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There Will Be Snacks: What happened to rule of law in the US?
by Matthew Gerring
Oct 31, 2011 10:11 pm
So, we kill U.S. citizens, without trial, with robots now. It’s officially a thing. We’ve done it a few times and so far, no harm no foul, so we can all expect to see more of it in the future.
Not just adults, either — we now also assassinate 16-year-olds without trial, with robots.
By the way, the three men — Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and al-Awlaki’s son Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki — were killed in Yemen, where there is no declared war whatsoever. But that’s old hat now. That’s so 2005. Undeclared war all over the Middle East is a given.
The U.S. citizens thing, though, that’s new.
This definitely isn’t the first time we’ve killed U.S. citizens without a trial, but probably the first time it was premeditated and done openly, and probably also the first time that people heard about it and just sort of yawned and went back to whatever they were doing.
Their names are going to fade into history, and most people will continue to live their lives not knowing who they were or why they should care.
Yes, the information is out there, and nerds like me, who care about such stupid, annoying stuff as constitutional rights and due process or whatever, will absolutely remember their names, but most people won’t.
Their alleged crime was producing propaganda for al-Qaida.There is precedent for this. Benjamin Gitlow was an outspoken Communist in the 1920s, and wrote a manifesto calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the justices decided that calling for overthrowing the government went beyond what’s allowed by free speech, so he went to prison.
Prison. Nobody shot the guy.
You could argue that all three men killed by drone attacks were traitors, and you might also argue that they committed crimes, and possibly deserved to die, and I don’t really have a problem with any of that.
The problem is they were U.S. citizens, and as such were entitled to a trial by a jury.
Democratic countries with independent judiciaries don’t just murder their citizens. We’re supposed to be better than that. We’re supposed to extend the same rights to all our citizens, and apply the same measure of justice when they violate our laws.
But assassinating our citizens is just a thing we do now. It’s no longer an isolated incident. And nobody cares except for a handful of liberal nerds, because none of those assassinations happened here.
Normally I wouldn’t write the next line here, because I really hate being dramatic and heavy-handed. It makes me cringe, much like listening to a retired former hippie with a MoveOn button on his jacket, reading annoying rhyming poems with lame slogans about George Bush in 2011.
But it has to be said, because there’s just no limit anymore. Everything is on the table. First it was spying on innocent Americans, then it was torture, then it was random incursions into countries where the congress has not approved a war, and now it’s assassinating our own citizens on the opaque orders of the military.
And as I was saying, nobody cares, because none of the assassinations happened here.
The United States has confirmed the killing of the radical Yemeni-American cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, in northern Yemen. "If you are somebody that believes the President of the United States has the power to order your fellow citizens murdered, assassinated, killed without a shred of due process ... then you are really declaring yourself to be as pure of an authoritarian as it gets." (Constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald)
I thought what we did with the Germans after World War II was the right thing. They were put on trial and given their day in court, and a historical record was created and the message was sent that this is what will happen to you if you commit mass murder, we believe even the most heinous person should have their day in court because we're going to try to be civilized even though they're uncivilized, even though they're barbaric. We're not going to be that way.That used to be a standard we tried to aspire to, or at least say that we aspired to it.
Ted Rudow III, MA
Class of 1996