In a debate with Judge Napolitano last night, Bill O'Reilly framed an argument about the U.S. Government killing U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki as one "on the legality of killing traitors to America."
How unfortunate then for O'Reilly, Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution states,
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. 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.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason..."
In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, there was no public testimony from any witnesses to any overt act, and the fact remains that President Obama unilaterally claimed the authority to play the role of Judge, Jury, and Executioner in his death by drone in 2011. The drone strike that targeted Awlaki in Yemen also killed another American citizen, Samir Khan.
Just a month later, another drone strike in Yemen killed Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman -- also an American citizen -- who had traveled to Yemen to search for his father whom he hadn't seen in years, just days prior to his father's death. Some time later, government officials publicly claimed the boy was not the intended target of the lethal drone strike.
When asked to justify the attack that killed Abdulrahman, former press secretary Robert Gibbs retorted crassly, "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children."
Now, to be clear, none of this "nitpicking" as O'Reilly calls it, is intended to justify any actions taken by Awlaki, Khan, or any of his radical followers. In fact, over the years, evidence given to reporters after his death paints a picture of a man who quite likely was very evil. But that's not the point. The point, is that the Constitution is worth "nitpicking" over. It's strong enough to confront even bad people. But bad things happen when government officials begin to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they're going to ignore because it's inconvenient.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has officially claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last week. Eyewitnesses claimed the shooters said they were from Al Qaeda in Yemen. In the video recording released today, Sheikh Nasr bin Ali Alanesi said according to The Intercept, "that 'the arrangement' for the operation was 'made by' Anwar al Awlaki, the US-born radical cleric who was killed in a US drone strike in September 2011. Awlaki 'threatens the West both in his life and after his martyrdom,' he added."
Following the drone strike that killed Awlaki in 2011, the New York Times reported:
A senior American military official who monitors Yemen closely said Mr. Awlaki’s death would send an important message to the surviving leaders and foot soldiers in the Qaeda affiliate. “It’s critically important,” the senior official said. “It sets a sense of doom for the rest of them. Getting Awlaki, given his tight operational security, increases the sense of fear. It’s hard for them to attack when they’re trying to protect their own back side.”
But some Islamist figures said Mr. Awlaki’s status could be elevated to that of a martyr. Anjem Choudhry, an Islamic scholar in London, said, “The death of Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki will merely motivate the Muslim youth to struggle harder against the enemies of Islam and Muslims.”
He added, “I would say his death has made him more popular.”
Unfortunately, it looks like the radical Choudhry was more accurate in his prediction than the anonymous "senior American military official."
The American government has wandered far from the Constitution since the 9/11 terror attacks, violating the rights of its citizens while waging a "global war on terrorism." A war, that by any objective standard, America would have to admit we are not winning. This isn't merely "whack-a-mole" where when you smack one down, another pops up. When you carry out drone strikes with such high potential for "collateral damage" (killing innocents), you have to face the reality that it is radicalizing brothers, sisters, uncles, and sons. What future havoc they wreak will sadly be the poisoned fruit from seeds we have sown. This is the very definition of blowback: the unforeseen and unwanted effect from a given action.
It's long past time for the U.S. Government to adhere to the Constitution, and in particular, the Constitution's counter-terrorism strategy -- Letters of Marque and Reprisal.
So, in returning to the debate between O'Reilly and the Judge, O'Reilly worried the Judge's view would "tie up" the hands of those "just trying to protect Americans." Well, as Jefferson wrote in a draft of the Kentucky Resolution, "...in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution..."
For a guy who wrote a book titled "Pinheads and Patriots," you, Mr. O'Reilly, are no patriot.