Today we killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen by birth. Even as the news flashes around the globe, liberal hand-wringers are agonizing over the idea that the US Government sanctioned and executed a targeted assassination of an American citizen without due process. One such example of this kind of fuzzy thinking can be found here. Even presidential-hopeful foreign policy nutbag Ron Paul is weighing in against this. The case of the hand-wringers is based on the fact that he was not indicted, that his fifth amendment rights were violated ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), that there was no due process.
Where the hand-wringers on the left don’t get it is that this animal was only technically an American citizen, by accident of birth. He had de facto rejected allegiance to America, scorned American law, and had engaged in an active campaign against the United States. The fact that he hadn’t filed the correct paperwork with the State Department renouncing his American citizenship spoke more for his disdain for the American rule of law than it did for any technicalities of his loyalties.
Anwar al-Awlaki was in fact an enemy combatant. On October 27, 2008, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that an enemy combatant is anyone who directly supports al Qaeda, the Taliban or an associated group involved in hostile acts against the United States or its allies. This certainly applies to al-Awlaki, inasmuch as he was involved with the planning of the 9/11 attack, and was a mentor and spiritual advisor to Nidal Malik Hasan. He frequently published incendiary sermons on the internet, and espoused armed jihad against America. The FBI considered him one of Al Qaida’s top recruiters.
Is it the position of the hand-wringers that the US justice department obtain an indictment against every member of Al Qaida before allowing the military to strike? Or only the members of Al Qaida who are high ranking and have the media spotlight? Is it the position of the hand-wringers that US soldiers request ID and confirm the legal case for detaining and/or executing members of Al Qaida on the battlefield? Are we living in a Victorian age where commanders refrain from engaging their counterparts in decapitation operations because it isn’t honorable? How do the hand-wringers feel about the fact that the enemy will operate under no such restrictions?
What would the net effect be of having provided al-Awlaki the due process of law? Do the hand-wringers have any doubt that he was a major figure in the global jihadist network of which Al Qaida is a part? Do the hand-wringers have any doubt about al-Awakis very public exhortations to Muslims to take up arms and wage violent war against the United States? Does anybody think for a second that this guy would turn himself in if there was a warrant for his arrest, or that he would be extradited? Yemen is nominally an ally in the War on Terror, albeit not one I would turn my back on, so our forces are limited to playing by their rules in their country. This means we have no military presence there and operate in the grey area of unmanned drones that characterizes 21st century warfare.
This war is not your grandfather’s war, with neatly drawn divisions of Us and Them. It’s not confined to a location or specific battlefield or even a recognizable theater of operations. With modern communications and technology, one man in a mountain redoubt in a backwater country like Yemen could command a worldwide network for jihadists. It’s only fitting that he met his demise at the hands of a pilot sitting in Missouri or New Jersey, playing the World’s Greatest Video Game. The battles of the 21st century come in two flavors, the short meeting actions that are decisively over in minutes or hours, and the slow dance of counter-terrorist operations, where armies move at a seeming glacial pace in the dark, in cyberspace and on the airwaves, in a techno-dance of hide and seek, waiting for the moment to strike. This is the battlefield where al-Awlaki was acting as a commander, and in the heat of battle was located and terminated, as we would do to any high ranking enemy commander.
Does the rule of law, the rights conferred by that law, and the due process safeguards built into that law apply to people who actively seek to abolish that law? The law was designed to protect the individual from government abuse. By what twisted logic do we pervert the intent of that law to protect the enemies of that law?
The hand-wringers make the assertion that the law must apply to everyone equally (although I find that these same people are the first to propose to limit the constitutional rights of their political opponents). I contend that this is only true and possible when everyone accepts the rule of that law, and has pledged to abide by it. Those that scorn the law, reject the law, and indeed seek to replace that law with a theocratic tyranny have no business being afforded the protections of that law. The laws upon which Western Civilization are based should not become a suicide pact that prevent us from defending Western Civilization against the well armed and fanatic forces of ignorance and chaos.
This doesn’t mean that the US government has shredded the constitution and that the black helicopters will come and fast roping commandos will start assassinating normal law-abiding citizens with impunity. Although, to listen to the rhetoric, I can’t help but wonder if the hand-wringers would happily endorse this action if it were taken against elements of the TEA party, who have done nothing unconstitutional; but have the temerity to disagree with the liberal policies of the left.
Al-Awlaki stepped out from under the protection of the law of his land of birth, and proceeded to wage war on that land and the laws for which it stands. He got what was coming to him. Good job and good riddance.