September 11 – Volume 12, #9
It is highly regrettable that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. What’s almost as regrettable as how corporations have marketed their death is the many ways in which the memories of the fallen have been disrespected in the over 3600 days since.
For what felt like about 20 minutes after the World Trade Center came tumbling down, it appeared that tragedy might usher in a new awakening in America. For a few brief moments it seemed that we had all figured out just how petty the things that divided us were. It appeared that America had finally evolved into a united state.
But not only was the unity and civility fleeting, the America that emerged on the other side was a far less humane place than it was on either September 10 or 12, 2001.
And worst of all, America has come to resemble the place that Osama Bin Laden -or whomever was responsible for the 9/11 attacks– hoped that it would become. A nation of fat dummies with short attention spans, mountains of debt and cool cell phones. A nation that has abandoned many of its core values as it relates to education, economic opportunity and criminal justice. The unmasking of lady justice has been a particularly diabolical assault on the American creed. This began with the Patriot Act, which gave government the freedom to listen in on our phone calls and ferret through our private records without a warrant in the name of national security. The safety of the American people was also an effective rationale for various torture techniques that have been used to get information from the evil doers. And when some Americans dared to question the direction of U.S. foreign policy post 9/11, patriots like Rashard Mendenhall, Tony Bennett, Michael Moore and The Dixie Chicks were slaughtered in the combat zone of public opinion. One by one, it seems, the American people have chosen to forfeit constitutional protections in the name of security. Thing is, it never had to be an either-or proposition.
The most recent example of an American leader wiping his ass with the Constitution was illustrated with President Barack Obama’s order to kill American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, on September 30 in Yemen.
The 40-year-old Awlaki was originally born in New Mexico, and has an extensive paper trail that suggests a very real desire to do harm to America ever since his days as an engineering student at Colorado State University in the early 1990s. Awlaki was alleged to have served as a spiritual adviser to several of the 9/11 hijackers, which brought him under such intense scrutiny from the government that he felt compelled to move to Britain between 2002 and 2004, before migrating to his father’s native land of Yemen.
While Awlaki mainly served as an Al Qaeda propagandist during his time in Yemen; bolstered by his ability to spread his message in English via Facebook and Youtube, government officials say that Alwaki was also linked to several attempted attacks against the United States on the mainland, as well as several American and allied embassies abroad. Awlaki’s most notable act of treason was his alleged involvement in recruiting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009 through a bomb that was stitched into his draws. While Adulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, was able to go through the legal processes, The Obama Administration justified denying these rights to one of its own citizens because they said that it wasn’t feasible to take a fugitive with such a dangerous history alive. This rationale seems curious amidst reports that U.S. officials were aware of Awlaki’s whereabouts for over a month, but deliberately waited for him to migrate to a less dense area of the nation before launching the fatal attack. Isolating Awlaki from innocent civilians should have made it easier to take him alive, not less so.
Also alongside Alwaki was another American citizen, Samir Khan; a writer for an Al Qaeda magazine, who government officials classified as collateral damage because he was not an original target of the attack. “Was this style of execution the only solution?” Khan’s family asked upon learning of their collateral damage – um, I mean, upon learning of their son’s death. “Why couldn’t there have been a capture and trial?”
I have no special affection for Alwaki or Khan. And I have little doubt that their ultimate fate would have been no different had they been granted their constitutionally-protected day in court. Once the Obama administration had made up their mind that Alwaki was a threat, he was a dead man walking.
But President Obama sets a horrible example with his actions for the world community, before which America has frequently held itself up as a model. It sets an even worse standard in which to guide the behavior of future U.S. leaders.
I am pleased that the Obama Administration’s aggressive foreign policy has made it where the Republican party’s stranglehold on defense as a political issue has been loosened considerably. But at times this aggressive policy has come at the cost of the very values that America said that those 3,000 people lost their lives for on 9/11.
It sets a horrible precedent for a president to kill a U.S. citizen without a proper trial. This has been rationalized by the argument that Alwaki committed treason, which is an offense that is punishable by death. While the barbarity that’s related to the death penalty is a discussion for another day, even when this is used as a legal option, death row inmates are at least given a trial, regardless of how bogus it might be.
But this didn’t happen with Alwaki. Obama said that he was a threat to American security so the execution order was given before the evidence was publicly heard.
This would be a positively frightening power to give to a potential President Bachman, Palin or Perry. Not that we’ll ever have to worry about that, but still. It wasn’t an appropriate exercise of power for President Bush. And it’s not a power that President Obama should have either.
One of the ways that America envisions itself as being unique is through its court system that is imagined as being both fair and transparent. Even serial killers that have been arrested with vital organs in the fridge, like Jeffrey Dahmer, are given a chance to tell their side of the story. We allow domestic terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh and native Chicagoan Ted Kaczynski (more affectionately known as the Unabomber) a public forum at taxpayers’ expense. Even national pariahs like Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Jr. and James Earl Ray are allowed their say. This is what made America different. This transparency and fairness is what made America great. Neither transparency nor fairness was present in the president’s unilateral decision to kill Alwaki.
But at least we’re all safer now that some dude inYemen, 7500 miles from me, is dead now. Right?
Perhaps this type of gradual erosion of American values is the best national security of all. We all heard, ad nauseam, after 9/11 that the evil doers attacked us because they hated us for our freedom. The terrorists were the mad parking-lot pimps who were salty because we were coming out of the club flossing with our shiny constitution and iced-out democratic principles.
If we keep at this pace, there won’t be very many freedoms left for the haters to hate.
Peace and God bless