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Opinion

Opinion

Where is nation’s outrage?

March 15, 2012

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“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” — from the 14th Amendment

Spin it any way you want. Justify it, rationalize it, chalk it up to the exigencies of war. And at the end, the fact remains:

A United States citizen is dead, and the United States government killed him. Without trial. Without due process. Without hesitation. And many of those who loudly deplored George W. Bush for smaller excesses seem content to allow Barack Obama this larger one.

No, I do not mourn the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. If anyone ever deserved to have a missile from a predator drone land in his lap, it was this New Mexico-born Muslim cleric, killed last September in Yemen, his ancestral homeland. American counterterrorism experts say he planned the failed 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. Additionally, he is said to have inspired the Ford Hood massacre of 2009 and the botched Times Square bombing of 2010. The world is a better place without this guy in it.

Still, the means of his dispatch from this world ought to give us pause. 

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech in which he attempted to justify what the administration did. His reasoning was not compelling. In Holder’s formulation, the U.S. government has the right to kill citizens if said citizens present an imminent threat of violent attack and if capturing them alive is not a feasible option. It can do this, said Holder, speaking at Northwestern University’s school of law, without judicial oversight.

“Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaida or associated forces,’’ he said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.’’

What a flimsy rationale upon which to balance a decision as monumental and portentous as the killing of a citizen. Even granting that the demands of armed conflict sometimes make such things necessary, it is inconceivable that the White House would claim the right to kill without at least presenting its evidence before a federal judge in a secret hearing. To eschew even that safeguard — there is precedent, in urgent cases, for a ruling to be handed down in hours or even minutes — is to set Obama up as potential judge, jury and executioner of every accused terrorist.

So where is the outrage? Had Bush claimed the right to kill American citizens without judicial oversight, the resulting cries of protest would have been audible on the moon. Indeed, one of the protesters would likely have been Obama himself; he came into office on a promise to rein in the excesses of the Bush years, most infamously, the torture of so-called enemy combatants.

Now, Team Obama seeks to justify an excess Team Bush never did. Bush often said his job was to keep the American people safe. Not to diminish or demean that necessary goal, but it is worth noting that his oath of office actually says nothing of the kind. Rather, it requires him to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

It is difficult to see where torture — much less, unilateral killing — is consonant with that promise. And the people who decried Bush’s excesses should also decry Obama’s. Instead, he enjoys a measure of leeway and trust that Bush, whose overreach was much more habitual, never did. That forbearance is misplaced.

The leaders change, but the country is the country is the country — and the principle at stake here is bigger than any one person’s term in office. So no, Barack Obama does not deserve the leeway and trust our lack of outrage accords him.

No president does.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

Ray Parker 2 years, 1 month ago

Black babies are not persons, according to our renegade U.S. Supreme Court, and criminal, racist Planned Parenthood abortion mills are profitably mangling, dismembering, poisoning and beheading them at a rate 3 time higher. Modern-day eugenics in action.

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Machiavelli_mania 2 years, 1 month ago

Both political parties are removing our American rights. It certainly has NOT been terrorism that took those rights away.

I will NOT stand for it.

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classclown 2 years, 1 month ago

TheYetiSpeaks (anonymous) replies…

December 1779. He was found guilty of 2 lesser offenses, due in no small part to the fact that G. Washington was a fan. Still, even the minor charges angered Arnold to take on more serious acts of espionage. March 16, 2012 at 11:20 a.m.

==============================================

That had nothing to do with treason or espionage and he was still every bit the patriot then.

I ask again. When did Benedict Arnold receive a trial for treason?

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 1 month ago

"Where is nation's outrage?"

I'm suffering from outrage overload. As I prioritize my outrage, this outrage falls near the bottom of my list. I'm sorry Mr. al-Awlaki chose the path he chose. I'm sorry he chose not to return to the U.S. to face charges. I'm sorry he left a trail of death and destruction behind him.
There, now I feel better. Move on.

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classclown 2 years, 1 month ago

TheYetiSpeaks (anonymous) replies…

Yes....and all without one of those pesky trials. Even Benedict Arnold, one of the most famous traitors of all time got a trial. By the way, that was in wartime, by today's standards making him an "enemy combatant". March 16, 2012 at 10:07 a.m.

=================================================

That post was rather Cait-esque.

When exactly did Benedict Arnold receive a trial for treason?

