President Trump and his national-security establishment are celebrating the Pentagon’s latest assassination, this one killing Jamel Ahmed Ali Al-Badawi, who was accused of having participated in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, during a refueling stop in Yemen, in October 2000. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others. Referring to the assassination, Trump tweeted:
Our GREAT MILITARY has delivered justice for the heroes lost and wounded in the cowardly attack on the USS Cole. We have just killed the leader of that attack, Jamal al-Badawi. Our work against al Qaeda continues. We will never stop in our fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism!
The Pentagon confirmed the kill, and an unnamed U.S. official told CNN that that the assassination was the result of a joint U.S. military and intelligence operation. That, of course, means that it was likely that the CIA was involved, especially since it has long been the premier assassination organization in the world, at least since the 1960s.
According to the Daily Caller, Navy Commander Kirk Lippold, who was commanding the USS Cole during the attack, told Fox News that he felt “extremely gratified” for the killing. He stated:
It sends a strong signal the U.S. government is still willing to invest the time, intelligence assets, and, most importantly, the ordinance that if you kill or harm Americans, we’re going to find you, and we’re going to hold you accountable. We wait for the moment — patiently, thoughtfully, deliberately—and then when the opportunity presents itself, like it evidently did in this case when he was along outside the capital, we got him with a drone strike.
Trump and the U.S. national-security establishment are wrong, however. Al Badawi’s assassination does not that reflect that justice was done. Instead, it reflects how the national-security establishment and its interventionist foreign policy and perpetual war on terrorism have nullified the U.S. Constitution and fundamentally altered the criminal-justice principles on which America was founded.
The first thing to keep in mind is that as a terrorist act, the bombing of the USS Cole was a criminal act, not an act of war. How do we know this? Several ways:
- Terrorism is listed in the U.S. Code as a federal criminal offense.
- In 2003, the U.S. Justice Department secured a federal criminal indictment against al-Badawi, charging him with the federal criminal offense of having participated in the bombing of the Cole.
- The Justice Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to al-Badawi’s arrest.
- U.S. military prosecutors have charged another man, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, with murder for allegedly having planned the attack on the Cole. The Pentagon has kept him incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay for 12 years without a trial but with the ostensible aim of ultimately providing him with a criminal trial before a military tribunal.
To put things in a historical context, the U.S. Constitution brought into existence a limited-government republic, a type of governmental system that is the opposite of the type of governmental system under which Americans today live, which is a “national-security state.”
When the time the Constitution was being proposed to the American people, Americans were extremely leery, especially since then had been operating under the Articles of Confederation for some 13 years, which provided for a federal government with very weak and few powers. Americans were concerned about calling into existence a government that might end up wielding vastly new and dangerous powers.
Among people’s concerns was that this new government might start killing people who were suspected of criminal offenses without first giving the victims due process of law, a procedural protection that stretched all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215. Due process requires the government to provide a person with notice of the charges against him, such as with a grand-jury indictment, and then the opportunity to defend himself against such charges, such as with a trial by jury.
That’s why Americans demanded the enactment of the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. They wanted to be sure that federal officials clearly understood that before they could kill anyone, including foreign citizens, they would have to comply with the restrictions and requirements in those amendments, including the right to be notified of the charges (e.g., through grand-jury indictment) and the right of trial by jury.
That’s the way things stood for more than 150 years, until the U.S. government was converted after World War II from a constitutionally limited-government republic to a national-security state, which is a type of governmental structure that is inherent to totalitarian regimes. A national-security state consists of a vast, powerful military-intelligence establishment that wields omnipotent powers, including the power to assassinate people without due process of law.
Practically from its beginning in 1947, the CIA began specializing in the art of assassination as well as the cover-up of its role in state-sponsored assassinations. In fact, in the 1990s, during the term of the Assassination Records Review Board, which was charged with enforcing the release of official records relating to the assassination of President Kennedy, people discovered a top-secret assassination manual that the CIA was developing and using as far back as 1953, in the run-up to its Guatemala regime-change operation, which targeted Guatemalan officials with assassination.
Under our system of government, the only way to legally change the Constitution is through constitutional amendment. An act of Congress won’t do it. Neither will a decree of the president. That’s because the Constitution is the higher law that controls the actions of Congress and the president.
Yet, as a practical matter, that’s precisely what the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state did. It effectively amended the Constitution by empowering the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA to nullify the Bill of Rights, so long as their actions related to protecting “national security.”
No better example of this phenomenon could be found than Al-Badawi’s assassination. Here you have a criminal defendant, one charged by a civilian federal grand jury with terrorism and murder. Under our system of government, Al-Badawi is presumed innocent. The federal government bore the burden of bringing him to trial and proving his guilt with competent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. He had the right of trial by jury and the right to defend himself.
Yet, the Pentagon and the CIA short-circuited that process by simply deciding to use military force to snuff the man’s life out. Damn that federal indictment. It’s just a technicality. We know he’s guilty. We don’t need no stinking jury trial and no pesky criminal-defense attorneys. We know what’s best for national security. Fire the missile and kill the bastard. That’s the mindset of Trump and the national-security establishment. That’s the way things now operate in the United States of America.
And make no mistake about it: The federal judiciary will do nothing about it except confirm and support it. Ever since the Kennedy assassination and maybe even before, the federal judiciary has shown an extreme deference to the supremacy and authority of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. When it comes to issues of national security, the federal courts have effectively held, the national-security establishment trumps the Constitution, especially when it comes to actions like coups, assassinations, torture, indefinite detention, and assassination.
Trump and the national-security establishment are clearly viewing the killing of Al-Badawi as vengeance for what he supposedly did in the bombing of the USS Cole. But let’s not confuse vengeance for justice. Moreover, a dark irony in all this is that the terrorists who attacked the Cole did so in vengeance for what the U.S. national-security establishment had been doing in the Middle East prior to that time, including killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with sanctions as well, no doubt, U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous public line in 1996 that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.”
What will happen if people in the Middle East seek vengeance for Al-Badawi’s assassination by, say, attacking another U.S. warship thousands of miles away from American shores? That act of vengeance will be blamed on hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” and more extra-judicial assassinations will be carried out in vengeance by the US. national security establishment. And the perpetual war on terrorism will continues onward, along with the ever-increasing taxpayer-funded largess to pay for it all.