Algerian victims of armed fundamentalism

The Letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights makes some compelling points.

The Center for Constitutional Rights was the only human rights organization to support the victims of fundamentalist armed groups as it did in the case brought by Rhonda Copelon against Anouar Haddam [spokesman of the Islamic Salvation Front],while other human rights organisations ignored these victims and abandoned them, on the ground that they were not victims of the state but of non state actors.

That state of affairs would seem to risk creating an impression that victimization by non state actors is somehow less bad than the other kind. Non state actors can still be highly organized and effective, as everyone knows.

Today, CCR is betraying these same victims by representing the interests of Anwar al-Awlaki, an important promoter and organizer of crimes against humanity and a leader of Al Qaida in the Arabic Peninsula, without even saying who he is and what positions he has taken. Awlaki is currently at liberty and continues to organize attacks and crimes, and to incite hatred and massacres.

It’s true. Check out CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley’s account at the Huffington Post.

Anwar al-Awlaki is a US citizen and Muslim cleric living somewhere in Yemen. The US has put him on our terrorist list and is trying to assassinate him.

That description is incomplete, and by being incomplete, it says something. If there is room to say Awlaki is a Muslim cleric, then there is room to say more. As it would be misleading to call Al Capone a Chicago liquor retailer, so it is misleading to call Awlaqi a Muslim cleric. Quigley later manages to say that Awlaqi is “controversial” and accused of being a terrorist, but that too is incomplete.

Perhaps he’s just playing the role of a defense lawyer in an adversarial process, but that’s his job in the courtroom, not in journalism.

The letter asks a piercing question.

We cannot believe that you are not familiar with the writings of al-Awlaki that condemn innocent people – often Muslims – to death. Do you only defend Muslims when it is the American government that threatens them, and not when Muslim fanatics do?

Maybe that simply is their brief: holding the US government to the constitution, which is binding on the government in a way that it isn’t on citizens. But if that’s the case, their advocacy becomes very limited, and possibly even harmful.

This is complicated. The assassination policy is obviously fraught with dangers, but those dangers aren’t the only dangers there are. The letter gives a needed other perspective.

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