The killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda operative, by a U.S. drone and presidential order reignited a debate that began under the previous administration on death by drones, due process and the law.
The assassination of al-Awlaki has elicited criticism in the main because he is a U.S. citizen and is supposed to be accorded the constitutional right to due process.
President Barack Obama signed off on the secretly developed U.S. kill (or capture) target list on which U.S.-born al-Awlaki had been placed. Apparently, once someone is on the list, the CIA can proceed with assassination if it has actionable intelligence.
The Department of Justice issued a secret memo that OK’d the killing. Since then the administration has said it was justified in targeting “high-level leaders of enemy forces, regardless of their nationality, who are plotting to kill Americans.”
The administration further argues that both Congress and international law have provided this authority.
Welcome to the War on Terror 2.0.
Targeting al-Awlaki is just the next logical yet slippery step in the failed War on Terror policies first constructed by the George W. Bush administration and the infamous neo-conservatives.
In 2002, the Bush administration killed six suspected terrorists with an unmanned drone in Yemen and officially widened the War on Terror beyond the initial Afghanistan target. Bush had promised voters to “hunt the terrorists down one by one.” Just months later, his administration had taken “the hunt” to Iraq with disastrous results.
The country is now in its 10th year of the War on Terror. Afghanistan has joined Iraq in being widely seen as a “quagmire.” Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa are all new frontiers for the terror war. Thousands of U.S. soldiers have died, tens of thousands suffer seen and unseen lifelong wounds. Hundreds of billions of dollars have gone down the rabbit hole of war. Constitutional liberties and rights still get undermined by the PATRIOT Act and government agencies spying on lawful activities by U.S. citizens.
Yet, terror plots seem never-ending, even after the killing of King Terror himself, Osama bin Laden.
Mr. President, enough! Isn’t it time for a change?
President Obama distinguished himself in the 2008 Democratic primaries by being the only candidate to oppose the Iraq war from the beginning. Democratic voters responded to that vision.
He has called for cutting the Pentagon’s budget, and has begun to draw down troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He reached out to the Muslim world, and has even signaled a “rethink” on overall and long-standing dysfunctional U.S. foreign policies.
While these initiatives certainly do not go far enough, and cannot be characterized as anti-imperialist, they have opened up space for the people’s pro-peace movement to weigh in and influence public opinion. It was undoubtedly his welcome vow to turn away from the era of Bush administration “shoot first, ask questions later” actions that won him – surprisingly for many – the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
But in too many cases, most notably Libya, continuation of the economic blockade against Cuba and incarceration of the anti-terrorist Cuban 5, and the U.S. negative stance at the United Nations regarding Palestinian membership, the administration is continuing Bush-like policies.
Drone attacks on American or other suspected terrorists also fall in this category. It’s a recipe for disaster.
It still will take the leadership of the American people to change U.S. foreign policy away from the unilateral gun and towards peace, prosperity and sustainability.