Home > Law > Change We Can Believe In, XXIV

Change We Can Believe In, XXIV

October 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Change We Can Believe In: Killing US Citizens (But Don’t Ask Why)

September ended with the death of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by drone attack in Yemen. President Obama created a new legal precedent with the strike, claiming it was justified because al-Awlaki “had joined the enemy in wartime, shifting from propaganda to an operational role in plots devised in Yemen by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula against the United States.” (Quote from Scott Shane’s NYT article on the legal debate over the killing.) Whether becoming operational is sufficient legal basis for assassinating a US citizen is not in itself clear, though many have been happy to support this line of reasoning. It should be noted, however, that the administration was unwilling to provide evidence of al-Awlkai’s operational role.

Last week, US drones struck again, killing al-Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was born in Denver in 1995, and his 17-year-old Yemeni cousin … in a U.S. military strike that left nine people dead in southeastern Yemen.” Whatever did they do to deserve this fate? No one’s talking:

One week after a U.S. military airstrike killed a 16-year-old American citizen in Yemen, no one in the Obama administration, Pentagon or Congress has taken responsibility for his death, or even publicly acknowledged that it happened.

The absence of official accountability for the demise of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a Denver native and the son of an al-Qaeda member, deepens the legal and ethical murkiness of the Obama administration’s campaign to kill alleged enemies of the state outside of traditional war zones.

Had Abdulrahman gone operational too? Does Obama believe he should have the right to assassinate minors without due process? Is this what it’s come to?

As Amy Davidson asked in her New Yorker blog on Tuesday:

Anwar al-Awlaki was a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and wrote angry and ugly sermons for them. The Administration says that it had to kill him because he had become “operational,” but so far it has kept the evidence for that to itself.

Was the son targeted, too?

… Where does the Obama Administration see the limits of its right to kill an American citizen without a trial? … And what are the protections for an American child?

I’d sure like to hear some answers.

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