Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2010 / 28 Tishrei, 5771
America's Assassination List
By Jonah Goldberg
The answer to all of these questions is, as far as I can tell, yes.
According to any number of credible reports, the U.S.-born al-Awlaki is arguably the leading al-Qaeda propagandist in the world. He has directly inspired and recruited terrorists to kill American troops and civilians. His name has come up in numerous investigations, including those of the 2005
So again, I hope he gets his toe tag sooner rather than later.
But that doesn't mean President Obama's decision to put al-Awlaki on a secret assassination list is problem-free.
For starters, the very idea of a presidential secret assassination list is creepy in a country committed to democracy and the rule of law.
That's why the
Fair enough, but historically the courts usually step in when the fighting is over and clean up the legal mess when the smoke clears.
The problem is that it doesn't look like the smoke is going to clear anytime soon. In
I hope Petraeus is wrong about that, but I certainly don't think it's a crazy or uninformed perspective. And if that's the case, we as a society need to keep thinking this stuff through.
There's ample precedent -- and common sense -- to support the claim that the executive branch can kill American citizens when they are sworn members of enemy forces and avowed traitors working with the enemy.
But those precedents start to fray at the edges when the whole world is the war zone and the war doesn't end until a diffuse, committed and often camouflaged army of suicidal religious fanatics defy their god and agree to leave the Dark Ages. And the common sense starts to drain away like water through your fingers when you contemplate that we may be facing these kinds of problems for half a century. So while it strikes me as a no-brainer that al-Awlaki should go, what about the next guy? Or the next?
And we know there will be a next guy. Indeed, homegrown terrorists are only going to become a bigger and bigger threat in the future. That's not right-wing cant but the judgment of the Bipartisan Policy Center's recent report, co-written by the former chairs of the 9/11 Commission.
Some civil libertarians seem to think we can never, ever kill an American citizen without a trial by jury (and perhaps not even then). That argument would have been silly during the days of conventional warfare. Now it's plain crazy.
And the Obama administration is right. This is no job for courts. Wars and how we fight them are political decisions, properly left to
So, let's have
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