Letters To The Editor

April 26, 2014

Letters to the Editor: April 26, 2014.

Assassination as murder

TO THE EDITOR: Vincent Bugliosi published a book arguing that George W. Bush is guilty of murder.

The case against Obama is more straightforward, at least if one focuses narrowly on the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. 

Premise 1: Murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of a person. Premise 2: Obama, who acknowledges ordering the killing of al-Awlaki, is guilty of a premeditated killing of a person. Premise 3: The killing of al-Awlaki was unlawful, since he was never convicted of a capital crime. Conclusion: The president is guilty of murder.

The argument seems to be valid; if the premises are true, then the conclusion must also be true.

The second premise seems straightforwardly true and admitted.

The first premise is a rather conventional definition of murder, though it treats murder merely as a legal issue and thus lets off even the most heinous killers so long as they have recourse to a legal loophole. In asserting the legal authority to kill Al-Awlaki, the Obama administration is claiming that there is such a loophole, in effect, denying premise three. 

In the end, whether Obama has committed murder, legally speaking, turns on the questionable legality of extrajudicial killing, which depends upon a debatable interpretation of the Fifth Amendment.

Extending the administration’s reasoning to its logical extreme (which isn’t far off) would come to this: The president may assassinate anyone he regards as a “public danger.”

True, we are not quite there yet. But if people don’t object now, I don’t see on what basis they can object to the step from here to there. (Read the Fifth Amendment carefully, and think cynically about it. And remember that Eric Holder has already argued that “due process” need not be a judicial process.)


Associate professor

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Letters To The Editor