Awlaki Death: America – Judge, Jury and Executioner
Whilst many symbols come to mind after a decade of the war on terror, of late America’s use of predator drones has come to symbolise its decade long war. The extra judicial killings sanctioned thousands of miles away in Washington is now a key strategy of America’s attempts to make a success out of its war which has now dragged on longer then WW1 and WW2 combined.
Already used extensively in Pakistan, the Washington Post has reported how America has significantly extended the use of Predator drones in Yemen. The country, already in turmoil, is undergoing a revolution which is likely to end with the overthrow of its current incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh. This, of course, is of no concern to the US. As we now know courtesy of Wikileaks, Saleh is the president who told the Americans to kill whom they pleased in Yemen with their drones, and that he would tell the people in Parliament that they were the ones who did the killings.
One of Barack Obama’s first polices as the US president was to put Anwar Awlaki on his hit list as a kill target due to a number of allegations – despite Awlaki being a US citizen. If there was any argument over the legality of the killing of Awlaki, the large number of innocent civilians killed by remote control is surely indisputably criminal – along with being morally repugnant, even cowardly however such extra judicial killings raise a number pertinent questions which go to the very heart of Western liberal values.
The US never had any plans to put Awlaki on trial and prove allegations in a court of law – a right the US constitution gives to all its citizens. Various allegations have been made against Awlaki which have never been tested in a court of law, neither was Awlaki ever put on trial for apparent crimes the US intelligence continues to propagate. Obama has been judge, jury and executioner with Awlaki and thousands of other men women and children who have been at the receiving end of predator drone attacks.
Since the events of 9/11 the US has suspended some key principles and rights. We have seen the suspension of the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the right for the accused to know the evidence against him. These key rights, enshrined in Western maxims and used to extract other laws have been altered at will, even though they are supposed to be the bedrock of Western political tradition.
Many in the West argue that in the interests of national security certain laws can be suspended. The rationale of protecting the nation’s security is the perennial argument used by dictators and tyrants through the ages and is used constantly by regimes from North Korea to Zimbabwe to defend their draconian policies. However these regimes don’t pretend to be something that they are not and nor do they seek to promote their values abroad.
It is the active promotion of secular democracy abroad while simultaneously abandoning it at home that is brazen hypocrisy.
One of the key arguments for invading Iraq and Afghanistan was to set these countries up as models of democracy to be imitated across the Muslim lands. However a decade later the West has abandoned such values through Guantanamo Bay, Belmarsh, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, the Patriot Act, anti-terrorism legislation of all guises, stop and search, internment, torture, sexual humiliation, executive ordered arrests, detention without trial, rendition of suspects to despotic regimes, brutal interrogations and illegal and imperialistic wars.
GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul had outlined his concerns over the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki: “I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul told reporters. “Al-Awlaki was born here; he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad. I think what would people have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn’t assassinate him, who we were pretty certain that he had done it. Went and put through the courts then executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this.”
The irony is this American action has shown itself to be a reflection of everything the US claims is evil Al Qaeda. The US is simply accelerating down a path which surely only leads to self-destruction as the contradiction between its avowed values and apparent actions become too heavy to bear.