Reasoning Murder

Current dilemmas facing the US are the death penalty (see Troy Davis) and the killing of Anwar al Awlaki. In light of these events and when considering our laws, Government stances, and public discourse I can’t help but turn to Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”.

In my younger and more impressionable days I sided with the use of death penalty as justified punishment: detestable human-beings deserved to forfeit their lives. Looking a bit further I found that States often convict criminals who are later found innocent, witnesses lie, evidence is faked, new evidence is found, trial processes have flaws, and so much more. Criminal court cases can prove tenuous and confusing. Given inherent error with rebuilding the past, the death penalty is hard to stand-by and the associated monetary costs are abhorrent.

Yet, there are times when we can say with 99.98% certainty that this criminal committed a most heinous crime and evidence proves it beyond a shadow of the doubt. Locked up, tried, and found guilty: is it then OK to kill? Perhaps, if the risk of escape is high and the opportunity for the criminal to commit further human harm is also high. In US society though, in maximum security prison, that chance is extremely low.  The purpose of the death penalty then becomes what, revenge/justice? Does it assuage relatives or friends of the victims? Does it gain justice for the victim? Is it not enough that the convicted is locked up for life? Is blood for blood the right and only answer? At what point must we become murders? Individually, these are questions we need to ask ourselves. My preference stands with, what I’d like to believe, the moral high-ground. Namely that murdering the incarcerated is plainly wrong. Attempts to reason superfluous killing of another human-being falls short, reasons for capital punishment do nothing to improve society but rather damage our integrity and humanity.

Then there is the murder of Anwar al Awlaki, taking shape in a more muddy and shoddy form.  International law, The Constitution, Rules of War, Government secrecy, and conspiracy blend to create a confusing episode.  Not entirely obvious are the facts Obama and his defense (really offense)  staff had at their disposal. At many points it feels like Bush-era we’re going into Iraq cause we know they have WMDs. In Awlakis case  it doesn’t sound like a third-party arbitrator or judge/judicial panel was consulted (just legal professionals).  Certainly, Awlaki was denied legal representation. Awlaki’s death, on top of Guantanamo and CIA prison-cells in Somalia, make for patriotic discomfort and bad-taste nonpareil. When the facts come to light I bet we won’t be comfy and cozy with the truth, rather it will rival Cambodia bombings, Iran-Contra, and the like. Or maybe, Awlaki was a treasonous war-criminal, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, secrecy keeps us in the dark and many US citizens could care less.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Reasoning Murder

  1. pml

    Ok I’ll try to keep this shortish since it is a comment. Like you I have come around on the death penalty question. Although I still think it is useful only in rare rare instances. There’s just too much to say about the death penalty and the US prison system though.

    Personally, right now I think the larger issue is the al-Awlaki killing. If Bush had killed him people would be frothing at the mouth in anger over it especially the left. But because it’s Obama people are giving him a pass. However, I find it to be one of the most reprehensible acts by a president in my life time. I am utterly astounded that a president just murdered an American citizen without any oversight at all and most people are seemingly OK with that. The constitution at it’s most simplistic level is a document made to protect the citizens of this country against the type of abuses that the colonist considered tyranny. One of those abuses was the ability of the King to send the army wherever he wanted whenever he wanted without any oversight or approval. Another of those abuses was the King’s ability at times to act as judge, jury, and executioner based not on facts but on the mere whim or mood of the King. The fact that this president who campaigned on ending two illogical wars has not done so, but instead committed to at least one more country (Libya or Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen), doubled the amount of troops in the other (Afghanistan), and is currently negotiating to keep troops in the other in violation of our SOFA agreement (Iraq). Furthermore, he has continued to bypass the courts in true Bush style and has gone even further than Bush did by adding American citizens to kill lists without any oversight. All this has been done without a shred of proof that any of these citizens have done anything worse than express their first amendment rights. They still have yet to prove that al-Awlaki has done anything worse than right-wing neo nazi groups do on a regular basis. This is how the administration of the “most transparent administration ever” and the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner works: Subterfuge. Secrecy. Was al-Awlaki a bad person? I don’t know probably but maybe not. Apparently we will never know since the Obama administration refuses to show the American people any of the supposed loads and loads of evidence they have that proves his guilt. This shit makes me sick. At least with Bush you knew what you were getting. He didn’t pretend he was something that he wasn’t. Obama is the worst type of hypocrite pretending to be a progressive leader in one hand but his actions have shown his true colors.

    • If Obama gets a second term, I have a feeling he may go down in history with near-FDR proportions. A checkered Presidency with one or two things that really help historians neglect the atrocious aspects, honorable mentions for his war-time practices but not the defining moments. I’m guessing these moments will be an improved economy and movement out of Iraq/Afghanistan, both of which remain to be seen.

      • pml

        No way a Democratic president who is willing to help dismantle FDR’s New Deal will ever be compared to him favorably. If he gets re-elected we will have twice as many troops in Afghanistan as when he was elected. Not to mention the unauthorized expansion of the war into a multitude of other countries. FDR gets off the hook for a lot of stuff because the Nazi’s were a genuine threat to the world in a way that terrorists just aren’t. He also helped usher in an era of prosperity. Obama is going to have to get re-elected and do a complete 180 in order for him to be looked on favorably.

      • @PML Perhaps I am being a bit too optimistic about Obama’s chances of becoming a President he simply isn’t. I’d also challenge that WWII ushered in the era of prosperity, not so much FDR.

        Terrorist don’t have the numbers, support, or economy that the Nazis had but their ideas and goals are just as bad. Maybe even more so because religion powers their sails. After the Nazis clearly lost, they threw their hands up and that was that. Al-Qeda and the like have a hive-mind mentality that isn’t so easy to eradicate.

  2. pml

    @P Maybe you are too optimistic or maybe I’m just too cynical of this administration that is engaging in almost everything that it railed against as when it was a campaign.

    Well yes WWII helped usher in that prosperity also but you have to remember things were looking up before the war started. FDR had enacted meaningful reforms and jobs programs. The war sealed the deal and left America post war in a very strong position.

    Lastly, I don’t think the fanaticism of Nazis is any different than the fanaticism of AQ. It may not have been an organized religion but when AQ systematically murders close to 12 million people let me know. AQ is by the US governments own admission is down to just a handful of people around the world yet we are spending trillions on fighting them. They have been made to look more like a threat than they really are imo.

    • Nazism, while still around in some clipped skin-head form today, lasted roughly 10-12 years. The actions of Jihad and Muslim theocracy have been around for centuries. The number of deaths, mutilated, harmed, and destroyed tally more than the 12 million and if left to their own devices would surely make even Stalin blush.

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