Why Is Only One Congressman Standing Up Against Assassinating US Citizens?
Kucinich: White House Assassination Policy Is Extrajudicial
by Jeremy Scahill
There has been almost universal silence among Congressional Democrats on the Obama administration's recently revealed decision to authorize the assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen, has been accused of providing inspiration for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged “underwear bomber,” and Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter. In recent weeks, there has been a dramatic surge in US government chatter about the alleged threat posed by al-Awlaki, with anonymous US officials accusing him of directly participating in terror “plots” (his family passionately disputes this).
Several Democrats refused, through spokespeople, to comment on the assassination plan when contacted by The Nation, including Senator Russ Feingold and Representative Jan Schakowsky, both of whom serve on the Intelligence Committees. Representative Jane Harman, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee, said recently that Awlaki is “probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us.”
One of the few Democrats to publicly address the issue of government-sanctioned assassinations is Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. “I don't support it–period,” he said in an interview. “I think people in both parties that are concerned about the Constitution should be speaking out on this. I can't account for what anyone else doesn't do.”
Yesterday, the Nation’s always reliably controversial-in-a-good-way Jeremy Scahill reported that, after an exhaustive questioning of members of Congress there is only a single one who even offered a comment on the Obama administration’s authorization of the assassination Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who sympathizes with radicals in Yemen.
The member of Congress, it should come as no surprise to anyone, is Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Kucinich is perhaps Congress’s most steadfast opponent of military adventurism, having voted against authorizing every military intervention of his time in Congress except the Afghan war in response to the 9/11 attacks. He’s the same one who put Republicans through fits on the eve of the war telling Meet the Press that President Bush was being dishonest in his case for war — which seems to have earned Kucinich’s place on some kind of almost-banned-list on shows like that in the future, apparently the cost of being right too early is quite high in America — and who was the chief organizer in the House of Representatives for the three quarters of Democrats who voted against the Iraq War Resolution.
Now Kucinich is the only one willing to go on the record to say that authorizing the killing, without trial, judge or jury, and without being in any arena of combat, of a U.S. citizen is both wrong and possibly extrajudicial and unconstitutional. The 5th amendment is a powerful right that has been bestowed upon American citizens from time immemorial. It guarentees that American citizens will never simply be imprisoned without due process, let alone killed on the spot.
The standard objection to this is that on the battlefield, you can’t stop and read an enemy his rights. Well, that’s true. If this gentleman were to engage US troops or launch an attack against us, we’d be justified in using any force necessary to stop him — just as cops can fire back at criminals shooting at them. But what Obama has authorized is walking up to this man, even if he’s sitting at home alone, and instead of arresting him, simply killing him.
The left (and various disparate libertarian elements) were a massive critic of President Bush’s policies imprisoning Americans without trial indefinitely. Eventually, the Supreme Court, a conservative one, mind you, moved against Bush himself with regard to this policy. And the left and the libertarians were right to be critical of that. But now we have a president who’s authorized the killing of an American citizen without trial, and there’s nary a peep outside of — surprisingly — the National Review, which decided that now that there guy’s not in power, abuses of civil liberties are bad.
Going down this road is a very, very dark legal precedent. At the very least there should be a very heated debate about this question — Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Judiciary Committee is a good place to start. And yet there seems to be only one member of Congress willing to start that debate. It’s not surprising he’s the only one ahead of his time, again. But it is kind of surprising that this is happening in 21st century America, especially as we want to hold on to our claim as the standard-bearers of human rights and democracy.