Liu and al-Awlaki

As you may have known, recently the US assassinated two of its own citizens in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Say what you will about these two but the actions taken by the government of assassination without trial certainly is an extreme if not wholly unconstitutional measure as witnessed by some constitutional lawyers and experts. It may also violate international law.

The government only has the legal right to assassinate its own citizens under extremely rare circumstances and one wonders if the actions of these two reached that high point. As even the New York Times said: “it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.”

Neither has been proven to have been involved with actual acts of terrorism. They have spoken with terrorists and have been a powerful English language recruiting force for al Qaeda but is that enough for the government to justify killing them without trial or even indictment? Remember that even advocating the violent overthrow of the US government or even advocating terrorist acts are wholly protected speech (see here) under the US constitution.

Compare the assassination of these two with the case of Liu Xiaobo. Liu was found guilty in a trial for inciting subversion and slander and sentenced to prison for saying things like China should be colonized by the US. He was not assassinated and was at least given a trial in which he plead guilty.

Liu got the Nobel prize and serious ass-kissing by both western liberals and conservatives alike while most Americans are complacent with the story they have been fed by their government that al-Awlaki was a direct and immediate threat to their lives.

There isn’t even any critical questioning of that story. Apologists for the assassination usually robotically offer this kind of response “b…b…but al-Awlaki was an al Qaeda agent! And surely you can’t take the trial of Liu seriously! That’s a Chinese trial!”

Pretentious displays of consternation and foot-stomping aside, this kind of response seems to me like blanket refusal to critically examine the story and a case of hypocrisy.

It conveniently avoids the fact that the US has strict laws protecting the freedom to express whatever one wishes so long as it is not lead to an immediate credible harm (1st Amendment) and that every citizen that is accused of a crime is entitled due process (5th Amendment).

The government has yet to provide any evidence that al-Awlaki was operationally involved in any act of terrorism. He has merely made videos advocating them and the US government also claims he has had contact and “trained” with others who have engaged in acts of terrorism.

US conservatives do not care about charges of hypocrisy. It means nothing to them but progressives who admired and supported Liu’s cause need to do a better job of explaining why they haven’t gone out of their way to denounce the extralegal assassination of two of their fellow citizens.

No doubt, they would go apeshit if the PRC extralegally (or legally for that matter) killed those it judged supportive of terrorism against Chinese citizens such as those in the Tibetan Youth Congress (which they deem a terrorist organization having publicly supported attacks on Chinese civilians) or had it assassinated those it deemed supportive of enemy combatants such as the Dalai Lama in the 60s when he provided spiritual support and recruitment propaganda to Khampa rebels.


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