Home / Robert Farley / Al-Awlaki



I lack strong opinions about the Al-Awlaki hit, but here are some links:

This amounted to the assassination of a US citizen on secret evidence, even if there were understandable reasons for keeping the evidence of his operational involvement in Al Qaeda activities secret.  In this Ben Wittes post, you can see just how much weight “is believed” is supposed to carry.  I don’t find the argument that al-Awlaki could never have been apprehended particularly compelling; if drones can operate in Yemen, then potentially special forces can operate in Yemen.  I also very much doubt that granting an American citizen a certain degree of immunity from assassination-by-drone would do much to hamstring US operations, even if were were to allow for the sake of argument that the drone war is sensible and legal.

All that said, my “lack strong opinions” reflects a belief that the killing of al-Awaki is not the most troubling state sanctioned killing of the last two weeks; the process that killed Troy Davis is to my mind more likely to be replicated and more likely to kill innocent people than the process that led to the death of al-Awaki.  The state is the state; it kills when it makes road policy, when it makes health policy, and when it rolls out of bed in the morning. The killing of al-Awaki doesn’t represent the crossing of some sort of Rubicon, rather an assessment of the cost of legal inconvenience, and this is obviously nothing new. But then this simply represents an assessment of the gravity of the killing, not of its justice.

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