constitutional question, not international law — that’s why I demurred about the decision to attack by drone. The Constitutional issue rises because the guy was a US citizen.

        I made 20 trips to the the various countries carved out of the former Yugoslavia, teaching and reporting. I also worked with 14 of the 18 ICC judges, just after the 18th was appointed and the court went into business, so I do not want to leave any impression that I disagree with international law in any way.

        But it is still murky. Al-Qaeda is not a recognized nation, but the area in Yemen certainly is not under the control of Yemen’s recognized government. Precedent says you don’t have to attempt arrest or capture if it is impractical, and vaguely defines “impractical.” The issue to me was whether the target was a combatant in a combat zone at the time of the attack.

        I covered a set of cases from Bosnia that touched on this, and re-read the relevant conventions and “case law” at the time — Haver is quoting them as I remember them, and not cherry-picking. The lead case: Guy was out in the woods with a gun, and was killed by a sniper. In general, a “guy carrying a gun” in a combat zone (as almost all of Bosnia was) is considered a combatant. But the evidence was pretty clear that he was out hunting. He was not moving in such a way as to target a human. He was not a known member of a combat force — just a Serb trying to bag some game for the kids’ dinner. People have to eat. But the sniper was absolved, more-or-less on “fog of war” grounds. It was (among other things) late in the day, after “normal” hunting hours.

        I’ll leave to others the issues of whether the “war” on Al-Qaeda was declared (I don’t think so) or internationally allowed (clearly yes; no UN sanction and certainly multi-national forces involved).

        So was the target a combatant — a member of a fighting force (probably yes, given the nature of and “declared” hierarchy of Al-Qaeda) more or less carrying a gun (probably) in a combat zone (good question).

        Bottom line: The USA is probably off the hook, legally and politically. But not, in my opinion (which counts for little) morally. We’ve already gone further down the slippery slope — using drones on the basis of intelligence that was flat-out wrong, flat-out too often) and obviously I don’t like the way this is rolling.

        I’ve argued in the past that IDF actions in Gaza were obvious and clear violations because even IDF admitted that 1200 deaths (75% of all deaths) were civilian. The civilian death rate for the drone attacks seems much lower (around 25%… with some higher calculations).

        It is long past time for some international “bright lines” on drone attacks specifically, especially since drones are only a few years away from becoming generally available low-tech weapons — heck, a guy was just arrested in the US for plotting model airplane attacks on the Pentagon!

        • Richard Silverstein October 2, 2011, 3:18 PM

          Al Awlaki was certainly not a combatant against the U.S. in any practical sense when he was killed. Not only was he not armed, not a threat to U.S. forces, there was absolutely no evidence that he’d even planned a terror attack. At least Israel lies & says those it murders were “ticking bombs.” Awlaki wasn’t even that. I’m simply not buyin’ what you’re peddlin’ today, Steve.

          As for war against Al Qaeda, there is NO war against Al Qaeda in Yemen. There is war against Al Qaeda perhaps in Iraq. But not by any stretch of the imagination in the zone Awlaki was killed. As for Awlaki being a combatant…no way. Not even remotely. He was traveling in a car with others who were not engaged in battle with anyone let alone Americans. And again, your claim that he was a member of a fighting force is vapid. Who are you to judge this? Are you an expert on Al Qaeda? Do you know who is a fighter & who not? Do you have any credible evidence that Awlaki was other than yr claim “he probably was,” which isn’t even worth the virtual space it isn’t written on.

    • Richard Silverstein October 1, 2011, 10:32 PM

      The evidence you offer makes little sense. Regarding the Civil War, it was a declared war, which the current “war” against Al Qaeda is not. Second, I have no idea what the circumstances of those Civil War killings were nor have you offered any.

      As for the killings of U.S. citizens during WWII, these were not deliberate killings of specific U.S. citizens as the Al Awlaki assassination was. The killings of which you speak were collateral to the primary aim which was to bomb enemy cities. If there were U.S. citizens in those cities their deaths were not the primary goal of the bombings.

      The Supreme Court is already in the hands of the extreme right. It would make little difference in the future except to make an even stronger right wing majority than currently. And frankly, the Supreme Court under its current composition & leadership is little respected and doesn’t play a central role in American life as it has in the past.

      As for the 2000 election, you’re mixing things up. I never said I would vote for Nader in 2000. I voted for Gore & would do so again in the same circumstances. Even in 2008, I voted for Obama & would do so again under the circumstances as they expressed themselves then. I’m talking about the next election, not past ones. Again returning to 2000, the Supreme Court, not the president, destroyed campaign finance reform. The two justices Obama appointed have not added enough votes to overturn that decision. And in his next term if he wins one he’s highly unlikely to be filling the seat of a retiring right wing justice who would tip any ideological balance.

