Saturday, October 1, 2011

All Bets Are Off

Lefty liberal that I am, when I’m searching for my daily news fix, particularly when I’m looking for someone to validate my opinions, I’ll channel surf my way over to MSNBC. There I can find a plethora of pundits who share my viewpoint on the world. I usually find myself in agreement with Rachel Maddow on most things, that’s why when I saw this article about her reaction to the al-Awlaki killing, I was surprised to find myself on the other side of the fence for a change. Maddow and other journalists and politicians have raised questions about the legitimacy of the president issuing a kill on sight order for an American citizen without due process. The argument is that since there was no trial, no conviction, no court determined guilt to justify an execution order, how could the president issue one.

When they announced Bin Laden was killed, my daughters were surprised by my reaction. Nicole asked me why I was happy that a man was dead. I tried to give her context, explain to her what Bin Laden had done not only to the people who died in the building on 9/11, not only to their families and co-workers and friends, but to an entire nation. We had a friend and a friend’s mother who worked in the Towers. Thankfully, both got out, but despite that, our world and our outlook changed that day. Everyone’s did. I talked to Nicole about how life was in our country before 9/11, what our perceptions were – that we were so naïve to believe that an act of terrorism wouldn’t and couldn’t happen on our own shores. I described to my ten year old about a time before airport security checks and homeland security departments and terror alerts. I told her about planes crashing into buildings, underwear and shoe bombers, lone shooters on military bases, the reason officers with mirrors check under our cars when we enter parking garages, and why back then, before all this happened, we weren’t so afraid. I tried to explain to her that back then, the average person never believed that groups of people in foreign lands hated us so much that they would take their anger to the streets in a campaign of terror and target civilians rather than soldiers. Still, on some level, to my child, it didn’t justify why I was happy that someone had been killed. Hadn’t I always taught her that killing was bad?

When they announced al-Awlaki’s death earlier this week, again, I was pleased with the action and again, my daughter was confused. Another man had died, this time, an American. I started to repeat what I had explained months earlier; finally, I gave up and just said, “If you publish on the internet, make video and audio recordings, stand at a pulpit and declare that you are at war against America and urge others, even help them plan how to kill Americans, all bets are off.” It wasn’t the best answer a mother could give. I know that. But in a way, it’s true. If you do something bad, all bets are off. You might get a trial, you might not. Maybe you should have thought before you started doing bad things. A guy walks into a bank with a gun drawn; I’m thinking he’s declared his intentions, whatever happens after this, he brought it on himself. I really don’t want to hear him complaining if he gets shot by the police before he gets a chance to have a fair trial before his peers – that’s on him. Like I said, I usually find myself on the side of the left wing pundits but in this case, I’m not too worried about the precedent being set by the president placing a kill order on an American citizen (here or abroad) without due process. Obama campaigned saying that he would target and dismantle the terrorist network. That’s what’s he’s doing, systematically, thoughtfully. I’m pretty sure he didn’t make the decision to sign the kill on sight order between grabbing a bowl of Cheerios and watching an Everybody Loves Raymond rerun on t.v. But now even Obama’s own supporters are giving him a hard time for doing the very thing he promised to do. Despite getting to live in a really big house with someone else to clean the bathrooms, it can’t be all that fun being president.

There was clearly no question that al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant and was engaged in behavior that resulted in a military action being launched against him. Is the lady on our block that leaves out peanuts for the squirrels going to be taken out by a drone missile without first being given due process of law because this precedent has been set? Sadly, no. As much as I would like her to stop her behavior – can I tell you how many rats she attracts to the block through her actions – I think it’s safe to say she’s not going to be targeted by the U.S. government for execution.

My daughter doesn’t get it. Maybe someday she will. Sorry Rachel, as much as I’m a fan, this time I’m not on the bandwagon.

If you want to read more about Maddow’s response, check out:

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