I’m not religious, but if Dante was right, the lowest circle of hell is reserved for traitors. It begs the question of what loyalty one owes to the United States as a citizen? Is it loyalty to an ever-changing administration, to the president, to the Constitution or to the land itself? Whatever way you slice it, it all comes down to rights. A traitor is someone who has lost their place in the community they betrayed, a community that doesn’t grant rights to the person that trespasses against the whole.
Anwar Al-Alwaki was a Muslim Imam who was born in the United States and lived here most of his life. He had personal meetings with two of the 9/11 plane hijackers as well as Maj. Nidal Hisan, the accused Fort Hood killer, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused Detroit underwear bomber, according to reports issued by the CIA.
The New York Times reported on April 6 that Al Alwaki has been approved for the CIA’s capture or kill list, usually reserved for enemy combatants. It took additional cooperation with the National Security Council to approve Al-Alwaki for this list, as he is still a U.S. citizen.
Now I suppose one could give Al-Alwaki the benefit of the doubt. He might just have a really high concentration of terrorists in his congregation, though circumstantial evidence says otherwise. Al-Alwaki fled to Yemen shortly after he was asked to come in for questioning with the intelligence community; the CIA alleges that he is an al-Qaeda operative working with networks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Clearly this brings up several issues. Firstly, should we really allow a U.S. citizen to be assassinated, violating his rights to fair trial? Does he even have rights to a fair trial? Well, as much as I love bashing the CIA, I have to say he looks like a traitor. If he did indeed conspire with Nidal Hassan to attack a U.S. army base, he instigated an act of war against the U.S military. Fleeing to Yemen basically admits that he at least believed he had enough involvement to be fingered for the act.
We can’t confirm anything but there is precedent with other terrorist involvement going back nine years. I’d like to think that this may be conspiratorial, but the CIA might be acting out of genuine intelligence this time around. I do not however, approve of a kill order because it violates the legal process. He must be presumed innocent, even if he did flee to another country. He might even be a valuable intelligence asset, if he is loyal to the country and knows of terrorist activity in Yemen.
Whatever the case may be, Al-Alwaki has a lot of questions to answer. While Yemen is relatively safe at the moment, the U.S. military has this problem of shooting before asking questions. The thing that is scratching the back of my brain is that if Al-Alwaki has been involved with al-Qaeda since the beginning, is it possible that another infamous terrorist might be in Yemen? You know, Osama Bin Laden.
The real danger here is what will happen in future terrorism cases. If someone blows up a building in the United States for another purpose, perhaps an eco-terrorist bombing of a chemical plant, will that person be assassinated at the request of the U.S. government? Does this only apply when the person flees the country? Does the person need to have links with other terrorists the United States is currently fighting? These are the answers that the CIA has to account for. According to intelligence officials, [NOTE: attribute this info. Did you talk to these officials yourself?] individuals only go on the assassination list when they pose an imminent and direct threat to the country. Of course this wording creates the same questions as the traitor conundrum. What is the real definition of the country? Is it the buildings, the people, the leadership or is it something more intangible? The wording might be tricky, but in Al-Alwaki’s case he’s accused of attacking all of the above and until he comes clean as a victim, he most certainly a traitor of some distinction.