Assassination First? Due Process Never? NO!

By Debra Sweet

 
"In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. 
 
Al-Awlaki denies these charges.  No matter.  Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list."
 
 
So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday.  The statement, under the headline "Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them" poses the challenges:

What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen? And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to "take out" Al Awlaki?

The New York Times went front page Sunday with a long profile titled "Imam's Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad." The article covers al-Awlaki's speeches and advocacy of ideas, providing no evidence that he's committed crimes.  But this is the newspaper that front-paged Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq having "weapons of mass destruction."  I'm not convinced that because something appears in the "paper of record" it's either true, or that it should inform U.S. foreign policy.

My understanding of Obama's order is that Al Awlaki is to be killed by whatever means necessary, wherever he is found, on sight, or within the scope of a drone or sniper's rifle.  As in Eric Holder's statement Sunday May 9 that the Obama administration's effort to set aside Miranda rights in cases of interrogations of suspected terrorists is a "very big deal," so is ordering the killing of someone suspected of a crime, but not convicted.

If the president is judge, jury, executioner, and there is no check, no appeal, what exactly protects people from being killed for any reason, speech, or even un-uttered thought?

Glenn Greenwald, wrote in February when this policy was first made public:  "it's so dangerous -- as well as both legally and Constitutionally dubious -- to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc.  That's basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial.  Who could possibly support that?"

Post-colonial rebellions and uprisings around the world reached the U.S. in response to the American-backed, funded and organized assassinations of Patrice Lumumba; Salvador Allende; repeated attempts to kill Fidel Castro and countless abuses such that in 1976, after intense struggle in Congress on the Church Committee, Gerald Ford issued an executive order prohibiting such assassinations.  Under the Bush regime, through justifications of the so-called "Global War on Terror" international law and U.S. laws were set aside, but not as openly as they have been by the Obama administration.

One of the signers of the NY Review ad, Bill Quigley, wrote May 10 on Common Dreams, Assassination of US Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise, "A simple committee of unelected individuals from one branch of government, no matter their subject matter expertise, should not have the power to assassinate an American citizen."

Even FOXNews.com ran a piece, by Mohamed Elibiary, against the assassination order, It's a Mistake to Assasinate Anwar Al-Awlaki. Elibiary warns the U.S. not to become identified historically with the Nasser regime in Egypt, which in 1966 executed Syed Qutb, as Islamic scholar, merely for his speech. "The public perceived injustice, witnessing a military execution without any recognized due process inflicted upon a man for simply speaking and writing his mind. It led to the violent radicalization of tens of thousands."

A comment on Facebook about the assassination order said, "The ease with which Obama did that, and the easy acceptance by the US public, is quite frightening."  I agree.  Jeremy Scahill, writing in February, "There has been almost universal silence among Congressional Democrats on the Obama administration's recently revealed decision to authorize the assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki."

That hideous war criminal Ronald Reagan once "joked" when he didn't realize he was on a live mike, "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in 5 minutes."  There was international condemnation.

On May 1, President Obama made news -- but was not widely condemned as far as I've seen -- for this "joke:" "Obama declared a warning to the Jonas Brothers, who attended the affair. "Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don't be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones."

This is the president who launched more predator drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year than George Bush did in 8 years.  A week later, PressTV reported that 20 civilians had been killed in a drone bombing in Pakistan, saying, "A total of 300 people have so far lost their lives in 42 drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt this year."
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