A hard, scarred, man loves his wife. His wife, a former nurse, is a good woman, a born healer, and keeps the kind of house that offers a haven for teenagers. Her garden is a haven for birds and she calls one those birds Alfred Hitchcock for his rotund dignity.
One afternoon the man finds Alfred Hitchcock in the woods, tortured to death.
He figures out which of the teenaged guests did it. He kills him, and makes it look like an accident.
In the process of tracking the 18-year-old down, he reads his writings, which are all about torture, rape, and murder. His counselor and his English teacher considered the writings a “good outlet for Jerrald,” and that they “show real promise.”
“I knew the only promise Jerrald was ever going to keep,” wrote Andrew Vachss in his novel “Aftershock.” That promise would have been to move from hurting animals to hurting human beings.
Evil is Evil
The protagonist knows that evil is evil. It’s not going to change. It can only be destroyed.
When I read that story I thought of Anwar al-Awlaki, and the lawsuit his father filed against the government for killing him and others with a drone strike. Al-Awlaki died in Yemen in September 2011. He was an al-Qaeda Arab Peninsula (AQAP) leader and, born in New Mexico, an American citizen. He instructed the Christmas Day bomber and encouraged the 2009 Fort Hood shooter. He praised them and asked others to imitate them. He directed AQAP to focus on attacking from within America.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer last Friday dismissed the lawsuit against Obama administration officials. Her grounds were that the judiciary cannot oversee military combat decisions. Congress and the executive branch decide those. She did say American citizens have a right to due process.
She did not use the Andrew Vachss defense. But I do.
Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that it was al-Awlaki’s “actions—and, in particular, his direct personal involvement in the continued planning and execution of terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland—that … led the United States to take action.” Collyer wrote that Holder said he was a continuing imminent threat to the United States, and that it was not feasible to capture him.
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is criticized for using drones to kill people. It’s been called a war crime. Vachss’s fictional protagonist would have been in quite a lot of trouble for taking out his bird killer.
Protect the Innocent
But both were protecting the innocent. Both were acting responsibly.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent an open letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council asking it to vote to resolve that drones are only used in accordance with international law, and that Britain, Israel, and the United States—the only countries that use drones—should be more transparent about it. A state that kills someone with a drone should conduct an open investigation about it afterward, according to HRW. America is too secretive now, it stated.
“Research by Human Rights Watch and others on these operations is hampered by the unwillingness of the United States to provide information on these attacks or conduct transparent investigations when there are credible allegations of violations of international law.”
That is a fair statement.
What is not fair is to demonize those countries or their governments, when they have a genuine rule of law, and their enemies are nihilistic monsters.