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Targeting Anwar al Awlaki

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  • Targeting Anwar al Awlaki

    US President Barack Obama swept to power on a promise of undoing the lawlessness of the Bush era. He vowed that the legal black hole that is Guantanamo would be shut down and that the US would regain its moral leadership under his rule. Guantanamo is still open for business and has been accompanied by an intensification of the drone campaign, both in war zones like Afghanistan and in the undeclared wars the US is fighting in Pakistan and Yemen. Obama has now also given himself the power to murder US citizens without any due process, simply on his orders. American citizen Anwar al Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen by an airstrike almost certainly carried out by the US, has been described by the Obama administration as a top al Qaeda leader and one who needed to be eliminated to disrupt the terrorist group. The government, however, has not been able to provide much proof for these claims. Awalki was involved in dissemination of al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology and was thought by some experts to have a role in the outfit’s operations in Yemen.
    Killing Awlaki without first getting a court order sets a dangerous precedent for a country that has always valued its fealty to its constitution. And it certainly seems as if the Obama administration has violated the Fifth Amendment to the US constitution which says: “No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.” Add this to the fact that Obama launched a war in Libya without first seeking approval of Congress, again as mandated by law, and one finds an imperial presidency that is outdoing even George W Bush.
    Questions of legality aside, the benefits of targeted killings such as that of Awlaki also need to be considered. In order to get Awlaki, the US has had to ally with the ruthless Yemeni President Saleh, a leader who has made killing his own citizens into a sport. Awlaki may also not have been too important in the al Qaeda set-up but now that he has been killed, the terrorist outfit will undoubtedly venerate him as a martyr and use his death to attract more people to their cause. Obama has failed to learn the most important lesson of the Bush presidency: terrorism is best fought with brains, not brawn.
    Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2011.