Leonard Pitts Jr. writes in his Miami Herald column that the Obama administration’s policy allowing the killing of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, should give us all pause. He argues that it stands in defiance of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits governments from depriving people of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
Spin it any way you want. Justify it, rationalize it, chalk it up to the exigencies of war. And at the end, the fact remains:
A United States citizen is dead and the United States government killed him. Without trial. Without due process. Without hesitation. And many of those who loudly deplored George W. Bush for smaller excesses seem content to allow Barack Obama this larger one.
No, I do not mourn the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. If anyone ever deserved to have a missile from a predator drone land in his lap, it was this New Mexico-born Muslim cleric, killed last September in Yemen, his ancestral homeland. American counterterrorism experts say he planned the failed 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. Additionally, he is said to have inspired the Ford Hood massacre of 2009 and the botched Times Square bombing of 2010. The world is a better place without this guy in it.
Still, the means of his dispatch from this world ought to give us pause.
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech in which he attempted to justify what the administration did. His reasoning was not compelling. In Holder’s formulation, the U.S. government has the right to kill citizens if said citizens present an imminent threat of violent attack and if capturing them alive is not a feasible option. It can do this, said Holder, speaking at Northwestern University’s school of law, without judicial oversight.
Read Leonard Pitts Jr.’s entire column at the Miami Herald.