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(Not An) Alien Vs. Predator

I admit that I have a certain "formula" that most of my articles here fall under. I describe a situation or issue, I give my opinion, and then I spell out why anyone with the slightest lick of common sense and integrity would see it my way and only the most scurrilous dogs and dastardly fiends would dare hold a contrary opinion. I sometimes shake it up a little, and I try to bury the formula under different styles and good writing, but dig deep enough and there it is. I stick with it because it works.

I rarely discuss something when I don't have a strong opinion on the matter. Nearly all the time, if I don't have a strong opinion, I'm not interested in a topic enough to devote the thought and energy in making it interesting, so I don't bother.

But every now and then, a topic comes up where I have such genuinely mixed feelings, such ambiguous and conflicting thoughts, that I just can't come down on one side or another. It's rare as hell, but when it does, it hexes me something fierce.

Like now.

There's a radical Islamic cleric who's essentially at war with the United States. Anwar Al Awlaki, currently residing in Yemen, has been a "spiritual leader" to terrorists who have committed or attempted to commit some of the most heinous terrorist attacks against the US, as well as a direct recruiter of would-be jihadis. He preached to several of the 9/11 hijackers. He preached to and counseled Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, and praised his murders. He has been tied to the Fort Dix planned attack, the Times Square would-be bombing, the Christmas Underwear Bomber, the 2006 Toronto plot, the London 7/7 bombings, and numerous other incidents. He is a "regional commander" for Al Qaeda, but it is believed that he's more into the spiritual and motivational side, not the operations -- kind of like a Satanic chaplain than a general.

In brief, we don't like him, for many very good reasons. And we'd like to get our hands on him.

Recently, the Obama administration revisited that decision. They moved capturing him off the front burner, and instead put him on the list of "kill on sight."

I don't have much problem with that, generally. I agree with the old Texas sentiment that "there are some people that just need killing." The world would be a much better and safer place with him within it, not on it.

There's just one teeny-tiny problem, though: Awlaki is an American citizen. Born in 1971 in New Mexico, he holds dual American and Yemeni citizenship. And there are some serious problems with the United States government just up and killing American citizens without a trial.

Awlaki's citizenship is a double-edged sword for him. While it offers him some protections, it also makes his prosecution exceptionally easier should he be captured. His conduct over the past decade or so are as clear a textbook case of "treason" as I have ever seen:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Doesn't get any clearer than that. Awlaki's levied War against the United States, adhered to our Enemies, given them Aid and Comfort, before numerous Witnesses, and his own recorded words would make a superb Confession in open Court.

(Man, did the Founding Fathers have some odd rules about capitalizing.)

But summary execution? Of an American citizen?

It would make things remarkably simpler if he were to renounce his citizenship. It would also be a wonderful symbolic gesture for him. But he seems too canny for that. He knows that it offers him a bit of protection, at no cost, and giving it up would gain him little.

I want this guy dead. I'll settle for his capture and trial, but unless he has some good intelligence to give up, I don't see much value in that. I just want him reduced to compost in as expedient a fashion as possible.

But... do I really want the United States government (currently controlled by the Obama regime) to have the authority to just kill an American citizen. There's an uncomfortable air of "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" about Obama's ordering the death of this Muslim cleric. It's a very, very uncomfortable precedent.

Could Congress act to strip him of his citizenship? That'd resolve things nicely. Unfortunately, that would probably count as a "Bill of Attainder," and that is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.

I've heard there's a saying among lawyers that hard cases make for bad law. Likewise, tough situations like this one tend to make very bad precedents.

The simplest solution, of course, would be for Alwaki to just die under plausibly deniable circumstances. Say, while meeting with a known non-American terrorist, he could be blown up as "collateral damage" -- "we were shooting at the other guy; he just happened to be in the way. Oops." Or, alternately, "it was a case of mistaken identity. He looked just like this other non-American, was in a place we expected that guy to be, and we made a mistake. Our bad."

I think I could live with that polite fiction. I think I could give the Obama administration a wink and a nod and let them off with a "be more careful in the future, OK?"

But they had to make it public. They had to say openly that it was the official policy of the United States government to kill Awlaki. They have no problems evading public statements or just making outright lies in so many areas, and here they had a sudden attack of candor.

It's a hell of a tough situation, and it raises some very challenging issues. And, quite frankly, it has me utterly confounded and frustrated, as well as a lot of other Americans.

Which, I'm sure, Alwaki finds quite pleasing.


