Assassination by Government: An Exchange

by Dave Stratman

April 16, 2010


Is the White House plan to assassinate a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, a reasonable response to a real threat, similar to a police sniper taking out a bank robber threatening hostages? Or is it something quite different, a step by our government which threatens the most fundamental freedoms of all Americans? 

I recently argued for the anti-government view in a brief post on a financial investment site, "Bobby" replied with an argument in support of the government that, on the surface, would seem compelling to many Americans. My response showed why "Bobby" was wrong, but it required me to challenge the government's entire War on Terror story line in a manner that is taboo in the usual public discourse. Others joined in, and in the nearly final comment a person posted an excellent short video statement criticizing the government's assassination plan. This exchange of views appears below, minus only a few positive and negative comments similar to those included.

US authorises assassination of US citizen

White House approves assassination of cleric linked to Christmas bomb plot

No presumption of innocence, no trial by his peers, no weighing of evidence, no due process: no Constitutional rights. Just kill him.

We know enough of the practice of dictatorial regimes to recognize the parallels: first take away the rights of people who belong to vulnerable groups that the ruling class has systematically propagandized against, in this case, Muslims (or, in another historical case, Jews). Once the public has become accustomed to the abolition of rights and due process for one particularly vulnerable group in society, it finds that it has lost due process and "inalienable rights" for itself as well.

The US government--and the Obama White House--is signaling that it will stop at nothing to impose its will on the American people. This has nothing to do with alleged terrorism (except to the extent that the governments manufacture "terrorist" incidents to frighten people into supporting increased police power for the State). It has everything to do with ending Constitutional rule for all Americans.
--Dave Stratman

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

Wow. I can't believe the parallels you are drawing. US citizens have rights, but also have to answer to the rule of law. This man allegedly committed treasonous acts, then fled to a foreign country. If he wants due process, he can make a phone call to the US embassy and negotiate a surrender agreement. Document the details in the press to ensure that the US follows through with a fair trial. But this guy would never do that. He hates this country and never intends to return.

When somebody robs a bank and takes hostages, the sharpshooters will take him out if it appears that it will save innocent lives. The robber never gets a trial because he has failed to surrender to the authorities and presents an ongoing threat. Likewise, a thug pulling a weapon on a cop never gets a trial. I know there are many differences between these situations but my point is that there are times when sanctioned killing of an American citizen is warranted.

The parallel you draw to the holocaust is tenuous. Hitler committed mass genocide, killing 6 million innocent Jews. The US is strategically targeting one man against whom there is strong evidence that he planned a terrorist act that could have killed hundreds of US citizens. And where are the restrictions on Muslim worship, business ownership and other freedoms? Although there is certainly a lot of ignorant bigotry in the US, Muslims have the same constitutional rights as every other religion.

A terrorist cannot hide behind a US passport. I hope he is captured and brought to trial, but I doubt he would allow himself to be taken alive anyway.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

To see the significance of the US government's plan to assassinate our fellow citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, we have to understand it in context. In the wake of 911, the US government:

--Rounded up over a thousand individuals whom it presumed guilty of links with terrorists or having knowledge of terrorist activities. These individuals were held incommunicado, chiefly in military prisons, and even the identities of those detained were withheld. In Latin American terms, they were "disappeared," though after varying periods of days, weeks, or months they reappeared--without being formally charged.

--Arrested one Jose Padilla in 2002 and charged him with links to terrorists and with conspiracy to build a "dirty bomb." He was held in military prison for 3 and one-half years before being sent to solitary confinement in a civilian prison. He was subjected to sophisticated torture: sensory deprivation, prolonged sleep deprivation, maintaining stress positions for long periods. The government dropped the "dirty bomb" charge for lack of evidence. Padilla was eventually convicted (2007) on conspiracy charges by a jury primed to strike a blow against terrorism; one row of jurors dressed all in red, one in white, and the third in blue. ( He was sentenced to 17 and 1/2 years on the flimsiest of evidence.

--Soon after its illegal invasion of Afghanistan, US military forces captured--and in some instances bought for bounty payments to Afghan warlords--many hundreds of individuals whom it accused of terrorism or having terrorist connections. It imprisoned these people at Guantanamo, Cuba, to put them supposedly beyond the protection of the Constitution (and the Geneva Conventions, apparently). It proceeded to subject them to many years of torture and brutal living conditions as well as imprisonment without trial or legal redress. At this writing more than 200 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. To this point, none of the prisoners (or there may have been one) has been brought to trial--pretty convincing evidence that the government has no case against them.

