Can we kill our own just because they’re bad guys?

I guess we killed an important terrorist yesterday. Another clean, targeted hit. And we did it without invasion, always a good thing. Gotta tone down that invasion thing.

But there are concerns. AnWar al-Awlaki was a bad guy for sure. He was also an American citizen.

I just stumbled upon Spatial Orientation, a blog new to me and one I’ll visit again, where they’ve posted some commentary on the subject including a statement from Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson and a post from professional liberal Glenn Greenwald, two fellows who are hardly ideological bedfellows but appear to be equally fond of the Constitution.

Johnson said that while he applauds vigilance in the WoT:

. . . we cannot allow the War on Terror to diminish our steadfast adherence to the notion of due process for American citizens.  The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki.  It is a question of due process for American citizens.

If we allow our fervor to eliminate terrorist threats to cause us to cut corners with the Constitution and the fundamental rights of American citizens, whether it be invasions of privacy or the killing of someone born on U.S. soil, I could argue that the terrorists will have ultimately won.

Greenwald added:

What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar . . . [but] that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S.

Awlaki has been linked to suspects in the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas shooting spree and the attempted Christmas bombing of a passenger jet, but he has neither been charged nor tried. It appears he was targeted because he preached jihad and recruited for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Like I said, a bad guy, but we have rules that say we can’t kill citizens because they don’t like the government.

(The killing was carried out by an unmanned drone,  another conversation we should be having.)

UPDATE: Johnson just appeared on FOX News. That’s an audience who need  a challenge to cherished beliefs. He did a good job.  The video is here.

49 responses to “Can we kill our own just because they’re bad guys?

  1. Craig D. Schlesinger

    Thanks so much for the link and the kind words, Moe! Gary Johnson actually made his case on Fox News earlier today, so at least his message hit the cable news audience:


    • Well Craig, since I just linked above to the video, we’ve now doubled the chance that it will be watched. FOX is exactly the audience that needS to hear what he has to say.


  2. Craig D. Schlesinger



  3. Moe…..

    That the video was on FOX only lets me know that FOX is doing the GOP dirty work by going after the President…..

    Second…Let me see….Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed off on HOW MANY executions?

    Third….. Al Qaeda has vowed to kill American’s….The organization has already done so to thousands…..With a T….

    Fourth….Anybody want to poll this one?

    Fifth…..The Organization , which is NOT a state is in a declared war against this country and it’s citizens….The President and ECERY person that works for the GOVERNMENT of the United States of America swears to Protect you and me….

    Sixth…..Al Qaeda I’m sure has been declared ‘enemy combatants’…..Therefore I assume the President of the United Staes can and done a ‘Presidential Finding’ authorizing the people on a defined list to found and the Chain of Command notified or rendered harmless….

    Seventh…..I’d bet that the wise men and women of the House and Senate where briefed in on this……

    Last this guy was NO American……

    Just because he was born in this country….


    • james – no doubt he was a bad guy. No doubt he wanted to hurt us. But our constitution has a Fifth Amendment. Violating it in this particular instance gave the President much broader power. That’s a very bad precedent. Even the worst of the worst among US citizens have the same rights as you and me. It’s the price we pay for the protections of the Constitution. So I’m not okay with this action.

      Anyway . . .


  4. And Moe you are right about this and the other guy…..

    Gloating serves NO purpose…
    It actually sad that this is the way things have to be…..


  5. actually IS sad……


  6. Pingback: Can we kill our own just because they’re bad guys?...And a Counterpoint....

  7. Killing an American citzen without a trial. The best way to define that is with these four digits: 1984.


  8. Wait let me get this straight for argument sake?

    The thing should have been to capture this guy and put him on trial?





    • Yes. If an American citizen is thought of as being responsible for a crime, then liable the crime. State what it was he is supposed to have done and to whom and what law that he broke. Decide where that offense took place (or where the victim is) and chose that as the jurisdiction. Say NY or California or whereever. Then charge him with the crime and arrest the bold boy and put him to the trial.. If the evidence is good he will be guilty and suffer the appropriate sentance. Then again if you cant say what he did wrong and to who your case is that much weaker….

      After all if it was good enough for the apostle Paul to be taken to Rome for trial it should be good enough for the USA.



      • Well said–somehow Spain and England managed to try and convict terrorists on national soil and in civilian courts, but for the US it’s impossible…


  9. 5th Amendment?

