Don Roach: Obama Justified in Killing Americans?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Last week, the president authorized the killing of two American citizens with one being a high ranking al-Qaeda operative, Anwar al-Awlaki, without a trial, arrest, or detainment. I would have figured that there would have been a media uproar over this, but there hasn’t been. Had more of this happened during the Bush administration, we would have been inundated with images of the American, probably pictures of their high school or college years, day after day after day. President Bush would have been vilified from all angles and congressional leaders would have hinted at impeachment. Not so for Obama.

Back on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama was all for the troops being pulled out of Iraq and I don’t believe he espoused an interventionist policy as the previous administration had practiced for almost a decade. That’s why it’s strange to hear Obama say, “"The death of Awlaki is a major blow to Al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate” as if Awlaki was not an American citizen, but some random terrorist. What happened to due process and innocent until proven guilty? Are we in a bizarro universe where those rights don’t apply anymore?

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A Polarizing Topic

So, I wondered if it was just me who felt this way and so I posted the following on my Facebook page , “anyone else concerned that US citizens were killed by the government?” The responses were surprising to say the least with the most sobering reply being, “Nope…”. Others went into great detail about why they had absolutely no problem with Obama killing two ‘alleged’ terrorists. I use ‘alleged’ because in America we are presumed innocent until proven guilty – even Timothy McVeigh had a trial. But many of my friends didn’t see it that way. One wrote:

"I honestly can't believe you are concerned about this. The guy was a traitor and plotted to kill Americans. I am perfectly OK with this."

Let’s agree that Awlaki was a traitor and was plotting to kill Americans. Let’s assume his guilt even if a court didn’t try him. Further, if he was alive today, he’d still be plotting ways to kill more Americans. But I ask again, how is this situation different than Timothy McVeigh who received a trial or the countless other murderers who received fair trials in accordance with our legal system. Put another way, when did it become ok for the President to circumvent the rights that protect us all?

It’s not like McVeigh was remorseful for blowing up the Murrah Building. He actually said his one regret was not leveling the whole building! And still we gave him a trial and didn’t execute him on the spot. Not so with these Americans and it makes you wonder if the war on terror is causing us to lose more by winning.

What's Next?

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In other words, we’re a nation of principles and ideals. No we don’t always live up to the same but we’re in a pursuit of them trying to be the example in the world. When we do this to our own citizens without blinking an eye we’re giving our government unprecedented power to kill Americans overseas sans due process. The next logical mental leap is to wonder if those same practices would be brought here.

And that’s a scary thought.

A vocal minority of my friends felt like Russell Moore who wrote:

"Nice to see President Obama has the power to order the killing of a US citizen without due process of law. Where are all these liberal civil libertarians who criticized president Bush for far less serious civil liberty infractions. Guess it's only bad when a Republican violates civil liberties. Hypocrites!"

So now, I’ll pose the same question to you GoLocalProv readers, do you have a problem with killing a US citizen on foreign soil who, by all accounts, sought to kill other Americans? In cases like these are you ok with the President ignoring the due process rights we have in this country in order to take out a target? If you answer yes, where does it stop for you?

These aren’t trivial questions and I do not believe I’m being paranoid. Instead, as a nation we’ve got to take a cold hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves who do we want to be. If we’re truly the land of the free and the home of the brave then under duress we need to be consistent with our ideals. Otherwise, as Russell stated we’re just a bunch of hypocrites with bigger sticks than everyone else in the playground.


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