Review and Outlook in the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal (October 1, 2011) detailed the charges against Anwar al-Awlaki justifying his recent summary execution by pilotless drone:
In the decade before his death, Anwar al-Awlaki served as an imam at two American mosques attended by 9/11 hijackers. He corresponded regularly with Nidal Hasan before the Army major went on his murder spree at Fort Hood in November 2009. He was in touch with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who nearly brought down a jetliner over Detroit the following month. His sermons were cited as an inspiration by attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. He said that “jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”
This will have to do for an indictment. There has been no actual indictment, because there were no legal proceedings prior to his execution by Hellfire missile. No grand jury met to determine whether Mr. Awlaki had likely violated the laws of the country of his citizenship. No petite jury met to convict him. No judge presided over the proceedings. Mr. Awlaki, a US citizen, was charged, tried, convicted, condemned and executed by his government.
Yet even the Review and Outlook indictment fails. Nothing of what is claimed to have justified the execution would have passed muster as an indictable offense in an American courtroom, or really any courtroom in a Western constitutional republic. If leading a religious organization that has criminal parishioners is indictable, then every preacher, priest and rabbi is suspect. Did Bernie Madoff’s rabbi get executed, or even indicted, for having known Madoff? Did Awlaki provide the gun or the bullets or pull the trigger for Hasan’s murderous rampage? Assume that he had planted the ideas that ultimately led to Hasan’s crime. He could have been indicted as a conspirator had his actions risen above the level of simply a generalized hatred of American ways, and coalesced into concrete help in planning the crime. But was this the case? If Review and Outlook knew such a conspiracy were true, and not solely an assumption of the subject of Hasan and Awlaki’s correspondence, surely the mouthpiece for the perpetual and amorphous War on Terror would gleefully have provided the evidence and made the allegation.
How could it possibly be that having one’s sermons cited as inspiration for a failed criminal act is worthy of the US discarding any pretense that it respects the covenants with its citizens that were agreed upon in its Constitution?
Review and Outlook failed to mention which indictable offenses of another American citizen, Samir Kahn, justified his execution in the same attack that killed Awlaki. Perhaps it was considered that no indictable offense need be cited, as the fact of Mr. Kahn’s physical proximity close enough to cause his death in Awlaki’s execution is sufficient to prove his guilt. In that regard, Awlaki’s execution was a two-fer, or perhaps a four-fer. A total of four people were summarily executed in Awlaki’s attack. Presumably all were enemies of the US, considering their close proximity in time and space to Awlaki, therefore their killings, one and all, were justified.
Declaring jihad against America is probably enough for America to lose its religion so far as the Bill of Rights is concerned. But jihad means different things to different people. Jihad, literally translated from Arabic, is a noun meaning “struggle”. For some Muslims, this means a violent struggle against non-believers. For some, it simply means striving to do Allah’s will. Islamic scholars dismiss the idea that jihad only means holy war of the type that terrorizes American sensibilities. Awlaki’s proclamation that “jihad against America is binding upon myself, as it is binding upon every other able Muslim” could mean quite a few things less nefarious than armed conflict. But of course, such nuance is not allowable for those dedicated to perpetual war. Belief, on either side, trumps reason. Jihad to Americans devoted to engaging Muslims in a Holy War means whatever tribunals like the WSJ Review and Outlook believe would be most advantageous for rallying the population to its side.
Putting moral sensibilities aside, will the killing of Mr. Awlaki for his views serve to enhance or impair American security? Do ideas die when the person espousing them dies? It is no small irony that the very same Americans agitating for killing folks like Mr. Awlaki in order to extinguish his ideas are many of the same folks proclaiming fealty to the ideas of a Jewish peasant that lived over 2,000 years ago; one whose ideas they steadfastly proclaim did not die with him. Did America just create another Christ-like martyr for Islam? If so, was America’s security enhanced or impaired thereby?
In the same paper, on the same opinion pages, Peggy Noonan (subscriber content) hopefully proclaims that patriotism is on the rise in America:
…That I think is the mood taking hold among members of what used to be called the American leadership class—slightly taken aback by their love for America, by their protectiveness toward her.
