I admit that I have a certain “formula” that most of my articles here fall under. I describe a situation or issue, I give my opinion, and then I spell out why anyone with the slightest lick of common sense and integrity would see it my way and only the most scurrilous dogs and dastardly fiends would dare hold a contrary opinion. I sometimes shake it up a little, and I try to bury the formula under different styles and good writing, but dig deep enough and there it is. I stick with it because it works.
I rarely discuss something when I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. Nearly all the time, if I don’t have a strong opinion, I’m not interested in a topic enough to devote the thought and energy in making it interesting, so I don’t bother.
But every now and then, a topic comes up where I have such genuinely mixed feelings, such ambiguous and conflicting thoughts, that I just can’t come down on one side or another. It’s rare as hell, but when it does, it hexes me something fierce.
There’s a radical Islamic cleric who’s essentially at war with the United States. Anwar Al Awlaki, currently residing in Yemen, has been a “spiritual leader” to terrorists who have committed or attempted to commit some of the most heinous terrorist attacks against the US, as well as a direct recruiter of would-be jihadis. He preached to several of the 9/11 hijackers. He preached to and counseled Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, and praised his murders. He has been tied to the Fort Dix planned attack, the Times Square would-be bombing, the Christmas Underwear Bomber, the 2006 Toronto plot, the London 7/7 bombings, and numerous other incidents. He is a “regional commander” for Al Qaeda, but it is believed that he’s more into the spiritual and motivational side, not the operations — kind of like a Satanic chaplain than a general.
In brief, we don’t like him, for many very good reasons. And we’d like to get our hands on him.
Recently, the Obama administration revisited that decision. They moved capturing him off the front burner, and instead put him on the list of “kill on sight.”
I don’t have much problem with that, generally. I agree with the old Texas sentiment that “there are some people that just need killing.” The world would be a much better and safer place with him within it, not on it.
There’s just one teeny-tiny problem, though: Awlaki is an American citizen. Born in 1971 in New Mexico, he holds dual American and Yemeni citizenship. And there are some serious problems with the United States government just up and killing American citizens without a trial.
Awlaki’s citizenship is a double-edged sword for him. While it offers him some protections, it also makes his prosecution exceptionally easier should he be captured. His conduct over the past decade or so are as clear a textbook case of “treason” as I have ever seen:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Doesn’t get any clearer than that. Awlaki’s levied War against the United States, adhered to our Enemies, given them Aid and Comfort, before numerous Witnesses, and his own recorded words would make a superb Confession in open Court.
(Man, did the Founding Fathers have some odd rules about capitalizing.)
But summary execution? Of an American citizen?
It would make things remarkably simpler if he were to renounce his citizenship. It would also be a wonderful symbolic gesture for him. But he seems too canny for that. He knows that it offers him a bit of protection, at no cost, and giving it up would gain him little.
I want this guy dead. I’ll settle for his capture and trial, but unless he has some good intelligence to give up, I don’t see much value in that. I just want him reduced to compost in as expedient a fashion as possible.
But… do I really want the United States government (currently controlled by the Obama regime) to have the authority to just kill an American citizen. There’s an uncomfortable air of “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” about Obama’s ordering the death of this Muslim cleric. It’s a very, very uncomfortable precedent.
Could Congress act to strip him of his citizenship? That’d resolve things nicely. Unfortunately, that would probably count as a “Bill of Attainder,” and that is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.
I’ve heard there’s a saying among lawyers that hard cases make for bad law. Likewise, tough situations like this one tend to make very bad precedents.
The simplest solution, of course, would be for Alwaki to just die under plausibly deniable circumstances. Say, while meeting with a known non-American terrorist, he could be blown up as “collateral damage” — “we were shooting at the other guy; he just happened to be in the way. Oops.” Or, alternately, “it was a case of mistaken identity. He looked just like this other non-American, was in a place we expected that guy to be, and we made a mistake. Our bad.”
I think I could live with that polite fiction. I think I could give the Obama administration a wink and a nod and let them off with a “be more careful in the future, OK?”
But they had to make it public. They had to say openly that it was the official policy of the United States government to kill Awlaki. They have no problems evading public statements or just making outright lies in so many areas, and here they had a sudden attack of candor.
It’s a hell of a tough situation, and it raises some very challenging issues. And, quite frankly, it has me utterly confounded and frustrated, as well as a lot of other Americans.
Which, I’m sure, Alwaki finds quite pleasing.