More Reasons to Worry About a Slippery Slope From the Assassination Memo
Think it’s crazy to worry about a slippery slope when a memo tells Barack Obama he’s good to kill American citizens who aren’t imminently about to attack the United States?
What if the U.S. citizen is a 16-year-old whose crime is having a terrorist dad?
Now, I can hear you saying: “hey, if the 16-year-old happens to be standing right next to his terrorist dad when we kill the dad . . .” If that’s what you’re thinking, stop. It’s not entirely clear what did happen . . . but it’s clear that’s not what happened:
He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country — they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Awlaki had proven himself an expert inciter of those with murderous designs against America and Americans: the rare man of words who could be said to have a body count. When he was killed, on September 30, 2011, President Obama made a speech about it; a few months later, when the Obama administraton’s public-relations campaign about its embrace of what has come to be called “targeted killing” reached its climax in a front-page story in the New York Times that presented the President of the United States as the last word in deciding who lives and who dies, he was quoted as saying that the decision to put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill list — and then to kill him — was “an easy one.” But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn’t on an American kill list.
Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penin[su]la. Nor was he “an inspiration,” as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone “operational,” as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests. He was a boy who hadn’t seen his father in two years, since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who snuck out of his family’s home in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the second cousin with whom he’d lived while on his search, and the friends he’d made. He was a boy among boys, then; a boy among boys eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all.
I would need to know more about this attack to know whether to be outraged by the attack. Maybe he was collateral damage to an attack on another terrorist. Here’s the problem, and here is what is certainly cause for outrage: a spokesman for this administration is willing to justify it as the fruits of his dad’s decision to be a terrorist. Watch at 1:56:
ADAMSON: …It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.
GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
Again, note that this kid wasn’t killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment. Is that the real answer? Or would the Obama Administration like to clarify its reasoning? Any Congress that respected its oversight responsibilities would get to the bottom of this.
See? If they think they can come up with a cute sound bite to justify it, they’ll try literally anything. They’ll look you in the eye and say it’s OK to kill a kid because his dad’s a terrorist. That may not be what happened, but that is the position that this idiot Gibbs is defending.
Glenn Greenwald has more on the memo and what makes it worrisome. I think we have to apply to Obama the same standards we would apply to such a law under Bush. To me, at first glance, the idea that a single official can make a decision when there is no imminent threat sounds unAmerican. Where are the checks and balances?
If a president would need a warrant to wiretap American citizens, presumably he should need a warrant to, um, kill them.