Why would the government trump up charges against some petty gangbanger like Padilla or detain over 1,000 people without charges or imprison and torture hundreds of unfortunate people at Guantanamo (or "rendition" others for torture at CIA black sites abroad)? Well, if the government is going to wage a "War on Terror," it has to produce--or invent--some terrorists.

But there is a more sinister motive for the government's actions, which relate to its plan to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki. Each of these actions has further eroded the most fundamental rights in the supposed "rule of law" that we enjoy: the right of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, the right to a speedy trial, the right to due process, and the freedom from torture. Each of these instances was designed to condition the American people to accept formerly unacceptable conduct from the government and to surrender rights that we previously jealously protected.

Who would have thought a mere ten years ago that our government would openly defend torture, or practices such as water-boarding for which we executed Japanese officers after WWII? Who would have thought the US would engage at Guantanamo in practices for which German officers were executed or imprisoned after Nuremberg?

Think I'm exaggerating? Look at Bobby's post. It assumes that Awlaki "hates this country" (which I suppose makes him worthy of assassination) and that he is a terrorist. It refers to the "strong evidence" of Awlaki's involvement in the supposed attempted bombing of a plane. What evidence? The article cited mentions no evidence. It merely says "he is linked to the attempt," whatever that means, and that "he has been linked to Major...Hasan," and that an unnamed US official says he's "a proven threat." Does anyone really think that Awlaki could just phone a US official and ask for a fair trial?

Anwar Awlaki is only one human being, and of course I do not equate his planned death-by-government with the murder of 6 million. I am saying that this is how it starts. We are being politically and psychologically prepared to accept the unacceptable. How many people does the government have to falsely imprison or torture or assassinate before we draw a line and say, Enough?
Dave Stratman


"Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

Look, I'm with you in spirit. I am a big advocate of civil liberties, believe it or not. I agree that the Bush administration's response in the wake of 9/11 was way out of control. It can be a slippery slope, and it's good that this issue is getting a lot of attention.

But you think my inferences about him were racial slurs or stereotyping? Have you actually read anything about this fellow besides the one article posted here? Here's one from the LA Times. (emphasis mine) Quote:

Reporting from Washington After concluding that he has taken on an operational role in attempted terrorist attacks, the Obama administration has authorized the capture or killing of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who is believed to be in Yemen, U.S. officials said.

Anwar Awlaki, 38, who was born in New Mexico, recently was added to the CIA target list after a special government review of his activities, prompted by his status as a U.S. citizen, one of the officials said.

Awlaki was in e-mail contact with Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas. He is known to have had links with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian suspected of attempting to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.

Awlaki is believed to be the first U.S. citizen the CIA has been given authorization to kill or capture since 2001. The U.S. military keeps a separate list of individuals it is permitted to capture or kill. Awlaki's name was already on that list.

U.S. officials say that Awlaki has helped transform Yemen's Al Qaeda offshoot into the terrorist network's most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Awlaki was known for delivering fiery sermons at U.S. mosques before moving to Yemen in 2004. But until his ties to the suspected Ft. Hood attacker became clear, he was not considered an operational planner.

And here's an excerpt from an article in the Nov. 9, 2009 issue of Time. Quote:

Awlaki, who now preaches jihad from Yemen, has a following among radical Muslims in the U.S. and Europe through his website, where his fulminations against the West and his praise of al-Qaeda are available in English.
His paean to [Fort Hood gunman] Hasan includes encouragement to other Muslims in the U.S. military to follow his example. Awlaki argues that no "decent Muslim" can serve in a military that "is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges." And he adds, "In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal [Hasan]." Indeed, Awlaki says all Muslims should join the holy war. In a how-to guide titled "44 Ways to Support Jihad," he says, "Jihad today is obligatory on every capable Muslim. So as a Muslim who wants to please Allah it is your duty to find ways to practice it and support it."

Anwar al-Awlaki is a sworn enemy of the United States who praises those who kill innocent Americans. The US government has concluded he "has taken on an operational role in attempted terrorist attacks". Do you not believe that? Does that not rise to the level of "capture or kill"? To me it does.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

You're right, Bobby, I had not seen these other articles you mention, but they seem to me to consist of the same unsubstantiated charges; e.g., "U.S. officials say that Awlaki has helped transform Yemen's Al Qaeda offshoot into the terrorist network's most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan." As the video posted by "sandwind" points out, and as we all know by experience, our government lies--habitually, systematically, andplausibly--else how could it justify its policies, as the WMD lie was used to justify the Iraq War and the deaths of over a miliion Iraqis and thousands of Americans? The government makes a charge then kills the guy and how are we ever to know the truth?

