<< That Didn't Take Long | Main | All By Themselves? >>

The Bombers' Inspiration: Hate

ABC News carries this story about the first disclosures of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to his interrogators.  It recounts:

Authorities tell ABC News they now believe the two foreign-born brothers were inspired to violence by the Internet preaching's of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic American-born radical jihadist, who has been dead now for more than a year. They used instructions from an al Qaeda Internet magazine to make their pressure cooker bombs.

What a surprise!  It was Jihad!  Gosh, what next?  (That, unfortunately, is a serious question).  I guess I should add here that al-Awlaki, the Joseph Goebbels of radical Islam, "has been dead now for more than a year" because we sent a drone to kill him, much to the consternation of feckless airheads the ACLU.   The real problem with killing al-Awlaki was not, of course, that we did it, but that we didn't do it earlier, thus enabling him to inspire the likes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.


In a spirit of respect and civility, I would like to say that some of us "feckless airheads" simply take the view that Anwar al-Awlaki should have been arrested rather than assassinated, and if convicted for activities which certainly have a potential for ongoing violence, should have received any punishment consistent with the Eighth Amendment up to and including life without possibility of parole. The principle of not killing suspects or prisoners whom it's possible to arrest and imprison is the strongest rejection of the terrorist ethos for which al-Qaida stands. You may disagree, but I fail to see how a preference for not killing people, even those who have done great evil, shows a lack of reason or imagination. And I would add that coordinating with the authorities in Yemen to apprehend Anwar al-Awlaki would have been an edifying lesson for the world in the real struggle against violent extremism.

1. I am less interested in the supposed respect and civility of your side -- such respect having been shown by instantaneously and falsely blaming the bombing on the Tea Party and tax protesters -- than I am with substance.

2. al-Awlaki was not a "suspect." He was a deadly (literally) enemy and a Jihadist warrior.

3. How blithely you suggest that others take the substantial risks of apprehending al-Awlaki in his well-armed hideout while you sit at home, typing messages about how Amerika Stinks. Unless, of course, you're a member of Seal Team Six. Are you?

By the way, do you think Seal Team Six should be indicted for murder, since they nailed poor, old Osama while he was peacefully sitting at home watching movies? Killed one of his wives, too. Wouldn't you say that was yet more American barbarism?

4. Read some law. It's the death penalty, not LWOP, that is the most severe "punishment consistent with the Eighth Amendment." The mere fact that you prefer to keep these lovely fellows around to preserve the possibility that they'll do it again does not change the holdings in Gregg or Baze v.Rees.

Please let me begin by identifying myself as Margo Schulter; I didn't realize that my name wouldn't be included with my previous comment, to which you responded by raising four points which I'll now address.

First, I'm shocked anyone would blame "the Tea Party" as if that movement were synonymous with Tim McVeigh, any more that those of us in the camp of social democracy are synonymous with the Symbionese Liberation Army! More civility on all sides would be a good thing. And I should that the noble patriot Richard Vigurie, a member of the Tea Party Movement, is one of the people I most admire. He and I seem very much agreed on some main religious and pragmatic arguments against the death penalty, although our mileage would doubtless vary on many other issues.

Secondly, while some suspects are innocent, a great many can be both guilty and dangerous! Maybe I've received an overdose of Fortescue and Blackstone and the like and become passionately attached to quaint concepts like a presumption of innocence until trial and conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. That goes for Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden, or anyone else: they are neither above nor below the law.

Thirdly, before addressing Osama bin Laden, I should briefly note that my recent typing has included an appeal to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), aka North Korea, to declare an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolition; and also an observation that Hamas is not necessarily an ideal model to be emulated globally, given its participation in extrajudicial killings of civilians as well as legal executions in Gaza. The United States of America has much that is beautiful, as well as some human rights problems. Human rights advocacy should begin at home but impartially encompass the world.

But as to the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the watchword should be respondeat superior ("Let the superior [who gave the orders] answer"). Impeachment is the main remedy. President Obama's declaration before his election in 2008, "We will kill Osama bin Laden," is evidence of what I would term mens rea. Statements published so far -- and not made in a court of law, I would emphasize -- suggest that the raiders were trained or directed to have a preference not to take detainees. That kind of policy would in my view by contrary to the law of nations and impeachable.

As for Seal Team Six, I will say in a spirit of patriotism that if they had had better training and orders, and possibly also better state-of-the-art weapons for swiftly and nonlethally incapacitating an actual or potential threat, they would likely in the actual scenario have arrested Osama bin Laden and brought him to justice before an international tribunal, where he could have received the just retribution of a life sentence in some 21st-century equivalent of Spandau Prison. And I would have poured a cup of diet cherry soda and joined you in toasting these gallant servicemembers.

Finally, Gregg has been intimately familiar to me for 35 years, and I thought it fairly implicit in my first comment that it was wrongly decided and should be overruled. Baze is another discussion. The Constitution transcends bad interpretations like Plessy, Betts, and Gregg, that sometimes come down, and I write accordingly. A SuperMax setting such as ADX Florence is designed precisely to minimize as much as humanly practicable "the possibility that they'll do it again," and refusing to kill people preemptively is one of the prices of civilization. Knowing that a comment, even more than a brief, should be brief, I'll stop here.

Thank you for a thoughtful and courteous reply, one with which I am in such complete disagreement that I wouldn't know where to start.

Your comments are, however, welcome, so far as I am concerned.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives