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Thread: Anwar al-Awlaki

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    Default Anwar al-Awlaki

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    from The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack [Second Edition (2012)] by James Petras; p. 93-8 (“The Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by Fiat”):


    “What was a science fiction scenario not much more than a decade ago has become today’s news. In Iraq and Afghanistan, military drones have become a routine part of the arsenal. In Pakistan, according to American officials, strikes from Predators and Reapers operated by the C.I.A. have killed more than 2,000 militants; the number of civilian casualties is hotly debated. In Yemen last month [September 2011], an American citizen was, for the first time, the intended target of a drone strike, as Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda propagandist and plotter, was killed along with a second American, Samir Khan.”

    The New York Times [Scott Shane, “Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race”, The New York Times, October 8, 2011]


    “The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis.”

    The New York Times [“Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen,” The New York Times, Saturday, October 9, 2011 at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/wo...en.html?emc=na ]


    The Assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki by Fiat

    The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen in Yemen, by a CIA drone missile on September 30, 2011 has been publicized by the mass media, President Obama, and the usual experts on al-Qaeda as “a major blow to the jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden”. US officials called Awlaki “the most dangerous figure in Al-Qaeda”. [Financial Times, Oct. 1 and 2, 2011.]

    There is ample evidence to suggest that the publicity surrounding the killing of al-Awlaki has greatly exaggerated his political importance and is an attempt to cover up the declining influence of the US in the Islamic world. The State Department’s declaration of a major victory serves to exaggerate US military capacity to defeat its adversaries. The assassination serves to justify Obama’s arbitrary use of death squads to execute US critics and adversaries overseas by executive fiat, denying the accused the most elementary judicial protections.


    Myths About al-Awlaki

    Al-Awlaki was a theological blogger in a small, poor Islamic country (Yemen). His efforts were confined to propagandizing against Western countries, attempting to influence Islamic believers to resist Western military and cultural intervention. Within Yemen, his organizational affiliations were with a minority sector of the mass popular opposition to US-backed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. His fundamentalist group was largely influential in a few small towns in southern Yemen. He was not a military or political leader in his organization, dubbed by the West as “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP). Like most of what the CIA calls “Al-Qaeda”, AQAP was a local autonomous organization, meaning that it was organized and controlled by local leaders even as it expressed agreement with many other loosely associated fundamentalist groups. Awlaki had a very limited role in the Yemeni groups’ military and political operations and virtually no influence in the mass movement engaged in ousting Saleh. There is no evidence, documented or observable, that he was “a very effective propagandist” as ex-CIA and now Brookings Institution member Bruce Riedal claims. In Yemen and among the mass popular movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and elsewhere his followers were few and far between. One “expert” cites such intangibles as his “spiritual leadership”, which is as good a way as any to avoid the test of empirical evidence: apparently a crystal ball or a tarot reading will do.

    Given the paucity of evidence demonstrating Awlaki’s political and ideological influence among the mass movements in North Africa, the Middle East or Asia, the US intelligence agencies claim his “real influence was among English-speaking jihadi, some of whom he groomed personally to carry out attacks on the US.”

    In other words Washington’s casting Awlaki as an “important threat” revolves around his speeches and writings, since he had no operational role in organizing suicide bomb attacks—or at least no concrete evidence has been presented of same to date.


    The intelligence agencies “suspect” he was involved in the plot that dispatched bombs in cargo aircraft from Yemen to Chicago in October 2010. US intelligence claims he provided a “theological justification” via e-mail for US army Major Nidal Malik’s killing of 13 people at Fort Hood. In other words, like many US philosophical writers and legal experts such as Princeton’s Michael Walzer and Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, Awlaki discussed “just wars” and the “right” of violent action. If political writings and speeches of publicists are cited by an assassin as the basis for their actions, should the White House execute leading US Islamophobes like Marilyn Geller and Daniel Pipes, cited as his inspiration by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Brevik? Or does their Zionist affiliation provide them immunity from Navy Seal assaults and drone missiles?

    Even assuming that the unsubstantiated “suspicions” of the CIA, MI 16 and the Al Qaeda “experts” are correct and Awlaki had a direct or indirect hand in “terrorist action” against the US, these activities were absurdly amateurish and abject failures, certainly not a serious threat to our security. The “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s effort to ignite bomb materials on a flight to Detroit, December 25, 2009, led to roasting his testicles! Likewise the bombs dispatched in cargo aircraft from Yemen to Chicago in October 2010 were another bungled job.

    If anything, the Yemenite AQAP’s hopeless, hapless operational planning served to highlight its technical incompetence. In fact according to Mutallab’s own admission, published on NBC news at the time, Awlaki played no role in the planning or execution of the bomb attack. He merely served to refer Mutallab to the Al Qaeda organization.

    Clearly, Awlaki was a minor figure in Yemen’s political struggles. He was a propagandist of little influence in the mass movements during the “Arab Spring”. He was an inept recruiter of English-speaking would be bombers. The claims that he planned and “hatched” two bomb plots are refuted by the confession of one bomber and the absence of any corroboratory evidence regarding the failed cargo bombs.

    The mass media inflate the importance of Awlaki to the stature of a major al-Qaeda leader and subsequently, his killing as a “major psychological blow” to worldwide jihadists. This imagery has no substance. But the puff pieces do have a very important propaganda purpose. Worse still, the killing of Awlaki provides a justification for extra-judicial serial state assassinations of ideological critics of Anglo-American leaders engaged in bloody colonial wars.


    Propaganda to Bolster Flagging Military Morale

    Recent events strongly suggest that the US and its NATO allies are losing the war in Afghanistan to the Taliban: top collaborator officials are knocked off at the drop of a Taliban turban. After years of occupation, Iraq is moving closer to Iran rather than to the US. Libya in the post-Gaddafi period is under warring mercenary forces squaring off for a fight for the billion dollar booty. Al Qaeda prepares battle against the neoliberal expats and Gaddafi renegades.

    Washington and NATO’s attempt to regain the initiative via puppet rulers in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen is being countered by a “second wave” of mass pro-democracy movements. The “Arab Spring” is being followed by a “hot autumn”. Positive news and favorable outcomes for Obama are few and far between. He has run out of any pseudo-populist initiative to enchant the Arab-Islamic masses. His rhetoric rings hollow in the face of his UN speech denying recognition to an independent Palestinian state. His groveling before Israel is clearly seen as an effort to bolster his re-election campaign financing by wealthy Zionists.

    Diplomatically isolated and domestically in trouble over failed economic policies, Obama pulls the trigger and shoots an itinerant Muslim preacher in Yemen to send a “message” to the Arab world. In a word he says, “If you, the Arabs, the Islamic world, won’t join us, we can and will execute those of you who can be labeled “spiritual mentors” or are suspected of harboring terrorists.”

    Obama’s defense of systematic killing of ideological critics, denying US constitutional norms of judicial due process to a U.S. citizen and in blatant rejection of international law defines a homicidal executive.

    Let us be absolutely clear what the larger implications are of political murder by executive fiat. If the President can order the murder of a dual American-Yemeni citizen abroad on the basis of his ideological-theological beliefs, what is to stop him from ordering the same in the US? If he uses arbitrary violence to compensate for diplomatic failure abroad, what is to stop him from declaring a “heightened internal security threat” in order to suspend our remaining freedoms at home and to round up critics?

    We seriously understate our “Obama problem” if we think of this ordered killing merely as an isolated murder of a “jihadist” in strife-torn Yemen … Obama’s murder of Awlaki has profound, long term significance because it puts political assassinations at the center of US foreign and domestic policy. As Secretary of Defense Panetta states, “eliminating home grown terrorists” is at the core of our “internal security”.




    - from The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism by Roger D. Hodge; p. 194-199:


    Obama declared the end of waterboarding, a form of torture that the Bush administration had long ago ceased to use, but made certain to retain the discretion to use more humane—kinder, gentler—forms of torture. He ordered the closure of the CIA’s black sites, but worded the order so narrowly that it would not apply to functionally identical legal black holes run by military intelligence agencies such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which reportedly controls the black site at Bagram Naval Air Station in Afghanistan, where illiterate sheep traders and auto parts dealers have been held for months, tortured with sleep deprivation, then released with a terse apology. Detainees who have spoken to the American press report that beatings and other forms of abuse continue to take place in the secret jail. “They said, ‘Please accept our apology, and we are sorry that we kept you here for this time.’ And that was it,” one former prisoner told an American reporter. “They kept me for more than 10 months and gave me nothing back.”

    Torture continues. The wars continue. Rendition and secret imprisonment continue. Blanket surveillance of the American people continues . . . . State secrets, executive privilege, sovereign immunity, and executive usurpation continue. Transparency and accountability proved to be figments of the candidate’s and the electorate’s hopeful imaginations.


    Through all of these outrages, even as it became fully manifest that hope and change had been transformed by the alchemy of power into continuity and cynical realpolitik, many of Obama’s liberal supporters have sought to keep the faith, excusing his actions and conveniently forgetting their principled stand against the lawlessness of the Bush regime. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they were not truly outraged by the news from Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or Bagram, from the dark secret torture cells in Egypt or in far-off Romania or Poland. Perhaps they were just angry that Bush had bragged about his crimes, that he had trampled on their precious humanitarian pieties, that he had offended the decorum of discreet hypocrisy. Or perhaps their opposition to Bush’s crimes was merely opportunistic, and they simply wished to damage their partisan opponent. Or perhaps the administration’s apologists have been seduced by the idea that wise and responsible rulers such as Barack Obama can be trusted with absolute powers. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” Madison observed. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” With the coming of the Archangel Obama, apparently, the great difficulty of obliging government to control itself has been overcome. How blessed are we to enjoy such angelic governance.


