Thursday, April 08, 2010

Obama orders US-born cleric to be shot on sight.

I have never been a fan of targeted assassinations. The whole thing sits uneasily with me. The fact that one person, be they President or Prime Minister, gets to act as judge, jury, and executioner, strikes me as wrong.

The person accused has no opportunity to defend themselves against the governments accusations - and let's face it, Guantanamo Bay alone is proof of how wrong governments sometimes get it - before the government carry out their execution.

So, it appals me to read this:

American military and undercover agents abroad have been given explicit authorisation by the Obama administration to kill a US-born Muslim cleric suspected of plotting terror attacks against the United States from his base in Yemen, where he is thought to be hiding, officials said yesterday.

The extraordinary order, approved by the National Security Council operating out of the White House, concerns Anwar al-Awlaki, a preacher who was born in New Mexico. He became popular with some conservative Muslim groups both in the US and in Britain before vanishing into Yemen.

There does not appear to be a precedent for the US to target one of its own citizens for possible assassination, at least not since the terror attacks of September 2001. The decision to target 38-year-old Awlaki – he is to be captured or killed – was reported by several US media outlets and was confirmed anonymously by some senior officials yesterday. "We would be remiss if we didn't find ways to pursue someone who is a serious threat to this country and has plotted against Americans," one official told CNN when asked about Awlaki.

What makes this extraordinary is that Obama is talking about an American citizen. Even George W. Bush didn't dare to do that. Sure, Bush held José Padilla for three-and-a-half years as an "enemy combatant" arguing that he had no right to a trial in a civilian court, but even Bush didn't simply kill him.

The family of Anwar al-Awlaki strongly deny that he is a member of al Qaeda, admitting that he is a preacher with "controversial views" but that this is not the same as advocating terrorism. Indeed, al-Awlaki himself has denied being a member of al Qaeda.

But, if Obama has his way, we will never get to hear al-Awlaki's side of the story. He will have been deemed guilty in the same way as Donald Rumsfeld assured us that the men held at Guantanamo Bay were "the worst of the worst"; months before the Bush regime went on to release many of them.

Don't get me wrong, I am not defending al-Awlaki, he could be as guilty as sin for all I know. But I am for the principle that people have a right to put their own defence before a court of law and to have a jury of their peers convict or release them.

And, if it was wrong for George W. Bush and the neo-cons to claim that they had the right to hold prisoners without trials, then it is unarguably wrong for Obama to claim that he has the right to kill American citizens on sight.

I am not are arguing that in times of war dreadful things don't have to be done; for we all know that they do. But I am arguing against the principle which states that your country's own citizens can be condemned to death by the word of the head of state alone. People who bestow such astonishing power to their governments will find that governments do not willingly hand such power back.

The US had a revolution because they did not want to be ruled by Kings.

But, one would have to back to the days before the Magna Carta to find the Queen of England with the powers which Obama is currently bestowing on himself.

Click here for full article.

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