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The Nobel Laureate and His Kill List

March 3, 2013

Soon after Barack Obama took office, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s hard to say why, since he had not really done anything yet. The Nobel Committee was probably just relieved to see Bush (“George the Lesser”) and Cheney (“Five Deferments”) and the rest of the odious and war-mongering neocon crowd leave the scene. The world would surely be a safer and more peaceful place without them.

So they gave the Peace Prize to Mr. Obama—who had opposed the Iraq misadventure as a junior Senator and could give a pretty good speech. I hope that history will sort that out in due course.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Obama noted (for the full test see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/10/obama-nobel-peace-prize-a_n_386837.html):

…I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed.

Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Uh Oh—this is the Nobel Peace Prize, right?

Three and a half years after that august ceremony, we are discovering some things about this laureate and his policies that are quite astonishing.

Anwar al-Awlaki was a big wheel in jihadist circles. And a particularly repulsive character as these wack-jobs usually are. He was involved in all sorts of ridiculous radical Islam propaganda and had some loose ties to the Ft. Hood shooter. He apparently recruited the underwear bomber. He so annoyed the administration that the laureate had him killed in a drone strike in Yemen. We also killed his 16 year old son, who, according to Robert Gibbs, “should have had a more responsible father” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/robert-gibbs-anwar-al-awlaki_n_2012438.html).

So another Muslim martyr gets his seventy virgins—no big deal, right?

Except that al-Awlaki was an American citizen—born in New Mexico. As a citizen, he was under the Constitutional guarantees of due process. At least we didn’t water board him. After all, that would have been wrong.

He was on a list of targets (people who need killing) that has, or had, at least one American citizen. That’s right—a kill list. Something worthy of a Latin American banana republic or a cheap Hollywood Mafiosi.

NBC News obtained a copy of the memo that describes the list (not the actual list itself). For the complete memo see: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf.

Now we have questions. (For an excellent summary of the white paper see: http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/17790-obama-s-kill-list-sanctioned-by-department-of-justice-us-becomes-outlaw-nation).

Quoting from the summary:

The United States can lawfully kill a US citizen overseas if it determines the target is a “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda or an associated group and poses an imminent threat to the United States, according to a Justice Department document published late Monday by NBC News.

The document defines “imminent threat” expansively, saying it does not have to be based on intelligence about a specific attack since such actions are being “continually” planned by al-Qaeda. “In this context,” it says, “imminence must incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity” as well as possible collateral damage to civilians.

It says that such determinations can be made by an “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government.”

NBC said the document was provided by the Obama administration last summer to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees as a summary of a classified memo on targeted killings of U.S. citizens prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The killing does not have to be based on intelligence about a specific attack? This decision can be made by an informed high-level official? Apparently, there is no independent review of these decisions. Conceivably, almost any American citizen could be on the list, depending on the whim of the informed, high-level (but unnamed) official of the US government. Feel better?

Who knew that Constitutional protections and guarantees of due process were so easy to dismiss? Maybe Senators McCain and Graham should have focused on this, instead of the idiotic sideshow of Benghazi.

So the Nobel Laureate has a kill list and you might be on it. No way to know for sure.

Watch your step.

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