So, uh, hey, did anyone else notice it last Friday when President Obama had two U.S. citizens assassinated in Yemen? Anyone catch that?
I have to ask, because I feel like the only one I heard a peep from about it was Ron Paul, who took the bold stand that completely subverting the justice system and “taking out” Anwar al-Awlaki was not cool. Way to stick your neck out, dude. Not that anyone’s listening because you’re also a total hypocrite (that whole “let’s tear down all government except that which prevents gay marriage and abortions” thing), but hell, at least you said something about it. Everyone else seems to have been busy Occupying Wall Street this weekend.
Back in 2008, I voted for Barrack Obama for one reason only: Pretty speeches. After eight years of watching and listening to George W. Bush bankrupt both our economy and our vocabulary, all I wanted out of an Obama Presidency was a little eloquence. And you know what? I got it that same night, as he stood before a million people in Chicago and brought the country to tears with a message of hope and prosperity. I don’t think he delivered either that prosperity or that hope, but I didn’t vote for the completion of those things. I voted for never having to hear the word “misunderstimated” used again by a public official.
I’m a pretty left-leaning guy, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve watched over the last couple years as this country’s meandering, confused, often-naïve liberal contingent grew increasingly disappointed in President Obama not being able to fulfill some of the promises he made—failure, as it turned out, was very much an option—but I could never count myself among their number, because the first night he was elected, I got what I came for. This past weekend, as more details emerged about the drone strike that took the lives of Anwar al-Awlaki and 26-year-old Samir Khan—both U.S. citizens—I realized I could no longer support the President, no longer be proud of having been a part of sending him to the White House, and no longer vote for his reelection next year.
Because what the hell do we have worth fighting for if this is the kind of thing that happens? What’s the point? All the rhetoric about freedom, and these two men—neither of whom was charged with a crime; Awlaki was said to have “inspired” and “motivated” several failed attacks and an influential position in Al Qaeda, and Khan published the Al Qaeda magazine, Inspire—are neither arrested nor given any trial before they’re murdered by the state? Even if their actions were treasonous, and it’s a pretty safe argument that they were, what happened to due process?
It’s Samir Khan that really gets to me. He was 26. Not much more than a boy. He put out a newsletter with articles on how to make explosives that had cutesy headlines and talked about how the American government was evil. That’s a death penalty offense? Again, even if you think it’s treason, what about the First Amendment? Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? I don’t think the headline the Times cited, “How To Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom,” counts as presenting a clear and present danger, considering you can fire up Google (which does, in fact, also exist on the Arabian Peninsula) and find out the same thing in under 25 seconds. Break out the predator drones!
All this American exceptionalism and wanting to protect the homeland. These men were part of the homeland! I certainly don’t feel any safer knowing that radical newspaper editors can be assassinated by the government and no one will say boo about it. That smacks a little bit of state-sponsored terrorism to me. Just saying.
Perhaps the most ironic part of the whole thing, though, is that President Obama is basically going to get away with being a war criminal because Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan are foreign-sounding names. Obama, who’s been subject to scrutiny over his birth certificate since getting elected and who, in his initial campaign, more or less had to prove he wasn’t a secret Muslim out to destroy our American way of life, is now banking on the fact that Awlaki and Khan have Middle Eastern names and brushing them under the rug, glorifying their murder as “a major blow” to Al Qaeda.
Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m sure President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings are much more detailed than mine. What I do know is that America has a means of dealing with its criminals, and that if we’re going to undermine the principles on which the country is built in order to protect it or save it, it’s not worth our time. You could say it’s just two people, and fine. How many does it need to be before it stops being okay? Isn’t one enough?