“The U.S. has confirmed that Al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki was killed today in Yemen, in what was likely a drone strike …” (Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2011). There’s a longer (and more intelligent) piece on Wired.com. Normally, People for a Population Free Planet would applaud such a move. But not this time. Where is the outrage over the Anwar al-Awlaki assassination?
Here at pfpfp we have supported the war in Afghanistan. And, with some trepidation, we have also supported drone strikes. But so far these have targeted bad folks who were not U.S. citizens.
It happens that Mr. al-Awlaki held dual citizenship in Yemen and the U.S. Thus, the U.S. government has assassinated a U.S. citizen. The Obama administration’s argument that the Authorization of Force allows this is shaky, to put it mildly. Here’s a quotation from the Wired article:
“… Mary Ellen O’Connell disagrees. And her credentials are just as impressive: She’s the vice chairman of the prestigious American Society of International Law, as well as a professor at the University of Notre Dame. Her argument doesn’t rely on Awlaki’s American citizenship.
‘The United States is not involved in any armed conflict in Yemen,’ O’Connell tells Danger Room, ‘so to use military force to carry out these killings violates international law.’
O’Connell’s argument turns on the question of whether the U.S. is legally at war in Yemen. And for the administration, that’s a dicey proposition. The Obama administration relies on the vague Authorization to Use Military Force, passed in the days after 9/11, to justify its Shadow Wars against terrorists. Under its broad definition, the Authorization’s writ makes Planet Earth a battlefield, legally speaking.
But the Authorization authorizes war against ‘nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.’ It’s a stretch to apply that to al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, which didn’t exist on 9/11. But when House Republicans tried to re-up the Authorization to explicitly bless the new contours of the war against al-Qaida, the Obama administration balked, fearing the GOP was actually tying its hands on the separate question of terrorist detentions.”
Well, Ms. O’Connell is undoubtedly a better lawyer than me. And I’m certain she can split hairs about international law as well as the next attorney. But, for me, the idea that my government can simply kill one of my fellow citizens without any judicial process is repugnant in the extreme. Thus vanishes one more of our civil rights. I believe the Declaration of Independence also has something in it about the right to life.
On the other hand, People for a Population-Free Planet probably should endorse this sort of thing. Nah, it’s just too extreme.
Update: Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com titled his piece “The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality.”