Does Obama believe he has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime?

This is a great day for America,” says a senior Obama administration official, but not such a great day for the people of Yemen.

Fayza Sulieman, a protest leader fighting for democracy in Yemen told The Guardian:

We always question the timing of these announcements from our government, [Yemen’s recently returned President] Saleh is on the backfoot and on the verge of stepping down and suddenly Anwar Awlaki is killed. We all know that Saleh’s ‘fight’ against Al-Qaida is the only thread of support keeping him in office. We pray that this news does not distract the world from our struggle against this tyrannical regime.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, vice chair of the prestigious American Society of International Law, as well as a professor at the University of Notre Dame, tells Danger Room why President Obama had no legal authority to order the assassination of Awlaki.

“The United States is not involved in any armed conflict in Yemen,” O’Connell tells Danger Room, “so to use military force to carry out these killings violates international law.”

O’Connell’s argument turns on the question of whether the U.S. is legally at war in Yemen. And for the administration, that’s a dicey proposition. The Obama administration relies on the vague Authorization to Use Military Force, passed in the days after 9/11, to justify its Shadow Wars against terrorists. Under its broad definition, the Authorization’s writ makes Planet Earth a battlefield, legally speaking.

But the Authorization authorizes war against “nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” It’s a stretch to apply that to al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, which didn’t exist on 9/11. But when House Republicans tried to re-up the Authorization to explicitly bless the new contours of the war against al-Qaida, the Obama administration balked, fearing the GOP was actually tying its hands on the separate question of terrorist detentions.

“It is only during the intense fighting of an armed conflict that international law permits the taking of human life on a basis other than the immediate need to save life,” O’Connell continues. “In armed conflict, a privileged belligerent may use lethal force on the basis of reasonable necessity. Outside armed conflict, the relevant standard is absolute necessity.”

So did al-Awlaki represent an “absolute” danger to the United States? President Obama, in acknowledging Awlaki’s death on Friday morning, didn’t present any evidence that he did.

As NPR reported, at a moment when few politicians are willing to question anything that is done in the name of national security, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul had some tough words for Obama

“I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul told reporters. “Al-Awlaki was born here; he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.

“I think what would people have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn’t assassinate him, who we were pretty certain that he had done it. Went and put through the courts then executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this.”

And if Obama thinks his much trumpeted overseas successes are going to help him get re-elected, as MSNBC points out, the failing economy is really the only issue that preoccupies American voters.

No president since George H.W. Bush has had more foreign-policy successes happen under his watch than President Obama. The death of bin Laden. The dismantling of al Qaeda. The ouster of Khaddafy. And the end of combat operations in Iraq. Yet when you look at polls and Obama’s approval rating, he’s getting almost no credit from the American public, a la Bush 41.

When you ask the public about Obama and foreign policy, he gets good marks. But it’s not front of voters’ minds. In a bad economy, as Bush 41 learned, what happens overseas doesn’t matter.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 thoughts on “Does Obama believe he has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime?

  1. Sue

    To answer your subject question: yes, he thinks he can order anyone killed. Shouldn’t that make us all pause to reflect about who this president or future presidents will decide should die without charges or conviction in a court?

  2. Norman

    It seems that the “O” has achieved the War Criminal Status that he was set up for. Congratulations Mr. P.O.T.U.S., you have your legacy set in stone today. Now after your out of office, you will be confined to the U.S. just as Bush/Cheney as well ass others of that ilk.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    Good Heavens. Ron Paul is now one of the very few political standard bearers for law and justice in the US. Couple that with his disagreement with the experimental, Mickey Mouse, economic theories of Bernanke, Geithner et al, which will blow up in catastrophic economic meltdowns before the end of this decade, and the mental and moral bankruptcy of the US is paraded naked through the streets of the world.

    Nobel Committee: it’s time you asked Obama for that prize back.

  4. charlie

    Obama is not satisfied destroying theAmerican economy now he wants to kill people. Look out tea partyers, bill oriley , rush limbaugh. hanady,

  5. Mridul Chadha

    I wondered what Ron Paul would have said to President Obama had Al-awlaki successfully staged a terror strike in the US. Remember he has planned several attacks on the US but unfortunately he wasn’t successful. Why was Ron Paul silent when Bin Laden was killed? Just because he has already struck the US. So the people condemning al-awlaki killing were waiting for him to attack US interests before authorizing the President to kill him. President Clinton ordered cruise missile attack in Afghanistan years before 9/11 to kill Bin Laden. It is easy to imagine what difference it would have made had those missiles hit their target. People who are questioning President Obama’s decision are wasting their time and everyone else’s. US killed a terrorist not a saint.

Comments are closed.