Trial by fear

Let me be the first to say that I have no brief whatsoever for American/Yemeni dual national and pain-in-the-ass cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (who apparently is the subject of a new video released by a supposed al-Qaeda affiliate and hence is the subject of renewed calls for his extra-judicial execution). If indeed he exchanged e-mails with the Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and he communicated with Christmas underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in such a way as to facilitate either of their plots, then I say we find Mr. al-Awlaki, try him, and if found guilty, punish him to the full extent of the law, up to and including the death penalty,
Notice of course, the italicized three words: “if found guilty.” It’s not as if our criminal justice system is, in its outcomes anyway, “fair,” or even “reliable.” If you are White and of means, you will receive a less harsh outcome (such as an offer of a lesser charge) or even a less harsh sentence after conviction than if you are not White and not of means, and this is true whether we’re talking about anything from drugs to shop-lifting to homicide. And with respect to our laws re: “terrrrrrrorism..,,” a friend showing up in your apartment with raincoats he says he’s talking to Afghanistan is now cause for hard-time, Indeed, one wonders just what the Government is afraid of with respect to going to court. And the answer, it seems, isn’t really the outcome (defendants are found guilty well over 90% of the time in federal court terrorism cases), but rather, the Government simply is afraid of having to publicly justify itself and its actions, including its choice of means and methods of investigation and capture, In other words, our so-called democratic and constitutional republic… is annoyed at having to be such.
And hence, we fast-forward to al-Awlaki, who is as much a “pioneer” as Jose Padilla was. Padilla proved we can detain our own citizens in a military dungeon for years, and as long as the word terrorism and images of burning World Trade Center towers are broadcast enough, there will be nary a peep out of the cowed, over-medicated public (except from crackpots such as present company, perhaps). Al-Awlaki’s pioneering role will be to prove that the Government can put a hit on an American citizen, and as long as its stenographers in the press recite how awful a person al-Awlaki is (and how awful the things he says are)… the public will be fine– we needn’t trouble ourselves with questions such as “did he really…?” and “shouldn’t we have a trial and at least hear his side of events?” ,
And even better, Padilla required action by the despised fascist George W. Bush, whereas al-Awlaki’s hit has been ordered by the beloved fascist, Barack H. Obama. And so you see, if or when an unmanned drone or CIA hit-squad finally does find and summarily exeecute U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, the rest of us can thank our lucky stars that this evil terrorist was exterminated like an insect, and not bother to have to trouble ourselves with wondering whether New Mexico-born al-Awlaki ever really presented the kind of threat that outweighs giving the executive the free hand to kill any of us–citizen or alien, Muslim or non-Muslim– solely at his whim .
Besides: the Lost finale is on tonight. This has been… “Trial by fear.”