Cheney Likes Obama's Drone Strikes, But Wants Some Credit, Too

Killing of al-Awlaki contradicts Obama's campaign trail rhetoric, critics say

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Dick Cheney said something complimentary about Barack Obama on Sunday. Now he would like an apology from the president. Cheney, with his daughter, Liz, took to CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday to praise Obama's drone-strike assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric believed linked to numerous terrorist plots. The strike was "justified," Cheney told CNN, but he added that he is waiting "for the administration to go back and correct something they said two years ago, when they criticized us for quote overreacting to the events of 9/11."

More transcript, via the Huffington Post:

"They in effect said we had walked away from our ideals, taking policy contrary to our ideals when we had enhanced interrogation techniques. They have clearly moved in the direction of taking robust action when they feel it is justified. In this case, it was. They need to go back and reconsider what the president said in Cairo."

Obama's speech in Cairo amplified the message he and other Democrats had used in campaigning for the presidency in 2008. The zeal to combat terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks had led well-meaning U.S. officials to undermine important Constitutional principles and due process. In Cairo in 2009, Obama made one of his most glaring unfulfilled pledges: the closure within one year of the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Cheney's interest in a presidential apology aside, the killing of al-Awlaki has raised serious objections from those who wonder whether it is undermining principles of due process. There are also strong defenses,  from both parties, of the president's use of unilateral force.

More on the CNN broadcast, from Bloomberg Businessweek:

“I believe there is a good case,” [former U.S. Rep. Jane] Harman, of California, said on the broadcast. Al-Awlaki was an “imminent threat” who was beyond the U.S. ability to capture and “had complicity” with al-Qaeda, Harman said.

Al-Awlaki was identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control list of “specially designated nationals” as a 40-year- old native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with dual U.S. and Yemeni citizenship. Last year, President Barack Obama approved an order making him the first American ever to be placed on the Central Intelligence Agency’s hit list.

Writing in The New York Times, Yasir Qadhi notes that al-Awlaki "appears to be the first United States citizen that our government has publicly targeted for assassination."

The accusations against him were very serious, but as a citizen, he deserved a fair trial and the chance to face his accusers in a court of law. Whether he deserved any punishment for his speech was a decision that a jury should have made, not the executive branch of our government. The killing of this American citizen is not only unconstitutional, but hypocritical and counterproductive.

The assassination is unconstitutional because the Fifth Amendment specifies that no person may “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” A group of policy makers unilaterally deciding that a particular citizen needs to be targeted is, by no stretch of the imagination, due process.

Similar arguments come from Michael Ratner, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought a federal lawsuit to try to stop the administration from acting on its intent to have al-Awlaki killed. "Is this the world we want?" Ratner asks. "Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike."

About the strike itself, the Guardian notes that the attack is also believed to have killed Samir Khan, another American citizen and publisher of jihadi propaganda, and Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi engineer and bomb-maker. If substantiated, the killings would make this the "most successful single strike in the history of America's controversial unmanned drone programme," the Guardian said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.