Look at this War on Terror stuff in a broader context. In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and left the US in a terrible position: the US no longer had any enemies, or none worthy of the name (you can invade Grenada just so often). How justify the gigantic Pentagon budget and the arms industry? How legitimize the now 720 US military bases around the globe? How frighten the American people into submitting to increased government police power and diminished rights? How distract them from the most massive fraud in history, the transfer of $13 trillion from taxpayers to the banksters?

Our rulers desperately needed a plausible enemy to replace Communism as a way to frighten Americans. They chose Islam. It was large--over a billion people worldwide. US intelligence agencies and other government agencies had extensive ties with Muslim rulers in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere, and the CIA had funded its largest project in history--$3.5 billion dollars--arming and training the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation; in other words, there was an already-made infrastructure of US/Islamic government and intelligence relationships to manage the conflict. And, best of all, the Muslims just happened to be living on top of our oil!

The War on Terror is not really about Muslim clerics or Osama bin Laden or other bogeymen. It is about controlling Americans. The War on Terror is about managing the American people in a period of high unemployment, catastrophic pension, investment, and real estate losses, and a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the rich. (There is a nice quote from an L.A.Times writer a few years ago that goes something like this: "The big secret is that the Iraq war is not about changing Iraq. It is about changing America.")

So I take with a very large grain of salt anything I read about supposed Muslim terrorism. Political Islam has been our government's ally at least since the days of TIME's 1979 Man of the Year, the Ayatollah Khomeini. In February, 1979 Iran had a broad-based revolution against the Shah led by radical (secular) students, oil workers and other unionized workers, with significant participation by politicized Muslim clerics. The revolution threatened to sweep the Middle East. (In May, 1979 I was at a cocktail party in Washington, DC with Hodding Carter III, Jimmy Carter's State Department spokesman. I said to Carter, "I guess it's pretty lucky for the US that a right-wing cleric has taken over an anti-capitalist revolution and turned it conservative." Carter grinned and said, "You might say that.") In June 1980 Khomeini executed nearly 100,000 students and workers active in the revolution and imposed a theocracy on Iran. About the same time the CIA began arming, training, and funding mujahadeen in Afghanistan. The CIA recruited Osama bin Laden as a chief agent.

Things are not what they seem in this War on Terror. There has been something very fishy about it each step of the way. Watch videos of the WTC and Building 7 collapsing into their own footprints on 911 and it's obvious that they were brought down with explosives. In other words, 911 was an inside job, providing "a new Pearl Harbor"--just the thing the government needed to scare the shit out of people and get them to accept just about anything the government wanted to do.

Look at the details of the Detroit Christmas crotch bomber and you scratch your head. Why would airport officials let a man board an international flight with no passport, no luggage except a small carry-on, who had paid cash for his ticket? Why would the US grant the man a visa to enter the US after his father, a high-ranking banking official in Nigeria, had met at the American Embassy with Embassy and CIA officials to inform them that his son had taken up with Yemeni terrorists? The crotch bomber has apparently had a change of heart and is cooperating with US intelligence agencies. All these things raise more questions than they answer.

So the next time we read about some scary Muslim cleric (with a beard!), and hear about all his evil thoughts and plans, ask yourself if the government and media have lied to you before and whether they are trustworthy now. The next time you're taking off your belt and shoes in an airport security line, ask yourself if this is about making you safe or training you to obey.
Dave Stratman

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

Well done, bravo!

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

May I suggest reading Samuel P. Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations," as the plan is all there, if you can read through the double-speak.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen


You're right- it must be the beard. There must be a massive conspiracy to put words into his mouth, going so far as to run a jihadist website under his name. Even the Washington Post is in on it!

"America is in a state of war with Allah," he said, referring to the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He praised the insurgency in Iraq and "martyrdom operations" in the Palestinian territories. Muslims must choose sides between President Bush and the "mujaheddin," he said. The solution for the Muslim world, he said, "is jihad."

He's probably a great American. Like you. Who advocates a revolution to overthrow the US government on your web site. Am I misinterpreting?


Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

Like you. Who advocates a revolution to overthrow the US government on your website.


Nice catch.

I suspect there may be an effort by portions of the U.S. government to smoke out government opposition with comments such as I see at that website. I can't tell whether that website is honestly what it appears to be or not. If you find yourself attracted to the comments on that site, be careful. As Dave notes above, there are some double dealers about.

