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Obama Wrong to Rub Out Al-Awlaki

Forgive me while I don’t cheer the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born cleric whom the United States just killed in Yemen.

He was a U.S. citizen, after all.

He had never been indicted for a crime here, much less convicted of one, much less sentenced to death.

Still, the President rubbed him out.

We are told that he was a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and there is some evidence that his preachings influenced Al Qaeda terrorists, including a few of the 9/11 attackers and the shoe bomber.

He’s no angel. No doubt about that.

But does that give the President the right to summarily execute a U.S. citizen?

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Did FDR have the right to murder Ezra Pound during World War II for vocally supporting the fascists?

President Obama asserts that right, not just to bump off Al-Awlaki but also other U.S. citizens, too.

On what basis? Where will it end?


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The ACLU, which, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, represented Al-Awlaki’s father last year in an attempt to block his assassination, denounced this action.

"The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law,” says ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer. “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. The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President – any President – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country."

“If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the President does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” added Ben Wizner, ACLU National Security Project litigation director.

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, much to his credit, also objected to the hit.

“To start assassinating American citizens without charges—we should think very seriously about this,” Paul said.

Yes, we should.

Who does Obama think he is, Michael Corleone?

His Justice Department went into court last year to make the claim that no judge in the entire United States has the right to oversee the President’s assassination policy.

The President has become judge, juror, and literally executioner, and that’s not the way our system is supposed to work.

And it sets a new low, and a terrible precedent, for the abuse of Presidential powers.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild was the senior editor of The Progressive magazine from 1994 to 2014.

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