    Meanwhile, back in Af-Pak, the legendary mercenaries of Blackwater were busy directing covert assassinations and kidnappings of suspected militants in Pakistan, where the company, which changed its name to Xe Services in an effort to lower its profile, reportedly runs top-secret black operations for JSOC, including many of the Predator drone attacks that have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Such targeted killings, as they are called, have increased dramatically under Obama. In 2009, Obama ordered more drone attacks than Bush did in eight years. He ordered his first drone attack on his third day in office.


    Although the administration prefers not to use the word, these killings are nothing but assassinations, which the United States pretends to abhor. Assassinations, furthermore, are banned under an executive order signed by Gerald Ford in 1976, though Obama could lift that ban with the stroke of his executive pen, and perhaps he secretly has lifted it. Targeted killings carried out by flying robots are not different, in terms of international law, from murders carried out by a squad of assassins. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, warned the Obama administration in October 2009 that its assassination program was probably illegal under international law and that the administration’s refusal to justify the program was untenable. No doubt there exist secret OLC memos splitting the metaphysical hairs of executive doctrine to justify these extrajudicial killings, and perhaps someday we will see them (the ACLU has filed a suit seeking the legal rationale). For now, we have a speech, given in March 2010, by a lawyer at the State Department, Harold Koh, in which he assured his audience that the program conforms with “all applicable laws, including the laws of war.” As during the Bush era, we are asked to give the president and his war policies our unconditional trust. John Bellinger, a lawyer for the National Security Council under George W. Bush, praised the speech: “I did not see him say anything that was different from the previous administration’s legal thinking.” The Pakistani government has reportedly acquiesced in the killings and even gives its own targets to the Americans. A study of the drone attacks by the New American Foundation concluded that the civilian casualty rate of the attacks was about 32 percent, feeding Pakistanis’ hatred of both the United States and its own weak central government.

    In January, the Obama administration leaked word to the press that an American citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki had been targeted by the government for extrajudicial assassination. It was explained—by unnamed sources, naturally—that this man is a dangerous terrorist who is plotting to kill Americans. Allegedly he is hiding in Yemen. Representative Jane Harmon, who chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, went on the record to say that Awlaki is “probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us.” A bigger threat than Osama bin Laden? How could this be? What crimes has the man committed? We are told that he provides inspiration to terrorists; that he was in contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the hapless underwear bomber; that his writings and Internet sermons inspired Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of trying to bomb Times Square; and that he has been linked to Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychologist charged with killing thirteen people at Fort Hood. Our leading newspapers have run long stories detailing the enormity of this preacher’s hatred for the United States, which he believes has declared war on Islam; but these newspapers betray few hints that the Obama administration might itself be committing a war crime by targeting him for assassination. Unnamed intelligence officials claim that Awlaki has assumed an “operational role” in Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula; but anyone familiar with the long list of the CIA’s blunders—the record of innocent men kidnapped, rendered, and tortured only to be set free with an apology or left to rot in Guantanamo—can only respond with skepticism to such claims. Perhaps Awlaki is worse than Osama bin Laden, but isn’t that what trials are for? Because Awlaki is an American citizen, who was born in New Mexico, we have been assured that the approval for the assassination order had to come from the National Security Council.

    The radicalism of the executive prerogative in this case is breathtaking, yet such is the state of American justice. According to our laws, tapping an American’s telephone line requires a court order, but our chief magistrate claims the power to execute summarily a citizen who is not personally engaged in violent activity or combat. Apparently, this is what Obama means by pragmatism: that laws may be suspended at will in the name of convenience. We shall simply murder our ideological adversaries, and like Bush we will brag about it in the press, blithely assuming that such crimes will silence the chorus of enemies. What all-important tactical aim will the extrajudicial murder of this American citizen achieve? His sermons are already widely available; his incitements would live on after him, endowed with a made-in-America aura of martyrdom. If anything, Awlaki’s assassination would constitute a proof of his argument.


    Under Barack Obama, in the calmest, most reasonable tones of voice, an American citizen has been accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in absentia by the sole and absolute authority of the duly elected monarch of the United States. It is as if Thomas Jefferson, after defeating the Federalists in 1800, had taken office and immediately applied the hated provisions of the Sedition Act to his political enemies. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist, “The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The mere existence of such arbitrary power is absolutely destructive of liberty.



    - Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill; pp. 266-267 (2009): Nidal Hasan, the US army psychiatrist, kept writing to Anwar Awlaki, even though his e-mails were receiving no responses. He posed questions to Awlaki about theology and about Hamas’s fight against the Israeli government, asking, among other things, “Is it Permissible to Fire Unguided Rockets into Israel?” After a few lengthy e-mails, Hasan shifted gears and started asking Awlaki how he could donate money to his causes. He suggested that Awlaki give an address where money orders or checks could be sent, rather than using online services. “This can assure privacy for some who are concerned,” Hasan wrote.

    That same day, Hasan wrote Awlaki again. “InshAllah, A $5,000.00 scholarship prize is being awarded for the best essay/piece entitled ‘Why is Anwar Al Awlaki a great activist and leader’. We would be honored if you would award the prize.” Hasan added a P.S.: “We met briefly a very long time ago when you were the Imam at Dar al-Hijra. I doubt if you remember me. In any case I have since graduated medical school and finished residency training.” Awlaki finally replied. “I pray this message reaches you at the best state of emaan [health],” he wrote Hasan. “Jazakum Allahu khairan [May Allah reward you in goodness] for thinking good of me. I don’t travel so I won’t be able to physically award the prize and I am too ‘embarrassed’ for a lack of the better word to award it anyway. May Allah assist you in your efforts.” [ Anwar al Awlaki, e-mail to Nidal Hasan, February 16, 2009, released by Intelwire, July 19, 2012, http://news.intelwire.com/2012/07/th...tween-maj.html ]


    Awlaki gave no indication that he remembered Hasan at all. Hasan wrote back, once again offering money to Awlaki and adding a postscript saying he was “looking for a wife that is willing to strive with me to please Allah.... I will strongly consider a recommendation coming from you.” Awlaki replied, “Thanks for the offer for help. Well it is needed but I just don’t know how to do it. There are poor people, orphans, widows, dawa [proselytizing on behalf of Islam] projects, and the list goes on. So if you have any ideas on how to get help across and in accordance to law in a climate that is strict to start with please let me know. Tell more about yourself. I will keep an eye for a sister.” Sent on February 22, 2009, that was the last e-mail Awlaki is known to have sent to Hasan.

    Over the next several months Hasan continued to e-mail Awlaki. “I know your busy. Please keep me in your rolodex in case you find me useful and feel free to call me collect,” Hasan wrote. From there on out, the communications were a one-way road. The tone of Hasan’s e-mails became like that of a patient in therapy attempting to work through difficult life decisions. In one e-mail, sent in May 2009, Hasan pontificated on the morality of suicide bombings and raised “the issue of ‘collateral damage’ where a decision is made to allow the killing of innocents for a valuable target. [In] the Qur’an it states to fight your enemies as they fight you but don’t transgress. So, I would assume that suicide bomber whose aim is to kill enemy soldiers or their helpers but also kill innocents in the process is acceptable. Furthermore, if enemy soldiers are using other tactics that are unethical/unconscionable than those same tactics may be used.” Hasan ended his note by telling Awlaki, “We miss hearing from you!” [ Nidal Hasan, e-mail to Anwar al Awlaki, May 31, 2009, released by Intelwire, July 19, 2012, http://news.intelwire.com/2012/07/th...tween-maj.html ]


    - pp. 325-327: In January 2010, the news leaked in the US media that JSOC had officially elevated Anwar Awlaki to the capture or kill category on its list of High Value Targets. The decision to clear a US citizen for potential targeted assassination was made following a review by the National Security Council, which green-lit the proposal to kill Awlaki. “Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called ‘High Value Targets’ and ‘High Value Individuals,’ whom they seek to kill or capture,” reported the Washington Post. “The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”

    When the Post story was published on January 26, the CIA was quick to say that it had not cleared Awlaki for assassination. The Post issued a correction stating that “the military’s Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several Americans.” The quibble highlighted the benefit for the White House of using JSOC to conduct lethal operations. “I think it’s a very dubious legality, because of the fact that we’re not at war,” Colonel Patrick Lang told me shortly after it was revealed that Awlaki was on a JSOC hit list. “And he’s not a member of an enemy force that is legally at war with the United States. I like law, when it comes to war. Otherwise things get very messy, very fast.” Constitutional law expert Glenn Greenwald observed at the time:


    Obviously, if U.S. forces are fighting on an actual battlefield, then they (like everyone else) have the right to kill combatants actively fighting against them, including American citizens. That’s just the essence of war. That’s why it’s permissible to kill a combatant engaged on a real battlefield in a war zone but not, say, torture them once they’re captured and helplessly detained. But combat is not what we’re talking about here. The people on this ‘hit list’ are likely to be killed while at home, sleeping in their bed, driving in a car with friends or family, or engaged in a whole array of other activities. More critically still, the Obama administration—like the Bush administration before it—defines the ‘battlefield’ as the entire world.


    . . . . “I don’t know how comfortable people who follow these issues are when you begin to put a US citizen in the same category as a non-US citizen,” Nakhleh, who had left the CIA before Awlaki was placed on JSOC’s target list for assassination, told me. “There is some unease about this approach among people I talk to about targeting US citizens without due process.” The Obama administration apparently had little unease, however. Speaking of the US relationship with Yemen that allowed the United States to strike at will in the country, an anonymous senior administration official told the Washington Post, “We are very pleased with the direction this is going.” In Yemen, Nasser Awlaki read the story. And he decided to write directly to Obama. His letter, which was relayed to US officials by an American journalist, received no response:


    TO: MR. BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America


    I was very pleased when you were elected as President of the United States of America. In fact I spent the whole election night without sleep until it was declared by media that you were “President elect.”

    I read your book “Dreams Of My Father” and I was really moved by it. You know that I myself went to America in 1966 on a Fulbright scholarship to study Agricultural Economics when I was twenty years old. My son “Anwar” was my first born child and I distributed many cigars to my faculty and friends at the New Mexico State University when he was born in 1971.

    Because of my love of America I sent Anwar also to Colorado State University to get American education.

    My son continued his education to graduate school where he began PhD Program at George Washington University in 2001.

    Because of the unfortunate events of September eleven it became difficult for him to continue his education because of the bad treatment he got at the University and decided to go to the United Kingdom to complete his education, but he could not afford the expensive cost of his education and returned to Yemen. Since that time, he spent his time learning and preaching his religion and nothing else.

    However, he was put into prison for more than 18 months as a result of a request from the U.S. Government. The FBI interviewed Anwar for two days in 2007 and found no links between him and the events of September eleven. After he was released from prison, he continued to be harassed and decided to leave Sana’a, the Capital of Yemen and live in a small town in Southern Yemen. Again, US spy plane was flying over the town for many months and when it was known that he was being tracked to be put in prison again he went to the mountains in Shabwa Province the land of his ancestors.

    The Washington Post published an article on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by Dana Priest in which she reported that you ordered the December 24th strike where “Anwar was supposed to be meeting with Al-Qaeda leaders.”

    The Post reported that the CIA and the JSOC added Anwar to a list of so-called “High Value targets” whom they seek to kill or capture on the assumption that Anwar Al-Aulaqi is “an Al- Qaeda” figure. You know and I know that Anwar Al-Aulaqi has never been a member of this organization and I hope that he will never be. He is simply a preacher who has the right to spread the word of Islam and wherever he likes and this is definitely lawful and protected by the American Constitution. So, I hope that you reconsider your order to kill or capture my son based on the wrong assumption that he is a member of Al-Qaeda. Again, I would like to inform you Mr. President Obama that my son is innocent, has nothing to do with violence and he is only a scholar of Islam and I believe that this has nothing to do with terrorism. So I plead again to you that you respect American law and if Anwar ever did anything wrong he should be prosecuted according to the principles of American law.


    Sincerely yours,

    Nasser A. Al-Aulaqi

    Professor of Agricultural Economics

    Sana’a University

    The Republic of Yemen



    - pp. 31-33 (Anwar Awlaki: An American Story): In many ways, Awlaki’s story was a classic tale of people from a faraway land seeking a better life in America. His father, Nasser Awlaki, was a brilliant young student from Yemen who came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship in 1966 to study agricultural economics at New Mexico State University. “I read a lot about the United States when I was only fifteen years old,” Nasser recalled. “My impression of the US, when I was young boy in elementary and junior high school, was that America is a land of democracy, and the land of opportunities. I yearned all the time to have my studies in the United States of America.” When he arrived, Nasser went first to Lawrence, Kansas, to study English and then headed for New Mexico. “I wanted to know and meet people of the New World who built one of the most progressive nations the world has ever known,” he declared in an essay introducing himself to fellow classmates in the United States. Nasser wrote that he wanted to get an education “in order to help my people become more progressive and advanced.” He had married right after he completed high school but could not afford to bring his wife, Saleha, to live with him in the United States on his $167 monthly stipend. “Because I wanted to get my wife back, I finished my schooling for a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in only two years and nine months,” he told me when we met in his large, modern home in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital in December 2011. After graduating, Nasser headed back to Yemen, got his wife a visa and returned to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he completed his master’s degree. On April 22, 1971, their baby boy, Anwar, was born. “In those days, it was OK to distribute cigars to your fellow graduate students,” he laughed. “It was written on it: ‘It’s a Boy.’ And it was an unbelievable day for me, when Anwar was born. In Las Cruces Memorial Hospital.”

    Nasser wanted to raise Anwar as an American, not just in nationality but also in character. In 1971, when the family moved so Nasser could complete his PhD at the University of Nebraska, they signed young Anwar up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA. “He was actually swimming when he was only two and a half years old,” Nasser recalled. “And he was very brilliant at it.” As we sat in his living room at his home in Sana’a, Nasser pulled out the family photo album and showed me pictures of little Anwar, posed on a rug in a staged picture taken at a shopping mall. Eventually, the family settled down in St. Paul, where Nasser got a job at the University of Minnesota and enrolled Anwar at Chelsea Heights Elementary School. “He was an all-American boy,” he said, showing me a picture of Anwar in his classroom. Anwar, with long, flowing hair, is smiling as he points out Yemen on a globe. Another family photo shows a lanky adolescent Anwar wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat at Disneyland. “Anwar was really raised like any other American boy, he used to like sports and he was very brilliant at school, you know. He was a good student, and he participated in all kinds of sports.”

    In 1977, Nasser decided to move the family back to Yemen—for how long he did not know. Nasser believed he had an obligation to use his US education to help his very poor home country. He knew that he wanted Anwar to return to the United States one day for university, but he also believed it would be good for the young boy to learn about his family’s homeland. So, on the last day of 1977, the family returned to Sana’a. Six-year-old Anwar could barely speak Arabic, though he quickly picked it up. He had risen to number four in his class in Sana’a by the end of his first semester and within a year was speaking Arabic with ease. Nasser and his colleagues eventually started a private school that taught in both English and Arabic. Anwar was in the first class, along with Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of Yemen’s president. The two boys would be classmates for eight years. Ahmed Ali would go on to become one of the most feared men in Yemen and the head of its Republican Guard. Anwar, meanwhile, set off on a course to follow in his father’s academic footsteps.

    Anwar would spend the next twelve years in Yemen, as his father became closer to his American friends in Sana’a. Nasser and several other US- and British-educated Yemenis worked with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and started a college of agriculture with $15 million in funding from the United States. In 1988, Nasser was appointed Yemen’s minister of agriculture. After Anwar finished high school in Yemen, a colleague of Nasser’s from USAID offered to help find a good college for Anwar in the United States. Nasser wanted his son to study “civil engineering, particularly regarding hydraulics, and the problem of water resources in Yemen. Because Yemen is really suffering from the shortage of water.” His USAID friend suggested Colorado State University (CSU) and helped Anwar get a US government scholarship. In order for Anwar to get the scholarship, he had to have a Yemeni passport. “At that time, I was just a regular university professor, I didn’t have the finances to send my son to study in the United States at my own expense,” recalled Nasser. “So the American USAID director told me it is easy, if Anwar can get a Yemeni passport, then he will be qualified for the scholarship from USAID. So, we got Anwar a Yemeni passport.” The Yemeni authorities listed his birthplace as Aden, Yemen. This would later cause trouble for Anwar.


    Anwar landed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on June 3, 1990, and then moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, to study civil engineering. “His dream, as a young man, was really to finish his studies [in the United States] and come and serve in Yemen,” said Nasser. During Anwar’s first year at the university, the United States launched the Gulf War against Iraq. Nasser recalled a phone call he received from Anwar when the US bombs started falling on Baghdad. He was watching Peter Arnett, the famed CNN correspondent, reporting from the Iraqi capital. “He saw pictures from CNN that it was a complete blackout over Baghdad. So Anwar was thinking that Baghdad was really, completely destroyed. Baghdad has a lot of cultural meaning to Muslims, because it was the site of the Abbasid dynasty. So he was really disappointed at what happened. And so at that time he started really to worry about general Muslim problems.”

    Anwar admitted that when he first went to the United States for college, he “was not [a] fully practicing” Muslim, but after the Gulf War began he started to become politicized and eventually headed up the Muslim Student Association on campus.



    - pp. 369-374 (WASHINGTON, DC, 2010): The designation by the Treasury Department made it a crime for American lawyers to represent Awlaki without getting a license from the government. On July 23, the ACLU and CCR filed an urgent request for a license. When they were not granted one, they sued the Treasury Department. On August 4, in response to the lawsuit, the Treasury Department changed its position, allowing the lawyers to represent Awlaki. A month later, the CCR and ACLU filed a lawsuit against President Obama, CIA director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their intention to target Awlaki for assassination, charging that it was unlawful. “Outside of armed conflict, both the Constitution and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific, and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury,” the suit alleged. “The summary use of force is lawful in these narrow circumstances only because the imminence of the threat makes judicial process infeasible. A targeted killing policy under which individuals are added to kill lists after a bureaucratic process and remain on these lists for months at a time plainly goes beyond the use of lethal force as a last resort to address imminent threats, and accordingly goes beyond what the Constitution and international law permit.” They asked a federal judge to bar the president, the CIA and JSOC “from intentionally killing” Awlaki and to order them “to disclose the criteria that are used in determining whether the government will carry out the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen.”