    This guy has sworn to hurt American’s…..

    Terrorist that go after American’s we should worry about?

    Second part….
    No operation is a just a ‘off the cuff’ …..
    I’m sure the call went up the chain of command….
    Again….. That includes Dem and GOP Congressmen/women…
    The beef would be against the whole US Poltiical system….
    Military, Congress, President the whole ball of wax……


  10. Hey Moe just counterpointing here….


  11. The WHOLE THING sucks….


  12. Check this link for the details which include the fact that Military and I suppose DOJ lawyers where involved in this…..

    Last thing…

    This isn’t gonna stop because of the ACLU….
    No Judge is gonna stop it and the President and Congress ARE involved….
    There is NO going back to the Pre-9/11 world…..
    That may still leave doubts…
    But it IS the way it is…..


    • Can’t say it enough – bad guy, bad guy, bad guy.

      But james, the issue remains – this is the first time that a killing of an American citizen was ordered by a President. (that we know of anyway!)


  13. I give you Liberals full measure for honesty. I do not give it to you lightly. At least you are bringing this up when Obama is President, instead of George Bush. I did not believe you guys had it in you .

    But to ease your collective consciences , think of it the way I do. Think of all the lives that have been saved by the death of this scumbag. And this is the only way this was ever going to happen . He was not going to be captured and brought to trial .

    Would you rather he was alive or dead ? Dead is better .


  14. The concerns around killing this guy have nothing to do with him. He’s not the issue. And arrest/trial etc is definitely fraught with difficulties. But that’s not the issue either. Sometimes it’s hard to do things the right way, but that’s no reason not to.

    Questioning the killing of an American on the orders of a President is our duty.


  15. ttp://


  16. The Global War on Terror justifies these extrajudicial killings: America is at war with a shadowy enemy, and the battlefield is the entire planet—every square inch of it. So we can kill whoever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, and morally it’s pretty much like storming Normandy beach—noble indeed.


  17. War is always different than criminal proceedings. This is war. We do not order drone assassinations of murderers on fugitive warrants. You do not read miranda rights on the battle field . This is about our survival . Just like Gitmo and water boarding. Many of Gitmo’s released terrorists have had to be killed on the battle field when they rejoined Al Queda.

    As has been said. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.


    • Alan, elvis help me, but you’ve made a good argument for extrajudicial killings; the issue of him being a citizen however is still there. And it’s a difficult call as to the legality of it. Morally, I have no argument. Only constitutionally.

      However, I would not apply your argument it to waterboarding, since that violates rules specifically written for prisoners of war.


    • Except al-Awlaki was not on a battlefield. He wasn’t actively shooting at US soldiers. The only evidence that exists about the alleged pernicious nature of the actual doings of al-Awlaki are claims made by government officials. And if you think that it’s okay to target American citizens for assassination without due process based on claims made by government officials, I would encourage you to go back and read about the mountain of lies the government fed the American people about Iraq. Even now, after his death, the US government still refuses to show the American people the evidence that justifies the killing. If the evidence is so one-sided as the government claims, why not just put it all out there for everyone to see?


      • Thanks Brad, for stating this so clearly. I’ve never bought into the “America is at war, and the entire planet is a battlefield” narrative, either.


        • Most people have no awareness that we have our military in at least 100 countries. Americans don’t seem to know that we’re an Empire, the hegemon, the big guy you dare not speak against without consequences.

          And we are an empire on its downward spiral.


  18. Good Post Moe…..

    Good feed back here and on the Dog……


  19. I’m pleased that Gary Johnson is keeping civil liberties in the public conversation, which other GOP contenders have neglected to do.

    Our leaders need to be mindful of the precedent that their decisions set. This could be troubling up the road.


  20. Brad,

    I respectfully suggest that battle fields of today are different . If you have a guy sitting in Yemen plotting to kill me or you, I say it is criminal not to assassinate him . If he happens to have the title of American citizen, I still say kill the SOB . My conscience allows me to sleep like baby on this .

    And much of the information for putting the hits on these guys came from waterboarding. Again, I am really okay with it. As far as putting it out for all to see, I disagree totally . George Bush did it so I trust it. Barak Obama did it, so you can trust it . Either alone would be in question . If two opposite Presidents did it, I trust it. Putting out the information will only make that information useless.