P.S. -- Dave, I see you have a long record visible on the Web. My due diligence won't be easy. I do not expect to comment here on my further impressions.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen
Hi, Carl--

I didn't notice this note when you posted it, but let me reply to it now, please.

I assume that we are all watched by the government to one extent or another, and certainly it watches sites that openly espouse revolution, as does But that, unfortunately, is just the way things are. I'd be surprised if doesn't receive its own share of unwanted attention. It has some pretty thoughtful posters whose thoughts are not uniformly in favor of the powers-that-be.

Whether I or anyone else is to be trusted: well, that's another matter. I have made no secret of my view that we need a democratic revolution (and obviously have not sought to hide my identity on iTulip). Why would I have written two books and many articles about it if I had? But since we on these lists don't know each other personally, all we can do is judge the quality of people's ideas.

I would welcome it if you and everyone else on these lists would search out my writings through our site or just by googling (David G. Stratman/Dave Stratman) and let me hear what you think.

John Adams once wrote: "What do we mean by revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution. It was only the effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775. In the course of 15 years this happened before a single drop of blood was shed at Lexington."

Our real task at this time is effect a "revolution in the minds of the people." Discussions like these are an essential element of it.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

(Originally Posted by Dave Stratman )
Whether I or anyone else is to be trusted: well, that's another matter.

So far what I see looks good, not that I've looked all that far yet. Some awakening of minds needed, that's for sure.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen


I didn't suggest that there's a "conspiracy to put words in his mouth." I simply pointed out a few salient facts about political Islam:
--Radical Islam has long been closely allied with the US, sometimes covertly, as in the case of Ayatollah Khomeini, and sometimes overtly, as in the case of Saudi Arabia (since 1947) and of Osama bin Laden and the mujahadeen in Afghanistan and, as I assume you know, the Taliban, whom we backed in 1998 to govern Afghanistan. The relationships between the US government and radical Islam are not quite what we are led to believe.
--The US government needs an enemy, and it has chosen radical Islam to play that role. The Muslims are a particularly useful enemy, since you never know how they will strike next. Will it be a shoe bomb? A crotch bomb? Plus they live on top of all that oil.
--Frightening Americans with Muslim clerics talking about jihad is all part of the game. I have no idea whether this Alwahi fellow is a sincere religious believer who has been pushed over the edge by US government crimes in Afghanistan or a US government agent hired to scare the bejesus out of people or merely a sociopath. I'm sure it's all the same to the government--and to the Washington Post, for that matter. Whatever the case, he is very useful to them.

Now, about the matter of revolution. It's true, I think our government is in the hands of war criminals and sociopaths who will stop at nothing--torture, aggressive war, assassination--to enrich themselves and to stay in power. We didn't elect Goldman Sachs and their Wall Street buddies to run things for us, and we can't get rid of them by voting them out. We need a revolution to create government of, by, and for the people. Incidentally, I think it is quite possible to hate the government but love the people. As a matter of fact, that seems to me the only sensible path.

I believe we are at a point in history where the great task is to create a democratic, revolutionary alternative to capitalism and communism. I wrote a book, We CAN Change the World: The Real Meaning of Everyday Life (New Democracy Books, 1991), which explores the necessity and possibility of creating revolutionary change. I will be happy to send a copy to anyone who would send me his or her postal address.

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

The question being overlooked is why did the administration grandstand this decision?


But there is a more serious problem, I think. Namely, murder seems to be advancing in the U.S. toolkit as a replacement for torture. Both tools, murder and torture, produce exactly the same amount of useful intelligence. Both tools scare the hell out of people abroad and at home. Both tools serve to teach a domestic audience that certain types of people are not fully people and cannot be dealt with humanely. Both tools help to advance the further stripping away of civil liberties through fear and terror. David Swanson (

There's a domestic agenda at work here. Else why advertise the 'decision'.


Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen


You're exactly right. There's a domestic agenda here, which is why the administration grandstanded the decision. The assassination order seems to be directed against this American jihadist in Yemen. In fact it's directed against ordinary Americans. The message: step out of line and we can kill you. It sounds like government by death squad in certain Latin American countries.
Dave Stratman

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen

And this to add the Economic dimension into the discussion.
The Ignored Bubble

Re: US authorises assassination of US citizen


Dave Stratman edits and is author of We CAN Change The World: The Real Meaning Of Everyday Life. You can reach him at


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