    The Obama administration responded forcefully to the lawsuit, invoking an argument that was used throughout the Bush administration to quash lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Rumsfeld and other officials liable for their role in extrajudicial killings, torture and extraordinary rendition: the military and state secrets “privilege.” Justice Department lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the case on other grounds, but said the court should use the “state and military secrets privilege” if all else failed saying it would be “necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security.” Awlaki’s lawsuit, Assistant Attorney General Tony West argued, “puts directly at issue the existence and operational details of alleged military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.” He characterized the case as “a paradigmatic example of one in which no part of the case can be litigated on the merits without immediately and irreparably risking disclosure of highly sensitive and classified national security information.”

    . . . . The government submitted sworn declarations from Panetta, Gates and Clapper asserting the State Secrets Privilege and outlining the threat to national security they believed would be posed by litigating the case. Panetta wrote that he was invoking state secrets “to protect intelligence sources, methods and activities that may be implicated by the allegations in the Complaint” and argued that if he revealed the basis for invoking that privilege, it could harm “US national security.” Gates asserted that “the disclosure of intelligence information related to AQAP and Anwar al-Aulaqi would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security” and that the US military “cannot reveal to a foreign terrorist organization or its leaders what it knows about their activities and how it obtained that information.” In essence, the government was asserting that it had the right to kill a US citizen but that the justification for doing so was too dangerous to reveal to the American public.

    Awlaki’s lawyers responded, charging:


    The government’s sweeping invocation of the state secrets privilege to shut down this litigation is as ironic as it is extreme: that Anwar Al-Aulaqi has been targeted for assassination is known to the world only because senior administration officials, in an apparently coordinated media strategy, advised the nation’s leading newspapers that the National Security Council had authorized the use of lethal force against him.... Had the government itself adhered to the overriding secrecy concerns so solemnly invoked in its pleadings, those senior officials would not have broadcast the government’s intentions to the entire world, and intelligence officials, speaking on the record, would have refused all comment rather than providing tacit acknowledgement that Plaintiff’s son is being targeted.


    They asserted: “The government has clothed its bid for unchecked authority in the doctrinal language of standing, justiciability, equity, and secrecy, but the upshot of its arguments is that the executive, which must obtain judicial approval to monitor a U.S. citizen’s communications or search his briefcase, may execute that citizen without any obligation to justify its actions to a court or to the public.” [Al-Aulaqi Versus Obama, Case 1:10-cv-01469-JDB, “Reply Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss by Jameel Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan M. Manes, Pardiss Kebriaei, Maria C. LaHood, William Quigley, and Arthur B. Spitzer (DDC October 9, 2010).]



    Inside the White House, the Obama administration had already been preparing its own legal framework for killing one of its own citizens. Although the government’s threat to kill Awlaki was met with almost no outrage or questioning from the US Congress, those in the administration knew that once they killed Awlaki, the case would almost certainly end up back in court . . . .


    The administration had already determined it intended to assassinate Awlaki, and President Obama wanted to be able to argue to the American people that it was the right decision. The State Department’s senior legal adviser, Harold Koh, wanted to lay out the case publicly before Awlaki was killed. He was tired of hearing scathing criticisms of the targeted killing program from European diplomats and human rights groups. In an earlier life, Koh had been known as a liberal, pro-human rights, pro-civil liberties lawyer, and so his stamp of approval was useful to the administration as it sought to defend its assassination policy in general—and bolster its decision to target a US citizen without trial.


    The White House also believed a public defense of the program from Koh would be a strong preemptive strike against the critics. “The military and the CIA, too, loved the idea,” reported Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman, author of the book Kill or Capture, about the targeted killing campaign. “They called the State Department lawyer ‘Killer Koh’ behind his back. Some of the operators even talked about printing up T-shirts that said: ‘Drones: If they’re good enough for Harold Koh, they’re good enough for me.’”

    . . . . When Koh delivered his speech, on May 25, 2010, he declared, “US targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Koh’s audience for the address was the annual convention of the American Society of International Law. He gave a full-throated defense of the administration’s targeted killing policy saying:


    Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.... Some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems—consistent with the applicable laws of war—for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute “assassination.” [Speech, Harold Hongju Koh, Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, Washington, DC, March 25, 2010, www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/139119.htm ]

    Nasser Awlaki’s lawyers did not take the position that Anwar Awlaki was an innocent man. Rather, they reasoned, if he was what the US government alleged he was—a terrorist and an operational member of al Qaeda—evidence should be presented that would hold up in a court of law . . . . “If someone poses a threat, if there’s evidence against him, fine, charge him and give him due process,” said Kebriaei, one of Awlaki’s lawyers. “The president and the Defense Department or CIA, cannot just, on their own, determine in secret that these people are threats and we can not only detain them, but we can kill them.”

    The administration continued to leak intelligence it claimed proved Awlaki was an operational member of al Qaeda, and media coverage began referring to Awlaki as a leader or the leader of AQAP. When Awlaki’s lawyers tried to challenge in court the government’s claims that he was a leader of AQAP and was operational, the US government lawyers shut it down. The government’s “attorney did walk into court and open with: ‘The context of this case is that we’re talking about a leader of AQAP and everything else is a state secret. We can’t talk about the evidence, but you should know,’” Kebriaei recalled. “It can be maddening to hear the government make allegations that are completely unsupported by any real facts that we’ve seen and not have any access to that information, to be in this position of seeing that reporting [in the press] and not being able to respond. The Bush administration claimed a global detention authority in the context of this war on terror, and what the Obama administration is doing is actually extending that and claiming a global killing authority,” including the right to kill American citizens.


    Anwar Awlaki, meanwhile, was spending his days and nights on the run. He knew the Americans were actively trying to kill him. He would see drones and occasionally see missiles strike nearby. Awlaki had certainly become increasingly radical in his views of the United States, but from his perspective, it was America that had changed, not him. Not that long before, Awlaki had advocated voting for George W. Bush and praised America’s freedoms. He spoke with passion when he condemned al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and talked of Muslims peacefully coexisting with the United States. But between the global crackdown that followed 9/11 and the US government’s campaign to hunt him down, something in Awlaki shifted, and he was no longer torn between allegiance to the country of his birth and his religion. “To the Muslims in America I have this to say: how can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful co-existence with the nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters? How can you have your loyalty to a government that is leading the war against Islam and Muslims?” Awlaki asked in one of his audio messages posted online. “Imperial hubris is leading America to its fate: a war of attrition, a continuous hemorrhage that would end with the fall and splintering of the United States of America.”


    Johari Abdul Malik, who succeeded Awlaki as imam of Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia, was dumbfounded. He remembered Awlaki as a moderate and as a Muslim leader who bridged two worlds deftly. “To go from that individual to the person that is projecting these words from Yemen is a shock,” he said. “I don’t think we read him wrong. I think something happened to him.”







    “[Awlaki to America:] ‘Say you were split, you were split in fragments / And none of the pieces would talk to you / Wouldn't you want to be who you had been? / Well, [maybe] I want that too.’ / So better take the keys and drive forever / Staying won't put these futures back together / All the perfect drugs and superheroes wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero // [That girl, America (to Awlaki):] ‘Baby, you're great, you've been more than patient / Saying it's not a catastrophe / But I'm not the girl you once put your faith in / Just someone who looks like me / So better take the keys and [run] forever / Staying won't put these futures back together / All the perfect drugs and superheroes / Wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero / So get out while you can / Get out while you can / Baby, I'm pouring quicksand / And sinking is all I had planned / So better just go / Oh better take the keys and drive forever / Staying won't put these futures back together / All the perfect drugs and superheroes wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero / All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put [Anwar] together again / All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Abdulrahman [Anwar’s 16-year-old son] together again”











    from The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack [Second Edition (2012)] by James

    Petras; p. 93-8 (The Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by Fiat):


    “What was a science fiction scenario not much more than a decade ago has become today’s

    news. In Iraq and Afghanistan, military drones have become a routine part of the arsenal. In

    Pakistan, according to American officials, strikes from Predators and Reapers operated by the

    C.I.A. have killed more than 2,000 militants; the number of civilian casualties is hotly

    debated. In Yemen last month [September 2011], an American citizen was, for the first time, the

    intended target of a drone strike, as Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda propagandist and plotter, was

    killed along with a second American, Samir Khan.”

    The New York Times [Scott Shane, “Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race”, The New York Times, October 8, 2011]


    “The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning

    assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various

    strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis.”

    The New York Times [“Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen,” The

    New York Times
    , Saturday, October 9, 2011 at

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/wo...en.html?emc=na ]



    The Assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki by Fiat


    The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen in Yemen, by a CIA drone missile on September

    30, 2011 has been publicized by the mass media, President Obama, and the usual experts on

    al-Qaeda as “a major blow to the jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden”. US officials

    called Awlaki “the most dangerous figure in Al-Qaeda”. [Financial Times, Oct. 1 and 2,

    2011.]

