By Deepa Kumar

A federal judge made a serious error recently in throwing out an important case about whether the U.S. government can kill U.S. citizens abroad without due process.

Three U.S. citizens (Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan) were executed in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in 2011. Their families brought a lawsuit to obtain justice.

The government’s case against Anwar al-Awlaki was that he posed an “imminent threat” to the United States, and that it was impossible to capture him, so extrajudicial assassination was necessary.

But contrary to the claim that capturing him was not possible, al-Awlaki’s hosts in southern Yemen were reportedly willing to hand him over to Yemeni authorities if a fair trial could be guaranteed. Yet, the Obama administration chose to go ahead with the strike.

In a 16-page white paper leaked to NBC News, the Obama administration argued that “clear evidence” of a “specific attack” was not needed and that if a “high-level official” drew the conclusion that an individual was an “operational leader of al-Qaida or an associated force,” that was enough to kill the person.

In short, without any actual proof of a plot (which would make a person an imminent threat), the government has determined it can mete out the ultimate punishment — death.

On April 4, Judge Rosemary Collyer threw out the lawsuit even while she noted that the case raised serious constitutional issues. Troublingly, she held that government officials “must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress.”

Why should we blindly trust our leaders? If in fact they had evidence against al-Awlaki, should they not have provided it in court?

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this case is no government official will be held accountable for the murder of the 16-year-old Abdulrahman. A U.S. drone killed the younger al-Awlaki two weeks after a CIA drone killed his father and Samir Khan, who was the editor of a magazine sympathetic to al-Qaida.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was guilty of no crime.

Collyer’s ruling, in effect, lets the government get away with the murder of U.S. citizens. Further, by denying justice to the families, it perpetuates a legal system that treats Muslim-Americans unfairly.

This ruling is a disaster, and the extrajudicial killing of Americans is a disgrace.


Op-ed by Deepa Kumar, the author of “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.” She is associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. This op-ed is part of the Progressive Inc.'s "Progressive Media Project."


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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

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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