Sunday, July 21, 2013

Family Values, The Family Bates, The Family Al-Awlaki, Secret Courts, Drone Assassinations, And Trial By Internet

Eighteen years ago about this time of year my dear and much-admired father passed from this earth. When I had dealt with my grief sufficiently to be more philosophical about his death, I occasionally remarked that Bill Bates managed to stave off death until a Democrat held the big chair in the White House and Dad's beloved Houston Rockets held the NBA championship, assuming rightly or wrongly that the world could do without him in light of the trend of improvement he observed in his last year or two. Dad passed with no worries that I would be secretly ordered assassinated, let alone by the President of the United States.

Nasser al-Awlaki, father of Anwar al-Awlaki (American citizen, assassinated by an American drone in September 2011), grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (American citizen, assassinated by an American drone in October 2011), was not so fortunate. As we were informed by Nasser's NY Times op-ed a couple of days ago, he learned of the deaths of his son and grandson by news reports. Though both his son and his grandson were American citizens (the grandson by birth, in Denver), neither was afforded the constitutionally required "speedy and public trial": they were on an Obama administration list of people targeted for assassination by drone, and b'gawd they were assassinated by drones. Despite Nasser's repeated legal inquiries, he has received no meaningful response to his queries about his son's and grandson's deaths; it seems he lacks legal "standing" to ask. The op-ed is very moving. You will understand the fundamental wrongness of the process, or rather the absence of due process, much better if you read Nasser's words. Here is a sample:

... I stood over it [his grandson's grave], asking why my grandchild was dead.

Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death.

The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not “specifically targeted,” raising more questions than he answered.

My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable. On Friday, I will petition a federal court in Washington to require the government to do just that.

The NY Times often selects a reader's letter to publish first, a letter that seems to the editors to typify the opposition to an article. In this case, the published response letter was from "Ben" in Cincinnati, who had this, among other things, to say:

It would be good to know why the grandson was targeted, but revealing any information must be weighed against the concurrent problems in making any intelligence available. It is obvious that any grandfather would pine for the memory of his son and grandson.

But It is highly disingenuous that an intelligent man writes so many words yet makes no mention whatsoever of the actions or rhetoric of his son, which were published on the Internet for all to see. He says that he loves the United States, its universities, and its national parks. How about its people? What did he feel, say, or do, when hearing his son advocating the death of American people? Was he really suprprised when the country came after his son?

Bill Bates, may he rest in peace after experiencing as a combatant the horrors of war in his lifetime, lived long enough to see the first flowering of the Internet. As he was the person who initially taught me about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he would have been fascinated with what is available on the 'net today regarding those two documents and their application in these troubled times. But I am afraid I would not be able to explain to him Ben in Cincinnati's reference to trial by Internet; I just can't find it in the copies of the Constitution available to me.

Call me a terrorist if you want... if I live long enough, I'm certain one or another American government will call me such... but I have to agree that grandfather al-Awlaki has a right to his answers from the DoJ, unabridged, justified as best they can. Goodness knows I cannot for the life of me see any justification for killing anyone, let alone any American, far from any combat zone merely because they verbally advocated killing Americans when Americans had recently killed their own son father.

And to think I've been counting on that "free speech" thingy to save me...

UPDATE: 7/19/2013 the judge declined to rule immediately on the DoJ's motion to dismiss grandfather al-Awlaki's petition, expressing grave reservations about the government's claim that no court could reach the matter:
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer did not immediately rule on a government request to dismiss legal challenges to the killings of three Americans, including al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, brought by civil rights advocates and Anwar's father, Nasser al-Awlaki. But she strongly questioned the government's assertion that the courts were "not in a position to second-guess'' security officials when faced with an imminent threat.
Read the rest of the USA Today article and/or Judge Collyer's ruling, and stay tuned; I'll try to report when I have more information.

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