On September 30, a US drone flying over Yemen launched a missile attack on a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Among the dead were Awlaki and another US citizen. Also killed along with them was the hallowed tradition of respecting the constitution, especially the constitutional right of a US citizen to be heard before a US court.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, New Mexico-born Awlaki was a member of a thoroughly screened and handpicked Muslim delegation invited to lunch at the Pentagon.
Pentagon officials defended the invitation saying Awlaki was a Muslim leader who condemned al-Qaeda and the terrorist attacks.
However, as time passed Awlaki became a preacher who inspired jihadists. One never knows whether he acted on his own. Or was he a creation of an intelligence outfit that seeks to keep the war on terror or the war against the so-called Islamic terrorists alive though records show that US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan who killed 13 of his colleagues at Fort Hood military facility in Texas last year and the so-called underpants bomber had links with Awlaki.
Whatever he was, no one can say with certainty that he was a terror-mastermind unless he had been brought before a court of law and tried. The fact that neither Osama bin Laden nor Awlaki was captured alive and brought to justice gives credence to theories that someone wants to bury with them the schemes that made them into terror leaders.
The Awlaki assassination displayed the wanton disrespect for laws that uphold an individual’s right to life. That is the legacy of the imperialists’ war on terror. The imperialists show little respect for the law as they wage war, subjugate sovereign nations and unleash their brutal fire power to bring those who oppose their agendas to submission. With US leaders showing little or no respect for the law, those who came under their command have no qualms about violating human rights laws and laws on warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places.
When law is a capitalists’ weapon that helps maintain an oppressive system that thrives on greed and inequalities, it comes as no surprise when it is manipulated by the same rogues who made them to further their capitalist agendas. The manipulation was such that the checks and balances found in the US constitution — which is regarded as the most enlightened man-made document on earth — were compromised, with the judiciary also giving more priority to the imperialist war than to the hallowed principles that had gone into the making of the constitution.
Encouraged by judicial decisions in favour of the war or laws that eat into civil liberties, targeted assassinations became an accepted policy of the George W. Bush administration. Barack Obama who promised to respect international law but apparently failed simply continues with it.
Political killings probably date back to the time when people came to be organized in a political society. Even after people were organized into modern democratic societies, such killings continued albeit in a secret manner as we saw in the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. Such secrecy was necessary to maintain the façade of a democratic society, for being democratic in a chaotic world order helps a nation to hide its imperialist and power-hungry designs.
However, Israel showed the way that democratic societies could, if the need arose, carry out targeted assassinations openly. Many leaders of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements have fallen victim to Israel’s targeted killings while its undercover assassins carry on regardless as seen in the recent killings of nuclear scientists in Iran and a senior Palestinian figure in a Dubai hotel last year. Such targeted assassinations are a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1907 Hague Convention.
It is understandable that a state like Israel, which often shows little or no respect for international law especially in matters affecting Palestinians, resorts to targeted assassinations. But when the US, which boasts that it leads the civilized word in promoting democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law, resorts to extra-judicial killings, what example does it set for others?
The killing of Awlaki, a US citizen who was deemed a threat, without trying him in a court of law is a clear violation of the rights afforded to him by the US constitution, which says, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
In the post-9/11 US, the targeted assassination of US citizens was probably the second death blow to the civil liberties guaranteed in the US constitution, the first being the enactment of the draconian Patriot Act.
But what is disturbing is the absence of public protests in the United States over the extra-judicial killing of a US citizen by the executive branch of the government. Did the American conscience and morality die in the 9/11 attacks? Shouldn’t the killing of Americans by the executive branch warrant a public protest similar to what we see these days near Wall Street?
Should one remind them of the oft-quoted poem of anti-Nazi German pastor Martin Niemöller?
If they do not check the killing machine of the executive branch of the government, the day is not far away when they may say, “first they came for Obama bin Laden and al-Qaeda members, I was not bothered because I was not an al-Qaeda member; then they came for the Muslims, I did not protest because I was not a Muslim; then they came for two American Muslims, I was silent because I was not an American Muslim; and finally when they came for me, there was none to protect me.”