As an expansion of the bin Laden thread this news story takes the legality of US assassination to new heights. Now we're trying to kill American citizens who have not been charged with any crime, let alone been given a trial after such charges. Let's just move right to killing them because they are deemed an enemy of the State. WTF is going on?


Here are some excerpts from “U.S. tries to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki” at Salon, by Glen Greenwald (see the article for the rest and discuss):


That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it (watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum -- Richard Perle's co-author for the supreme 2004 neocon treatise -- waxes admiringly about Obama's Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its "continuity" with Bush/Cheney).  But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process.


That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post's Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list. 


Yesterday, riding a wave of adulation and military-reverence, the Obama administration tried to end the life of this American cit... -- never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime -- with a drone strike in Yemen, but missed and killed two other people instead:


There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance.  But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process -- far from any battlefield, not during combat -- is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that it's hard to convey in words or treat with civility.


The killing of bin Laden got the testosterone pumping, the righteousness pulsating, and faith in the American military and its Commander-in-Chief skyrocketing to all-time highs.  It made America feel good about itself in a way that no other event has since at least Obama's inauguration; we got to forget about rampant unemployment, home foreclosures by the millions, a decade's worth of militaristic futility and slaughter, and ever-growing Third-World levels of wealth inequality.  This was a week for flag-waving, fist-pumping, and nationalistic chanting:  even -- especially -- among liberals, who were able to take the lead and show the world (and themselves) that they are no wilting, delicate wimps; it's not merely swaggering right-wing Texans, but they, too, who can put bullets in people's heads and dump corpses into the ocean and then joke and cheer about it afterwards.  It's inconceivable that this wave of collective pride, boosted self-esteem, vicarious strength, and renewed purpose won't produce a desire to replicate itself.  Four days after bin Laden is killed, a missile rains down from the sky to try to execute Awlaki without due process,

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This is not good -- downright disturbing.  He has to be checked on this, but the repubs aren't going to do it.


Obama appears to be trying to appeal to the core conservatives.  In a speech in El Paso recently, he told the assembled crowd, "Those who are here illegally have a responsibility.  They broke the law and must pay a penalty.  They must pay taxes, pay a fine, and learn English."  In this case, I actually support this "conservative" message and I am glad he said it.  (Whether he will actually do anything about it is a whole 'nother question.) 

I agree, as long as the underground economy of hiring illegals is enforced as well*, thereby raising the boat for all who are (dis)affected by illegal under-the-table slave wages. Yes, this will reduce profits but not eliminate them. God forbid should we have any social checks on unlimited profits by capital owners. Much like we should have any legal checks on executive power to kill without legal recourse, eh? Integral autocracy at work...

*Not a conservative talking point.

Hi Guys

I find myself vacillating between outrage and then comparing these actions to similar instances in, say, WW2.

There was a major engagement going on with the Americans attempting to land on one of the Japanese held Pacific Islands (it may have been Iwo Jima, or Guadalcanal or Okinawa - I can find the exact reference later if needed)

A US patrol spotted a Japanese General standing out in the open viewing the horizon. They immediately radioed his position to US warships off the coast who immediately targeted him, shelling his position and killing him. This robbed the Japanese of a major player in their chain of command and resulted in the speedier defeat and taking of the island by the US.

No due process, no advance warning. The two parties were at war. He was a known leader. Was this action also outrageous? It was an act of war - due process doesn't seem to enter into such occasions, does it?

So, if the two parties, the US and jihadist Islam, are actually at war I am now wondering what the difference is between these 2 scenarios. The crucial question seems to be " are the US and members of jihadist Islam at war or not?" If they are, these actions of Barack Obama's may be less outrageous.

Here are some interesting comments from Anwar alAwlaki

and some more here:

Here are some about Al Qaeda from Barack Obama:

And in case anyone thinks alAwlaki is simply fantasising about US colonialism, check this research out from the Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of  Quebec. Scary shit. Do you think closing down and then selling off these military bases might help pay off the US national debt?

Right now, I happen to think there is a war going on. I see the US and the UK and other governments invading other lands for natural resources and other strategic reasons, as we have always done. In response I see jihadists attacking back. Given what I see as their pathological Amber moralism maybe they would be attacking the US on religious grounds anyway even if the US and others weren't invading. Either way, it is a war isn't it?


What do you think?



It is war but all is not fair in war. There are rules that the US signed on to and the question is did we violate those rules? (See the Geneva Convention, for one.) So are there exceptions to the law?


“I want him to fail…”
The chronicles of Arrakis. The manuscripts of the face dancer high priest Rush limbaughullah, of the Bene Teabagxu brotherhood



Hi Ed

"There are rules that the US signed on to and the question is did we violate those rules?"

Yes of course, the Geneva Convention for a start. Is there anything in particular you had in mind when asking the question about whether the US violated them? I mean, do you have a more detailed knowledge of the this convention, or others? I don't.


Upon first glance, albeit on Wiki, I was surprised to see this:

Grave breaches

Not all violations of the treaty are treated equally. The most serious crimes are termed grave breaches, and provide a legal definition of a war crime. Grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions include the following acts if committed against a person protected by the convention:

  • willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, including biological experiments
  • willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
  • compelling someone to serve in the forces of a hostile power
  • willfully depriving someone of the right to a fair trial


Well presumably shooting an unarmed person in the head at close range certainly deprives them of a fair trial! Presumably therefore if Bin Laden was protected by the convention ( a massive "if" which I have never seen debated, perhaps because the US' term "enemy combatant" was created in order to avoid such legalities?) then the US could now be tried for  war crimes. But so could have Bin Laden if there was any evidence connecting him to 9-11 or other crimes?


I suspect the issue of exceptions these laws is a bit like the process whereby history is written by the other words international  law and its exceptions are being currently written by the big powers.





Here's one article questioning the law in bin Laden's case, although it seems the majority of the article is concerned with providing much more legal justification for it rather than question it. Here's another one on the legal issues with al-Alawki. From the latter:

"According to international law, in an armed conflict only someone 'directly participating in hostilities' against the United States is a legitimate target for U.S. assassination. But the United States has neither said whether it is abiding by that principle in its targeting, nor how it defines 'direct participation.'"

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