Anwar al-Awlaki, a desperately evil man who was linked to the 9/11 attacks (he was “spiritual adviser” to a couple of the hijackers) as well as to the Fort Hood jihad murder, the Christmas underwear jihad bombing attempt on an airplane over Detroit, and the Times Square jihad mass murder attempt, has gone to his fiery grave, and some in America are unhappy about it.
The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement declaring that “as we have stated repeatedly in the past, the American Muslim community firmly repudiated Anwar al-Awlaki’s incitement to violence, which occurred after he left the United States. While a voice of hate has been eliminated, we urge our nation’s leaders to address the constitutional issues raised by the assassination of American citizens without due process of law.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed, claiming, “The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. This is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts.”
Leftist columnist Glenn Greenwald lamented in Salon that “after several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today. … The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world.”
Presidential candidate Ron Paul noted that al-Awlaki “was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the ‘underwear bomber.’ But if the American people accept this blindly and casually, that we now have an accepted practice of the President assassinating people whom he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad. I think, what would people have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn’t assassinate him, who certainly had done it.” McVeigh, Paul continued, “was put through the courts, then executed. … To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this.”
Perhaps the ACLU, CAIR, Greenwald and Paul would have been satisfied if we had airlifted an elite corps of defense attorneys into Yemen, along with a couple of cops to read al-Awlaki his Miranda rights and give him a chance to lawyer up. Along with them, CNN could have sent all the equipment necessary to set up a satellite feed, so that al-Awlaki could have been given an international platform to spread his message of anti-Americanism, hatred and Islamic jihad.
Then everyone would have been satisfied that the rights of this stalwart American citizen had been respected, and al-Awlaki himself could have had time to ensure that his efforts to murder innocent Americans in the name of Islam would go on unimpeded if he were convicted and imprisoned for a long stretch.
What all these statements fail to take into account is that we are at war, and that this war is different from all wars that have gone before it. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen, yes. He was also a traitor. He was waging war against his native country. He was an enemy combatant. If an American citizen had gone to Germany and joined the Wehrmacht in 1942, and was killed in battle against American forces, would anyone have been raising “constitutional issues” over the killing?
Al-Awlaki was on the battlefield of this war when he was sitting at his computer exchanging e-mails with the Fort Hood jihad mass murderer, Nidal Hasan, or working out the details of the plot to blow up American cargo planes last year. Thus American forces were perfectly justified, legally and morally, to take him out in such a setting, without sending him a lawyer or reading him his rights or spending a few million dollars to give him a global forum to air his views.
As the nature of warfare has changed, so must also our response to it. Al-Awlaki was not a cat burglar assassinated by rogue cops. His killing is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights. That this question has even been raised is indicative of just how thick the fog of ignorance still remains about the nature of the conflict we’re in, who it is exactly that we’re fighting, and what precisely we should do about it.
The short answers: This is an Islamic jihad. Al-Awlaki was a jihadist, dedicated to killing Americans. He got what was coming to him.
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