The Nebulousness of Mortality

REUTERS/David McNew

Fall and the playoffs also mean the imminent death of another baseball season.  Fittingly, the news outside of baseball also seems fixated on endings and death the last couple weeks.  Of course there’s the Michael Jackson doctor trial which seems to inspire the same kind of media circus that Jackson himself used to bring out.  But there are two other endings that I find more interesting.

The first is the death of Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen.  The dude was definitely a bad guy and behind, or at least the inspiration behind, some of the more nefarious plots against the US in the past couple years.  But he was also an American citizen which makes his assassination problematic at best.  Does his death make us safer?  Probably.  Should we be assassinating US citizens?  That’s a little less certain.

Obviously a lot of US citizens, a majority most likely, don’t agree with Al-Awlaki’s rants against the US and exhortations to do us harm.  But there were also a fair amount of people who didn’t like Martin Luther King’s message and thought his ideas just as dangerous as those of Al-Awlaki.  But the US government didn’t assassinate him.  No, I’m not saying that the two men are similar or that their messages bear any resemblance but I am saying that assassination is a slippery slope during the best of times.  When it becomes an easily employable tool in the context of a nebulous concept like the “War on Terror,” how long before it becomes a similarly employed tool within other nebulous concepts like the “War on Drugs?”  Again, I’m not saying this will happen, I’m just saying it needs to be considered.

Considered in the same way that Trinity College in Dublin should have considered their options before e-executing one of their faculty.  Ok, sure, Professor Conan T. Barbarian may not have been a real professor or even a real person but did he deserve so inglorious an end as to simply be deleted from a server somewhere?  Precedents, people.  They matter.

-A

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