Anwar al-Awlaki is dead.
But more on that in a moment.
First, let me apologize for being several days late to the party commenting on this story; I’ve been pretty busy
Second, let’s be clear. Yes, I lean fairly far to the left. I’m liberal, even if I also do have moderate tendencies. I’ve been called a secular progressive (which is funny since, believing in God and Jesus pretty firmly like I do, I’d be a Christian progressive). But I have my conservative moments, and this is one of them. Cry all you want about assassinating a U.S. citizen, but I have zero problem with this guy being killed.
Which brings me back to my original point: Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Now, I’ve seen some of my fellow liberal-leaning folks all in a fuss about how bad it is to set a precedent like this and kill a U.S. citizen without due process. First off, I’d rather spend time worrying about the probably thousands of people doing time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit (and possibly facing potential execution) because prosecutors and police lied or got lazy or because the person couldn’t get a decent defense. Or unarmed people who get tasered to death or shot dozens of times by police for no good reason. Screw one lone damned terrorist leader who made no bones about his intentions in the face of all that.
Because you know what, Anwar al-Awlaki was quite open about his hatred of the United States and his desire to kill. He didn’t just make vague comments about chickens coming home to roost like Malcolm X, who was actually more about justice and fairness and justifiable self-defense than people give him credit for. Anwar al-Awlaki wanted Americans dead and wanted to strike blows against the United States to, ideally, take it down. He was a terrorist.
Oh, yeah, and a U.S. citizen. Now, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me, but the man left the U.S. in 2002 and became increasingly vocal about how you can’t trust non-Muslims and should rely on the bullet. He was preaching very publicly to others to encourage them to do violence to the United States and other non-Muslim nations. I’m sorry, but if that isn’t a tacit rejection of your citizenship, I don’t know what is. I’d feel the same about any white, right-wing terrorist who decided to drop out of mainstream American life to plot secret and violent attacks against people in this country. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some extra-angry “if ballots don’t work, bullets will” Tea Party types enter this category soon. I won’t cry if they get shot in a raid on their compound.
To be honest, al-Awlaki was the very definition of an “enemy combatant.” If you say you want to do some killing and plan to do some killing and plan to get other people to do some killing, you have declared war. If we get a chance to shoot you down, we should take it.
This, to me, is more honest, clean and just. I’d rather see a drone fire a missile at a vehicle containing this guy and a few terrorist friends than to see a bombing of some compound he lives in, where plenty of innocents, including children potentially, might be. I’d rather see an assassination like this than dragging our poor troops halfway across the world to wage war and cause all sorts of collateral damage that maims and kills tens of thousands of innocent folks.
So, whether a drone like in this case, or a sniper in some other case (past or future), I’ll take the targeted assassination of the leaders over the wholesale slaughter of the foot soldiers. Without people to plan organized assaults, you rarely have foot soldiers to deal with.
Frankly, the notion that we should have just dragged him back to the United States for a trial is ludicrous. Aside from the fact that would be a riskier operation to our own forces and to others, it just isn’t necessary. This isn’t a situation in which guilt is even in question. Anwar al-Awlaki was proud of his actions and happy to kill indiscriminately. I’d rather we kill selectively than engage in mass operations that sow untold destruction over years. (Are there downsides to assassination, and can it help foment hatred toward us? Sure. But far less so than occupying and razing great swaths of a nation.)
Do I trust my government to always do the right thing when it comes to assassination? No. But that’s nothing new. I’m tired of war, though, and tired of using a shotgun or a carpet bombing where a sniper or a missile-equipped drone can do the job much more cleanly.