Posted tagged ‘Anwar al-Awlaki’

Putting The Genie Back In The Bottle

October 1, 2011

During the George W Bush years, the practice of “ends justify means” was given a vigorous renewal.  With men like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, David Arrington, Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld, and last but not least, Dick Cheney, the means became unimportant as long as the ends were achieved.  They let the dark genie out of the bottle.

This week the White announced that a drone attack in Yemen had succeeded in killing an American citizen.  The victim was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Islamic cleric, who had gone over to the dark side.  Awaki has been accused of inspiring, if not setting in motion, several terrorist attacks on the US.  The CIA’s frustration with not being able to detain or silence him came to an end.

But is that the end?

This was an American citizen with the same rights to due process as anyone else.  How can it be ok to allow the CIA to assassinate anyone much less another American citizen?

Maybe he was a very bad person.  Maybe his extreme views did represent a threat and maybe he did inspire others to terroristic acts.  Maybe he should have been arrested and sent to prison.  But didn’t he deserve due process?

The Administration argues that there was a due process.  The President signed a finding listing Awlaki as an enemy of the country to be captured or killed.  But is that what we mean by “due process”?

The “ends”, that is, a world less dangerous, might have been served.  Did that not justify these means?

And that is precisely the problem.  What about the next time when someone living in New York (or any other US location) using their first amendment rights, writes, speaks, or shouts something that is highly unacceptable to our political leaders.  Add to that, what if other Americans respond and begin to act in civil disobedience.  What if that person went into hiding and spread his/her voice through writings or the internet?  Should the CIA or FBI take out this person who would not cooperate and surrender before issuing an arrest warrant?

What if this person were today Martin Luther King or Leonid Trotsky or Patrick Henry?

The government may be correct in this case but it is not a slam dunk.  Iraq, Abu Ghraib,  enhanced interrogation, and outing a CIA agent were wrong, even though they were undoubtably done for what the Bush Administration thought was a good reason.

Ends do not justify means.