Our story begins in the early 1970s when an agricultural economist from Yemen named Nasser Al-Aulaqi received a Fulbright Scholarship and a guest visa to come to the United States with his wife and earn a Master’s degree from New Mexico State University. He would later earn a doctorate at Nebraska and perform research at the University of Minnesota. In 1971, his wife delivered a child whom they named Anwar. In 1978, seven-year-old Anwar and his family returned to Yemen. In 1991, a now-twenty-year-old Anwar Al-Awlaki received a foreign student visa to return to the United States and study at Colorado State University. He listed his birth country as Yemen, and had received a Yemeni government scholarship. Over the next ten years, Anwar Al-Awlaki received his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in education leadership, all under American foreign student visas and scholarships from Yemen. At no point did Al-Awlaki pursue or claim American citizenship. During this time, Al-Awlaki also received training during the summer months with the Afghani mujahedeen and began preaching in a number of Al Qaeda-affiliated mosques. Because of his Yemeni heritage, post-graduate education, and his familiarity with English, Al-Awlaki was afforded significant respect among the Muslim faithful, although the more experienced imams privately became dismayed at his ignorance of authentic Islamic doctrines. Over this time, Al-Awlaki became increasingly fascinated by jihadist ideology and a radical interpretation of the Koran. He was listed as a spiritual advisor to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. In 2004, Anwar AlAwlaki returned to Yemen with his family and began a career of active recruitment for Al Qaeda and the jihadist cause. His English skills, high education and experience in website development and digital communications made him especially effective at attracting disaffected British and American Muslims to jihadist activism. “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as well as Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan both conducted lengthy and gushing correspondences with Al-Awlaki. In a 2008 message sent to Somalian terrorists, Al-Awlaki tendered his congratulations on their efforts, saying “The ballot has failed us, but the bullet has not.” He was significantly adept at videotaped messages, such as the one released in March 2010 which featured Islamic calls-to-arms like this: “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters? I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding upon every other able Muslim.” On Friday, September 30th, Anwar Al-Awlaki and three other Al Qaeda operatives were killed by missile strikes fired by American Predator drones in Yemen. Praise for the killing of one of the most dangerous terrorist recruiters in the world was nearly universal. However, the exceptions were notable, not least of which is presidential candidate and US Rep. Ron Paul, who decried the killing of “an American citizen” by an American president, and who most recently suggested that impeachment of Barack Obama would be an appropriate remedy. Like his willingness to accept a nuclear Iran, or his reluctance to effect regime change in the terrorist-supporting governments of Iraq or Afghanistan, or even in his misguided flirtations with narcotic legalization and elimination of the Federal Reserve – Paul is not only wrong but dangerously so.

To identify Al-Awlaki as an “American citizen” is a stretch worthy of a Vegas contortionist. Al-Awlaki never considered himself as such and would in fact have been insulted to be so labeled. Al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen, a nation listed as an American enemy under Congress’s authorization of military force. Nor was Al-Awlaki some innocent bystander in the global war on terror. He was Al Qaeda’s public face in English-speaking cultures, their supple and formidable bridge between the organization’s deadly higher leadership and the misfit rookies encouraged to do their bidding. Al-Awlaki was the spark for the deaths of hundreds, and would have done even more given enough time or resources. His death could correctly be identified as an act of national self-defense – and to condemn it could correlatively be identified as appeasement. Paul’s argument, however, hinges on the question of Al-Awlaki’s “American citizenship,” a distinction denied by . . . Paul himself. At our own We the People Town Hall event on Monday, October 3rd, Congressman Paul told the packed Nashua Community College audience, “I think people who just come across the border and deliver children here should not have automatic citizenship.” The crowd cheered. On Paul’s own official campaign website, he makes the case even stronger, “End Birthright Citizenship – As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be granted U.S. citizenship, we’ll never be able to control our immigration problem.” Although Al-Awlaki’s parents were not technically illegal, claims of his American citizenship by Paul are nonetheless founded upon the very birthright citizenship policy he rejects. Paul cannot deny Al-Awlaki’s citizenship status by birthright and then magically reapply it when he’s in the crosshairs of a Predator missile. The greater issue, of course, is Congressman Paul’s fundamental concept of citizenship. If Al-Awlaki is indeed considered American, then his citizenship is the equivalent of yours. And his residence in an enemy foreign country, his recruitment of psychotic murderers to kill as many other Americans as possible, and his personal animosity to our nation and her institutions is not to be factored in the comparison. Ron Paul may earnestly believe that Anwar Al-Awlaki is an American – like you – however, judgment that spurious should never be provided entrance to the executive leadership of the United States.

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