Perhaps Mr. Obama ought to have expected such accusations of hypocrisy - and he surely left himself wide open for them when he gave the go-ahead for an operation that, one could argue quite justifiably, was illegal - except for the fact that Obama stole another page from the Bush/Cheney playbook by having administration lawyers concoct a legal brief that "legalized" this act. (John Yoo must be laughing - and expect to see some broadside from him in the wake of all this.)
Juan Cole has it right: Awlaki should, at the very least, have been tried in absentia before Obama took such an action.
It is, however, difficult to see in what way al-`Awlaqi could be configured as a soldier in an enemy army with which the US is actively at war. He was an American citizen of Yemeni extraction (and dual citizenship), living in Yemen. That he was an American is not very relevant to this issue. You can be an American and still be an enemy combatant, as with the German saboteur born in the US, who was sentenced to death as an enemy combatant after WWII for sabotage in the early 1940s. But the United States is not at war with Yemen, and al-`Awlaqi is not in the Yemeni military anyway. The idea that, legally speaking, the US could be at war with small terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda strikes me as a non-starter. A rhetorical flourish such as the “war on terror” is not a legal statute or article in the constitution. The killing of al-`Awlaqi differs from that of Usamah Bin Laden because in the latter case a US expeditionary force was confronted with someone who appeared to be going for a weapon, whereas al-`Awlaqi was simply targeted. . . .
If people want the United States to be able to declare war on non-governmental organizations that maintain private armies and so are para-statal, we need new statutes or perhaps a constitutional amendment.So, although US courts tend to defer to the executive on military actions abroad, I just can’t understand under what constitutional provision al-`Awlaqi was killed. If it wasn’t done constitutionally, then it was wrong. . . . By simply blowing al-`Awlaqi away, the US government deprived him of his sixth amendment rights to trial before a judge and habeas corpus. Note that the German saboteur with American citizenship executed after WW II was tried first. Likewise, enemy combatants in US custody, such as those at Guantanamo, were declared by the US Supreme Court to have the right of habeas corpus. So that Newt Gingrich thinks al-`Awlaqi was a traitor or a terrorist (and this a rare case where I agree subjectively with the Newtster) is irrelevant to his legal status. Unless a judge has pronounced him to be those things after a trial, he was not as far as the US constitution and the US government is concerned.I highly recommend the entire piece, here.
Awlaki was a propagandist for al-Qaeda, not an operative. To assert that he represented an imminent threat to the US is a bit of a stretch. And, as noted here, by the ever-spot-on Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick, his assassination drew barely a yawn across most the Arab countries, for whom the US's campaign against al-Qaeda is little more than a sideshow, a footnote to what they view as the hugely more important issues and developments that comprise the "Arab Spring" - and that include the destructive - and illegal - Israeli decision to build more housing for Jewish colonists in East Jerusalem.
But, finally, why can't they leave poor old Dick Cheney alone? In late 2011, American politics features few more pathetic figures than an old man, soon to be laid in his grave, going to that grave protesting that he and his boss were right all along in invading Iraq, and in waterboarding, "renditioning," and torturing scores of people, many of whom committed no graver offense than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Frankly, it disgusts me that Ms. Crowley sought to interview him. He has nothing of value to say, no constructive input to contribute to our foreign-relations dialogue. And to bring him once again into the public spotlight only reminds people across the planet of the boneheadedness of Bush's policies and decisions, and reminds some of them that, indeed, the US does deserve some payback at their hands.