Should the US Assassinate Religious Terrorists?

Today's Times article raises a number of issues about an American born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who resides in Yemen and is plotting terrorist acts against the US. The CIA has targeted this person for assassination. The main question the Times probes is under our laws, what are this person's rights?

We think the Times misses a key issue in discussing this case, namely the ramifications of the fact that the subject is a religious leader. We believe this makes the man more dangerous as a terrorist threat because of the credibility such a person has among his followers and hence because of the intensity of religious fervor he can command of the believers whom he influences.

A political or ideological terrorist may also wield great authority over his troops and arouse in them a high level of destructive energy against the enemy. But we believe that military advisers and terrorism analysts accord a higher threat level to a religious leader -- and rightly so. You could make the case that religion is the nuclear energy of society, and accordingly a religious terrorist ought to be treated as a nuclear threat.

Here are snips from the news account.
U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism....

... As for the question of whether Mr. Awlaki is a legitimate target, Mr. Radsan said the cleric might not resemble an American fighting in a Nazi uniform. “But if you imagine him making radio speeches for the Germans in World War II, there’s certainly a parallel,” he said...more...
PS: We do not believe in or endorse assassinations of any kind. That approach is a quick and dirty way to go after your perceived enemies. Admittedly it does take more resources and time to take the moral high road, i.e., to capture, try and convict your foes. But in the long run such a course of action will benefit us all.

1 comment:

Richard said...

If a person's goal it to commit, to facilitate, to finance, or to openly advocate violent (aka terrorist) behavior, he/she is a legitimate military target. The definition of a lawful society is one which delegates a monopoly of violence to a democratically elected institution ruled by law in exchange for non violent lawful behavior on the part of its citizens. Law does not mean the absence of violence, but rather an enlightened regulation of violence.

Any person who chooses to operate outside of the law and act as a source of violence against people who respect the law is by definition a terrorist. If you have another definition, please let me know. It makes no difference whether they are religious, vegetarian, holders of an American passport, eagle scouts, or nice to their pets. They are valid targets for retribution. A law abiding country is completely within its right to defend itself against such people, even if it involves their deaths.