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Comments (26)

Jay, I'm not expending anyw... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Jay, I'm not expending anywhere near your level of energy and angst over this guy. Mossad knows how to do something like this the right way, and I'd be comfortable with that ort of solution.

Oops, that's "sort of solut... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Oops, that's "sort of solution."

Sadly, Old Guy, the geniuse... (Below threshold)

Sadly, Old Guy, the geniuses in the Obama administration have taken that option off the table. Notice that the Mossad (or the Israeli government) never openly acknowledges what it does in cases like this. They don't make an open declaration about it, like our enlightened leaders have.

So we gotta think about it.


This all really draws into ... (Below threshold)
James H:

This all really draws into sharp relief the difficulties of the conflict with al-Qaida. If we were at war with a nation-state called "al-Qaida" and this guy were hanging out with the troops preaching to them, killing him in battle would not be a huge deal. But this ... it gets complicated.

James, you said it. And whi... (Below threshold)

James, you said it. And while I forgot to say so above, you're the SOB who stuck this idea in my head a while ago. I'm gonna have to properly repay you someday...


On the other hand, Mossad d... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

On the other hand, Mossad doesn't put any effort into keeping such things off newspapers' front page either.

Given the last 15 months of... (Below threshold)

Given the last 15 months of this admin singling out particular individuals and business sectors to openly denigrate and tar with a wide brush, blithely using the language of 'knives', 'guns', 'pitchforks' and whatnot, the disgraceful treatment of long time allies, the long string of broken promises and pledges and the general air of "do as I say and not as I do", would I trust them?

Hell no.

For that matter I don't want the precedent set for any future admin, Democrat or Republican.

Awlaki is obviously guilty of treason. Capture him, stand him before a court and prove it. Then execute him.

"I'm gonna have to prope... (Below threshold)

"I'm gonna have to properly repay you someday..."

Banninate him!

With two n's!

Oyster:I count thr... (Below threshold)
James H:


I count three Ns.

I am strongly against recen... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

I am strongly against recent decisions on detention. Detaining Jose Padilla without charge or trial or even access to counsel was a violation of his rights as a citizen. He was captured, and not even in a combat situation. I am also strongly against the government (whether state or federal) having the power to administratively add punishments; it is the court's job to punish, not the bureaucrats'. This case is somewhat different.

If Awlaki were captured, then absolutely he retains all his rights. Assassinating him when capture is possible would also be wrong. But he is acting as an enemy of the US, and if he is killed while doing so, that's not a problem on rights grounds. The solution to that would be for him to distance himself from terrorists and stop advocating terrorism. In other words, to stop actively being our enemy. Its a form of parole, which has been used effectively in past situations, and could as well work today, though we'd need to educate our people and our government on the concept of parole, first.

Heck, double up on the n's ... (Below threshold)

Heck, double up on the n's just for spite - not just banninate him, but bannnninnate him! Or maybe bannanninnate!

Nah, too much trouble keeping track of the n's. Best just keep him around...

Seriously, though, this does bring up some pretty sticky ethical material. The traditions of modern warfare (by modern I mean in the last 600 years or so) pretty much prohibit taking out the enemy's leader by stealth proxy. Admittedly it would have made things a lot easier to take out folks like Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Ho Chi Minh - but we didn't, we haven't, and the tradition's pretty firm at this point.

My own thinking is that this guy's a traitor, as Jay's pointed out. By his own actions he's repudiated his citizenship - we owe him pretty much nothing at this point. If he's apprehended, it'd just be a brief delay in his death. If he's killed by a bomb, nobody would shed a tear (at least on our side) and if he attempts (and fails) to escape after capture - we'll mourn the loss of valuable intel.

I'm starting to think we've got way too many lawyers. Seems you can't hardly do anything without tripping over a couple any more...

For some reason I'm craving... (Below threshold)

For some reason I'm craving bananas.

More seriously, I have litt... (Below threshold)

More seriously, I have little confidence this bird would actually face a treason charge if captured. As for "summary execution," it's moot if he happens to be armed and fighting when our guys close in on him.

I have no problem with kill... (Below threshold)

I have no problem with killing him with extreme prejudice.

He is a standing threat to the safety of citizens of this country and the possibility of his capture is slim. He abrogated his 'Constitutional Rights' when he declared open war on this country, screw him.

"I have no problem with kil... (Below threshold)

"I have no problem with killing him with extreme prejudice."