    There is ample evidence to suggest that the publicity surrounding the killing of al-Awlaki

    has greatly exaggerated his political importance and is an attempt to cover up the declining

    influence of the US in the Islamic world. The State Department’s declaration of a major victory

    serves to exaggerate US military capacity to defeat its adversaries. The assassination serves to

    justify Obama’s arbitrary use of death squads to execute US critics and adversaries overseas by

    executive fiat, denying the accused the most elementary judicial protections.



    Myths About al-Awlaki


    Al-Awlaki was a theological blogger in a small, poor Islamic country (Yemen). His

    efforts were confined to propagandizing against Western countries, attempting to influence

    Islamic believers to resist Western military and cultural intervention. Within Yemen, his

    organizational affiliations were with a minority sector of the mass popular opposition to

    US-backed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. His fundamentalist group was largely influential in a

    few small towns in southern Yemen. He was not a military or political leader in his

    organization, dubbed by the West as “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP). Like most of

    what the CIA calls “Al-Qaeda”, AQAP was a local autonomous organization, meaning that it

    was organized and controlled by local leaders even as it expressed agreement with many other

    loosely associated fundamentalist groups. Awlaki had a very limited role in the Yemeni groups’

    military and political operations and virtually no influence in the mass movement engaged in

    ousting Saleh. There is no evidence, documented or observable, that he was “a very

    effective propagandist” as ex-CIA and now Brookings Institution member Bruce Riedal claims.

    In Yemen and among the mass popular movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and elsewhere his

    followers were few and far between. One “expert” cites such intangibles as his “spiritual

    leadership”, which is as good a way as any to avoid the test of empirical evidence: apparently a

    crystal ball or a tarot reading will do.

    Given the paucity of evidence demonstrating Awlaki’s political and ideological influence

    among the mass movements in North Africa, the Middle East or Asia, the US intelligence

    agencies claim his “real influence was among English-speaking jihadi, some of whom he

    groomed personally to carry out attacks on the US.”

    In other words Washington’s casting Awlaki as an “important threat” revolves around

    his speeches and writings, since he had no operational role in organizing suicide bomb

    attacks—or at least no concrete evidence has been presented of same to date.


    The intelligence agencies “suspect” he was involved in the plot that dispatched bombs in

    cargo aircraft from Yemen to Chicago in October 2010. US intelligence claims he provided a

    “theological justification” via e-mail for US army Major Nidal Malik’s killing of 13 people at

    Fort Hood. In other words, like many US philosophical writers and legal experts such as

    Princeton’s Michael Walzer and Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, Awlaki discussed “just wars” and

    the “right” of violent action. If political writings and speeches of publicists are cited by an

    assassin as the basis for their actions, should the White House execute leading US Islamophobes

    like Marilyn Geller and Daniel Pipes, cited as his inspiration by Norwegian mass murderer

    Anders Behring Brevik? Or does their Zionist affiliation provide them immunity from Navy Seal

    assaults and drone missiles?

    Even assuming that the unsubstantiated “suspicions” of the CIA, MI 16 and the Al Qaeda

    “experts” are correct and Awlaki had a direct or indirect hand in “terrorist action” against the

    US, these activities were absurdly amateurish and abject failures, certainly not a serious threat to

    our security. The “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s effort to ignite bomb

    materials on a flight to Detroit, December 25, 2009, led to roasting his testicles! Likewise the

    bombs dispatched in cargo aircraft from Yemen to Chicago in October 2010 were another

    bungled job.

    If anything, the Yemenite AQAP’s hopeless, hapless operational planning served to highlight its

    technical incompetence. In fact according to Mutallab’s own admission, published on NBC news

    at the time, Awlaki played no role in the planning or execution of the bomb attack. He merely

    served to refer Mutallab to the Al Qaeda organization.

    Clearly, Awlaki was a minor figure in Yemen’s political struggles. He was a propagandist of

    little influence in the mass movements during the “Arab Spring”. He was an inept recruiter of

    English-speaking would be bombers. The claims that he planned and “hatched” two bomb plots

    are refuted by the confession of one bomber and the absence of any corroboratory evidence

    regarding the failed cargo bombs.

    The mass media inflate the importance of Awlaki to the stature of a major al-Qaeda leader and

    subsequently, his killing as a “major psychological blow” to worldwide jihadists. This imagery

    has no substance. But the puff pieces do have a very important propaganda purpose. Worse still,

    the killing of Awlaki provides a justification for extra-judicial serial state assassinations of

    ideological critics of Anglo-American leaders engaged in bloody colonial wars.


    Propaganda to Bolster Flagging Military Morale

    Recent events strongly suggest that the US and its NATO allies are losing the war in Afghanistan

    to the Taliban: top collaborator officials are knocked off at the drop of a Taliban turban. After

    years of occupation, Iraq is moving closer to Iran rather than to the US. Libya in the

    post-Gaddafi period is under warring mercenary forces squaring off for a fight for the billion

    dollar booty. Al Qaeda prepares battle against the neoliberal expats and Gaddafi renegades.

    Washington and NATO’s attempt to regain the initiative via puppet rulers in Egypt, Tunisia,

    Bahrain and Yemen is being countered by a “second wave” of mass pro-democracy movements.

    The “Arab Spring” is being followed by a “hot autumn”. Positive news and favorable outcomes

    for Obama are few and far between. He has run out of any pseudo-populist initiative to enchant

    the Arab-Islamic masses. His rhetoric rings hollow in the face of his UN speech denying

    recognition to an independent Palestinian state. His groveling before Israel is clearly seen as an

    effort to bolster his re-election campaign financing by wealthy Zionists.

    Diplomatically isolated and domestically in trouble over failed economic policies, Obama pulls

    the trigger and shoots an itinerant Muslim preacher in Yemen to send a “message” to the Arab

    world. In a word he says, “If you, the Arabs, the Islamic world, won’t join us, we can and will

    execute those of you who can be labeled “spiritual mentors” or are suspected of harboring

    terrorists.”

    Obama’s defense of systematic killing of ideological critics, denying US constitutional

    norms of judicial due process to a U.S. citizen and in blatant rejection of international law

    defines a homicidal executive.

    Let us be absolutely clear what the larger implications are of political murder by executive fiat. If

    the President can order the murder of a dual American-Yemeni citizen abroad on the basis of his

    ideological-theological beliefs, what is to stop him from ordering the same in the US? If he uses

    arbitrary violence to compensate for diplomatic failure abroad, what is to stop him from

    declaring a “heightened internal security threat” in order to suspend our remaining freedoms at

    home and to round up critics?

    We seriously understate our “Obama problem” if we think of this ordered killing merely as an

    isolated murder of a “jihadist” in strife-torn Yemen … Obama’s murder of Awlaki has profound,

    long term significance because it puts political assassinations at the center of US foreign and

    domestic policy
    . As Secretary of Defense Panetta states, “eliminating home grown terrorists”

    is at the core of our “internal security”.




    - from The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism by Roger D. Hodge; p. 194-199:


    Obama declared the end of waterboarding, a form of torture that the Bush administration had

    long ago ceased to use, but made certain to retain the discretion to use more humane—kinder,

    gentler—forms of torture. He ordered the closure of the CIA’s black sites, but worded the order

    so narrowly that it would not apply to functionally identical legal black holes run by military

    intelligence agencies such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which reportedly

    controls the black site at Bagram Naval Air Station in Afghanistan, where illiterate sheep traders

    and auto parts dealers have been held for months, tortured with sleep deprivation, then released

    with a terse apology. Detainees who have spoken to the American press report that beatings and

    other forms of abuse continue to take place in the secret jail. “They said, ‘Please accept our

    apology, and we are sorry that we kept you here for this time.’ And that was it,” one former

    prisoner told an American reporter. “They kept me for more than 10 months and gave me

    nothing back.”

    Torture continues. The wars continue. Rendition and secret imprisonment continue.

    Blanket surveillance of the American people continues . . . . State secrets, executive privilege,

    sovereign immunity, and executive usurpation continue. Transparency and accountability proved

    to be figments of the candidate’s and the electorate’s hopeful imaginations.


    Through all of these outrages, even as it became fully manifest that hope and change had

    been transformed by the alchemy of power into continuity and cynical realpolitik, many of

    Obama’s liberal supporters have sought to keep the faith, excusing his actions and conveniently

    forgetting their principled stand against the lawlessness of the Bush regime. It is difficult to

    avoid the conclusion that they were not truly outraged by the news from Abu Ghraib or

    Guantanamo or Bagram, from the dark secret torture cells in Egypt or in far-off Romania or

    Poland. Perhaps they were just angry that Bush had bragged about his crimes, that he had

    trampled on their precious humanitarian pieties, that he had offended the decorum of discreet

    hypocrisy. Or perhaps their opposition to Bush’s crimes was merely opportunistic, and they

    simply wished to damage their partisan opponent. Or perhaps the administration’s apologists

    have been seduced by the idea that wise and responsible rulers such as Barack Obama can be

    trusted with absolute powers. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,”

    Madison observed. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on

    government would be necessary.” With the coming of the Archangel Obama, apparently, the

    great difficulty of obliging government to control itself has been overcome. How blessed are we

    to enjoy such angelic governance.


