Killing of Al-Awlaki ushers in new era

With the announcement last week that the federal government assassinated suspected al-Qaida member Anwar Al-Awlaki by way of a US predator drone, politicians on both sides of the aisle furiously nodded their approval. President Barack Obama called the killing a “success” and vowed to “remain vigilant against any threats to the United States.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry took time out at a campaign stop to congratulate the President “for getting another key terrorist.” And Scott Rassmussen joined Matt Patrick on KTRH Friday morning to discuss how much Obama’s poll numbers may rise as a result of the killing.

The whole debacle indicates that we have reached a whole new era in American History: Al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico, was assassinated at the direct discretion of our chief executive, and few have done so much as bat an eye.

The alleged terrorist certainly had numerous allegations against him. He was accused of being a regional commander of al-Qaida in Yemen, being a spiritual advisor to two of the 9/11 hijackers, giving direct instructions to the underwear bomber of 2010 and corresponding with Major Nidal Hassan prior to his Fort Hood attack.

Whether or not he is guilty of these and other crimes I do not pretend to know, and certainly the evidence against him did not look good. But appearing to be incontrovertibly guilty does not provide the government the right to order your assassination without trial. Despite being on the CIA’s hit list, Al-Awlaki was never formally charged or indicted with a crime in the United States, much less given his constitutional right to due process of law.

It would be a gross understatement to note that the killing of Al-Awlaki is a stunning and dangerous precedent. Being deemed a terrorist in this country has now elevated even American citizens to a new class of criminal, one that can be targeted for assassination by the CIA’s shadowy secret operations with the simple approval of the President.

Once it becomes accepted that any American citizen can be killed at any time, so long as they are a threat to national security, the only thing left to do is determine who is a threat. You then have a recipe for offing your own citizens that rivals that of any tyrannical dictator of recent memory.

In Milton Mayer’s book, “They Thought They Were Free,” the author recounts his colleague’s explanation of what happened in Nazi Germany: “If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked … But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next … It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago.”

We have now reached a stage in which we are no longer sufficiently shocked that an American president ordered the killing of one of his citizens without even so much as charging him with a crime. We have even accepted it with outspoken approval. Perhaps we should stop and ponder the great maxim” that Mayer cites in his book: finem respice, or consider the end.

A government that can assassinate its own citizens is one that knows no limits to its power.

Steven Christopher is an economics alumnus and graduate finance student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at [email protected].


  • If he fraternizes with terrorists, f*ck a trial. Don't waste taxpayer money on a f*cking trial. You got to let em know, "If you trying to get down with the jihadist nutbags, you need to be prepared to die, whether it's a drone, a Marine sniper, a Navy S.E.A.L., I don't care….kill his @ss and let's get on with the show. What goes around, comes around. Shoudn't have Tread on US..

    • There are many sportsmen who enjoy shooting sports (hunting, skeet, etc…). Often times, these people will have hundreds, or thousands, of rounds of ammunition in their house. Would it be ok for the President to label one of them a terrorist and kill them without trial? After all, they had more ammunition at their house than the average taliban member has AND the President said they were a terrorist.

  • The Constitution explicitly requires a trial for acts of treason – the only crime it mentions – precisely to prevent this sort of abuse of government power. This is because the Founding Fathers were principled men of reason, and were wary of how the democratic mob can be driven by emotion to political persecutions. Anyone who is obviously guilty should surely be easy to convict in a well-conducted trial.

  • Even though he was born an American citizen the man was a foreign combatant for an organisation the United States was at war with. There are accounts of American citizens fighting for Germany during World War 2, should they have been allowed to attack American soldiers and not been fired upon because killing them would violate the 5th amendment? al-Awlaki had blood on his hands, and I believe his killing was completely legal.

    • Get your facts straight Greg. Only Congress has the power to declare war as stated in Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution. The United States has not officially declared war on any group or any country since 1942. Separately, the US has not recieved congressional approval for any other military campaigns since the Iraq war in 2003.

      To get even more technical, in regard to terrorist following the 9/11 attacks, Congress authorized the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” Osama was the mastermind of 9/11 and therefore his assassination was legal. There has been no proof provided that the two American terrorist assassinated via Executive Order have any ties to the September 11 attacks.

