he American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — a key figure in al Qaeda — was killed Friday in a long-planned American drone strike in Yemen. Al-Awlaki's killing marks the first time that a U.S. citizen has been targeted in the war on terrorism, and raises thorny constitutional issues. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was quick to criticize President Obama, saying that "to start assassinating American citizens without charges — we should think very seriously about this." Is this an unconstitutional assassination or simply the justified killing of an American enemy?
This is abhorrent: The U.S. government has wrongly assassinated one of its own citizens without due process, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. That's a clear violation of both the the First and Fifth Amendments (freedom of religion and expression, and the right to due process, respectively). Even more "striking" and disturbing is that people are cheering the assassination of a fellow citizen — and the obliteration of their "most basic individual liberties."
"The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality"
All's fair in war: "We are at war, and... avowed enemies and traitors in active warfare against the U.S. cannot suddenly invoke legal protections from a society they have decided to help destroy," says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. While I respect Greenwald's "consistency and integrity," the stakes are too high here. In killing al-Awlaki, Obama has made America a safer place and accomplished yet another thing that Bush failed to do. We are winning the war on terror with "intelligent, relentless, ethical intelligence work" rather than the previous administration's ineffectual torture and "ideological spectacle."
Either way, al-Awlaki's importance was exaggerated: You'll probably "hear this was necessary because of Awlaki's operational role, and his part played in the Fort Hood massacre and the Christmas Day bombing attempt," says David Dayen at Firedoglake. But many experts says al-Awlaki was a mere figurehead with a YouTube account, not a key terrorist mastermind. It's only because he "could speak in front of a video camera" that he was "was magnified in the U.S. public's mind as some sort of leader."
"American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki assassinated in Yemen"
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