    Meanwhile, back in Af-Pak, the legendary mercenaries of Blackwater were busy

    directing covert assassinations and kidnappings of suspected militants in Pakistan, where the

    company, which changed its name to Xe Services in an effort to lower its profile, reportedly runs

    top-secret black operations for JSOC, including many of the Predator drone attacks that have

    killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Such targeted killings, as they are called, have increased

    dramatically under Obama. In 2009, Obama ordered more drone attacks than Bush did in eight

    years. He ordered his first drone attack on his third day in office.


    Although the administration prefers not to use the word, these killings are nothing but

    assassinations, which the United States pretends to abhor. Assassinations, furthermore, are

    banned under an executive order signed by Gerald Ford in 1976, though Obama could lift that

    ban with the stroke of his executive pen, and perhaps he secretly has lifted it. Targeted killings

    carried out by flying robots are not different, in terms of international law, from murders carried

    out by a squad of assassins. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial,

    summary, or arbitrary executions, warned the Obama administration in October 2009 that its

    assassination program was probably illegal under international law and that the administration’s

    refusal to justify the program was untenable. No doubt there exist secret OLC memos splitting

    the metaphysical hairs of executive doctrine to justify these extrajudicial killings, and perhaps

    someday we will see them (the ACLU has filed a suit seeking the legal rationale). For now, we

    have a speech, given in March 2010, by a lawyer at the State Department, Harold Koh, in which

    he assured his audience that the program conforms with “all applicable laws, including the laws

    of war.” As during the Bush era, we are asked to give the president and his war policies our

    unconditional trust. John Bellinger, a lawyer for the National Security Council under George W.

    Bush, praised the speech: “I did not see him say anything that was different from the previous

    administration’s legal thinking.” The Pakistani government has reportedly acquiesced in the

    killings and even gives its own targets to the Americans. A study of the drone attacks by the New

    American Foundation concluded that the civilian casualty rate of the attacks was about 32

    percent, feeding Pakistanis’ hatred of both the United States and its own weak central

    government.

    In January, the Obama administration leaked word to the press that an American citizen named

    Anwar al-Awlaki had been targeted by the government for extrajudicial assassination. It was

    explained—by unnamed sources, naturally—that this man is a dangerous terrorist who is plotting

    to kill Americans. Allegedly he is hiding in Yemen. Representative Jane Harmon, who chairs the

    Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, went on the record to say that Awlaki is

    “probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us.” A

    bigger threat than Osama bin Laden? How could this be? What crimes has the man committed?

    We are told that he provides inspiration to terrorists; that he was in contact with Umar Farouk

    Abdulmutallab, the hapless underwear bomber; that his writings and Internet sermons inspired

    Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of trying to bomb Times Square; and that he has been linked to

    Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychologist charged with killing thirteen people at Fort Hood. Our

    leading newspapers have run long stories detailing the enormity of this preacher’s hatred for the

    United States, which he believes has declared war on Islam; but these newspapers betray few

    hints that the Obama administration might itself be committing a war crime by targeting him for

    assassination. Unnamed intelligence officials claim that Awlaki has assumed an “operational

    role” in Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula; but anyone familiar with the long list of the CIA’s

    blunders—the record of innocent men kidnapped, rendered, and tortured only to be set free with

    an apology or left to rot in Guantanamo—can only respond with skepticism to such claims.

    Perhaps Awlaki is worse than Osama bin Laden, but isn’t that what trials are for? Because

    Awlaki is an American citizen, who was born in New Mexico, we have been assured that the

    approval for the assassination order had to come from the National Security Council.

    The radicalism of the executive prerogative in this case is breathtaking, yet such is the state of

    American justice. According to our laws, tapping an American’s telephone line requires a court

    order, but our chief magistrate claims the power to execute summarily a citizen who is not

    personally engaged in violent activity or combat. Apparently, this is what Obama means by

    pragmatism: that laws may be suspended at will in the name of convenience. We shall simply

    murder our ideological adversaries, and like Bush we will brag about it in the press, blithely

    assuming that such crimes will silence the chorus of enemies. What all-important tactical aim

    will the extrajudicial murder of this American citizen achieve? His sermons are already widely

    available; his incitements would live on after him, endowed with a made-in-America aura of

    martyrdom. If anything, Awlaki’s assassination would constitute a proof of his argument.


    Under Barack Obama, in the calmest, most reasonable tones of voice, an American citizen has

    been accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in absentia by the sole and absolute

    authority of the duly elected monarch of the United States. It is as if Thomas Jefferson, after

    defeating the Federalists in 1800, had taken office and immediately applied the hated provisions

    of the Sedition Act to his political enemies. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist,

    “The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether

    of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be

    pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The mere existence of such arbitrary power is

    absolutely destructive of liberty.









    - Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill; pp. 266-267 (2009): Nidal Hasan, the US army

    psychiatrist, kept writing to Anwar Awlaki, even though his e-mails were receiving no responses.

    He posed questions to Awlaki about theology and about Hamas’s fight against the Israeli

    government, asking, among other things, “Is it Permissible to Fire Unguided Rockets into

    Israel?” After a few lengthy e-mails, Hasan shifted gears and started asking Awlaki how he could

    donate money to his causes. He suggested that Awlaki give an address where money orders or

    checks could be sent, rather than using online services. “This can assure privacy for some who

    are concerned,” Hasan wrote.

    That same day, Hasan wrote Awlaki again. “InshAllah, A $5,000.00 scholarship prize is being

    awarded for the best essay/piece entitled ‘Why is Anwar Al Awlaki a great activist and leader’.

    We would be honored if you would award the prize.” Hasan added a P.S.: “We met briefly a

    very long time ago when you were the Imam at Dar al-Hijra. I doubt if you remember me. In

    any case I have since graduated medical school and finished residency training.” Awlaki

    finally replied. “I pray this message reaches you at the best state of emaan [health],” he wrote

    Hasan. “Jazakum Allahu khairan [May Allah reward you in goodness] for thinking good of me. I

    don’t travel so I won’t be able to physically award the prize and I am too ‘embarrassed’ for a

    lack of the better word to award it anyway. May Allah assist you in your efforts.” [ Anwar al

    Awlaki, e-mail to Nidal Hasan, February 16, 2009, released by Intelwire, July 19, 2012,

    http://news.intelwire.com/2012/07/th...tween-maj.html ]


    Awlaki gave no indication that he remembered Hasan at all. Hasan wrote back, once

    again offering money to Awlaki and adding a postscript saying he was “looking for a wife that is

    willing to strive with me to please Allah.... I will strongly consider a recommendation coming

    from you.” Awlaki replied, “Thanks for the offer for help. Well it is needed but I just don’t know

    how to do it. There are poor people, orphans, widows, dawa [proselytizing on behalf of Islam]

    projects, and the list goes on. So if you have any ideas on how to get help across and in

    accordance to law in a climate that is strict to start with please let me know. Tell more about

    yourself. I will keep an eye for a sister.” Sent on February 22, 2009, that was the last e-mail

    Awlaki is known to have sent to Hasan.

    Over the next several months Hasan continued to e-mail Awlaki. “I know your busy.

    Please keep me in your rolodex in case you find me useful and feel free to call me collect,”

    Hasan wrote. From there on out, the communications were a one-way road. The tone of

    Hasan’s e-mails became like that of a patient in therapy attempting to work through difficult

    life decisions. In one e-mail, sent in May 2009, Hasan pontificated on the morality of suicide

    bombings and raised “the issue of ‘collateral damage’ where a decision is made to allow the

    killing of innocents for a valuable target. [In] the Qur’an it states to fight your enemies as they

    fight you but don’t transgress. So, I would assume that suicide bomber whose aim is to kill

    enemy soldiers or their helpers but also kill innocents in the process is acceptable. Furthermore,

    if enemy soldiers are using other tactics that are unethical/unconscionable than those same

    tactics may be used.” Hasan ended his note by telling Awlaki, “We miss hearing from you!”

    [ Nidal Hasan, e-mail to Anwar al Awlaki, May 31, 2009, released by Intelwire, July 19, 2012,

    http://news.intelwire.com/2012/07/th...tween-maj.html


    - pp. 325-327: In January 2010, the news leaked in the US media that JSOC had officially

    elevated Anwar Awlaki to the capture or kill category on its list of High Value Targets. The

    decision to clear a US citizen for potential targeted assassination was made following a review

    by the National Security Council, which green-lit the proposal to kill Awlaki. “Both the CIA and

    the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called ‘High Value Targets’ and ‘High Value

    Individuals,’ whom they seek to kill or capture,” reported the Washington Post. “The JSOC list

    includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several

    months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that

    Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”

    When the Post story was published on January 26, the CIA was quick to say that it

    had not cleared Awlaki for assassination. The Post issued a correction stating that “the

    military’s Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several

    Americans.” The quibble highlighted the benefit for the White House of using JSOC to conduct

    lethal operations. “I think it’s a very dubious legality, because of the fact that we’re not at war,”

    Colonel Patrick Lang told me shortly after it was revealed that Awlaki was on a JSOC hit list.

