With the killing of one of Al-Qaeda’s most prominent clerics (and perhaps the one with strongest ties to the western world) Anwar Al-Awlaki, comes great debate amongst international leaders and American’s alike (especially prominent Muslim Americans) as to the legality of the killing of a man who held United States citizenship, and for many the ethical nature of an attack on one who is technically at least on paper one of our own. In a statement released by the Washington based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the group stressed their condemning of such figures as Awlaki in saying they have, “repeatedly in the past…firmly repudiated Anwar al-Awlaki’s incitement to violence”(Huffington Post). However, the group has taken exception to the nature of Awlaki’s death stating that “While a voice of hate has been eliminated, we urge our nation’s leaders to address the constitutional issues raised by the assassination of American citizens without due process of law,”. Executive director of the council in Michigan, Dawud Walid, maintained the same view towards the killing of a U.S. citizen saying, “It’s a scary proposition that the executive branch would kill an American citizen who is not on the battlefield and who was not even indicted on one criminal charge,”(Huffington Post).
While there is most definitely the fact that Awlaki, being born in New Mexico, was in fact a United States citizen there is great reason to explain why this case is unique and that his citizenship should not be taken into account. Awlaki did not demonstrate himself to be an American in any civic or ethnic facet of his life. Quite the opposite in fact as Awlaki’s citizenship can be used to make an opposing argument to whether his killing was justified in that his actions actually constitute treason. Despite the fact that the Awlaki’s being a United States citizen may bring about many legal technicalities and implications with his killing, it seems as though those that seek to take the position of condemning the U.S.’s action may be disregarding other factors that come along with the notion of someone being an American citizen. This begs the question as to what qualifications we lay out as being “American” or belonging to any nation for that matter. The legal issue of simply holding U.S. citizenship is one that perhaps cannot be argued, but certain factors as part of maintaining an ethnic identity that come along with that citizenship are certainly relevant in determining the appropriateness of America’s actions in Awlaki’s killing. While there was a time during Awlaki’s life when he was responsible for inspiring young Muslim Americans through speech in America, he eventually became a threat to the United States, inciting violence and eventually working as an Al-Qaeda operative to help supply bombs and other materials to potential terrorists. The question becomes whether or not simply holding citizenship becomes enough to condemn the killing of an American, or whether or not we use people’s actions as representing themselves as what it “means to be an American”. In the case of Awlaki, the mere fact that an Al-Qaeda member held U.S. citizenship should not be grounds to cast him under an umbrella of protection from such action on American citizens.