There is an almost Manichean quality to the mindset of Paulbots and conservo-gnostics when it comes to the Constitution of the United States – an ‘either/or,’ ‘black/white,’ ‘good/evil’ dichotomy that admits of no fog or shades of gray. In some cases, they remind me of the Pharisees described by the Gospel writers in the New Testament, for whom the precise letter of the law and the unquestioning adherence – often to the point of absurdity – to its most literal interpretation becomes the sum of all desires and ne plus ultra of all conscious actions. It is one thing to evince a profound respect for the Constitution coupled with a determination to hew as closely as possible to the law it proclaims; it is another thing entirely to fetishize it – and this is precisely what Paulbots and their fearless leader do best.
Yet another dreary case in point comes to us after the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a member of al-Qaida’s top leadership echelon who also happened to be an American citizen by birth. I won’t bog down this article with the details of his biography except to point out that, in his case, American citizenship counted for nothing more than a legal technicality.
Even by 14th Amendment standards (“All person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”[Emphasis added]), his status as an American citizen was questionable. Both of his parents were Yemeni nationals who never established a permanent domicile here, according to the standard established by SCOTUS in United States v Wong Kim Ark.
When his father completed his university studies here in 1978, 7 year old Anwar returned to Yemen with his parents. At some point during that time, his father became the Agricultural Minister of Yemen and in 1991 Anwar returned to the U.S. to study at the University of Colorado. But he did so with a scholarship from Yemen – along with a Yemeni visa. In light of the fact that (a) Yemen does not recognize dual citizenship, (b) children born abroad of Yemeni citizens must obtain special permission to be declared citizens, and (c) only Yemeni citizens are granted Yemeni passports, it follows that Anwar Al-Awlaki effectively renounced his U.S. citizenship – even if, according to U.S. law, he did not.
His subsequent history as a self-proclaimed – and actively engaged – enemy of the United States is well-documented and needs no repeating here. Awlaki was a proud member of al-Aqaida who got what was coming to him yesterday. Rest in pieces.
All of which brings us to New Hampshire, where Dr. Ron Paul (aka Crazy Uncle Ron) is campaigning to become the Republican nominee for president of the U.S. – in spite the fact that he has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. There in the Granite State, Uncle Ron held forth on the news of Awlaki’s welcome death:
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is condemning the Obama administration for killing an American born al-Qaida operative without a trial.
Paul, a Texas congressman known for libertarian views, says the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki on Yemeni soil amounts to an “assassination.” Paul warned the American people not to casually accept such violence against U.S. citizens, even those with strong ties to terrorism.
I suppose Dr. Paul’s statement would resonate more plausibly if Awlaki had remained here since birth, had not engaged in a de facto renunciation of his American citizenship and, most importantly, was present on American soil at the time of his death. Thus NRO’s Andrew McCarthy’s response to NRO’s Kevin Williamson on this issue:
Kevin would have a stronger case if Awlaki had been killed in the U.S. But he was in Yemen — as an avowed member of al-Qaeda, a foreign enemy our nation is at war with under Congress’s authorization of military force. There already is precedent for conducting military operations against Americans under those circumstances, most recently the Supremes’ 2004 Hamdi ruling.
The precedent that would be radical is the one Kevin seems to be arguing for, namely, that American citizens carry the protections of the Constitution wherever in the world they go, and however hostile their stance toward the U.S., even in wartime. How far do we take that precedent? Would we have needed an arrest warrant to capture Awlaki? A search warrant to raid his hideout in Yemen? Would he need to be brought to the nearest available magistrate, assigned counsel, and advised of the charges against him? Does he get Miranda warnings? Does it matter the the writ of American courts and the authority of American law-enforcement agents do not apply in Yemen? Does it matter that Congress has authorized military operations and, therefore, that the laws of war apply?
I think you can see Awlaki as an enemy combatant or as a criminal defendant, but you have to follow through with the logic and consequences of either choice. In my mind, he’s an enemy combatant.
And I’m pretty sure that in the minds of most conservatives, Awlaki died an enemy combatant. Once again, Crazy Uncle Ron has given us a glimpse into life as…Crazy Uncle Ron.
By the way…State Senator Mike Doherty – who may be preparing to challenge Robert Menendez for the latter’s U.S. Senate seat – has endorsed Crazy Uncle Ron as a candidate for President of the United States.
Will State Sen. Doherty stand by Dr. Paul’s comments or will he default to weasel mode and distance himself as he has done before with other positions taken by Dr. Paul? This will be interesting, insofar as Sen. Doherty has embraced Dr. Paul’s bogus “illegal war” argument.