By Ron Paul
As President, I would not hesitate to use decisive force to repel any imminent threat. National defense is a primary function of Congress and the commander-in-chief, and, as chief executive, I would carry out my duties as outlined in the Constitution and in accordance with the rule of law.
President Obama apparently believes he is not bound by the Constitution or the rule of law. When it was reported that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen last week, certainly no one felt remorse for his fate. Awlaki was a detestable person we believe helped recruit and inspire others to kill Americans through terrorist acts.
We have to take the fight against terrorism very seriously. In 2001, I supported the authority to capture and kill the thugs responsible for 9/11. In our efforts we must, however, work hard to preserve and respect our great American constitutional principles.
Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced. As President, I would have arrested Awlaki, brought him to the U.S., tried him and pushed for the stiffest punishment allowed by law. Treason has historically been judged to be the worst of crimes, deserving of the harshest sentencing. But what I would not do as President is what Obama has done and continues to do in spectacular fashion: circumvent the rule of law.
On Feb. 3, 2010, Dennis Blair, then the country’s director of national intelligence, admitted before the House Intelligence Committee that “Being a U.S. citizen will not spare an American from getting assassinated by military or intelligence operatives.” This open admission by an Obama administration official, not even attempting to keep it classified or top secret, sets a dangerous new precedent in our history.
The precedent set by the killing of Awlaki establishes the frightening legal premise that any suspected enemy of the United States – even if they are a citizen – can be taken out on the President’s say-so alone. Part of the very concept of citizenship is the protection of due process and the rule of law. The President wants to spread American values around the world but continues to do great damage to them here at home, appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree.
When Nazi leader and Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann was convicted and executed by the Israeli government in 1962, it was after he was captured, extradited and tried. Respect for the rule of law never has been for the protection of monsters like Eichmann or Awlaki, who should meet their just fate – but for the protection of the vast majority of innocent citizens who should never become subject to mere governmental whim.
I don’t trust Obama with determining what protections I should be allowed as a citizen any more than I trust him with our general defense, the economy, health care, job growth – or anything else.
The usual justification for such abuse of the rule of law is that the post-9/11 period demands a different code of conduct to ensure people’s safety. But politicians can always find excuses for why they should be allowed to disobey the Constitution.
Our current President may think he can go to war without consulting Congress as the Constitution demands he must, simply because he has determined that a nation like Libya needed our assistance. He and his party may believe they can saddle the American people with a national health care program, the authority of which is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, merely because they deem it an emergency-like situation.
Simply put, it’s hard to imagine an issue in which this President could not find some extraordinary excuse to circumvent the rule of law. In fact, most of what he’s done to date is precisely along these illegal lines, with the Awlaki assassination being just the latest example.
I believe in our Constitution. I believe U.S. citizens who are tried and convicted of treason should face the ultimate consequence. Arresting and trying someone like Awlaki is not for his benefit, but for the benefit of all American citizens.
Serving justice is unquestionably necessary and important. But so is how it is served. Our first concern should always be for the rule of law, or we will continue to find ourselves under the rule of the lawless. This becomes of special concern when the lawless can now include the President of the United States.
This article appeared in the NY Daily News and is reprinted with permission