The untapped patriotism out there—if it were electricity, it would remake the grid and light up the world. And it’s among all professions, classes and groups, from the boardroom to the tea party meeting to the pediatric ICU.
We think patriotism reached its height after 9/11, but I think it is reaching some new height now, and we’re only beginning to notice.
God help us all if patriotism is reaching some new height now; some height loftier than that provided by 9/11. America is paying now for its idiotic, patriotic response to what amounted to the bite of a flea on a lion.
I, for one, have no such untapped well of patriotism from which to draw. If anything, virtually everything the US government has undertaken since 9/11—domestically and internationally—has completely and utterly drained any reservoir of patriotism I might have once had. My patriotism is all tapped out when it comes to considering a government claiming to be founded on principles of freedom and responsibility and equal justice under the law, that then bends laws to benefit bankers, and kills at whim anyone, including its own citizens, that it deems might be dangerous. There is no reason any more to support America. While it has never quite lived up to the idea that it was a “shining city on the hill”, it now doesn’t even pretend to try. It has no pretensions to decency. America has lost, probably forever, what I once believed was a legitimate claim on my heart.
The “American leadership class” of whom Ms. Noonan speaks is nothing more or less than a cabal of capitalists whose loyalty to the ideals upon which America was founded extends no further than to how rich giving lip service to those ideals might make them. They happily promote spilling the blood and treasure of others in support of their rapacious greed; they would happily drain the Treasury of all the land’s bounty if doing so served their selfish ends.
If all that weren’t enough in just one op-ed page, below the Noonan article is a piece by Matthew Kaminski, a member of the WSJ editorial board, on Army general Mark Martins. In The General Who Would Try KSM (also subscriber content), we are introduced to a true Renaissance man, dedicated to the humble pursuit of wisdom and justice under the law, while also serving his country as an Army combat Ranger, without also suffering from the potentially debilitating and paralyzing logical inconsistencies inherent with pretending law applies to war. He’s praised for his unselfishness in having refused to profit in the private sector from his West Point class rank (first) and Harvard Law degree, choosing instead a life of public service as an Army lawyer. Presumably, he’d be one of those patriots of whom Noonan speaks (though perhaps his patriotism is all tapped and flowing), and would capably apply his formidable intellect to the task of finding robust legal justification for the summary execution of US citizens, so dedicated is he to all that is good and worthy about America.
Kaminski goes on to provide a glowing tribute to how smart guys like Martins, applying insights on human nature and organizations learned through their many opportunities for experiment along the vanguards of empire, will bring peace and goodness to troubled lands wherever and whenever the indigenous populations are graced with the magical touch of smart Americans like he. Martens came across sounding more like a missionary spreading the gospel than a combatant pretending there is nothing inconsistent in practicing law and war at the same time. But Martens is indeed more like a missionary, except one that is spreading the gospel of democracy and the riches available thereby through the attendant capitalist economic system, conveniently financed by American (or British) investment bankers, for the purpose of enriching those Americans with untapped patriotic zeal, see Noonan, supra. American imperialism about now is very similar to that practiced by the Spaniards three and four centuries ago; plunder the land for the folks back home while promoting the peculiar theology animating the empire. For the Spaniards, that meant pillaging the silver; deposing the local tribal leaders, and establishing Catholic missions. For Americans it means much the same, except “silver” usually means oil, and the proselytized theology is democracy, no matter how unfit a land may be for popular government.
I finally canceled my subscription to the Wall Street Journal a few months ago. I only know of these articles because I bought a newsstand copy to while away the time between matches at my daughter’s volleyball tournament. It sent a chill down my spine to realize how willingly the Journal lied to support its pet cause of perpetual war; to justify the killing of American citizens, even when done by an Administration led by a President it loathes. Of course, the Journal’s editorialists reckon that they will never be targeted by their government as enemies of the state, and so comfortably support its power to identify and execute citizens so deemed. Of all the assumptions upon which the Journal’s editorial staff may be wrong in formulating its opinions (and it appears there are quite a few), assuming that a government grown so powerful will willingly brook dissent is perhaps the least viable. One regime’s cleric deserving summary execution for preaching jihad is another regime’s journalist espousing opposition ideas that deserves similar treatment.