Friday, September 30, 2011

The end of Awlaqi and the Law

Anwar al-Awlaqi is dead.

I have mixed feelings about the killing of him. There's little doubt he worked to kill innocent people, and that's sufficient to be glad he's dead...and I am. On the other hand, I have some sympathy for the argument that his killing was extra-legal, and that we have a new precedent that dangerously expands state power. Glenn Greenwald has been the clearest and most rational voice on this. If we accept detention without judicial oversight, torture, and execution, all without any real legal safeguards, we will lose our civilization. There's good reason to be extremely cautious.

But on the other other hand (we're back to the first hand, please note) it's also not so obvious that this killing was extra-legal. It's clear that al-Awlaqi worked to kill innocent people; at least, there's plenty of publicly available evidence for this. (Yes, yes, I know, it is all a conspiracy... he was framed by the NWO. But then, he didn't exist anyway, that's part of the conspiracy, so don't get your tails in a twist, conspiracists.) So for rational skeptics, here's the question: when would the the police justified in shooting an escaping murder suspect?

My answer is that if there is reasonable evidence that an individual is indeed a participant in murder, and is reasonably expected to continue murdering, and they are making efforts to be beyond reasonable efforts to capture, then those are certainly sufficient conditions to justify shooting.

So far as I can tell, Anwar al-Awlaki's actions satisfied all these criteria.

For those who disagree, at what point, then, does it become unreasonable to let him go?

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