The recent murder of American Anwar al-Awlaki is an outrage. One wishes he were not an American. Were I in charge he never would have been an American. According to old Western notions he will never be considered an American. Yet technically at least, he was an American. Therein lies the rub.
I have no qualms with swift justice nor the death penalty. But even his accusers admit that at most he had extraordinarily dubious links to one actual crime. At worst, he was done away with because his inflammatory speeches inspired others. In other words, he was an American exercising his First Amendment freedoms in a way Washington did not approve.
Al-Awlaki was eradicated entirely without formal charges, absent legal proof, and sans judicial review. The people telling us he deserved death are the very ones who killed him. Doing such things to anyone was an offense before, but the fact that al-Awlaki was a US citizen makes examining the matter imperative for his fellow Americans—especially since America is currently one of the few mostly free lands on Earth, though that is apparently on the cusp of changing.
Sadly some commentators, even those whom the author otherwise respects, have succumbed to murky thinking on the matter. They say that being a terrorist is the same as being an enemy combatant. Since we are at war with terrorism, we are at war with these people, and they should expect to be killed.
Not quite so fast.
The fatal flaw in this analysis is that in every prior “war” the enemy was a government, or parties acting in the service of one. By contrast, “al-Qaeda“ is an extremely loose confederation of like-minded individuals. The enemies are not a constituted body, but simply shifting parties embroiled in regional quarrels or otherwise dissenters to Washington’s prevailing opinions. They are sometimes violent in their objections, but not always.
The fact that there are several overtly nationalist groups whose sphere of concern scarcely extends beyond their traditional sovereign territories—yet who are invariably described as being “al-Qaeda”—further clouds the issue. Is a group in Qatar which seeks to topple their autocratic government a member of “al-Qaeda” because they disagree with Washington and also happen to be Muslim? It would seem so, at least according to Washington’s definition. Meanwhile, similar people in Libya—some of whom held the virtual rank of general in constituted bodies who officially named themselves “al-Qaeda” affiliates—are not actually “al-Qaeda” members according to Washington.
All of this results in a near-comic opera of tragedy in which those who may not even be aware of such an organization are decried as belonging to it and then assassinated.
Washington declared war not on Afghanistan but on “al-Qaeda” because terror is a tactic and not an entity. Thus, it can never be defeated any more than a “War on Sneak Attacks” can be.
Washington is therefore engaged in a war it (by design) can never win and it (most profitably for the profiteers) will never end.
Worse—if there can be a worse—is that anyone who dissents is a “sympathizer” and anyone who protests is a “provocateur,” and anyone who points it all out is a “propagandist.” Indeed, the hydra that is Washington was deadly serious when it stated you are either with it or against it.
Yesterday Washington was against Afghanistan and Iraq. Today it is against Pakistan and Yemen. Tomorrow it will be against wherever there are poor people to be bombed and money to be made off their charred corpses. One knows not what words are inviolable, as anything could conceivably at some future date give comfort to the enemy, especially as the “enemy” is ever evolving to be wherever and whatever the empire needs most.
Even al-Awlaki himself gave a “prayer luncheon“ for moderate Muslims in the Pentagon after 9/11, invited to do so by the military which later assassinated him. Moderate today, radical cleric tomorrow.
This is not the first government run amok, but the most apt analogy is with the Bolsheviks. It was they who invented not only the theme but the modern definition of “politically incorrect.” Out of the octopus of offenses at the heart of neo-St. Petersburg came the noxious ideology that the state has a raft of enemies which rotate as required.
The natural consequence is that the prudent citizen takes no notice of the state for fear of offending it. If the people hunker in their hovels, perhaps the state will pass over us, leaving our doors unmarked. Perhaps by ignoring the outrages to basic human decency we may be spared in this headlong hurtling toward the abyss of complete irresponsibility, where no one is accountable and anything done in security’s ever-sacred name must be condoned without examination.
In a perpetual war on an undefined nationality, we ought demand more than Washington’s “honest word” whenever it kills someone that it was done “for our own good.” Especially if the person killed is one of the very citizens to whom government is supposedly beholden!
Already there are myriad indications that this war is being imported to the oft-revered Homeland. Last month Jose Padilla’s case was revisited because the courts determined he had not received a harsh enough penalty in his first sentencing almost a half-decade ago. Whatever one believes on that score, America used to prohibit ex post facto justice.
This is ominous. If one man can have his “sentence” increased on a whim for whatever reason after the fact, then it can be done for anyone, and it shall soon be done—for everyone. Power always acts to its maximum.
Another chilling expansion given to authorities in this “War on Terror” will soon come before the Supreme Court, which will decide whether the police can put a tracking beacon on your vehicle without a warrant and absent any rationale. If this is allowed in order to avert “terror,” how long will it be before authorities are allowed to put a tracker on your person? Or inside your person?
Does anyone doubt this is a very real non-science-fiction scenario which most of us will soon be grappling to resist? As for the old saw of the slave, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong…,” according to established legalities every one of us breaks several laws daily. Citizens are always doing something wrong, or at least technically illegal. Your case isn’t different. There is as much legal ground to hold you to 24-hour surveillance as there is for the world’s foremost “terrorist,” and once the kangaroo court gives it the imprimatur of license, it will be done to all of us.
Washington’s rationales for extra-legal extermination of Americans very seldom reveal much. For example, how many are aware that Terry Nichols of Oklahoma City fame stayed in a run-down hotel in the Philippines at the same time as Ramzi Yousef of World Trade Center fame? Or that Mr. Nichols made several secretive call-hang-up-return-call-ad-infinitum (just as in espionage films) from his home to that same hotel, known for harboring Muslim separatists? Almost no one, and Washington calls anyone who knows a “conspiracy theorist” because it is all obviously a coincidence.
The point is not that there was an evident conspiracy in Oklahoma City of which Washington is entirely aware. The point is that even when supplied with persuasive evidence from Congressional committees of involvement by parties who actually espouse a philosophy of “terror,” the government may not designate those same parties as terrorists. It matters not a whit what one does, because as far as the “War on Terror” is concerned, Washington makes the rules.
Are you a terrorist? One would hope not. But that really isn’t for you to say. Have you done anything violent or said anything extreme lately? One wouldn’t recommend it, but that also doesn’t happen to matter. Whatever you think you are, evidence aside, Washington knows better.
And according to Washington, that is enough for it to kill you with impunity, even if you’re an American.
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