Killing Awlaki and the Lessons of the Israeli Counter- terror War model: Terror Increases, Democracy Compromised

The United States government killed Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen who joined, as a propagandist and cheerleader, the Al Qaeda's war against the U.S. This killing raises a number of constitutional questions regarding the seemingly summary execution of an American citizen. The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution reads: "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." Was Awlaki "deprived of life" without due process of law? Due process has two dimensions- substantive and procedural. Substantive due process is the question whether the penalty is fair compared to the violation or crime and procedural due process is whether the punishment was imposed through a fair and just procedure. To constitutional scholars the killing of Awlaki raises valid fifth amendment questions.
Operational Threat versus Propaganda Threat/Hate Speech
Terror experts have a different focus- they focus on the impact of the killing on the counter- terror campaign. The questions asked are not constitutional or moral questions- they are utility questions. A number of terrorism analysts seem to think the killing of Awlaki is a victory in America's war on terror. In a Reuters story dated 9/30/2011 none of the experts interviewed took the constitutional approach. One terror expert, Michael Ryan ,stated: "Removing Awlaki is an important accomplishment because of his ability to speak on the internet in a familiar American accent. He sounded normal even as he was saying outrageous things. His importance relates almost entirely to what Abu Mus'ab al-Suri referred to as the third circle of jihad, what we call home-grown terrorism. (The first two circles are what we know as al-Qaeda Central and AQ affiliates.) He consistently delivered the message that terrorism against Americans was a laudable activity. He effusively praised Nidal Hassan for his shooting American soldiers on American soil. He could also deliver interviews in credible Arabic. In those, his message was generally that the United States was at war with Islam and that the United States tolerated only those Muslims that followed the American line. Muslims that followed the American line were actually no Muslims at all, according to Awlaki. So taking Awlaki out of battle was a good blow against this kind of hate speech that might appeal to troubled people inside the United States. On the other hand, Awlaki had no role in operations and his death will have no effect on the ability of AQAP to carry out transnational terrorist operations..."
Real Terrorism Experts: Martha Crenshaw, Pedahzur and Perliger
In post 9/11 era many claimed to be terrorism experts though they had dubious credentials as to language skills, expertise and training. Many touted the Israeli model as the right and only way for the U.S. to deal with the terror threat-claiming, despite real evidence to the contrary- that the Israeli approach is a workable and effective approach. The Bush administration declared a War on Terror, that is, it adopted the Israeli view of the terror threat as a war issue and not a law enforcement problem. One of the real terrorism experts is Martha Crenshaw. Crenshaw edited a volume, The Consequences of Counterterrorism, with a chapter on the Israeli counter- terror experience. "The consequences of counterterrorist policies in Israel" is a chapter written by Ami Pedahzur of the University of Texas and Arie Perliger of Israel's Hebrew University. In examining whether the Israeli experience is successful they use two criteria: "Effectiveness" in decreasing incidents of terror and "democratic accountability." They examine five Israeli counter- terrorism policies, one of which is targeted killings, and conclude that the Israeli measures increased acts of terror and exacted a price on Israel by eroding its democracy.
The Israel Experience: From Limited to Expanded use of Targeted Killings
From "Ticking Bombs to "Ticking Infrastructure"
Israel is a country that utilized targeted killings, a "war model" counter- terror tactic, extensively in its counter- terror campaign. It began as a narrow and limited tactic but ended up being expanded with the classes or categories of those eligible for the one- time extra ordinary measure broadening over time: 'These days, "targeted killings" have become almost synonymous with air strikes aimed at insurgents and their leaders. This measure has been utilized extensively by Israel since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The initial aim of this method was to stop "ticking bombs." In other words, when all other measures had been exhausted, targeted killings were supposed to strike at terrorists who were dispatched on a deadly mission. However, as indicated by Yuval Diskin, head of the General Security Service (GSS) and the person responsible for developing this tactic, its use quickly expanded from "ticking bombs" to "ticking infrastructures." This vague term refers to dispatchers and local leaders of terrorist cells. By 2004 it had become obvious that the targets of this policy had expanded once more and now included political leaders of different Palestinian factions, such as Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al- Rantisi.'
The Utility and Cost of the Israeli Counter- Terror Approach
Steep Decline in "Public Trust in Political and Legal Institutions"
Pedahzur and Perliger characterize Israeli strategy as "the war model in its most extreme version." They evaluate the effort as a failure since Israel faced more acts of terrorism while eroding its democracy: "Israeli practices have generated poor outcomes, and generated Palestinian animosity toward Israel has only increased. These effects have played into the hands of the different insurgent groups and led to an escalation in terrorist campaigns. At the same time, the quality of Israeli democracy has declined, and Israel's standing as the only democracy in the Middle Eats has been compromised. For example, the ongoing adoption of the war model-type measures over the years has reduced the ability of a growing proportion of Israeli residents to exercise basic civil and political rights. The Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli Arabs, and, in the last decade, left-wing activists have all suffered from a diminished ability to organize politically, to engage in effective political protests, and to sustain their civil rights. Other signs of the decline in the democratic foundations of the Israeli state have been the dramatic upsurge in administrative detentions, from several hundred during the early 1970s to more than ten thousand during the 1990s, the growing use of military force in security assignments in the interstate civilian arena, and a sharp drop in public trust in political and legal institutions."
Targeted killings raise important questions not only about the constitutionality of the controversial counter- terror tactic but about the Israel counter- terror war model itself as well.


Popular posts from this blog

Interview with internationally renowned cookbook author Hadia Zebib Khanafer:

Imad Hamad's column in the Detroit News: Defending the human rights of police officers

Interview with Imad Hamad, American Human Rights Council Executive Director