Anwar al-Awlaki…life in the cross hairs

I must admit that I am somewhat shocked by some of the reactions to the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. Those reactions that are based on the argument that as a citizen of the United States he was entitled to be judged by a jury of his peers before he was issued a death sentence. Those, some would argue, are the “rules.” That thought pattern chooses, either knowingly or through ignorance, to omit an important element in the discussion over the “legality” of al-Awlaki’s death. That element is that he willingly entered into a game that is singularly marked by its lack of rules. When one examines terrorism and the corresponding war on terrorism, one should immediately take note of the fact that the glaring identifier of both is their lack of rules.

Do those who decry al-Awlaki’s death as the illegal act of President in denial of the United States Constitution accept the fact that by his actions al-Awlaki not only denied that document, but sought to end its existence as the formulaic document of a sovereign nation? Al-Awlaki chose to live his life in the out lands of civilization. A place where law exists only in the form of power and blind allegiance. His death is not to be bemoaned but his very existence in the world of terrorism is. We in the United States carry a heavy share of guilt in the creation of that world.

9/11 was indeed chickens coming home to roost. The people who were slaughtered on that day were the victims not only of the madmen who piloted the plains, but in a much more intense way also the victims of a country whose imperialistic policies created a tear in the fabric of humanity…a tear through which terrorism was able to easily slip. We can deny it all we want, but America’s foreign policy of occupation and assimilation finally produced a fatal reaction. The enemies of “American Exceptionalism,” that egocentric bit of jingoistic fluff that we, as a nation, seemed intensely proud of, finally had enough of forced nation building and having America’s vision of freedom shoved down their throats. They were also tired of the hypocrisy of the world’s most powerful Christian nation slaughtering people in the name of Christ. They struck back and people leaped to their deaths from the dizzying heights of the World Trade Towers.

Into the maelstrom of strike and counter strike strode Anwar al-Awlaki. The world of terror, whether it be the 9/11 attack or Shock and Awe, was a world he willingly entered. He knew that once he entered that world there would be no portal back, he was in a world wide kill zone. He sought to kill at random and accepted the fact that he himself could be killed at random. Such is the world of terrorism. If you want to strike terror into the citizenry of your enemy you don’t kill one of their military officials, people expect military men to be in harms way, you kill one of their public school teachers. You don’t kill a Senator, you kill a bank clerk. That’s what strikes terror into the hearts of the public. The attack on Pearl Harbor produced mass anger, the attack on the World Trade Towers produced mass terror.

Anwar al-Awlaki died a death he fully expected. He understood the conditions of no rules as they apply to terrorism. To state that his death is somehow a breach of the Constitution is to state that he accepted that document as a valid source of governmental power. He didn’t. What would be the alternative for people who live beyond the domain of our domestic laws? Did the opponents of his assassination desire a warrant be issued for his arrest? Did they expect him to return to the United States to stand trial?

Understand this, his death is no more legal or illegal than the attack on 9/11 or Shock and Awe. They are all useable weapons in the arsenal of terror. The heinous act here is not the drone attack that vaporized al-Awlaki, it’s the acceptance of terrorism as a means of settling disputes. There are no more classical “wars,” there are only acts of terrorism…some small, some large. Having Cruise Missiles rain down on a population of innocent men, women and children is terrorism. Having Predator Drones hunt down suspected targets and blowing them up along with anyone else in the kill zone is terrorism. Flying planes in into a public building is terrorism. Attempting to ignite explosives on a passenger airplane is terrorism. If you are a participant in the lawless pursuit of terrorism they you are protected by no law of man. That, perhaps, is the most frightening part of this discussion. By our election of officials who engage in terrorism we bear a frightening burden. We are, in fact, supporting terror and therefore are terrorists ourselves. In our quest to broaden our empire we have resorted to terrorist tactics and negated our right to claim outrage at acts of terror committed against us. We know the game, there are no rules, we simply pretend to not be taking part. As long as others do the water boarding, as long as other stand guard at Guantanamo, as long as others fire the Cruise missiles we claim a moral high ground. We are engaging in self delusional politics. We are fair game, as was Anway al-Awlaki. It has come to this…there are no more innocents. We are all in the crosshairs.


About Op Ed

I will, from time to time, be scribbling down some thoughts that might not be a perfect fit for the main posting page. They may make sense...they may not.
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14 Responses to Anwar al-Awlaki…life in the cross hairs

  1. avatar slowhand says:

    To all involved in this cluster%$#@ war on terror, the old saying applies..”Live by the sword..Die by he sword”..If whoever has a sword in is hand, be it Muslim Extremists, or Christan Jihadists, prepare to meet your fate

  2. avatar J. Danton Smith says:

    I have given this matter considerabvle thought and reached the conclusion that “Wanted, Dead or Alive” is not a new American tradition.

    Past that, this is not a war in the sense that it’s really a war. We are not dealing with real “soldiers,” and Al Qaeda set the rules of engagement on 9/11.

    As an analogy, I’ve often believed that if we had truly never negotiated for hostages, hostage taking would end.

    Here, IMO, our president is doing exactly the right thing. In the big picture he has sent a message that no member of a terrorist group is safe, and those who house/hide them are not safe, either.

    It is my guess that a great treasure of dats was found in the raid that killed Bin Laden. Anyone whose name appears in that data as a leader/member cannot be allowed to feel safe.

    These people like to send other people to die for their cause, but seem concerned about their own lives. I expect this policy by our president is going to descourage future recruitment.