    • Wow Alan. I guess if the guy living down the street, a really really bad guy, wants to kill you, we can arrest him and kill him before he does it? You need to read some law, man. Protection against that sort of thing is at the very heart of a democracy. Kings and tyrants do stuff like that.

      I guess you would be happy living inside the wolrd of “Minority Report” where future crime is a crime.


  21. Having seen a number of blogs commenting on the extra judicial killing and the vitriolic ignorant comments they get I want to admire your bravery! That this killing is sanctioned by a President who was himself a Professor of Constitutional Law is astonishing! Beyond satire. I was too young (just!) for McCarthyism but seem to have booked a front row for this latest abuse of law and constitutional protections. I have a few legal pointers and a bit of history on my blog too. Remember how the Jews cought Eichman (arguably far worse than any of this lot) and gave him a trial, and Nuremburg and Milosovic? Trial is not a soft option but it keeps us civilised


  22. David,

    How can you compare Eichman to al-Awlaki ? Eichman was a fugitive and not an on going threat to the living . The option to capture Eichman and bring him back for trial was realistic . Al-Awlaki was not going to be captured and tried . Plus the longer he was alive, the more danger to Americans . Killing Al-Awlaki as quickly as possible was the best option.

    To get back to Eichman. What the Israelis did was just as illegal as what the US did .Eichman was ambushed and kidnapped. He was given a choice to die right away or go to trial . Everything that was done violated Argentine law . The US had the cooperation of Yemen in the killing of Al-awlaki. That makes it far more legal than what the Israelis did .

    Plus Israel has no hesitation assassinating terrorists who are threats . I admire them for that, but it makes using them as moral examples for your point of view, totally ridiculous .


  23. Ms. Holland ,

    ” Wow Alan. I guess if the guy living down the street, a really really bad guy, wants to kill you, we can arrest him and kill him before he does it? You need to read some law, man. Protection against that sort of thing is at the very heart of a democracy. Kings and tyrants do stuff like that.

    I guess you would be happy living inside the wolrd of “Minority Report” where future crime is a crime.

    Wow, that is such a wonderfully fantastical piece of logic you just tossed out there, I almost do not know where to rip it apart first .

    AnWar al-Awlaki was a known active terrorist leader . He was known to have planned and been involved in murders of Americans . He was known to be planning the future murders of Americans. He was not a character in a bad science fiction movie .

    You know how much I dislike President Obama. Well this is something I give him all the credit in the world for . I consider it an impeachable offense to have a President who would not order AnWar al-Awlaki to be killed at the first opportunity .

    Your example has one illogical piece to it. You said we would capture and kill the guy living down the street before he could kill me . If we can capture my murderer alive, we would not have to kill him, at least until after his trial . You keep insisting that was an option with AnWar al-Awlaki .

    Why do you think that ?

    Also the option to take some kind of preemptive action against an imminent threat before hand is already in our legal system . Maybe you are aware of PFAs and anti stalking laws .


    • [AnWar al-Awlaki was a known active terrorist leader . He was known to have planned and been involved in murders of Americans . He was known to be planning the future murders of Americans]

      Yup. I agree. But you left something out. AnWar al-Awlaki, like it or not, was an American,with all the constitutional protetions we afford citizens. Remember that those laws weren’t written so much to protect individuals, as to define and protect the character of the nation.

      And now we have indeed gone through the looking glass – you support Obama’s decision and I object to it.


  24. Ms. Holland,

    Dangerous American citizens have been killed with no Constitutional protection in the past . Bonnie and Clyde were assassinated by law enforcement in the 1930s. Of course that was not ordered by a President .

    ” Remember that those laws weren’t written so much to protect individuals, as to define and protect the character of the nation. ”

    Not accurate. The Constitution was specifically written to protect the individual from the government , not to make us protect an inflated idea of national character. I agree with you that the Constitution protects American citizens from being assassinated by their government . However, I would say that in a state of war that does not apply. If a citizen had betrayed the nation and went over to Hitler in WWII, FDR would not have thought twice about having him shot, if that was the only way . We are at war with terrorists.

    The only reason to fear this is if you believe we are on the slippery slope of you and me being targeted by a future American government . At this point in my life cycle, I gladly live with that danger .


  25. 40 Comments!

    Ok….I just told Dave I’m finished with this….

    As I told him….

    Thanks Moe for the job you’re doing!


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