As you pointed out Jay, 'there are times when some people just need killing'. I'd have no problem dropping the hammer, and wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

I understand peoples' inter... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

I understand peoples' interest in the law & order aspects surrounding the of taking a life. Honestly though, I don't see this as a law & order circumstance. This is about war, the lethal intent by our enemy and survival. It's in the best interest of our country that this guy be gone. Locked up forever or locked up under a death sentence with an eternity of appeals between him and execution are both a poor second choice. Assassination is the simplest to plan and, no pun intended, execute way to accomplish that outcome.

Gmac, GarandFan, it appears we are fellow travelers. Assination is

Not being a lawyer, I don't... (Below threshold)
Geoffrey Britain:

Not being a lawyer, I don't know if this is legal but what's wrong with "Wanted, Dead or Alive"?

Go after him, if he resists kill him, if not interrogate him for intelligence, give him a quick trial and since there's no doubt of his guilt he gets the death penalty.

I favor a new method of execution for terrorists; shave him (every hair off his body) strip him, castrate him, douse him in pigs blood and throw him in a pen with lots of male pigs. He'll die a most unpleasant death and being ritually unclean, he can't get into heaven.

Then put it up on you tube with Arabic commentary.

Finally, have the NSA and/or the CIA hack into Al Jazeera's computers and broadcast the video, during prime time, to the entire M.E.

But summary execut... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:
But summary execution? Of an American citizen?

But, this has not been authorized. Summary execution would be if we captured him and then, without a hearing or trial or anything, just put him up against a wall and shot him.

Shooting him while he is on the loose is a different situation. He has engaged in acts of war against us, and it is necessary to stop this from continuing. If we have the chance to capture him, great, but there is no reason to restrict ourselves to that as the only option.

Here's my idea: Give him a... (Below threshold)
James H:

Here's my idea: Give him a chance to surrender peacefully. Make it known to him that if he comes, unarmed, to a US diplomatic or military installation in an area and willingly yields himself to US custody, then he will be treated as a US citizen and given a fair trial by a jury of his peers. This offer should be open, and available to him at any time. If he chooses not to avail himself of this offer .. then, well, he's chosen to align himself with, and be an organizer in, an NGO that is opposed to US interests. On his head be it.

Here's my idea:... (Below threshold)
Here's my idea: Give him a chance to surrender peacefully.
"Hey, is that a bomb vest under his robes?" BANG!!!
Wanted: Dead or Alive... (Below threshold)

Wanted: Dead or Alive
(Prefer Dead)
Reward: $1,000,000, proof required.

There, that oughta do it.

James, re:"Here's my idea: ... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

James, re:"Here's my idea: Give him a chance to surrender peacefully."

The Obama-sanctions-death-by-Hellfire-missile story has been afforded international coverage in the media. It seems unlikely to me ol' Anwar could have missed it himself or that friends would not have informed him. So I figure it's already on his head.

If he'd like to surrender but has some conditions (like: no death sentence, I don't eat pork... I don't know whatever else he'd want, maybe his 72 virgins in advance) there are ways and organizations he could contact to act as his intermediary without exposing himself to capture.

I guess I have no objection to his surrendering himself if that is what he wants to do, it's just far from what I think is in the best interests of the United States. But affirmative action is something he must initiate and his efforts could be used in such a way as to help give those involved in accepting his surrender some confidence in his sincerity. If any of this is going on then fine, work out the details. If he hasn't initiated any approach to authorities he's still one of the enemy, he's an important target in our war effort and we're better off if he's dead.

I believe the armed UAV is ... (Below threshold)

I believe the armed UAV is now called a Reaper, not a Predator.

Somehow I am having trouble making a shorter title with Beat the Reaper in it, however.

Now imagine the uproar from... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Now imagine the uproar from the Left if Bush had done the same thing.

bryanD,Here are so... (Below threshold)
Senor Cardgage:


Here are some more for your list:

2. Misuses a word that looks/sounds similar to the word he's actually looking for, e.g. "hexes me" for "vexes me" as seen above.

3. Repeatedly mentions his gratuitous vasectomy, giving the false impression that he realistically ever had a chance to impregnate a human female.

4. Labors under the misapprehension that if something can be expressed in five words, using fifty must make it ten times better.

My thoughts? Attempt to ca... (Below threshold)

My thoughts? Attempt to capture alive and bring to trial.

It's like this administration asks themselves, "what would George Bush have done?" and literally figures out what the opposite is and does it.






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