The U.S. Assassination in Yemen: Unconstitutional ... and Ominous

via Revolution

On Friday, September 30, a U.S. drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki as he was traveling in northern Yemen, some 90 miles from the capital Sanaa. Al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico. Three of his companions, including Samir Khan, another American citizen, were also killed. Al-Awlaki was the target of this U.S. government assassination.
President Barack Obama, top government officials, and the U.S. ruling class were near unanimous in praising—even bragging about—this premeditated, long-planned execution.
Obama and other officials claimed that Al-Awlaki was not simply a radical Islamist cleric and propagandist, but an operational leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who had directly organized attacks against targets in the U.S.
What Obama and the imperialist media never focus on is the basic fact that Al-Awlaki has never been charged with any crime in any court. He’s never been put on trial, never convicted, and never sentenced. The U.S. government simply killed one of its own citizens without even any semblance of due process—without any “day in court,” as required under the U.S. Constitution. This right is claimed to be one of the pillars of U.S. “justice” and “democracy.”
ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer stated, “The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts.”
Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald writes in “The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality:” “The U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (‘No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law’), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law).” (, September 30, 2011)
Government Declares: NO Evidence, NO Courts
The U.S. government never provided any evidence, even outside a courtroom, linking Al-Awlaki with any attack. Al-Awlaki was the first American citizen to be put on the CIA’s capture or kill list and the Obama administration has vigorously fought to prevent any public legal process examining the evidentiary or legal justification for doing this.
Thirteen months ago, Al-Awlaki’s father, represented by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, sued the Obama administration and other U.S. officials for targeting his son for death without due process. The Obama administration continued the Bush regime’s legal theory that since the U.S. is at war in the so-called “war on terror,” the courts have no right to be involved in decisions concerning how to wage that “war,” including who’s an “enemy combatant,” or who’s targeted for killing, which are “state secrets.” According to the Washington Post (October 1, 2011), “The administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis used to authorize targeting Aulaqi [Awlaki], or how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process.” (“Justice Dept. Memo Sanctioned Killings, But Officials Avoid ‘Due Process’ Concerns”).
U.S. District Judge John Bates sided with the Obama administration and threw out the lawsuit, saying, “Mr. Awlaki had shown no interest in pursuing a claim in an American justice system he despised.” (“Judging a Long, Deadly Reach,” New York Times, September 30, 2011)
Harvard Law School Professor and former Bush administration Assistant Attorney General Jack L. Goldsmith claims, “Before someone like Mr. Awlaki is targeted, multiple intelligence sources support the conclusion that he is a dangerous threat, top lawyers from many agencies scrutinize the action, policy makers at the highest levels of government approve the action after assessing its legal and political risks, and the Congressional intelligence committees are informed about the intelligence community’s role in the operations.” (“A Just Act of War,” New York Times, September 30, 2011)
No doubt such top officials and experts—perhaps some of the same individuals cited by Mr. Goldsmith—carefully went over evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMD [weapons of mass destruction] prior to the 2003 invasion now responsible for as many as a million Iraqi deaths.
“Hundreds of men were wrongfully detained at Guantánamo,” Michael Ratner, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, writes. “Should this same government, or any government, be allowed to order people’s killing without due process?” (“Anwar al‑Awlaki’s Extrajudicial Murder,” Guardian UK, October 1, 2011)
In short, the President of the United States can decide in secret to kill anyone whom he deems to be a threat, without anything remotely resembling due process.
A Serious Step Toward Fascism... Under the Democrats
This is a major and serious step toward fascism—“the imposition of a form of dictatorship which openly relies on violence and terror to maintain the rule and the imperatives of the capitalist-imperialist system.” (BAsics 3:11)
The rulers of this country have killed many people extra-judicially—without due process. The 1969 execution of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton by Chicago police with the behind-the-scenes help of the FBI is one sharp example among many. However, the Al-Awlaki assassination marks something new and very dangerous: the U.S. state is now claiming the legal right to assassinate anyone it labels a threat, whether a citizen or not, and that people so targeted have no legal recourse whatsoever to prevent the full weight of the state from hunting them down and executing them.
“The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us,” Michael Ratner stresses. “There appears to be no limit to the president’s power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it’s in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States.” (Guardian UK, October 1, 2011)
Why It Is Pointless—and Worse—to Support the Democrats
Not even Bush, not even Cheney, dared to openly claim this right! Now, a Democrat—and a so‑called “constitutional scholar” at that—has been the one to implement reactionary, murderous policies deemed essential by the imperialist ruling class at this juncture —now targeted assassination of U.S. citizens with no due process at all!
Powerful sections of the imperialist ruling class supported Obama’s candidacy: not to bring “change” we could believe in, or “build a movement from the bottom up,” but to paralyze and disorient those who hated Bush and the U.S. wars, to rebrand the U.S. empire, and to build political support—or passive acceptance—for endless war and countless war crimes. (For more on this dynamic see “The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn
This Whole Thing Upside Down” by Bob Avakian, Revolutionary Worker #1237, April 25, 2004, available at
Glenn Greenwald notes, “Remember that there was great controversy that George Bush asserted the power simply to detain American citizens without due process or simply to eavesdrop on their conversations without warrants. Here you have something much more severe. Not eavesdropping on American citizens, not detaining them without due process, but killing them without due process, and yet many Democrats and progressives, because it’s President Obama doing it, have no problem with it and are even in favor of it.” (Democracy Now!, September 30, 2011, emphasis added)
Greenwald goes on to say, “Well, one thing that is obvious, is that voting for Democrats as opposed to Republicans doesn’t help. In fact, if you read the New York Times article from 2010 confirming that Al Awlaki is on the hit list, it makes clear that there’s been no instances where George Bush ordered American citizens targeted for assassination, that this is extraordinary and perhaps an unprecedented step under the Democratic president.
What people in the Arab world did, when their leaders did things like imprison them, let alone kill them, and their fellow citizens without trials, is they went out into the streets and protested and demanded that it stop. It’s hard to see how voting for one of these two parties is going to end these extraordinary excesses in violations of the constitution; it clearly doesn’t. Something outside of that system is necessary to address it. That’s been proven.”
Supporting the Democrats is not the “lesser of two evils”—or merely pointless. It’s profoundly harmful! As Bob Avakian has pointed out, “If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are.” (BAsics 3:12)
This also points to the truth of the World Can’t Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime’s original call to action which presciently stated: “That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.”