About a week ago, a US drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. He was purportedly a high ranking member of Al-Qaida and actively involved in plots against American interests. The interesting point of all this is that he was American born, and therefore an American citizen. So, the question becomes, was it legal to kill him without any legal due process?
I will say that my first reaction was good riddance, but at the time, I didn't know he was an American citizen. Is it hypocritical to believe that Guantanamo Bay should be shut down all of its prisoners tried in a US Court of Law allowing due process of all, regardless of their citizenship, and then turn right around and not bat an eyelash at the killing of al-Awlaki? How do the rules of engagement with respect to a war play out when the entity you are at war with is not a nation-state? As an apparent "officer" of such a military entity, or as an acknowledged leader of such an entity a valid target in war?
While it is apparent that no US court will be willing to rule on such an issue since War Powers tend to be left to the discretion of Congress and the office of the President. The one entity missing in all of this is Congress. Congress should pass laws with respect to this type of action so that the guidance for the President is clear. To avoid doing so is skipping out on its responsibility to enact such laws and therefore, they should not be so willing to criticize the President for this action.
I also can't help but think that if Bush had done this, there would be no end to the praise coming from the right as opposed to the guarded questioning of the legality we see today. Also, to be fair, there are plenty on the right who applauded this action as well. Again, whether I am bothered by that, I don't really now.
If I had to choose a side on this fight, I would say that I would be supportive of the action since he, by all appearances, was an active leader in a sworn enemy of the United States who willing left US soil to engage in activities against his country. On the other hand, I can think of other situations where somebody has committed treason and left the country. Under those circumstances, I'm sure the US would attempt to capture and extradite them to face trial. The question then becomes, was he acting in the interest of a sworn and active enemy of the United States.
Lots of food for thought.