  • Obama tap danced around the law, never declaring war. A declaration of war would have made it legal for Obama to target those citizens as enemy combatants. For those who say that those two men gave up his citizenship once they declared themselves anit-Americans. I say this to you: You do not make the laws about when a person forfeits citizenship. If you want to change the law, then go through the proper channels. At this time, in this situation, the rule of law was explicitly disregarded — every other intelligent person on this planet who has researched the law understands that Constitutional Law was sidestepped.

    Being that the two men were "suspect" American terrorist, the burden rests on Obama to find those men guilty in the court of law before executing him. Instead, the Administration refused to provide any evidence supporting its allegations. We know only today that those men were a "suspect" because of videos and what the news/government has skirted around as being a fact.

  • Now the Obama Administration said that a secret group of people can permission the government to kill Americans with no questions answered? No due process? This is dangerous. The most important fact about this secret all-powerful group that operates outside of constitutional law and holds no responsibility to the public is this: "Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate." Illegal secret government much? Looks like it to me.

    I advocate asking questions about the legality of government actions, especially when it pertains to the erosion of civil liberties. We obey and uphold the law to protect the innocents like me and you, not the bad guys.

    Reuters also is asking all the right questions:

  • Lisa. Why don't you tell that to all the victims of the 911 attacks. These people are active combatants in a war that was started long ago. There is no "due process" when it comes to military combatants in a time of war. In case you did not notice, we have been at war for the last decade. The law is clear on this. If you would do your research, you would plainly see that. The "permission to assasinate" was given years ago by the Bush administration. Again do your research. It is perfectly legal. And yes it is dangerous. So the lesson is this, don't go around waging war if you do not want to die.

    • You are correct Marco, there is no due process when it comes to military combatants in a time of war. However, the United States has not decared war on Al Quaida, it also has not declared war on any countries. So your "enemy combatant in time of war" argument does not apply.

      Yes, the president is permissioned, however, to hunt down and kill those involved with the 9/11 attacks, as I stated above, and you reiterated in your post. That is why we are in Afghanistan and that is why we went into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden. That being said, till this day, there has been no proof that those two "suspect" American terrorist targeted and killed in Yemen had any ties to 9/11. At this time, all we know is that they "influenced" those terrorist responsible for the underware bomb and the attempted cargo bomb.

      I'm not defending terrorist. I'm glad we got Bin Laden — but we can't just go around targeting Americans because the president's secret committee says they are bad men without providing evidence and finding them guilty of treason.

  • To those supporting the assassination,

    I have not shed a tear for Al-Awlaki.


    What exactly is preventing the President of the United States from declaring you an Enemy Combatant and sending the CIA after any of us, other than our current anonymity and insignificance. This debate is about due process, the rule of law, and not empowering any one person with the ability to decide who lives or dies.

    to the obvious objection,

    Hypothetical President:

    Your disrespect of the constitution, the rule of law (a foundation stone upon which this great country was built), and the accountability of govt. (yet another stone, read the declaration), shows that you must hate the United States and the principles upon which is was built. Therefore I declare you an Enemy Combatant.

    assassination supporter:
    but I never attacked or committed any crimes against the United States. How can you declare me a target.

    eh, doesn't matter, I did.

    • William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

      Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

      William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

      Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

  • The truth is, it doesn't matter. I'm supposed to be scared of the government and raising signs in protest because a terrorist got killed? The slippery slope arguments are a joke, this isn't Soviet Russia and our government isn't big brother.

    What's to stop the government from random killings? Common sense. Be concerned when it matters and stop acting like your life is somehow in danger.

    In the end who really cares about Al-Alwaki? What was done sounds necessary and proper to me and I support continued use as long as it get results.

    And nobody is going to declare war anymore so saying the assassination was against the law is also a joke.God help us when the obvious needs to be declared in congress for every little thing.

  • Steven Christopher is just another example of a professor brainwashed liberal spouting the ACLU line.
    Look, if you are an al Qaeda leader, I'm pretty sure that he would have renounced his US citizenship somewhere along the line. Like hell if anyone was going to let him back in.
    Steven, if you love hating Amerca so much why don't you move somewhere else? I've already informed my corporate contacts. Black Ball this kid before he ruins your company.

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