Let me finish tonight with this.
The debate over whether to use deadly force against an American who is on foreign soil and tied to al-Qaida sounds like a hypothetical straight out of my constitutional law class in my first year of law school. I can just picture us going back and forth over whether killing an American in these circumstances violated the Fourt Amendment’s protection against unlawful seizure or the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.
But this is no academic exercise. This is hardball on a world stage. And the safety of Americans is at stake.
I read the 16-page, un-dated, and unsigned Justice Department “white paper” with interest especially where it said: “Targeting a member of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the United States is not unlawful. It is a lawful act of national self defense.”
National self defense would seem to describe the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a citizen by virtue of his birth in New Mexico in 1971.
Al-Awlaki has been was linked through emails with Major Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who allegedly killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. He was also linked to the so-called underwear bomber who tried to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit on Christmas in 2010, and Faisal Shahzad, the guy who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in the spring of 2010. Moreover, al-Awlaki had ties to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.
So, what’s a commander-in-chief to do when someone American by birth inspires others to kill innocent Americans?
Well, this commander-in-chief apparently gave the order to take him out, which was done with a drone, in Yemen, on September 30, 2011.
His decision reminds me of this story:
In 1955, the Israeli philosopher Yisha Leibowitz wrote a letter to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in which he complained about innocent Palestinians killed during Israeli operations. Ben-Gurion then replied:
I received your letter and I do not agree with you. Were all the human ideals to be given to me on the one hand, and Israeli security on the other, I would choose Israeli security because while it is good that there be a world full of peace, fraternity, justice and honesty, it is even more important that we be in it.