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Published October 08 2011

Nelson: Kowtowing to tyranny and liking it

I last wrote that the 9/11 attacks not only killed thousands of Americans and led to perhaps 70 times that many Iraqi deaths but also finished off the America we old-timers used to know. The recent drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki glaringly confirms the latter.

Al-Awlaki was an American citizen. He was never indicted or charged with any crime. He was said to have “inspired” – not led, commanded or carried out – several terrorist attacks. He had the exact same constitutional rights as you or I. Does the phrase “No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” ring a bell with any of today’s insensate Americans?

President Barack Obama merely lifted his scepter, pointed at al-Awlaki, and said he must die. No trial. No charges. Just the government’s word (and we surely know how honest our federal government is – just look at all the WMD we found in Iraq). The feds can’t divulge their reasoning to us or even to the courts. It’s all a “state secret,” so even if the federal government goes about killing American citizens with not the slightest fig leaf of due process, we’ll just have to accept it at its good word.

Kings would have loved this: Kill a citizen, tell the judiciary to stuff it in its pipe and smoke it, tell the populace it’s all hush-hush, and, best of all, that same populace stands up and applauds.

We weren’t always this heedless and our government this despotic. We gave the Nazis at the Nuremberg tribunals legal representation, trials, and at least some rights of self-defense. The same Nazis who murdered millions, compared to whom al-Qaida looks like a Girl Scout troop, got due process. We imprisoned some, hung some and released others. Yet we – our federal government and the people – cannot give an American citizen charged with nothing even the slightest legal consideration.

Had we tried to arrest al-Awlaki and he forcefully resisted, killing him would have been justified. Had he been tried and convicted in a fair trial of heinous crimes against America, I’d have no problem with capital punishment. Had he posed a “concrete, specific and imminent” danger, his killing would be justified. All of us, however, should have a real problem with a government that kills Americans at its pleasure, in the dark and with no oversight or restraint whatever.

Forget about the black-robed buffoons in the federal judiciary. At least one has already written that he is helpless to stop the feds from killing Americans unconstitutionally and unlawfully.

Conservatives who wouldn’t give Obama the time of day are happily licking his shoes now. They haven’t the faintest clue about conservatism and constitutionalism. Like their liberal twins, they are kowtowing to tyranny and liking it.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.