      And unfortunately, the demise of Obama’s support among his progressive base is not a phenomenon of the “ultra-left.” He’s lost support across the board from core supporters, not the political extreme. He’s just a lousy president. In fact, I’d say he’s even more disappointing & dysfunctional as president than Jimmy Carter was. But Carter at least negotiated one extremely important Middle East peace treaty, which Obama will never do even if he wins another term. And in case you hadn’t notice, my main (but not sole) issue is Israeli Arab peace. On this particular issue he’s a miserable failure & there’s almost no chance that he will change and become a success given another four years.

      • editorsteve October 2, 2011, 8:07 AM

        Ah, Richard, you are absolutely right. Obama should have waited until the end of his term to try to get the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table, using a media-friendly last-minute push like Clinton and Bush tried. Why not put the blame where it mainly belongs, on Netanyahu? I share your views on Dennis Ross, though.

        And of course Obama has been ineffective. Just got the first comprehensive national health care plan passed, and the most far-reaching financial controls passed since the 1930s. Yes, both laws don’t go far enough, but no other Democrat has gotten this far.

        • Richard Silverstein October 2, 2011, 11:02 AM

          Obama could have, had he had the guts, gone much farther on virtually every piece of legislation passed. He caved on health care. He didn’t have the courage of his convictions on the financial legislation. As a result, we’re in a very deep recession with little hope of getting out of it any time soon. Read Paul Krugman on Obama’s failure of will on that one.

          I don’t blame Bibi because he is who he is. Obama needed to be bold & strong in dealing with him & was weak & vacillating. That’s why Mitchell resigned & there’s a mid level official who replaced him. You’re wearing rose colored glasses concerning Obama.

      • editorsteve October 2, 2011, 8:19 AM

        Republican appointees on the Supreme Court destroyed campaign reform. Let’s have more!!!

        • Richard Silverstein October 2, 2011, 11:03 AM

          They already have a majority. Show me a right wing justice who’s likely to retire in 4 yrs giving Obama a chance to shift the balance & then we can talk. You know as well as I the chances of this are virtually nil.

    • weindeb October 2, 2011, 7:48 AM

      “ultra-left”? Please!

  • dickerson3870 October 1, 2011, 10:16 PM

    RE: “They killed him [Al-Awlaki] without trial despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits depriving any citizen of life without due process.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: Down, down, down into the deep, dark abyss we go. Hand in hand with Israel.
    We truly live in pre-Magna Carta times!

    RE: “Obama is now calling Awlaki the ‘director of external operations’ for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a term no U.S. official has used before.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: It is most likely an “official title” created out of whole cloth just yesterday. I wonder if the White House has hired Frank Luntz as a consultant.

    P.S. ALSO SEE: Anwar al-Awlaki’s extrajudicial murder, by Michael Ratner ~ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/30/anwar-awlaki-extrajudicial-murder

  • shmuel October 2, 2011, 3:30 AM

    Here’s a link showing that not only the US is having problems with Human Rights legislation that may often lead to frustrating “ad absurdum”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8801651/Home-Secretary-scrap-the-Human-Rights-Act.html

    • Haver October 2, 2011, 3:51 AM

      Here’s a link showing that not only the US is having problems with Human Rights legislation that may often lead to frustrating “ad absurdum”

      The 5th Amendment to the Constitution; the 1998 War Crimes Act; and the Geneva Conventions aren’t absurd or human rights legislation.

      If the President or a bureaucrat accuses a citizen of treason and wants to sentence them to death, then they need to produce two witnesses and prove their case to the Courts in accordance with Article III section 3 of the Constitution.

      No one’s forced to serve as President against their will. The only task that is specifically mentioned “to faithfully execute the office of President” is “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    • A.H. October 2, 2011, 5:41 AM

      Shmuel, if anything your link is proving their point – that human right laws should not be ignored (like Obama in theory did), and (if the executive doesn’t like them) need to be changed via the legal process, i.e. – the legislator.

    • alexno October 2, 2011, 9:50 AM

      It is not Britain that is having a problem with human rights legislation; it is rather one right-wing politician, supported by a couple of others, in an interview published in a right-wing newspaper. Even the article suggests that the move has not much chance of passing. Particularly as it is from a party that has no majority in parliament, and survives only by a coalition with a party that under no circumstances would tolerate such a move.

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