    “And he’s not a member of an enemy force that is legally at war with the United States. I like

    law, when it comes to war. Otherwise things get very messy, very fast.” Constitutional law

    expert Glenn Greenwald observed at the time:


    Obviously, if U.S. forces are fighting on an actual battlefield, then they (like everyone else)

    have the right to kill combatants actively fighting against them, including American citizens.

    That’s just the essence of war. That’s why it’s permissible to kill a combatant engaged on a real

    battlefield in a war zone but not, say, torture them once they’re captured and helplessly

    detained. But combat is not what we’re talking about here. The people on this ‘hit list’ are likely

    to be killed while at home, sleeping in their bed, driving in a car with friends or family, or

    engaged in a whole array of other activities. More critically still, the Obama administration—

    like the Bush administration before it—defines the ‘battlefield’ as the entire world.



    . . . . “I don’t know how comfortable people who follow these issues are when you

    begin to put a US citizen in the same category as a non-US citizen,” Nakhleh, who had left

    the CIA before Awlaki was placed on JSOC’s target list for assassination, told me. “There is

    some unease about this approach among people I talk to about targeting US citizens without due

    process.” The Obama administration apparently had little unease, however. Speaking of the US

    relationship with Yemen that allowed the United States to strike at will in the country, an

    anonymous senior administration official told the Washington Post, “We are very pleased with

    the direction this is going.” In Yemen, Nasser Awlaki read the story. And he decided to write

    directly to Obama. His letter, which was relayed to US officials by an American journalist,

    received no response:


    TO: MR. BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America


    I was very pleased when you were elected as President of the United States of America. In

    fact I spent the whole election night without sleep until it was declared by media that you were

    “President elect.”

    I read your book “Dreams Of My Father” and I was really moved by it. You know that I

    myself went to America in 1966 on a Fulbright scholarship to study Agricultural Economics

    when I was twenty years old. My son “Anwar” was my first born child and I distributed many

    cigars to my faculty and friends at the New Mexico State University when he was born in 1971.

    Because of my love of America I sent Anwar also to Colorado State University to get

    American education.

    My son continued his education to graduate school where he began PhD Program at

    George Washington University in 2001.

    Because of the unfortunate events of September eleven it became difficult for him to

    continue his education because of the bad treatment he got at the University and decided to go to

    the United Kingdom to complete his education, but he could not afford the expensive cost of his

    education and returned to Yemen. Since that time, he spent his time learning and preaching his

    religion and nothing else.

    However, he was put into prison for more than 18 months as a result of a request from

    the U.S. Government. The FBI interviewed Anwar for two days in 2007 and found no links

    between him and the events of September eleven. After he was released from prison, he

    continued to be harassed and decided to leave Sana’a, the Capital of Yemen and live in a small

    town in Southern Yemen. Again, US spy plane was flying over the town for many months and

    when it was known that he was being tracked to be put in prison again he went to the mountains

    in Shabwa Province the land of his ancestors.

    The Washington Post published an article on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by Dana

    Priest in which she reported that you ordered the December 24th strike where “Anwar was

    supposed to be meeting with Al-Qaeda leaders.”

    The Post reported that the CIA and the JSOC added Anwar to a list of so-called “High

    Value targets” whom they seek to kill or capture on the assumption that Anwar Al-Aulaqi is “an

    Al- Qaeda” figure. You know and I know that Anwar Al-Aulaqi has never been a member of this

    organization and I hope that he will never be. He is simply a preacher who has the right to spread

    the word of Islam and wherever he likes and this is definitely lawful and protected by the

    American Constitution. So, I hope that you reconsider your order to kill or capture my son

    based on the wrong assumption that he is a member of Al-Qaeda. Again, I would like to inform

    you Mr. President Obama that my son is innocent, has nothing to do with violence and he is only

    a scholar of Islam and I believe that this has nothing to do with terrorism. So I plead again to you

    that you respect American law and if Anwar ever did anything wrong he should be prosecuted

    according to the principles of American law.


    Sincerely yours,

    Nasser A. Al-Aulaqi

    Professor of Agricultural Economics

    Sana’a University

    The Republic of Yemen



    - pp. 31-33 (Anwar Awlaki: An American Story): In many ways, Awlaki’s story was a classic

    tale of people from a faraway land seeking a better life in America. His father, Nasser Awlaki,

    was a brilliant young student from Yemen who came to the United States on a Fulbright

    scholarship in 1966 to study agricultural economics at New Mexico State University. “I read a

    lot about the United States when I was only fifteen years old,” Nasser recalled. “My impression

    of the US, when I was young boy in elementary and junior high school, was that America is a

    land of democracy, and the land of opportunities. I yearned all the time to have my studies in the

    United States of America.” When he arrived, Nasser went first to Lawrence, Kansas, to study

    English and then headed for New Mexico. “I wanted to know and meet people of the New World

    who built one of the most progressive nations the world has ever known,” he declared in an essay

    introducing himself to fellow classmates in the United States. Nasser wrote that he wanted to get

    an education “in order to help my people become more progressive and advanced.” He had

    married right after he completed high school but could not afford to bring his wife, Saleha, to

    live with him in the United States on his $167 monthly stipend. “Because I wanted to get my

    wife back, I finished my schooling for a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in only two years and

    nine months,” he told me when we met in his large, modern home in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital

    in December 2011. After graduating, Nasser headed back to Yemen, got his wife a visa and

    returned to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he completed his master’s degree. On April 22,

    1971, their baby boy, Anwar, was born. “In those days, it was OK to distribute cigars to your

    fellow graduate students,” he laughed. “It was written on it: ‘It’s a Boy.’ And it was an

    unbelievable day for me, when Anwar was born. In Las Cruces Memorial Hospital.”

    Nasser wanted to raise Anwar as an American, not just in nationality but also in

    character. In 1971, when the family moved so Nasser could complete his PhD at the University

    of Nebraska, they signed young Anwar up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA. “He was

    actually swimming when he was only two and a half years old,” Nasser recalled. “And he was

    very brilliant at it.” As we sat in his living room at his home in Sana’a, Nasser pulled out the

    family photo album and showed me pictures of little Anwar, posed on a rug in a staged picture

    taken at a shopping mall. Eventually, the family settled down in St. Paul, where Nasser got a job

    at the University of Minnesota and enrolled Anwar at Chelsea Heights Elementary School. “He

    was an all-American boy,” he said, showing me a picture of Anwar in his classroom. Anwar,

    with long, flowing hair, is smiling as he points out Yemen on a globe. Another family photo

    shows a lanky adolescent Anwar wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat at Disneyland. “Anwar

    was really raised like any other American boy, he used to like sports and he was very brilliant at

    school, you know. He was a good student, and he participated in all kinds of sports.”

    In 1977, Nasser decided to move the family back to Yemen—for how long he did not

    know. Nasser believed he had an obligation to use his US education to help his very poor home

    country. He knew that he wanted Anwar to return to the United States one day for university, but

    he also believed it would be good for the young boy to learn about his family’s homeland. So, on

    the last day of 1977, the family returned to Sana’a. Six-year-old Anwar could barely speak

    Arabic, though he quickly picked it up. He had risen to number four in his class in Sana’a by the

    end of his first semester and within a year was speaking Arabic with ease. Nasser and his

    colleagues eventually started a private school that taught in both English and Arabic. Anwar was

    in the first class, along with Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of Yemen’s president. The two

    boys would be classmates for eight years. Ahmed Ali would go on to become one of the most

    feared men in Yemen and the head of its Republican Guard. Anwar, meanwhile, set off on a

    course to follow in his father’s academic footsteps.

    Anwar would spend the next twelve years in Yemen, as his father became closer to his

    American friends in Sana’a. Nasser and several other US- and British-educated Yemenis worked

    with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and started a college of agriculture

    with $15 million in funding from the United States. In 1988, Nasser was appointed Yemen’s

    minister of agriculture. After Anwar finished high school in Yemen, a colleague of Nasser’s

    from USAID offered to help find a good college for Anwar in the United States. Nasser wanted

    his son to study “civil engineering, particularly regarding hydraulics, and the problem of water

    resources in Yemen. Because Yemen is really suffering from the shortage of water.” His USAID

    friend suggested Colorado State University (CSU) and helped Anwar get a US government

    scholarship. In order for Anwar to get the scholarship, he had to have a Yemeni passport. “At

    that time, I was just a regular university professor, I didn’t have the finances to send my son to

    study in the United States at my own expense,” recalled Nasser. “So the American USAID

    director told me it is easy, if Anwar can get a Yemeni passport, then he will be qualified for the

    scholarship from USAID. So, we got Anwar a Yemeni passport.” The Yemeni authorities listed

    his birthplace as Aden, Yemen. This would later cause trouble for Anwar.


    Anwar landed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on June 3, 1990, and then moved to Fort Collins,

    Colorado, to study civil engineering. “His dream, as a young man, was really to finish his studies

    [in the United States] and come and serve in Yemen,” said Nasser. During Anwar’s first year at

    the university, the United States launched the Gulf War against Iraq. Nasser recalled a phone call

    he received from Anwar when the US bombs started falling on Baghdad. He was watching Peter

    Arnett, the famed CNN correspondent, reporting from the Iraqi capital. “He saw pictures from

    CNN that it was a complete blackout over Baghdad. So Anwar was thinking that Baghdad was

    really, completely destroyed. Baghdad has a lot of cultural meaning to Muslims, because it was

    the site of the Abbasid dynasty. So he was really disappointed at what happened. And so at that

    time he started really to worry about general Muslim problems.”

