Friday, July 19, 2013

Why was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki killed?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think the Obama Administration, and the president personally, has some explaining to do:

Though everyone already knew that U.S. forces killed American Al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike, the Obama administration only admitted in May that he was among four Americans targeted overseas. The government's justification for killing one of its own citizens without due process is still sketchy, though Attorney General Eric Holder assured us it was, "lawful, it was considered, and it was just." The White House has been even more evasive about why al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son was killed by a drone two weeks later, saying only that he and two other slain American citizens "were not specifically targeted by the United States." In a devastating New York Times op-ed published Thursday, his grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki demands to know why. "My grandson was killed by his own government," he writes. "The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable."

In the op-ed, Nasser al-Awlaki describes his grandson Abdulrahman as a typical teen who "watched The Simpsons, listened to Snoop Dogg, read Harry Potter and had a Facebook page with many friends." In September 2011 he left home without permission because he wanted to find his father. He turned up at a cousin's house in southern Yemen and called after learning of his father's death to say he was coming home. Two weeks later, Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin, and five other people were killed in an open-air restaurant.

Actually, I'm not sure an explanation is nearly enough. What we need is some accountability -- yes, from a president who claims he has the right -- and that it is both legal and just -- to kill American citizens, not to mention anyone else, simply by fiat.

Oh, and a 16-year old at that.

Did young Abdulrahman just have the wrong last name? Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? It all seems rather suspicious, and terribly wrong, and hopefully, however, unlikely, Nasser's lawsuit will force some answers.

There's been a lot of focus recently on the killing of another minor at the hands of someone with a gun and an exaggerated sense of authority. This killing, like drone killing generally, may not involve racism and gross injustice in the legal system, but there are undeniable similarities nonetheless.

To George Zimmerman, and to those like him, Trayvon Martin was the Other, and he was targeted as such. But so too, for the wagers of America's endless "war on terror," most of it waged well out of sight, are the innocent Muslim victims of drones.

No, I'm not saying that Obama is like Zimmerman. I'm just saying that the killings are similarly troubling. There is understandable outrage over the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict, though at least Zimmerman was eventually charged and put on trial. There should be similar outrage at how the government is killing innocent people -- including children, including Americans -- in the name of the American people themselves.

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