Article 2, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice for matters arising out of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
If perjury and obstruction of justice constitute high crimes or misdemeanors, then doesn’t it seem rather obvious that the murder of an American citizen by the president would also constitute a high crime or misdemeanor, especially if the citizen is a child?
That’s precisely what President Obama, acting through U.S. national-security state agents, did on October 14, 2011. He murdered a 16-year-old American boy who was traveling in Yemen. The boy was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was the son of accused terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who the CIA had assassinated two weeks before.
Why did President Obama and the CIA or the military kill Abdulrahman? The president, the CIA, and the Pentagon have all chosen to remain silent on the matter, refusing to even acknowledge that they killed the boy. But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs implicitly provided the justification: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”
So, there you have it: the boy was apparently killed because he was considered to have the wrong father.
But if that’s a legitimate justification for killing a child, there are obviously a lot more children at risk in this country.
Proponents of the war on terrorism argue that the killing of the teenager wasn’t really a murder but rather an assassination. But isn’t that a distinction without a difference?
After all, compare Obama’s killing of Abdulrahman with Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s killing of Orlando Letelier. Pinochet took power in 1973, during the time that the Cold War and the war on communism were being waged. Pinochet, who the U.S. national-security state had helped install into power, not only began rounding up, incarcerating, torturing, abusing, and executing suspected communists without any judicial process, he also embarked on an program to assassinate Chilean communists found overseas.
Agents of Pinochet’s counterpart to the CIA, a secret police force called DINA, planned and orchestrated the killing of Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington, D.C. Why was Letelier targeted for death? He was a socialist, a Chilean citizen who had served in the administration of President Salvador Allende, the democratically elected Marxist president whom Pinochet, President Richard Nixon, the CIA, and the U.S. military ousted from power and replaced with Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Therefore, as part of the war on communism, Letelier was considered to be a legitimate target for assassination.
On September 21, 1976, an assassination team headed by a man named Michael Townley exploded a bomb that the team had planted under Letelier’s car. Letelier was killed, along with his American assistant who was also in the car, 25-year-old Ronni Moffitt.
Interestingly, the U.S. Justice Department did not consider the assassination to be legitimate under the concept of war and enemy combatants, notwithstanding the fact that the Cold War and global war on communism were still being waged. The Justice Department treated the killings of Letelier and Moffitt as murders. Townley and his team were indicted and prosecuted for the murders of Letelier and Moffitt.
How is Obama’s killing of Abdulrahman any different from Pinochet’s murder of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt? In the one case, a 16-year-old boy has had his life snuffed out because he had the wrong father. In the other case, a man had his life snuffed out because he had the wrong philosophical beliefs. Given that the Letelier and Moffitt killings were treated as murders, why shouldn’t the Abdulraham killing be treated as murder too?
An interesting twist to these killings is a common denominator — the CIA. It turned out that Townley was an agent of the CIA. He claimed that at the time he set off the bomb he was no longer working for the CIA, which, not surprisingly, is what the CIA claimed also. But the problem, of course, is that they would say that even if he was still employed by the CIA. And, in fact, the CIA was supporting and working closely with DINA after Pinochet came to power. It says a lot that for the pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of Letelier and Moffitt, Townley served a grand total of about five years in jail before being released — get this — into the federal witness protection program, where he remains safely ensconced and anonymous today.
We also shouldn’t forget that the U.S. national-security state also participated in the execution of 31-year-old American journalist Charles Horman during the Pinochet coup, a crime that U.S. officials have never investigated or prosecuted CIA officials or U.S. military officials for. What was the justification for murdering Horman? We can’t know for sure because U.S. military and CIA officials have never provided it, but most likely it was because Horman had acquired secret information about U.S. involvement in the coup and because Horman was a socialist who supported the Allende regime. (See here and here.) In an interesting twist, just recently Chilean officials charged a U.S. military officer with conspiracy to murder Horman during the coup.
What remedy do the family members of an American who has been murdered by the president and the national-security state have?
They obviously can’t look to the Justice Department, which answers to the president and which isn’t ever going to take on the CIA with a criminal prosecution for a crime that was ordered by the president.
They also can’t look to the federal courts, which display the same deference and submissiveness to the military and the CIA that Chilean courts displayed toward the Pinochet’s military and DINA. In any wrongful death action brought by the victim’s family, all the military and CIA have to do is announce to the presiding judge the same sorts of things that Pinochet’s people would announce to Chilean federal judges: “National security, war on terrorism, and state secrets, your honor,” and every federal judge in the land will quickly slam down his gavel and declare, “Case dismissed.”
That leaves the families of the victim with only one course of action: impeachment and removal from office by Congress. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the only practical way to induce President Obama to explain why a child’s father provides the justification for murdering his child.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas.