It’s hard for me to clearly express my anger over the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. There’s a discussion at the League about it, with Jason Kuznicki calling it “something to go Galt about” and some others arguing that it’s ok because al-Awalki committed treason, and it’s just a battlefield action against someone who is fighting against his own country.
Let’s be clear about a couple of things. First, the Constitution defines treason as a crime, which means there’s a criminal procedure for it, which wasn’t followed. Second, al-Awlaki was killed by the CIA, which purposefully targeted him for death; not by the U.S. military on the field of battle.
I can no longer pretend even half-hearted support of Obama. He will stand in history as the first president to claim the authority to execute American citizens without benefit of any due process whatsoever. And make no mistake–he did not limit his claim to Americans on foreign soil. There is no proper word for this other than evil. That the evil is committed by a man so wholly average does not make it less evil. As Hannah Arendt showed, we should not think of evil as something that terrible and powerful men do. Rather, evil is banal. Obama is, who can deny it now, banal. His acceptance of the powers of his office as they have been extended by his predecessors is banal. Were he something other than banal he might be a great enough man to reject that power.
We’ll go on living our lives as though nothing has changed, but everything has since 9/11. We now shuffle quietly past TSA agents, afraid to protest in any meaningful way, and how is that different from citizens of an authoritarian country shutting up and looking studiously at the ground every time security forces walk by? We accept the idea of designated protest zones that tell us where and when it is ok to petition the government for redress of grievances. We accept the police engaging in paramilitary operations against the citizenry. And now we not only accept, but even praise, our government engaging in an extrajudicial execution of an American citizen. That’s the polite analytical term–the real term, as Jason Kuznicki insists–is death squads.
We’ll pretend America is still a free country. We’ll go to the polls and cast our votes thinking it will matter on the big issues. But all we’ll be voting for is which guy will exercise the power to execute us at his whim, because no matter who wins, this is now an accepted power of the presidency, and it will never be renounced; it will only be further extended.
To hell with Obama. I expected him to be less civil liberties oriented than he claimed, once the power of the presidency was in his hands, but I didn’t expect he would claim the power to be an American citizen’s sole judge, jury, and executioner. If I thought I regretted my vote for Clinton in ’92, it’s nothing compared to how much I regret my vote for this son-of-a-bitch.