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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have injected themselves into the war on terror as never before, leaping to the defense of the man often described as the spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula: Anwar Al-Awlaki. There’s little doubt that Al-Awlaki provided aid and inspiration to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian “underpants bomber,” and to the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad. He has also called for the murder of civilians like Salman Rushdie and the young Seattle cartoonist who initiated “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Yet, despite the danger that Al-Awlaki continues to represent to the free world, the ACLU and the CCR filed suit in federal court to protect the radical cleric’s “rights.”
Al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser Al-Awlaki, asked the two groups for help after he learned that the Obama administration has targeted his son for assassination. Because the cleric was born in New Mexico, the ACLU and CCR maintain that he is entitled to due process in America’s legal system. Defending his organization’s decision to defend Al-Awlaki, Vincent Warren, the executive director of the CCR, said:
That’s what we do. We file lawsuits. …[W]e don’t believe the US should be wreaking violence for political reasons. It should be up to a court, not just the US government, to decide whether al-Awlaki poses a threat. The US should not be conducting the killing of US citizens outside the legal process, far away from any battlefield.
The proposition that the US is “wreaking violence for political reasons” is patently ludicrous. The United States is at war with a determined enemy and the fact that this particular conflict involves asymmetrical warfare does not relieve the president of the United States from his duties as commander in chief. Al-Awlaki isn’t “far away from any battlefield” because he and his fellow terrorists have defined the battlefield as the whole planet earth. Furthermore, the congressional war resolution passed on September 14, 2001 remains in force. That resolution authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against nations, organizations or persons that he deems to have helped bring about the 9-11 attacks and to use such measures to prevent future acts of international terrorism. Thus, when Al-Awlaki decided to join forces with al-Qaeda, he not only became an enemy of America, he forfeited his rights as an American. He’s a combatant.
Al-Awlaki is no more entitled to legal protections in a time of war than a Confederate soldier was in 1863. What the ACLU and the CCR are suggesting is the equivalent of requiring Union soldiers to obtain writs from a judge approving each and every target wearing a grey uniform before pulling a trigger at Gettysburg. In time of war, it is both the president’s right and his duty to decide how to prosecute that war and where to attack the enemy.
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