In a Congress with approval ratings in the teens, the bizarre and eccentric is hardly unusual, but Congressman Dennis Kucinich stands out even in such low company. It's not every politician with the - chutzpah? mental illness? - to proudly proclaim in a nationally-televised Presidential debate that, not only has he personally seen a UFO, but he did so at the house of notoriously-loopy actress Shirley MacLaine. After that, it would be difficult indeed for him to do anything truly shocking.
Yet he has exceeded our expectations: Rep. Kucinich has proposed a bill which not only makes sense on its face, it's urgently needed, and it underscores an essential American principle we have forgotten in recent years. The Asian Tribune reports:
[Rep. Kucinich] has presented a bill in the House prohibiting killings or assassinations of Americans suspected of working with terrorist groups.
Kucinich's bill was in direct response to an order signed by US President Barack Obama allowing US forces to execute US citizens, such as the US-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who are suspected of cooperating with what the US considers terrorist groups.
"It was unacceptable when detainees at Guantanamo were held without due process, especially since many were later exonerated. It is unimaginable that the US would then replace detainment with outright killing," said Kucinich.
"The US government cannot act as judge, jury, and executioner," he declared.
Why are we citing the Asian Tribune instead of, say, the New York Times? Because with all the powers of Google at our disposal, it's the only remotely reputable-looking source to report this event as of this writing; the other candidates are lefty frothers beneath our notice. Yet the report is true, as Kucinich's own official Congressional website proudly proclaims.
When the mainstream media steadfastly refuses to report such an interesting and potentially-inflammatory event, it probably means something good is trying to raise its head above the ground. What Kucinich is trying to do ought to be completely non-controversial.
Should the U.S. government be in the habit of targeting and assassinating specific American citizens, no matter what they've done? Of course not - the very idea makes a mockery of our American rights, of due process, of our court system, the entire Constitution, and much else.
What's more, Rep. Kucinich has hit on the key to the whole issue: His bill does not ban the American government from killing our enemies in general, or assassinations, or using Predator drones, or killing bystanders by accident. It simply would ban the targeted murder of American citizens.
Why is this even an question? The Constitution could hardly be more clear:
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Has there been a trial for Anwar al-Awlaki? Has he been convicted of a "capital or otherwise infamous crime" under due process of law? Has he even been indicted by a Grand Jury? No.
Yes, by all reports he certainly is a terrorist fighting against the land of his birth; if our soldiers happened upon him in anti-American combat on the battlefield and blew a hole in him in the heat of combat, it would be no great loss and no Constitutional violation.
But for the President, on his own say-so, to send killers to target a U.S. citizen no matter how suspect, is appalling. A law banning this practice should not be necessary; the fact that it is necessary is frightening, and the fact that Rep. Kucinich was the only member of Congress or of the Senate with the integrity to introduce it is scarier yet.
It is a shame and a disgrace that no Republicans have co-sponsored this bill; every one of them ought to. It was a shame and a disgrace when George W. Bush grabbed civilian American citizen Jose Padilla off a Chicago street and had him hauled off to a military brig on suspicion of terrorism and held him for years without trial.
But at least he didn't have him murdered out of hand, and our court system eventually got the chance to frown upon the situation. Eventually Bush did the right thing and Padilla got his day in civilian court, where he was properly convicted and imprisoned under the firm hand of justice and due process of law.
Mr. al-Awlaki is a tougher case to deal with; unlike Padilla, he's not likely to show up in Chicago where our cops can arrest him. Instead, he skulks around the caves and hovels of the Middle East where our law does not reach. Surely his American passport shouldn't be a universal shield of defense from justice?
No. If al-Awlaki's crimes are indeed as foul as the government says, there's another Constitutional clause written just for him:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted. [emphasis added]
Has al-Awlaki been levying war against the United States? Has he been adhering to our Enemies, and giving them aid and comfort? If half of what we're told is true, the Feds should have no trouble providing "the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act."
Then, "The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason." Currently that's death, but the power to declare the death penalty for treason is reserved to Congress, not to the President.
As we've explained before, people who are not US citizens have no right to the full panoply of Constitutional protections; they were never intended that way, and by extending rights to terrorists captured on the battlefield we doom ourselves to fighting the same enemies forever. Over the centuries, though, countless Americans have fought and died to win and preserve our rights as U.S. citizens. Will we give them up so cheaply?
Dennis Kucinich's bill is in the finest tradition of American liberty and should be supported wholeheartedly by all lovers of freedom.
Anwar al-Awlaki sounds like the exact opposite. Fortunately, there's a right way to find out and deal with him: Convict him of treason in open court, or other forum as decreed by Congress, where we can offer him the opportunity to appear but carry on regardless if he doesn't show up.
Then, once he's been found guilty and sentenced to death in accordance with procedures decreed by Congress, then it's time to send the Predators to take him out - and not one moment before.
Otherwise, both our Constitution and our rights are meaningless. If the President can declare the death by fiat of an American citizen without going through any sort of legal due process, what can't he do?
In that case, being abducted by aliens starts to look, well, not so bad. What's Shirley MacLaine's address again, Dennis?