How to Disappear Completely: Lessons from the Antiwar Left, Pt. 1

N.B. Below is Part One of a three-part series detailing the demise of the antiwar Left, highlighting issues that have been overlooked by many liberals and the media alike. Enjoy.

The smell of bird shit seemed perpetually fresh, there were so many doves. As late as 2009, talk of impeachment proceedings for the previous President’s malfeasance remained more than a figment in the political consciousness of many Americans. After all, the preceding eight years had seen an unforeseen concentration of executive power, and with it, the proliferation of warfare abroad.

President George W. Bush had no qualms about using his proverbial sword at the dismay of many, most notably the American Left. In the years following the September 11 Attacks, liberals seethed in anger over the lies that fueled the War in Iraq, and the paternalistic repercussions that ensued at home. Many welcomed impeachment proceedings for alleged war crimes. The PATRIOT Act became a pestle to a decaying Constitution, rendering the Fourth Amendment a mere gimmick in the years to come and paving the way for such controversial measures as New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” program. The holding of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay became a symbol for violations of international statutes on torture, and American Muslims came under a McCarthy-like wave of suspicion, leading to prejudice and profiling from fellow citizens.

So popular was this antiwar sentiment and the clamoring for the restoration of civil liberties among the Left, that the Democratic Party would make it a plank on its 2008 platform.

We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans. We will review the current Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live.

We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of “inherent” presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years. We will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine duly enacted law. And we will ensure that law-abiding Americans of any origin, including Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, do not become the scapegoats of national security fears.

We believe that our Constitution, our courts, our institutions, and our traditions work.

In its operations overseas, while claiming to spread freedom throughout the world, the current Administration has tragically helped give rise to a new generation of potential adversaries who threaten to make America less secure. We will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools to hunt down and take out terrorists without undermining our Constitution, our freedom, and our privacy.

To build a freer and safer world, we will lead in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. We will not ship away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, or detain without trial or charge prisoners who can and should be brought to justice for their crimes, or maintain a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law. We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus, the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention that was recently reaffirmed by our Supreme Court. We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years.

What has ensued since Barack Obama’s victory isn’t the simple smattering of broken promises or the occasional mistake. Rather, it’s a complete reversal from positions held during his 2008 campaign. As head of the executive branch, Mr. Obama has fostered a paranoid, super-secretive White House, building upon the dark and destructive record of his predecessor. At best, his record on civil liberties and national security is incredibly worrisome.

The assassination of American citizens without due process, secret kill lists, indefinite detention, an unprecedented war on whistleblowers and furthering the dehumanization of war vis-à-vis drones, are just some of characteristics of Barack Obama’s Administration, which surpasses its predecessor in the art of state-sponsored sadism.

The Murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

Many of the President’s strongest supporters remain unaware of the tragic story of American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was 16-years-old when he was killed by a drone strike in Yemen during October of 2011.

Months before, the teenager’s grandfather — Nasser al-Awlaki — filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), questioning the government’s authority to kill Americans citizens without the right to a trial. Nasser feared for the life of his son, Abdulrahman’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki, a onetime engineer in New Mexico before his status as a radical Islamist cleric and al-Qaeda operative.

Among other things, the ACLU accused the U.S. Government of violating the Fifth Amendment, which states that no American shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The senior al-Awlaki’s attempts to challenge the government proved futile, and on September 30, 2011, Nasser’s nightmare became a reality. His son, and fellow American Samir Khan, were killed by a drone strike. Former Chief of Staff William Daley recalls Obama’s decision to extend his kill list to American citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki as an “easy one.”

Within two weeks, Nasser would have to re-live a similar, albeit completely unexpected scenario.

Unmanned drones assailed the southern region of Yemen on the night of October 14, 2011. They would kill dozens of innocents, including Nasser’s grandson, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was playing in the streets with friends that fateful evening.

The Obama Administration’s killing of a teenager, one who had never been accused of any crime — one who had not seen his father in two years since the latter went into hiding — sparked minimal outrage stateside.

Little was made of the young al-Awlaki’s murder in the media and even less by the Obama Administration. To date, Abdulrahman’s death has yet to be acknowledged by Barack Obama. The President has also decided to keep the reasons for both al-Awlaki executions a state secret.

The government officials who have commented on the teenager’s death, have assured it was a mistake, though for the time being, we’ll never know.

Observers may note that the teenager’s death, as tragic as it was, is collateral damage that arises from the rigors of combating global terrorism.

But the young al-Awlaki is hardly the first, nor the final casualty of President Obama’s bloodlusting obsession with remote-control bombing.


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