The number of civilians who have been killed by the US government in other countries using drones now runs into the many hundreds at least. I have written about some of them, in particular the murder in a US drone strike of 16-year old American Abdulrahman Awlaki while he was eating with two cousins at an outdoor café in Yemen in 2011. He was the son of Anwar al Awlaki a once Bush-supporting but later pro-al Qaeda imam who was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen two weeks before. The father had been estranged from the son and the son had been living with grandparents in Yemen while trying to contact him. The son had never been accused of any links to terrorism
As is so often the case, the US government used anonymous sources to justify the killing saying that the target was someone named Ibrahim al Banna who was a terrorist. But Jeremy Scahill reports that the government now says that al Banna is alive.
The U.S. State Department confirmed on January 5 that the man the U.S. government once claimed was the target of the drone strike that killed American teenager Abdulrahman Awlaki in 2011 in Yemen is alive. The department announced that it has designated Ibrahim al Banna “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.” The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to al Banna’s killing or capture.
The US government reacted with callous indifference when asked back in 2011 as to why they had killed this boy and his teenage cousins.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the handful of U.S. lawmakers who would have access to all intelligence on the strike, seemed to suggest that was the case when asked about the killing of the two Awlakis and Samir Khan. “I do know this,” he said on CNN, “the American citizens who have been killed overseas … are terrorists, and, frankly, if anyone in the world deserved to be killed, those three did deserve to be killed.”
Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former White House press secretary and a senior official in the president’s 2012 reelection campaign, was also asked about the strike that killed Abdulrahman. “It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process of law, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor,” reporter Sierra Adamson told Gibbs, during a press gaggle after a presidential debate where Gibbs was serving as a surrogate for Obama. Gibbs shot back: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
The Awlakis were left only with questions about why their grandson had been killed. They wondered if somehow the US government had used Abdulrahman to find Anwar. Perhaps, as had happened with the killing of the Yemeni regime’s political opponents in the past, the United States had been fed false intelligence about Abdulrahman’s age and connections to al Qaeda. While emphasizing that they were not prone to conspiracy theories, they told me it was difficult to imagine why Abdulrahman would have been killed, especially if Banna was not there. Who, then, was the target? “It is up to the U.S. government to be sure about the kind of information they get before they make any action against anybody. So I don’t believe it was just an accident. They must have followed him,” Nasser said. “But they wanted to cover up the story, and that’s why they claimed that he was twenty-one years old, in order to justify his killing. Or maybe, as they mentioned, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He paused before adding, “I don’t think we can buy this argument.”
Don’t expect president Obama to provide any answers. These murders were authorized by him and he has done his best to keep information about them secret. These shameful actions will forever be part of his legacy. If and when Donald Trump uses these same methods to murder more people, what will president Obama’s defenders say?