Will Liberals Rise Up and Strongly Attack the Obama Targeted Assassination Program?
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Opponents of Obama’s targeted assassination program have tried to galvanize some public outrage by pointing not to the killing of the senior al-Awlaki, who went public many times with his fealty to al-Qaida and his desire to see the U.S. attacked, but of his 16-year-old son, Abduhrahman, who was killed in a separate targeted strike two weeks later. We don’t know anything about the evidence against the younger al-Awlaki, and liberals who care about the rights of the accused, especially the minor accused, should be expected to care maybe a little bit more about the 16-year-old. Except many don’t. Most famously, when former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs was confronted by a reporter who questioned “an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial … And, he’s underage. He’s a minor,” he replied:
I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
It’s hard to imagine Obama supporters defending the punishment of a 16-year-old because he “should have a more responsible father” – let alone capital punishment.
After the killing of Trayvon Martin, I got in ugly Twitter battles with tin-eared leftists who trashed Obama for defending Martin when he had presided over the killing of the younger al-Awlaki. They ignored the very real relief many African-Americans felt that the president spoke up for Martin with the poignant comment, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Today on Twitter, some Obama supporters are accusing the president’s critics – without evidence — of caring more about al-Awlaki than Trayvon Martin. Ugh. It’s even been suggested that raising questions about the president’s targeted assassination policy is a form of “white privilege.” Goldie Taylor, someone I respect, clarified her Tweet to say that “selective outrage” over the Isikoff story reflects “white privilege.” But plenty of people questioning targeted assassination also protested George Zimmerman’s killing of the unarmed Martin.
Weirdly, today would be Trayvon Martin’s 18thbirthday. I think people who care about justice have hearts and minds big enough to be concerned about all forms of injustice, and potential injustice. Late last year I admitted I looked away from some of the more disturbing national security policies of the Obama administration before the election because I knew President Romney would almost certainly pursue worse ones. But in the president’s last term, I think it’s incumbent on people who care about civil liberties to care about these policies. It would be a shame if Obama’s popularity made people who once cared about such issues care less.
Finally, it should be noted that the OLC “white paper” was leaked to Isikoff, not formally released. I’m not going to be dishonest and say I’d like the policies it describes any more had it been voluntarily disclosed, but at least it would be a gesture toward transparency by the administration. We also don’t know if this is indeed the rationale the president used to justify killing the al-Awlakis; there’s evidence that it is not, and that the specific legal case was outlined in another still secret memo. The worst thing about this policy is that it’s been pursued with zero checks, balances, accountability or transparency. That, at least, should change in the months to come.