Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Congressman Ron Paul had harsh words for President Barack Obama for authorizing the CIA’s execution of U.S.-born Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki. Yet the objections raised by the two Republicans were based on radically different reasons – outrage driven by two opposing worldviews. Obama was also hit by liberals for betraying American values.
Cheney said the president should apologize for criticizing the neoconservative Bush administration’s handling of the war on terror given the fact the Obama regime has been just as ruthless – if not more so – in dealing with potential threats. During an interview at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Thursday Cheney was quoted as saying:
“In light of the fact that they are obviously pursuing fairly aggressive measures – which I support – I think they did the right thing with that drone strike. Nonetheless, they’re now at the point where they executed, in effect, an American citizen with a predator, with a missile strike. I’d lay that alongside our enhanced interrogation program.”
Cheney’s accusations don’t seem too far-fetched when considering that Obama, in less than three years, has already ordered five times as many drone strikes as Bush did in eight.
Texas libertarian Ron Paul, a GOP presidential contender, denounced the president for authorizing the strike that killed Awlaki in Yemen where the Al Qaeda leader found sanctuary, calling it an impeachable offense. Paul chastised Obama for ignoring the Fifth Amendment and assassinating an American citizen without due process. Paul told a gathering of journalists at the National Press Club in D.C.:
“We have crossed that barrier from republic to dictatorship, to tyranny to empire,” he said. “He [President Obama] can now assassinate people without due process, American citizens, and people cheer it? What is going on with this country?”
Paul also hypothesized how the government could begin killing American journalists with impunity if the media became a threat, adding: “This is the way this works. It’s incrementalism.”
Part of the president’s legal claim is based on the premise Awlaki went from being an inspirational figure to an operational Al Qaeda asset actively engaged in planning attacks against the United States.
However, Obama and his legal team have refused to declassify evidence supporting these accusations. Azeem Ibrahim, a Harvard international security specialist, captured the angst surrounding this case in The Huffington Post:
Political assassinations were banned by President Gerald Ford in 1976, so people on the CIA list are assumed to be military enemies of the U.S. and therefore legitimate targets. The underlying unease about Al-Awlaki’s assassination is that there is considerable argument about whether he had become “operational” and was actively plotting or whether he was merely inspiring terrorism. It is unfortunate that more information, if indeed it exists, is not made public to help clarify the situation.
Ibrahim also argued that, although Awlaki was certainly a radical who likely incited the deaths of thousands, Obama has abandoned American principles in pursuit of the war on terror. Not to mention, the president has contradicted his own words, such as his oft-repeated refrain that, “we do not have to make a false choice between security and values”.
Legal expert Harvey Silvergate delivered a strong opinion in a Forbes piece entitled, “Obama Crosses the Rubicon: The Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki”:
Nearly ten years after the rushed and largely unread Patriot Act was made law, the United States has entered into a new realm of secrecy, as a constitutional law professor turned President has brought the state’s secrets provisions to their logical conclusion: he has targeted and killed American citizens based entirely upon information he refuses to make public or submit to a duly established body or tribunal.
According to Reuters, as liberals decried the Awlaki strike as extrajudicial murder, conservatives accused the Obama administration of hypocrisy because it insisted on publishing Bush-era legal memos justifying the use of interrogation techniques, but now it refuses to make public its rationale for killing a U.S. citizen without due process.
Meanwhile, Obama has found unlikely bedfellows over at FOX News. Brit Hume defended the president, specifically taking issue with the notion Awlaki’s due process was violated. According to Hume, Awlaki had “no rights” to speak of because he was part of a group the U.S. had essentially declared war on.
William Kristol argued that, aside from the difficulty of issuing a warrant to someone hiding in Yemen, the killing was justified because Awlaki proudly boasted in public about his responsibility in the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Kristol also dismissed Congressman Paul’s objections, saying it sounded as if Paul had been “hanging out with 9/11 truthers.”