Casualty of War, or Assassination?

By Chris Childree

Innocent American?


American-born jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a deliberately targeted drone strike in Yemen last month, a little more than a year after landing on the American kill-or-capture list. Sources within the U.S. Department of Justice say the killing was justified through the Congressional authorization of force against al-Qaeda, passed in the aftermath of 9/11.  This authorization gave the President the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001”. Al-Awlaki fit this description.

In the 1990s, while a cleric at a San Diego mosque, he served as spiritual adviser to two of the 9/11 hijackers. He had several closed-door meetings with them, and according to the 9/11 Commission Report, provided both housing and financial assistance. In early 2001, he met with a third hijacker in Washington, D.C.  Investigators concluded that al-Awlaki had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

Furthermore, the killing was done as written in the authorization bill, “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”  Within al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Awlaki was initially focused on the recruiting of American Muslims through web videos, earning him the nickname, “the bin Laden of the Internet”. However, he then became directly involved in acts of terrorism. In 2009, he encouraged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, and personally advised and recruited the failed “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Just last year, he was involved in the planning of a failed bombing of two cargo planes.  It is reasonable to conclude that he was planning further attacks.

Critics of the killing, including Representative Ron Paul, argue that al-Awlaki was not given due process as outlined in the Fifth Amendment, and that the killing amounted to assassination, which is prohibited through executive order. Paul, who actually voted for the authorization of force, should realize that the process of eliminating al-Awlaki certainly was due in the course of war. It was not an assassination, which pertains to the illegal killing of political officials outside of war.  This was a legal elimination of a treasonous enemy combatant in the War on Terrorism. Al-Awlaki’s removal has left the United States as a much safer place.



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