  3. avatar Lost In The Flood says:

    Can someone please explain the difference between this terrorist, and the hundreds who commit torture/rape/murder in this country every day?

    I’m having a hard time discerning proper punishment for one, but not for the other.

  4. avatar J. Danton Smith says:

    Media coverage?

  5. avatar Lost In The Flood says:

    Not sure what you mean by that, JD?

    It seems that you guys don’t believe in the death penalty for those who commit rape/torture/murder every day of the year, but you feel comfy with the death penalty for this terrorist?

    It gets hard to follow the logic.

  6. avatar admin says:

    A man walks into a grocery store, pulls a gun and demands money. A police officer comes upon the scene and shoots the gunman dead. I have no problem with that. The robber entered into a “game” where he knew he could run the risk of being killed by the store owner in an act of self defense or a representative of the state (the police officer). When you threaten somebody’s life, or take lives, you are now in the cross hairs. If you rape, murder, torture and them hide under the protection of a country that does not honor extradition with the U.S. then I have no problem with your elimination…it is the only choice left. Now…the process the entails capital punishment in the United States is arbitrary at best and is cloaked in the secrecy of the death chamber. It is almost capricious in its fallibility.

    • avatar Lost In The Flood says:

      I’m still having trouble understanding how you could not feel Jared Loughner doesn’t deserve to die?

      Are you saying you’d rather he face a firing squad? I’d prefer all murderers die by the method they employed during their crime.

      Remember, my feeling is that the death penalty should only be used when there is absolutely no doubt as to guilt.

      Are you saying that you’d rather these violent criminals be gunned down during the commission of the crime?

      I’d be open to that as well.

  7. avatar Lost In The Flood says:

    Edit….How you could not feel that Loughner DOES deserve to die.

    • avatar admin says:

      Whether I feel he “deserves” to die or not has nothing to do with this debate. The state killing him is what is at the heart of the matter, and the method and procedure of that killing. I believe that humans have a right to defend themselves and others using lethal force if necessary. I don’t believe the state has that right. As far as the discussion concerning Awlaki goes, he injected himself into what has become a “war.” Some consider it a holy war, some consider it a corporate war, some consider it a just war. No matter what the definition or philosophy behind the violence, the participants segregate themselves from societal law. You know my feelings on contrived conventions attempting to “humanize” warfare. Awlaki and all others, on both sides, who voluntarily choose to become participants in killing for a cause immediately place themselves in the cross hairs. His life was terminated as per the rules, or lack thereof, of the game he entered.

  8. avatar Lost In The Flood says:

    Yes. I’m aware of, and in basic agreement with your views on war.

    It could be argued that a police officer who guns down a murderer, IS the state. Therefore, the state has the right to kill criminals.

    I think this is a perfect example of how complex the Cap. Punishment issue really is. It seems you feel that if someone gunned Loughner down while he was busy murdering people, that would be just.

    However, once he’s arrested, he deserves some sort of rights that his victims didn’t enjoy.

    I’m clearly too simple to understand the logic. Probably because I consider murderers to be at war with society.

    • avatar admin says:

      You could argue that the police officer is the State but that argument would be false. He/she is an individual exercising immediate action/response to a given situation. The individual is reflexive in his/her reactions, above all else we don’t want the state to be reflexive it its actions. You can see how the Republican/Conservative movement in this country is attempting to blur the lines between the State and the individual with campaigns for concepts like personage for corporations.

      Yes, I do believe that if someone were to have killed Loughner while he was involved in his murderous task they would have been justified. Once again, an individual, not the State, reflexively reacting to a situation where lives were in the balance.

      Yes, once arrested Loughner would be under the control of the State and as such would not be subject to the same response and he would be if he were under the control of an individual. Once we expect the State to follow the same thought patterns as an individual all is lost. That, my friend, is anarchy. The State, under your philosophy, should have murdered Casey Anthony even though a jury of her peers found her not guilty (make the distinction between “innocent” and “not guilty).

      Don’t sell yourself short, you are, to those of us that know you, easily capable of understanding the logic, and anything but “simple.” You just chose to refuse to accept it.

  9. avatar Lost In The Flood says:

    Casey Anthony doesn’t qualify under my philosophy, because there will always be some level of doubt. I’ve said that several times.

    Trying to tie this back to Al Awlaki, Loughner deserved to die for his actions, right up until he was caught?

    There’s the problem I’m having. It seems you condone vigilanties, while simultaneously referring to anarchy?

    Either a terrorist deserves to die, or they don’t.

    Not asking you to agree, or disagree. I’m illustrating my thought patterns in these discussions.

    • avatar admin says:

      Loughner deserved to have someone remove the threat as an act of self defense and the preservation of life. Once he is caught and incarcerated he is no longer threatening lives. The act is done. It’s really a simple concept that you are choosing to complicate.

      Self defense, or the defense of others is not vigilantism…surely you can see that.

      • avatar Lost In The Flood says:

        From Webster:Vigilante.

        : a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate); broadly: a self-appointed doer of justice

        A self appointed doer of justice, is what you describe in your scenario where a robber walks into the grocery store.

        So, the robber deserved to die, but Loughner deserves to be removed from society, and locked up?

        Whereas anybody who would’ve shot Loughner on that day, would’ve been viewed as a hero, I’m quite sure that our govt. would frown upon that general approach.

        Who gets to decide when a person deserves to die? A grocery store robber…yes.

        A deranged murderer….no.

        BTW, I found your article to be well written, and I agree on all/most counts.

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