I wanted to take some time and consider this event and all of its implications. September 30th 2011 is a unique day in the history of America and Western Civilization as a whole. What was done on this day is completely without precedent in American history. Whether you agree with the action or not, an American citizen was assassinated without trial. Many people reading this might think “well yeah, so what, the guy was a terrorist.” This might be true (we don’t know for sure because no evidence has been presented to the public) but, its implications are vast. Let us look at them in order.
1. The Rule of Law: Western Civilization has rested on the idea that no one is above the law. This is where the famous phrase “we are a country of laws, not of men” came from. This is not just a slogan, it means that no man can execute another man, only the law can. This is why in firing squads one man always has a blank, so that no one man is the executioner, the law is the executioner. During the Middle Ages, monarchs were considered the law incarnate by divine right. This meant that a monarch could execute anyone and be perfectly within his right because he had the power of life and death over everyone within his domain. This ended with the writing of the Magna Carta where limits were placed on the King in 1215 AD. Specifically the Magna Carta stated “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or dissented [seized] or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land” (Magna Carta, sec. 39). Ever since the writing of the Magna Carta, there has always been a court to stand between the state and its citizens but, no more. This action by our chief executive has in effect uprooted 800 years of legal precedent by placing all power of judge, jury, and executioner in one human being.
2. The Constitution: Our President swears an oath to uphold the constitution which clearly states in the 5th amendment: “No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”. Once again this long held tradition has been completely violated.
3. The Tradition of American Virtue: The United Sates has always been committed to due process with even the most evil of enemies because we are a nation of virtue. In 1945 we tried the most genocidal of Nazi SS war criminals at Nuremberg because “Though we had fought a brutal war, we were determined to act generously to the vanquished. That even applied to the Nazi brass who committed reprehensible crimes against humanity.” We could have taken the Nazi SS officers and had them shot and thrown into the mass graves they made for their victims but, America was committed to doing what was morally right even with the most wicked of human beings.
4. Legal Precedent: The law has everything do with legal precedent. What was done in the past can now be done in the future. Legally speaking, the President has no obligation to present evidence to anybody when killing American citizens abroad or at home. He does not have to present evidence to the media, congress, any court, or even the Intelligence Committee in congress designed to oversee clandestine operations. According to legal precedent, the president can kill anyone as long he has “secret evidence” that only he is privy too.
5. Passion for Liberty: For a republic to survive, its people must have a passion for liberty. Our founding generation would look at allowing the state to violate the most fundamental legal protections as the most disgusting and evil of sins. Patrick Henry once said “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know what course others may take but, as for me; give me liberty or give me death!” Such passion forged our country but, seems disturbingly subdued today. If a despotism ever does come to the United States, it will not come in violence or uprisings in the streets like in Europe. It will come wrapped in the American flag carrying an apple pie. It will whisper ever so sweetly the age old lie that has been said time and time again for thousands of years, “Give me a little liberty and I will protect you”
6. Why we fight: Every solider that has ever fought has sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. Every American soldier’s first loyalty is to the constitution and the natural rights that the constitution was built upon. We fought two world wars to preserve liberty, not to trample over it. To ignore this, is to make our military a tool of the state apparatus, just like the Kings and Emperors of old. I for one like to think that we fight for ideals, not a modern Xerxes.
The real question it seems is why? Why was this done in the way it was? At least when the CIA killed foreign enemies (non-American citizens) in the past they lied about it because they knew it was against the law. Why not even make the attempt to make it seem legal? Why not strip Anwar al-Awlaki of his citizenship before killing him? Why not present evidence to the secret FISA courts set up in the 70s to deal with foreign spies and terrorists? Why not tell select members of congress with top secret security clearances? Why not have a military tribunal? Why not give some evidence, any evidence what so ever, to somebody… anybody? Lastly… why tell us at all? They could have killed him secretly and kept it classified as has been done with countless other military/CIA operations before but, instead they chose to announce it… why? The answers to these questions might be more disturbing than the assassination itself. Maybe it was done the way it was because there was no evidence to present? Maybe it was done because the chief executive arrogantly knew that he could get away with it with no protest from the public? Maybe it was done precisely to set future legal precedent? I know one thing… this is a bad omen for liberty.
History will remember September 30th 2011. The Rubicon has been crossed.