Most Americans probably felt deeply satisfied when news broke that Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born radical Islamic cleric, had been killed in a targeted drone attack in Yemen. As in al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s death, the popular reaction seemed to be: This was an irredeemably bad person. He had to go.
Still, several elements behind the al-Awlaki killing should trouble anyone who respects constitutional due process. Al-Awlaki was an American who, despite the despicable murders and attempted bombings his hateful doctrine inspired, had a constitutional right to due process before being executed by a Hellfire missile.
Consider other thugs and terrorists who once ranked high on America’s most-wanted list, for instance, Gen. Manuel Noriega in Panama or Saddam Hussein and his henchmen in Iraq. Recall the extensive manhunts, often involving thousands of U.S. troops, so the bad guys could be captured and face trial. Evidence of such efforts in al-Awlaki’s case is not publicly available.
Some might argue: So what? He encouraged the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood. He inspired the Nigerian who attempted to blow up an airliner with explosives in his underwear. His words encouraged the May 2010 failed bomb attack on Times Square.
Perhaps. All we know is that he wrote a lot of emails and posted words on the Internet that reflected a hateful, twisted interpretation of Islam. Scores of American Muslim youths, euphemistically dubbed “jihobbyists,” commit similar rhetorical offenses on the Internet. Do they also qualify for airborne annihilation?
The Obama administration once prided itself on transparent civilian trials for accused terrorists. The paucity of information surrounding the killing of one outspoken American abroad should not pass unchallenged by his compatriots back home — no matter how glad we are that al-Awlaki is gone.
The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 17)
Family planning cuts a bad idea
Among the budget targets of House Republicans, one stands out as especially unfair and dangerous. It’s an effort to cut $300 million in family planning services such as birth control and contraceptive assistance to poor women.
On the surface the move appeals to notions of thrift and cost savings. But denying the means to avoid pregnancy will only lead to more births and additional medical costs. Avoiding a pregnancy is far cheaper than carrying one through.
So why is the GOP going after the federal family planning program, known as Title X, which has existed for more than 40 years? Because it would take money from Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of anti-abortion groups closely aligned with conservative budget cutters in the Republican fold.
Only a tiny sliver of Planned Parenthood activities is tied to abortion, and no federal money can be spent on the procedure. But this limitation isn’t good enough. The organization — and an estimated 5 million low-income women served by Title X — must be cut off.
A similar initiative lost in a budget showdown earlier this year. A Planned Parenthood cutoff was approved in the House but lost in the Senate, and the idea was dropped in a final budget deal.
In addition, Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, is demanding years of records from Planned Parenthood. His quest is for misspent money, lack of documentation and poor management, areas already policed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
His crusade probably won’t yield glaring errors, but that was never the idea anyway. What it will do is burn up Planned Parenthood’s resources and keep the erroneous notion of government-paid abortions before the public. It’s a shameful attack on women’s reproductive rights, family planning and sound public policy.
San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 18)