Guest commentary: Executed without due process
BY DAWUD WALID
DETROIT FREE PRESS GUEST WRITER
The recent extrajudicial executions of two American citizens in Yemen have set a troubling precedent and seemingly mimic the actions of regimes we have long criticized.
Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan both advocated wanton violence against civilians, including their own countrymen, which is counter to the teachings of all faiths and values of every civil society. Indeed, I have given sermons and lectures in mosques throughout metro Detroit specifically denouncing the repugnant rhetoric of al-Awlaki while warning youths that he was not a legitimate scholar.
And there is no doubt that al-Awlaki gave inspiration to Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bring down an airplane over Detroit. As troubling as al-Awlaki’s speech was, however, his targeted killing without due process is problematic.
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that no person shall answer for a capital crime without having been indicted by a grand jury to then face the charges levied. Given that al-Awlaki was never indicted or charged with one crime, nor was he on a battlefield actively engaged in combat, it appears that his constitutional rights were violated.
The Obama administration could have at the least indicted him and Khan, and then demanded that they turn themselves in to the nearest U.S. embassy before ordering a hit against them.
The sad irony of these executions without due process is that these American citizens were never charged before being sentenced to death via executive order in which no evidence (because it’s supposedly “secret evidence”) was presented, much less a transparent process, yet a Nigerian citizen who attempted to kill innocent Americans is detained and attending court proceedings in Detroit. If due process is granted to foreign nationals, then it surely should have been granted to citizens.
Our president ran on a platform of re-establishing the rule of law by closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and ending torture, yet these extrajudicial killings went much further than his predecessor did in flouting the Constitution. Such actions are not only a threat to the spirit of the Constitution, but also jeopardize our national security.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, recently said, regarding al-Awlaki’s and Khan’s executions: “The president wants to spread American values around the world but continues to do great damage to them here at home, appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree.”
Al-Qaida’s recruitment is not based on the false notion that terrorists hate us because of our freedoms. Al-Qaida intermingles perverse interpretations of religion with claims that our nation oppresses and kills people in the developing world while practicing political hypocrisy. In essence, al-Qaida recruits people to commit illegal, illegitimate acts of terror by exploiting potentially legitimate grievances about our nation’s actions. Pointing out this reality is in no way making al-Qaida’s actions legitimate, nor does it suggest moral equivalency of our nation’s shortcomings with their acts of terrorism. Simply put, such assassinations fit perfectly into the propaganda narrative of those who seek to harm us.
The so-called one good exception to the rule has the potential to open the door to other exceptions, which could send our nation down a dangerous path. I fear the precedent recently set may have started us down this path already.
As a nation, we must demand that all American citizens receive due process under the law, be they bad guys or not. God only knows whose name could be added next if we do not demand this now.
Dawud Walid is executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations — Michigan.