The last earthly sight ever seen by Al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. predator drone; a remote-controlled death machine from the sky... something once reserved to science fiction. Even as some Americans gleefully rejoice in the high-tech extra-judicial execution of a suspected enemy, others wonder fearfully what implications this assassination may bode for the future of our nation and the world.
Who was this man who our president assumed the moral authority to kill with the touch of one button? Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents. Considered a militant Islamic cleric al-Awlaki was reputedly a powerful figure within al-Qaida, accused of recruiting and "inspiring" young men to carry out acts of terrorism against the United States. Acts like the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up an American airliner bound for Detroit.
al-Awlaki was a powerfully motivational speaker whose Internet sermonizing called for Jihad against the U.S. But, U.S. intelligence officials claim he did more than just preach and inspire; they believe he took a more direct role in carrying out terrorist activities.
Now, we'll never know. Because, the accused terrorist was never brought to trial. He was declared too dangerous to live and ordered killed by a machine. Because the president of the United States, and a handful of generals said he deserved to die. Perhaps they were right. Then again...who's next?? If anyone...U.S. citizen or no... can be deemed dangerous to U.S. national security, simply by virtue of preaching or stating an opinion deemed to be "inflammatory" or "anti-American" and on the basis of that sentenced to death by the autocratic command of a general or president...then what has America become? And, who is safe?
Science has provided us with mechanical executioners that can kill anyone anywhere in the world. No trial. No counsel. No presumption of innocence. No jury. Just a government official who with a pushbutton can eliminate anyone anywhere in the world. What a feeling of almost godlike power we risk instilling in our leaders by allowing such power to exist.
If such weapons can be sent to kill Americans in other nations without due process, what is there to prevent the same being done on American soil? Ron Paul criticized the assassination, citing a dangerous precedent. For that, his public support drastically dropped off. Could someone like Ron Paul therefore be declared a "potentially disruptive element" and be targeted for remote-controlled execution?
Now that we have "smart bombs" and other machines that kill, quickly and efficiently the world over...now that law and due process have been abandoned in cases deemed a threat to national security...how long will it be before the decision of who lives and who dies is made by computers in the Pentagon? How long before autonomous robotic machines programmed to designate and "neutralize" perceived threats to national security have the power of life and death over all of us?
First, presidents with the power to wage war without Congressional approval. Now, presidents with the power to kill anyone any where in the world at will. What next? War turns us all into monsters. Will the machines we create to wage those wars someday become the masters of our fate?