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Armstrong 2 years, 1 month ago

Drone strike or hung for treason he is dead either way

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TheYetiSpeaks 2 years, 1 month ago

A lot of you are getting caught up in the emotion of it. Was Alawi a douchebag? Yes. Do I think he DESERVED a drone shoved up his rear? For sure.
Here's the problem a lot of us are ignoring: For the bulk of the 20th century our government continually gave itself more leeway and powers, specifically to the executive branch. One things Republicans and Democrats don't seem to differ on is once you are President, you don't take powers away from the office. So it continues to this day. Example: Obama seemed pretty intent on closing Guatanamo and getting rid of the Patriot Act while campaigning. I don't mean this as a slam on Obama.....but this is standard business as usual for our last 15 Presidents or so. I don't think anybody believes Obama is going to start arbitrarily killing American citizens without trial. But use a little foresight....Drones were just approved for massive domestic use. The executive branch doesn't give back powers it grants itself and it apparently has given itself the ability to dub an American citizen as an enemy combatant and dispose of them. An allegation is all that stands between you and a drone attack. Now envision our country 50, even 100 years from now....What does it look like? Maybe George Orwell knows.

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 1 month ago

It might be instructive to put ourselves in al-Awlaki's shoes. You're a guy who keeps hearing his name in news reports being circulated worldwide. You're being described as a criminal terrorist linked to multiple attempts to murder U.S. citizens (as well as any non-U.S. citizens who happen to be nearby when the explosives detonate).

Now, if you are al-Awlaki and you have moved overseas to live in a foreign country, and you know you're totally innocent of these accusations you're hearing in the news, wouldn't you immediately rush to the nearest U.S. embassy, surrender yourself to the first Marine gate guard you see and then do everything possible -- including traveling back to the United States -- to clear up this horribly mistaken accusation?

But he didn't do that, did he? No. Instead, he kept to cover, stayed on the move and continued plotting, organizing and training people to commit lethal attacks on American citizens. And he was operating in a country whose chaotic political and legal system are vulnerable to compromise; in Yemen the U.S. government can not physically send our law enforcement agents to apprehend the man peacefully without exposing our officers to lethal ambush by al-Alawi's associates. They'd never make it out of the country alive.

So that pretty much makes it "Predator time" if the point of the exercise is to halt the man's relentless attacks. You hate to think of the body count if that Detroit-bound airliner had actually gone down, if that Times Square bomb had detonated.

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observant 2 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 1 month ago

The Obama is half "Kansan". So what do you all expect?

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Lateralis 2 years, 1 month ago

The NDAA and Richard Jewell

The National Defense Authorization Act recently signed by President Obama provided that the Federal Government can detain terror suspects indefinitely without due process. This new provision to the act is unconstitutional and in direct violation of every American's right to due process. So dubious is this provision that it has prompted the President to write a signing statement promising that HIS administration will not implement this action. What infuriates me the most is why would anyone in a position to approve this action add a statement expressing "serious reservations" upon his approval. President Obama, no stranger to breaking his promises, has actually denounced signing statements.

See here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seAR1S....

So emphatic was his opposition to signing statements, it conjured his "constitutional expertise" at a 2008 campaign rally. When do campaign promises turn into lies?

Richard Jewell was a private security guard working at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Richard doing his duty when discovering the bomb, helped save lives and injury. Our intrepid government mistakenly identified Richard as a suspect/terrorist and under NDAA section 1031 & 1032, had it been passed at the time of his suspicion, would have allowed for his indefinite detention without due process. The passage of this act signed by President Obama has robbed every American of the cornerstone right our country was founded on. A vote for President Obama in 2012 is a vote for tyranny and the unconstitutional detention of American citizens. If you respect your rights to due process and the very nature of what it means to be blessed as an American you will not vote for the most dangerous president of all time.

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its_just_math 2 years, 1 month ago

There's no outrage over what Obama is "doing" because many are simply enraptured by what he is "saying". Like P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute". We have more than a hundred million suckers currently "born" in the US. A tongue smoother than the finest imported silk and a constitutional scholar.....what more can one ask for? Toss in Harry Reid's and Joe Biden's assessments of Obama as a "clean" and "articulate" and a "light skinned negro with no real negro dialect" and there you have it: the perfect president for the new millenium. Obama is handsome and has a perfect pitch to his voice and can read a teleprompter like nobody's business. The guy is good----period.

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OonlyBonly 2 years, 1 month ago

Where's the outrage over a lot of things BOs doing?

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50YearResident 2 years, 1 month ago

When you commet acts of revolution aginst the government you relinquish your right to a fair trial, citizen or not. That is the case here, no trial was necessary. Keep that in mind the next time you are considering doing an act of treason. Enough said!

