In Justice?

Posted on October 1, 2011. Filed under: Government, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, ta...

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Well, it doesn’t take much for Washington to pat itself on the back, but every now and again it manages to do something right. But, I’m not sure that the most recent ‘success’ story from the Global War on Terror is just that.

On Friday, news spread that the CIA and Special Operation Forces killed al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (and Samir Khan but, who is that?) in a joint drone and jet strike. Some are claiming al-Awlaki was more powerful than Osama Bin Laden, second only to Inspector Gadget’s Dr. Claw (honestly, who goes after a cute little girl and her puppy – jerk).

Supposedly, al-Awlaki inspired, recruited, and trained terrorists including three of the 9/11 attackers, the Fort Hood shooter, and the infamous Underwear Bomber. I say supposedly, not because I don’t think he was behind these plots, but because Anwar al-Awlaki was never in fact tried and found guilty of these crimes.

Now, anyone who knows me personally knows I’m not exactly a dove. So far, I haven’t heard a convincing argument as to why foreign/freedom fighters or whatever you want to call them should be tried in US courts. But al-Awlaki and Khan were different. Why? Because they were both US citizens and that comes with certain protections, namely the Constitution.

Article 3, section 3 of the Constitution reads, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Check on that one. It continues, “No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” Open court? Oops. The government can’t just put you on a “Capture or Kill” list arbitrarily or not. What about if someone renounces their citizenship? Well, in order to do that you have to go before a diplomatic or consular officer in a foreign state (that means in a US embassy guarded by armed Marines). So, there you have it. Al-Awlaki and Khan, both US citizens, executed for treason unconstitutionally. This might sit okay with some of you because these two were really bad, but if so, my question is – where is the line? What makes it okay for the government to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury in this case, but not others?

This one is tough for me. I want our government to be efficient, especially in executing (no pun intended) war. But I also don’t want the government to determine when it can and cannot suspend the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers got the whole trial by jury of your peers from the Bible. The Israelites appointed judges and officials to each tribe who oversaw disputes between persons (Deu 16:18-20). Witnesses were called and no man could be found guilty of a crime based off of one man’s testimony (Deu 19:15-20). However, in this case of the strike, it seems to me the government acted as judge and witness.

In Matthew, Christ calls us to settle disputes among ourselves, and only when this cannot be done, take it to the church (which acted as sorta State as well). If the person found guilty will not listen to the church, then we are to treat him as an outsider (Mat 18:15-19).

Perhaps we were to treat Khan and al-Awlaki as outsiders, meaning they should not get privileges US citizens do? Or, is that only after they have been “tried”? At what point, if ever, does the Constitution no longer apply? Who decides that point?


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4 Responses to “In Justice?”

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I was told that when you join another country’s military you give up your rights as an American citizen and therefore you lose your Constitutional rights. You are no longer an American citzen. Is this not true?

Hm, that one would be news to me – can you point to a law that says that? Might be so and I just haven’t heard it. However, terrorists don’t join a ‘military,’ just a cause (instead they are categorized as unlawful enemy combatants and are not subject to the Geneva Convention, which governs treatment of military personnel). So, that would seem to be a flaw in the argument even if such law exists.

Interesting. Still, doesn’t apply here since terrorist groups are not recognized as a legitimate military. So, they were still American citizens executed by our government without due process.

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