Bye-Bye, Bill of Rights: They Hate Us For Our Freedom, Part 2

2011 October 3
by Ando Arike

Obama: "Boys, don't get any ideas."

With its due-process-free execution of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki last week–killed by Predator drone along with three others in Yemen, including another U.S. citizen– the Obama administration passed yet another milestone in our national dismemberment of the Bill of Rights. Remember? That quaint old section of the U.S. Constitution with all the Amendments? Bush and Cheney hacked away at it mercilessly, and Obama has nearly finished the job. Now, apparently, presidential disfavor is  all that’s needed to earn a death sentence–no indictment was ever brought against Anwar al-Awlaki, no evidence ever produced for public consideration, no judge sat to adjudicate, nor did any jury deliberate his guilt or innocence.

In fact, the entire process that put Awlaki on the president’s “hit list” took place in secret, within the bowels of the National Security State–and yet the administration made no secret of its intention to “take him out.” Like a gangland murder, Awlaki’s extrajudicial targeting was meant to send out a signal to all those who might oppose America’s imperial designs. As Obama once joked at a White House Correspondents’ dinner, “Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you: Predator drones. You’ll never see it coming.”

In the spring of 2010 when Obama delivered this “joke,” many criticized it as tasteless and ill-considered, given the growing number of civilian casualties in the CIA’s not-so-secret drone war in Pakistan. In hindsight, it’s difficult not to hear in Obama’s words a Mafia godfather speaking–and to see the callousness as utterly deliberate and cold-blooded. In any event, it’s clear today that extrajudicial killing, whether by drone in Awlaki’s case or Special Forces “hit squad” in Osama bin Laden’s, has become a new tool in the arsenal of American-style “democracy,” and that spreading “freedom” around the globe through “black ops” shadow wars is a growing trend in U.S. policy. If “we” can just kill enough “bad guys,” maybe the world will learn to love and fear us.

Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki: first U.S. citizen killed by Presidential Decree

Anyone with the faintest grasp of history knows, of course, that extrajudicial killing has long been a major U.S. “policy tool,” both overseas and here in the “homeland.” In the past, however, officials tried to keep such killings under wraps or hire them out to proxies–it was unseemly for a beacon of democracy like the U.S. to confess to such tactics. What’s new in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki is that president Obama has openly proclaimed the right to pronounce “death-sentence by decree,” and furthermore, has argued in court that evidence against Awlaki would be withheld because disclosure might jeopardize national security. In 2010, when Nasser al-Awlaki, the father, tried to spare his son’s life by suing for a court injunction against his execution, the Justice Dept. argument basically boiled down to this:  “He’s a terrorist because we say so, and will be killed on the basis of evidence we intend to keep secret.” The lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

So beyond vague assertions in the media, all we know for sure about Awlaki is that he was an al-Qaeda “propagandist” whose “fiery sermons” and presence on the Internet may have inspired some lone jihadists to carry out plots. News accounts note that Awlaki’s native command of English–he was born in New Mexico and went to college at Colorado State–made his calls to jihad accessible to Muslims in the U.S., and that his knowledge of Western culture and facility with the Internet made his communiques especially persuasive. In short, the guy was a loudmouth troublemaker, articulate and media-savvy, whose rage at U.S. military action in Muslim nations may have gotten a number of other Muslims angry enough to act on their rage. But criticism of U.S. policy in the Mideast, even if it calls for violent resistance, is protected under the First Amendment.

From Awlaki’s 2010 “Call to Jihad”:

We the Muslims do not have an inherent animosity towards any racial group or ethnicity. We are not against Americans for just being Americans. We are against evil and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil. What we see from America is the invasion of Muslim countries, we see Abu Ghraib, Baghram and Guantanamo Bay, we see cruise missiles and cluster bombs and we have just seen in Yemen the death of 23 children and 17 women. We cannot stand idly in the face of such aggression and we will fight back and incite others to do the same.

…America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam involved in non-violent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq and continued U.S. aggression against Muslims I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim.

Lest we forget, the United States has invaded and/or bombed at least six predominately Muslim nations since 2001–Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen–with a civilian death toll conservatively estimated at a 1/2 million people, in addition to millions injured, and millions more displaced as refugees. And only Americans are fooled by U.S. government claims that this war is not about the control of the region’s vast oil and natural gas reserves–in the Mideast and so-called Af-Pak, the natives know better and hate us more thoroughly every day. Indeed, everything the U.S. does in the region seems designed to inspire terrorists and insurgents.  Yet even intelligent reporters working for literate news outlets miss the point–willfully, it would seem. For instance, in a follow-up piece on the constitutional issues raised by the Awlaki “hit,” the New York Times asks:

The American-educated son of an American-educated Yemeni technocrat, Mr. Awlaki embodied the puzzle of radicalization: How could an American citizen reach the point of calling in eloquent English, via the megaphone of the Internet, for the mass murder of his fellow citizens?

Answer: They hate us for our freedom.

Update: Glenn Greenwald at posted this remarkable video of a White House press conference in which ABC’s Jake Tapper presses Obama spokesman Jay Carney for evidence of the secret evidence that led to the secret determination of Awlaki’s guilt. Note the insistent refrain, “Everyone knows he’s guilty because we said he’s guilty”:

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