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tbaker 2 years, 1 month ago

The question concerning whether or not it was “legal” for the President to issue orders to have the terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki killed was answered by the US district court who threw out the case arguing this very point brought by the ACLU. The case is closed Mr. Pitts. That’s why we have a congress – to pass laws to govern this kind of behavior from the executive branch. There is no outrage because the scumbag Awlaki got exactly what he deserved.

That said, the government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances where the threat to life is crystal clear, very specific and imminent, as it obviously was in this case. Nonetheless it disturbs me to see our country give any president unchecked power to kill Americans whom he deems a threat to the country. This is a very slippery slope and badly in need of congressional and judicial oversight of the sort Pitts suggests.

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verity 2 years, 1 month ago

The operative words here are: “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I no more support President Obama when he fails to do this than I did G W Bush when he was president.

If the laws of our country and our Constitution can be subverted because someone feel it's for the better good, we are all in danger of having it done to us.

"there is precedent, in urgent cases, for a ruling to be handed down in hours or even minutes"

There is no reason that it is necessary to not abide by the Constitution---it only makes all of us less free. Kind of like all the unauthorized wire-tapping which could have easily been authorized if there was a reason for it.

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its_just_math 2 years, 1 month ago

Did hell freeze over?

I've always said, Obama loves the drone. Man oh man does he love 'em. The disgust felt by many about Obama seems to be catching on like wildfire. Wolf in sheeps clothing if there ever was one. Evil comes in all forms. Do you Obama idolizers get it? Do you care?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

Even more objectionable was one of the first drone/cruise missile strikes in Yemen under Obama, which hit a village and mostly killed women and children.

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jayhawklawrence 2 years, 1 month ago

I am not with Pitts on this one either but it is worth considering his argument after the perp is down.

This guy deserves no sympathy.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 1 month ago

The members of a cult of personality have difficutly finding fault with the object of their worship. If you doubt the existence of such a cult, check out http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/florida/obama.jpg-20120313,0,4307008.photo

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Mike Ford 2 years, 1 month ago

During the Bin Laden mission. it was referred to as Mission Geronimo in reference to the Chiracahua Apache leader who reacted with impugnity to the invasion of the Na-Dene people's homeland. The Seminole people of Florida had the same experience of being labeled as terrorists after they defeated the US military forces in 1838, 1844, and 1855, in Florida, thus insuring that some Seminole people would stay in Florida. Most indigenous people had no 14th amendment rights until 1924 and were treated as enemy combatants as place like Fort Marion Florida where the whole boarding school idea was concocted.Geronimo or Goyalthay was a pow of the US from 1886 to 1909 as were his people. Do me a favor gop....if you want any respect at all please acknowledge the sins of Bush...these issues began with him. Your amnesia is disingenuous and makes you unbelieveable....

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RoeDapple 2 years, 1 month ago

For those of you that haven't caught it . . . Lennie is trolling. In the next week or two he will write a column based on the most extreme responses to this column expressing total shock and outrage at those of his least favorite political party. When he drinks a beer with Obama on the White House lawn while discussing this issue I will take it more seriously.

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rtwngr 2 years, 1 month ago

OMG!!!!!!! I read something of Leonard Pitts, Jr. that I agree with. The constitution of the United States only means to this president what he wants it to mean. Here's to hoping for change in November.

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Gandalf 2 years, 1 month ago

Personally I think Pitts is way off base on this one. If it happened on american soil it would be different.

But once a person becomes an enemy combatant on foreign soil the military is justified. They are sworn to protect the US from all enemies both foreign and domestic.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

This column demonstrates once more the extent to which Pitts and his ilk don't understand that we are at war. Taking out al-Awlaki was one of the very few positive actions that Obama has taken in his three-plus years of on-the-job training. Al-Awlaki was every bit as dangerous to this country as bin Laden was.

Once in a blue moon Pitts writes a column that criticizes Obama so that he won't be fired for his continual lock-step flag waving for him. All Pitts has really done is prove once more that he's to the left of Obama himself, which is no mean feat.

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skinny 2 years, 1 month ago

I am with the government on this one. If you can't get at the guy to arrest him and he is continuing to kill people, take him out!

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observant 2 years, 1 month ago

Can't wait to see what Pitts haters say about this column. Probably their usual attacks without reading it, you know the one's immediately calling him a liberal and a a racist.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 1 month ago

An American citizen has to personally commit a few murders, and after that it's all right to dispatch him or her without a trial.

The legal precedent for that was very clearly set forth on May 23, 1934, when Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death in an ambush.

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