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The glorious killing of Awlaki and the unfortunate precedent it sets.

By David K. Williams, Jr.

Anwar al-Awlaki was evil. He hated his country of birth. He wanted to destroy it. I know of no one disputing any of this. I also understand the visceral reaction to killing an enemy. I have zero sympathy for the man. I am glad he is dead.

But there is problem we cannot ignore. If the President has the unilateral authority to declare American citizens* a serious threat to the country and place such people on a list and have those people killed, where is the check on that authority?

Do we just trust the Executive Branch to use good judgment? Monarchs have unilateral authority to kill based on their good judgment. Do we want to give our President the authority of a monarch when it comes to killing people that pose a threat to the country?

If the President has such authority, why did we bother with a trial for Timothy McVeigh? He killed hundreds of innocent Americans in an act of terror. Did the President have the authority to have him summarily executed? If not, how does that situation differ from the Awlaki situation? McVeigh was found in the United States and Awlaki in Yemen, but is that the critical distinction? What if McVeigh had made it into Canada? Could he then be summarily executed because he was no longer on American soil?

We are not dealing with battlefield scenarios. If someone poses an imminent threat, say, by pointing a gun at you, you can defend yourself and shoot back with the intent to kill. But if that same person escapes you and is found later sitting in a diner or a park bench, you can not legally walk up to him and put a bullet in his brain. Perhaps we should be able to do that, but I think not. One may certainly advocate for such a policy, but it would require a change in existing law.

Some have argued that Awlaki lost his U.S. citizenship by his terrorist actions. (If so, McVeigh must have, as well. If the rule of law is not consistently applied, it is not justice.) Title 8, Section 1481 of the U.S. Code is cited as authority for that conclusion. That citation is misplaced. The statute, “Loss of nationality by native-born or naturalized citizen; voluntary action; burden of proof; presumptions,” lists the circumstances under which one can lose citizenship. The proponents of this argument rely on this provision of the statute:

(a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality—
. . .
(7)committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of title 18, or willfully performing any act in violation of section 2385 of title 18, or violating section 2384 of title 18 by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them…

So far, they have a good case. But they leave out the last phrase of section (a)(7). It reads

. . . if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction.

That is a rather important clause. One is given due process to contest the allegation of treason before losing one’s citizenship under this statute.

I will grant, for the sake of argument, that the killing of Awlaki was a glorious moment in US history and should be praised with hosannas. Perhaps we should get a national holiday. Perhaps killing Awlaki was the easiest call in American history. 

Even if all of that is true, should we be satisfied with the President’s unchecked unilateral power to put Americans on a list for assassination? If not, then we should be concerned about this precedent, as glorious as it may be on this occasion, and we should put some check on this authority.
If we are indeed satisfied with the President’s unchecked unilateral power to put Americans on a list for assassination, Lord, help us.

======
* I understand that citizenship is not always a prerequisite for constitutional protections, but that discussion is for another day.

BlueCarp

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Terrorism and foreign policy.

Prologue.

I write this knowing full well the emotions the topic engenders. I am prepared for that. My intent, however, is to generate honest, thoughtful dialogue. Perhaps I am foolish in that hope.

A quotation.

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

— Sun Tzu

Intro.

There seems to be two polar positions regarding US foreign policy and terrorism. At one extreme is the belief that Islamic terrorists attack the US solely because of  US involvement overseas, particularly the Middle East. The other extreme is that the US can act overseas without regard to consequences because there are none. Neither is correct.

I agree with the notion that the United States is far too involved with far too many foreign countries. Our military is spread too thin across the globe. Forget nation-building policies, bringing democracy to authoritarian countries our protecting our allies in Europe. If nothing else, it is a matter of economics. We simply can not afford it.

This is not some Crazy Uncle Ron Paul wacky isolationist position. Colorado conservative Republican Congressman and U.S. Marine Mike Coffman agrees.

Close our military bases in foreign countries. If not all, then most. If not most, then half. If not half, then some. But start closing them.

The “pure blowback” position.

Some of the anti-war libertarians, and others, have this notion that Muslim terrorism is entirely a creation of U.S. policy overseas. They believe if we leave them alone, terrorism will stop. This is nonsense.

Elements within the Islamic culture believe in domination. This element believes the infidels must either be converted or killed. Pretending this is not so is foolish. This element exists regardless of U.S. foreign policy, and we must be vigilant against it.

The “love it or leave it” position.

It does not follow, however, that U.S. foreign policy is not relevant to this fight. Of course it is. The U.S. has propped up dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, just to name one. We have given our enemies, at the least, pretext upon which to foment hate against us. It is just as foolish to believe our involvement in the Middle East is irrelevant to the Islamo-fascist terrorists as it is to think it is the sole cause.

Leaving aside the merits of our involvement in the Middle East, our involvement is used by our enemies to recruit suicide bombers and generate sympathy for their fascist cause.  One may (and should) ultimately conclude, for example, that killing Osama bin Laden was absolutely the correct action, even if failing to inform the Pakistani government cost us good will in that country.

To ignore that our action made some people angry and will be used to recruit further terrorists is as foolish as the “pure blowback” position. To understand the consequences, to weigh them, and then decide the appropriate action is the prudent course.

Conclusion.

One may ultimately decide it is a good idea to poke a hornets’ nest, but to make that decision without considering the hornets will be displeased is absurd. Likewise, to assume the hornets will never sting you or expand their hive just because you ignore them and leave them be is just as foolish.

BlueCarp

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Brigitte Gabriel – A Woman of Passion

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