Monday, October 03, 2011

The Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan assassinations (1)

The apparently successful assassination last week of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan by US forces in Yemen has emphasized for me again how important for the future of American democracy and the rule of law it is to drastically change our foreign policy and the bloated, often lawless national security state apparatus that comes with it.

This is yet another grim turning point for the United States. Even if the claim is true that Awlaki and Khan were actual threats to the United States - claims not established by sound information in the public record - this is still a huge overstep of Executive authority. Like the Cheney-Bush torture program, this goes to the heart of the rule of law. If the Executive can order the murder of American citizens based solely on the judgment of the Executive Branch with no judicial process, which is what the Obama Administration did here, the rule of law can be put in abeyance simply of the word of the President that it involves national security.

It was clear long ago that the Obama Administration was not going to prosecute even the most serious torture and other war crimes of the previous Administration. But now that Obama has maintained secret prisons for this long, which operate under conditions that torture is virtually certain to take place even if it's not officially permitted, and now has actually deliberately assassinated two American citizens not even indicted for crimes, it virtually rules out any attempt to prosecute such crimes from the previous Administration. Because they are now open to prosecution under American and international law themselves.

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