Summary: Any attempts to reform America’s political system quickly encounters an enemy: our lack of shared view of the world. Not just the differences in values that divide most societies. Americans have not only different opinions, but years of intense propaganda have given us different facts. They’ve become totems of tribal identity, held with fanatic intensity by groups within America. It’s a useful tool for our ruling elites, preventing communication between people of good will which might otherwise lead to collective action. Here we look at an example of this process in action, concerning the execution of al Awlaki.
As has been proven many times in history, aggressive lies provide one of the most powerful tools to control a people. Effective lies match people’s biases and fears, so people easily believe them — despite contrary evidence. At some point Americans became unusually vulnerable to this method of control, as explained in Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, and Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right. The barriers this creates has become one of our great enemies.
On the Left we have a wide range of misinformation (my favorite — Earth will become just like Venus!) See the posts at the end, accounts of discussions with climate change fanatics — immunized against facts. On the Right we have faux economics (see these posts) and the War on Terror, both largely supported by lies.
On the FM website and by email I have had hundreds of such discussions during the past 5 years. Mostly about simple facts trumped by the need to maintain tribal identity (such as Listen to the voice of America’s decline. Can we bring these people into the 21st Century? Today we look at a comment by Staunch lifted from Watch the Constitution die right now as we burn a 2452 year old vital legal precedent (about the government’s secret rulings condemning al-Awlaki to death. My guess is a well-meaning and patriotic person who relys on sources which lie to him about simple matters of fact.
Great legal analysis, except for the fact there is none.
There is nothing that prevents the US from killing its enemies at a time of war, whether they are citizens or not. Forget the fact the Mr. Al-Awalki renounced his citizenship because that is irrelevant. If he wanted to subject himself under US due process he had every right to do so. All he needed to do is avail himself to US jurisdiction. They would have gladly taken him in and put him on trial. Instead, he lived in Yemen and directed terrorist activities against the US.
During the Civil War, US soldiers killed confederate US citizens. During the WWII, there were several instances of US citizens of german and italian decent who either went back to Europe to fight the US or were performing spy operations here. No legal precedent ever required the government to seek a warrant for these peoples arrest nor has any legitimate legal theory ever held that the government could not kill people who have declared war against it.
You are filled with righteous indignation and you do not cite one sentence, not one line, not one word from the Constitution or case law to back up your assertions.
As per SOP on the FM website, we’ll examine this line by line. Note his response in the comments, displaying the same characteristics displayed here.
(1) “Forget the fact the Mr. Al-Awalki renounced his citizenship”
We can forget it because is a lie (no matter how frequently repeated). Al-Awlaki did not do so.
(2) “If he wanted to subject himself under US due process he had every right to do so.”
An American citizenship FAIL. It’s the government’s role to bring charges against citizens. Only then do citizens have an obligation to respond. Al Awlaki was never charged with a crime.
(3) “They would have gladly taken him in and put him on trial.”
Another citizenship FAIL. The government could have charged al Awlaki with a crime (his location was irrelevant). They did not do so, therefore they could not legally “take him in and put him on trial.”
(4) “and directed terrorist activities against the US.”
Here we see the essence of a subject rather than a free citizen: belief that the government says al Awlaki committed crimes, therefore he is guilty and deserves punishment. QED. This is astonishing blindness given the frequency with which the government has lied to us.
(5) “During the Civil War, US soldiers killed confederate US citizens”
This is a double FAIL. First, it ignores the difference between a state of rebellion and giving sermons (which is all we know Awlaki did).
Second, US soldiers were authorized to kill Confederates only on the battlefield or after trials. President Lincoln signed General Order 100 on 24 April 1863 — the Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field (aka the Lieber Code; go here for the text; see Wikipedia for details). Section IX, “Assassination”, says:
The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such intentional outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.
(6) “During the WWII, there were several instances of US citizens of german and italian decent who either went back to Europe to fight the US or were performing spy operations here.”
Again, false. Such people were charged and given trials, other than those killed on the battlefield. They were not executed on the basis of unsupported government claims. For example, the German saboteurs of Operation Pastorius (see Wikipedia) in 1942, landed in NY and Florida — including 2 US citizens.
All 8 were put on trial before a seven-member military tribunal … Lawyers for the accused attempted to have the case tried in a civilian court but were rebuffed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Ex parte Quirin, a case that was later cited as a precedent for the trial by military commission of any unlawful combatant against the United States. … All 8 defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Roosevelt commuted Burger’s sentence to life and Dasch’s to 30 years, because they had turned themselves in and provided information about the others. The others were executed on 8 August 1942 … In 1948 President Truman granted executive clemency to Dasch and Burger on the condition that they be deported to the American Zone of occupied Germany.
(7) “No legal precedent ever required the government to seek a warrant for these peoples arrest nor has any legitimate legal theory ever held that the government could not kill people who have declared war against it.”
Another citizenship FAIL. There is no legal basis for the belief that a US citizen can “declare war” against the US. Citizens can commit crimes (up to and including treason) for which they must be charged — unless found in active commission of a crime under circumstances allowing government agents to reply with deadly force.
Regulations govern striping an America of his citizenship (listed on the State Department website). The government elected not to do so to al Awlaki.
(8) “you do not cite one sentence, not one line, not one word from the Constitution or case law to back up your assertions.”
This post discusses the process by which Awalki was executed, the secret laws and death sentences by secret panels — a violation of principles going back to Rome. The most important being the 5th amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in case arising in the land or naval forces, on in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law …
This rule has been followed by the USA since the Founding, even during the extreme circumstances of wartime — even extended to non-citizens captured off the battlefield. For example, at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials.
Other posts about the US government’s assassination programs
For more about this problem in America see Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America.
For more about Anwar al-Awlaki: Excerpts from the court ruling about the challenge to the government’s right to kill him.
The key post in this series: James Bond is not just our hero, but the model for our geopolitical strategy, 18 May 2009.
Other posts about our assassination programs:
- “Filling the skies with Assassins” by Tom Engelhardt, 12 April 2009
- America’s dominance of the sky slowly erodes – inevitable or avoidable?, 22 September 2009
- The march of technology brings “The Forty-Year Drone War”, 26 January 2010
- Stratfor looks at “The Utility of Assassination”, 26 February 2010
- Code red! The Constitution is burning., 5 August 2010
- An Appalling Threat to Civil Liberties and Democracy, 8 August 2010
- The biggest re-branding exercise in the history of the world, 21 August 2010 — A new image for America.
- America plays the Apollo Option: killing from the sky, Chet Richards, 26 August 2010
- Every day the Constitution dies a little more, 1 September 2010
- What do our Constitution-loving conservatives say about our government’s assassination programs?, 2 September 2010
- A great philosopher and statesman comments on the Bush-Obama tweaks to the Constitution, 10 October 2010
- Killing the leaders of our enemy. Is this the fast track to victory – or disaster?, 25 October 2010
Posts debating climate change
- A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming, 17 November 2008
- Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
- Another pro-global warming comment, effective PR at work!, 1 December 2008
- The definitive rebuttal to skepticism about global warming!, 10 December 2008
- High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008