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Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Defending the "indefensible": Anwar al-Awlaki

Today the U.S. government acknowledged killing Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone strike. Was this killing "just," as Eric Holder says?

The U.S. says it was because not only was Awlaki saying bad things, but doing them - actively participating in and planning a variety of terror plots. If that were true, and proven, you would probably concede the killing was justified, at least "morally" if not legally.

But here's the thing - this claim is just that, a claim. An assertion. It rests on secret evidence. Not only is the evidence itself secret, but so is the method of obtaining that evidence. For all we know, it came from false confessions obtained at Guantanamo or elsewhere under torture.

Here's what we do know - the U.S. also claimed to have evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Evidence that was so strong it warranted not killing one person, but going to war, overthrowing a government, and resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands, possibly more than a million, people, including thousands of Americans. And that evidence was completely, and utterly, false. And what's more, even if the government didn't know for a fact that the evidence was false, they certainly knew that it wasn't sufficient to know that it was true, and they also knew that they were lying to the American public when they said it was.

So the evidence against Anwar al-Awlaki? I'll believe it when I see it. And probably not even then. For now, there is absolutely no reason to believe the U.S. government had anything like sufficiently reliable evidence to conclude that Awlaki was an actual terrorist, planning active attacks against Americans.

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