I have been contemplating the recent events surrounding the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki and its relevance to our 6th amendment rights. While I lack any respect for Awlaki, I do however hold our constitution in high regard. If we are to lift the blindfold of justice for even the most vile people, it makes it that much easier to lift it for those who are less and less reprehensible. This reminded me of the poem "First They Came..." by Martin Niemöller. The poem reads as follows....
First they came for the communists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.Then they came for meand there was no one left to speak out for me.
The historical context of this poem comes from the atrocities that took place in Nazi Germany. We all know that they largely targeted the Jewish population but the first thing they did was take out the communists. This was the easiest target as the national socialists were always at odds with the communists (which has always been difficult for me to understand because of their natural inclination towards overly-centralized government). Their unpopularity in Germany made them an easy target and from this point the poem's relevance should be clear.
If Awlaki had been tried, I have no doubt that he would have been convicted and sentenced, but since the executive branch of our government decided to bypass this right, nothing more than an accusation stands in the way of the executive branch of our government assuming the role of the judicial branch. Today it was Awlaki who had connections to the Fort Hood shootings and the failed Times square and "underwear bomber" attempts. Tomorrow, the executive branch may direct its new-found might towards a private militia or even those "hateful" and "vitriolic" tea party protesters. All they need is an accusation. There is no need for pesky trials when you have the power of fiat on your side.