The Murder of Anwar Al-Awlaki
On September 30, 2011 the radical Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by two US drones operating in Yemen. Awlaki was a terrorist leader who had been linked to numerous terrorist attacks including the failed Times Square bomber, the Christmas day underwear bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and even some of the hijackers involved in the September 11th attacks. Awlaki was also a United States citizen, born in the United States in 1971, making him a natural born US-citizen.
Every citizen of the United States is granted all rights guaranteed to them by the constitution, including those who hold dual-citizenship, as Awlaki did with Yemen and the United States. According to the Fifth Amendment to the constitution, “No Person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Just before his death Awlaki was having breakfast with his entourage on the ground, before they spotted two drones operated by the US military. Awlaki fled, along with the people he was with, without opening fire or taking any hostile actions towards the drones. While trying to escape, the car carrying Awlaki, a second US citizen, and two others was fired upon by the drones. A hellfire missile destroyed the vehicle and killed all of the people inside.
Four people, four human beings were blown-up, two of them US citizens. No trial, no jury, no rights were afforded to them, only death. President Obama apparently authorized this killing by way of a special telegram sent to the CIA, who had a special operation set up to monitor, track, and eventually capture/kill Awlaki. The only problem is that the president does not have this power that he supposedly used to authorize Awlaki’s killing. The constitution grants no power to the President to override the 5th Amendment in any case, under any circumstances.
Also, a lot of people think the Patriot Act gave the government a huge amount of radical power that they can use to do a lot of stuff they couldn’t before, which may be true, but none of that power went directly to the President and none of it relates to anything outside of a court of law. All the rights of US citizens are still protected by the Constitution, including the right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers. Awlaki was the instigator of some horrible events, including what it one of the worst and most horrifying events in human history, 9/11. Awlaki indirectly caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans, people with friends, families. He was a misguided person with radical politics and a dangerously strong ability to influence the weak-minded and was possibly one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet, simply because of his proficiency in English which was so invaluable to Al Qaeda’s effort in America. However, there are reasons that we have the rules laid out by the constitution, these rules stop us from doing whatever we want, whenever we want, to whoever we want.
Awlaki’s actions are indefensible, and I in no way am saying that his death was a bad thing; however, it was illegal according to US law, and we need to realize that we can’t just make exceptions to the rules that govern us whenever we feel like it. And we can’t let ourselves get blinded by emotion; especially in regards to topics like 9/11 where people let their emotions get so much the better of them, and tend to throw all logical thought out the window. Awlaki is gone, and that is probably a positive thing in terms of the safety of the US states and its citizens, but sooner or later we are going to have to realize that just because someone is a bad person, has political views far different from ours, or is a threat to our national and personal security that we can’t just kill them if they are still a US citizen, without a fair trial. It’s obvious that Awlaki was guilty of numerous amounts of horrible crimes, and that if he had ever gone to court, then he would almost certainly have been found guilty. We should have given him the trial he was guaranteed by the Constitution, but since we no longer have that option we must make sure that we never make the same mistake again.
In this way we preserve what makes our country what it is, a morally ethical nation empowered by its laws and their rightful enforcement, that does not act simply on the whims of emotion.