    Anwar admitted that when he first went to the United States for college, he “was not [a]

    fully practicing” Muslim, but after the Gulf War began he started to become politicized and

    eventually headed up the Muslim Student Association on campus.



    - pp. 369-374 (WASHINGTON, DC, 2010): The designation by the Treasury Department made

    it a crime for American lawyers to represent Awlaki without getting a license from the

    government. On July 23, the ACLU and CCR filed an urgent request for a license. When they

    were not granted one, they sued the Treasury Department. On August 4, in response to the

    lawsuit, the Treasury Department changed its position, allowing the lawyers to represent Awlaki.

    A month later, the CCR and ACLU filed a lawsuit against President Obama, CIA director

    Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their intention to target Awlaki for

    assassination, charging that it was unlawful. “Outside of armed conflict, both the Constitution

    and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete,

    specific, and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury,” the suit alleged. “The

    summary use of force is lawful in these narrow circumstances only because the imminence of the

    threat makes judicial process infeasible. A targeted killing policy under which individuals are

    added to kill lists after a bureaucratic process and remain on these lists for months at a time

    plainly goes beyond the use of lethal force as a last resort to address imminent threats, and

    accordingly goes beyond what the Constitution and international law permit.” They asked a

    federal judge to bar the president, the CIA and JSOC “from intentionally killing” Awlaki and to

    order them “to disclose the criteria that are used in determining whether the government will

    carry out the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen.”

    The Obama administration responded forcefully to the lawsuit, invoking an argument

    that was used throughout the Bush administration to quash lawsuits seeking to hold Donald

    Rumsfeld and other officials liable for their role in extrajudicial killings, torture and

    extraordinary rendition: the military and state secrets “privilege.” Justice Department lawyers

    asked the judge to dismiss the case on other grounds, but said the court should use the “state

    and military secrets privilege” if all else failed saying it would be “necessary to protect against

    the risk of significant harm to national security.” Awlaki’s lawsuit, Assistant Attorney General

    Tony West argued, “puts directly at issue the existence and operational details of alleged

    military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.”

    He characterized the case as “a paradigmatic example of one in which no part of the case can be

    litigated on the merits without immediately and irreparably risking disclosure of highly sensitive

    and classified national security information.”

    . . . . The government submitted sworn declarations from Panetta, Gates and Clapper

    asserting the State Secrets Privilege and outlining the threat to national security they believed

    would be posed by litigating the case. Panetta wrote that he was invoking state secrets “to protect

    intelligence sources, methods and activities that may be implicated by the allegations in the

    Complaint” and argued that if he revealed the basis for invoking that privilege, it could harm

    “US national security.” Gates asserted that “the disclosure of intelligence information related to

    AQAP and Anwar al-Aulaqi would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security” and

    that the US military “cannot reveal to a foreign terrorist organization or its leaders what it knows

    about their activities and how it obtained that information.” In essence, the government was

    asserting that it had the right to kill a US citizen but that the justification for doing so was too

    dangerous to reveal to the American public.

    Awlaki’s lawyers responded, charging:


    The government’s sweeping invocation of the state secrets privilege to shut down this

    litigation is as ironic as it is extreme: that Anwar Al-Aulaqi has been targeted for assassination

    is known to the world only because senior administration officials, in an apparently coordinated

    media strategy, advised the nation’s leading newspapers that the National Security Council had

    authorized the use of lethal force against him.... Had the government itself adhered to the

    overriding secrecy concerns so solemnly invoked in its pleadings, those senior officials would

    not have broadcast the government’s intentions to the entire world, and intelligence officials,

    speaking on the record, would have refused all comment rather than providing tacit

    acknowledgement that Plaintiff’s son is being targeted.



    They asserted: “The government has clothed its bid for unchecked authority in the

    doctrinal language of standing, justiciability, equity, and secrecy, but the upshot of its arguments

    is that the executive, which must obtain judicial approval to monitor a U.S. citizen’s

    communications or search his briefcase, may execute that citizen without any obligation to

    justify its actions to a court or to the public.” [Al-Aulaqi Versus Obama, Case 1:10-cv-01469-

    JDB, “Reply Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and in

    Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss by Jameel Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan M.

    Manes, Pardiss Kebriaei, Maria C. LaHood, William Quigley, and Arthur B. Spitzer (DDC

    October 9, 2010).]



    Inside the White House, the Obama administration had already been preparing its own legal

    framework for killing one of its own citizens. Although the government’s threat to kill Awlaki

    was met with almost no outrage or questioning from the US Congress, those in the

    administration knew that once they killed Awlaki, the case would almost certainly end up back in

    court . . . .


    The administration had already determined it intended to assassinate Awlaki, and

    President Obama wanted to be able to argue to the American people that it was the right

    decision. The State Department’s senior legal adviser, Harold Koh, wanted to lay out the case

    publicly before Awlaki was killed. He was tired of hearing scathing criticisms of the targeted

    killing program from European diplomats and human rights groups. In an earlier life, Koh had

    been known as a liberal, pro-human rights, pro-civil liberties lawyer, and so his stamp of

    approval was useful to the administration as it sought to defend its assassination policy in

    general—and bolster its decision to target a US citizen without trial.


    The White House also believed a public defense of the program from Koh would be a

    strong preemptive strike against the critics. “The military and the CIA, too, loved the idea,”

    reported Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman, author of the book Kill or Capture,

    about the targeted killing campaign. “They called the State Department lawyer ‘Killer Koh’

    behind his back. Some of the operators even talked about printing up T-shirts that said: ‘Drones:

    If they’re good enough for Harold Koh, they’re good enough for me.’”

    . . . . When Koh delivered his speech, on May 25, 2010, he declared, “US targeting

    practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles,

    comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Koh’s audience for the address was

    the annual convention of the American Society of International Law. He gave a full-throated

    defense of the administration’s targeted killing policy saying:


    Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide

    adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in

    an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal

    process before the state may use lethal force.... Some have argued that our targeting practices

    violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under

    domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems—consistent with the applicable laws of war—

    for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or

    during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute “assassination.”


    [Speech, Harold Hongju Koh, Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law,

    Washington, DC, March 25, 2010, www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/139119.htm ]

    Nasser Awlaki’s lawyers did not take the position that Anwar Awlaki was an innocent

    man. Rather, they reasoned, if he was what the US government alleged he was—a terrorist and

    an operational member of al Qaeda—evidence should be presented that would hold up in a court

    of law . . . . “If someone poses a threat, if there’s evidence against him, fine, charge him and give

    him due process,” said Kebriaei, one of Awlaki’s lawyers. “The president and the Defense

    Department or CIA, cannot just, on their own, determine in secret that these people are threats

    and we can not only detain them, but we can kill them.”

    The administration continued to leak intelligence it claimed proved Awlaki was an

    operational member of al Qaeda, and media coverage began referring to Awlaki as a leader or

    the leader of AQAP. When Awlaki’s lawyers tried to challenge in court the government’s

    claims that he was a leader of AQAP and was operational, the US government lawyers shut it

    down.

    The government’s “attorney did walk into court and open with: ‘The context of this case is that

    we’re talking about a leader of AQAP and everything else is a state secret. We can’t talk about

    the evidence, but you should know,’” Kebriaei recalled. “It can be maddening to hear the

    government make allegations that are completely unsupported by any real facts that we’ve seen

    and not have any access to that information, to be in this position of seeing that reporting [in the

    press] and not being able to respond. The Bush administration claimed a global detention

    authority in the context of this war on terror, and what the Obama administration is doing is

    actually extending that and claiming a global killing authority,” including the right to kill

    American citizens.


    Anwar Awlaki, meanwhile, was spending his days and nights on the run. He knew the

    Americans were actively trying to kill him. He would see drones and occasionally see missiles

    strike nearby. Awlaki had certainly become increasingly radical in his views of the United

    States, but from his perspective, it was America that had changed, not him. Not that long

    before, Awlaki had advocated voting for George W. Bush and praised America’s freedoms. He

    spoke with passion when he condemned al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and talked of Muslims

    peacefully coexisting with the United States. But between the global crackdown that followed

    9/11 and the US government’s campaign to hunt him down, something in Awlaki shifted, and he

    was no longer torn between allegiance to the country of his birth and his religion. “To the

    Muslims in America I have this to say: how can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful

    co-existence with the nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against

    your own brothers and sisters? How can you have your loyalty to a government that is leading

    the war against Islam and Muslims?” Awlaki asked in one of his audio messages posted online.

    “Imperial hubris is leading America to its fate: a war of attrition, a continuous hemorrhage that

    would end with the fall and splintering of the United States of America.”


    Johari Abdul Malik, who succeeded Awlaki as imam of Dar al Hijrah mosque in

    Virginia, was dumbfounded. He remembered Awlaki as a moderate and as a Muslim leader who

    bridged two worlds deftly. “To go from that individual to the person that is projecting these

    words from Yemen is a shock,” he said. “I don’t think we read him wrong. I think something

    happened to him.”
    Last edited by HERO; 04-22-2015 at 02:39 AM.

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