By Matthew Rothschild on September 30, 2011

Forgive me while I don’t cheer the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born cleric whom the United States just killed in Yemen.

He was a U.S. citizen, after all.

He had never been indicted for a crime here, much less convicted of one, much less sentenced to death.

Still, the President rubbed him out.

We are told that he was a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and there is some evidence that his preachings influenced Al Qaeda terrorists, including a few of the 9/11 attackers and the shoe bomber.

He’s no angel. No doubt about that.

But does that give the President the right to summarily execute a U.S. citizen?

Did FDR have the right to murder Ezra Pound during World War II for vocally supporting the fascists?

President Obama asserts that right, not just to bump off Al-Awlaki but also other U.S. citizens, too.

On what basis? Where will it end?

The ACLU, which, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, represented Al-Awlaki’s father last year in an attempt to block his assassination, denounced this action.

"The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law,” says ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer. “This is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President – any President – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country."

“If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the President does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” added Ben Wizner, ACLU National Security Project litigation director.

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, much to his credit, also objected to the hit.

“To start assassinating American citizens without charges—we should think very seriously about this,” Paul said.

Yes, we should.

Who does Obama think he is, Michael Corleone?

His Justice Department went into court last year to make the claim that no judge in the entire United States has the right to oversee the President’s assassination policy.

The President has become judge, juror, and literally executioner, and that’s not the way our system is supposed to work.

And it sets a new low, and a terrible precedent, for the abuse of Presidential powers.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Obama’s Shameful Stance at the UN."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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