Assassins of Liberty

The assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki sets the kind of precedent that Americans will come to regret, but for now they cheer, like Romans hailing a death in the arena. Richard Miniter, writing in the Obamaite – and aptly named – Daily Beast, avers that not only was the killing legal, it was also “wise.” He writes:

“President Obama’s targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and died in Yemen fighting for al Qaeda, is a victory for America and for common sense.”

As if our all-wise and all-powerful President personally stalked and killed his prey, mano a mano. Obama is “like Lincoln,” says Miniter, who ordered the deaths of his fellow Americans in a vicious civil war – but a more accurate analogy is, perhaps, the Roman emperor Commodus, who personally fought in gladiatorial contests, and, as Wikipedia relates, “For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy.”

According to the US government, al-Awlaki was murdered because he “inspired” others to attack the United States through his preaching over the internet. He was also supposedly personally involved in planning the activities of the “underwear bomber.” No evidence of his guilt has ever been released: it’s all secret, along with the list of individuals marked for death by US authorities.

Yet this alleged “terrorist” wasn’t always so notorious: indeed, right after the 9/11 attacks he was summoned to Capitol Hill to lead a prayer vigil for Muslim congressional staffers, and was invited to the Pentagon to lecture on Islam. The idea was to find a “moderate” Muslim, who was “vetted” by the authorities, to “reach out” to the Muslim community, Fox News reports. The event was reportedly a luncheon, during which al-Awlaki denounced al-Qaeda, and, although “harassed” by audience members, “handled it well,” according to one eyewitness.

The trail of the “terrorist” imam leads us to the 9/11 hijackers, two of whom were devoted communicants of al-Awlaki’s San Diego mosque. So great was their devotion that they followed him to Falls Church, Virginia, when the imam took up his duties at a local mosque. He had also been investigated as early as 1999 for links to bin Laden’s organization. So why was al-Awlaki invited to the Pentagon?

We will never know the answer to that question, but what we do know is this: his phone number was found by German police in the possession of one of the hijackers, and the FBI tried to set him up with a prostitution bust, but backed off. Somehow he managed to get out of the country and flee to Yemen before the feds could get their hands on him – and there the murky trail of the “terrorist” imam drops off into the abyss….

The dreaded “conspiracy theorists” are going to have a field day with the al-Awlaki killing: they’re already headlining “Pentagon Asset Anwar al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen.” I’ll let them have their fun, and simply note that, in Washington, as in ancient Rome, one can quickly lose favor, and find oneself at the business end of a javelin – or a drone. It all depends on the whims of the Emperor President, who may embrace you one day and sentence you to death the next. Caprice is the chief operating principle of our “wise” rulers.

The assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki sets an important precedent, one that will go down in our history as a shameful moment, a turning point, when the policy of endless war empowered the President to kill his own countrymen without benefit of trial. Any American, whose “preaching” purportedly “inspires” a terrorist act is now fair game for our Praetorians. The first time we take out an American citizen on American soil, on the mere suspicion that he may be a “terrorist,” our legal eagles will point to the al-Awlaki case as justification. That a citizen of this country may be put on a list that marks him for death, without public trial, seals the doom of our old republic. Obama’s partisans hail his great “victory,” while their neoconservative rivals do the same – and there is no one left to wonder what has happened to the Constitution.

As America enters a period of travail, when the prospect of economic and civil turmoil becomes all too real, this precedent is terrifying. That the President may order the death of an American without due process of law means that the concept of law is no longer operative: it signals the end of the America we knew, and loved, and the beginning of … something else.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].