An American teenager was murdered by the US government for nothing

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?


  1. says

    Anwar Al Awlaki was also not tried by a jury of his peers, or even formally accused of a crime. The “rule of law” was ignored and he was murdered by his government in a total violation of anything remotely resembling a social contract. When they killed his child, the same way, it was medieval-style retribution (we’ll wipe out your blood-line!) kind of abrahamic bullshit.

    The US government is not a legitimate political entity; it asserts that it has the power of life and death, and doesn’t even follow its own rules. And its spokespeople are so stupid that they say the US is hated for its freedoms.

  2. jrkrideau says

    Well, if the USA wants to kill its own citizens, so what? Have some one in the USA charge the President, or whoever, with murder.

    I would like to see the responsible US politicians and military people on trial for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity for its illegal murder of non-USA people, among many other crimes.

  3. applehead says

    If and when Donald Trump uses these same methods to murder more people, what will president Obama’s defenders say?

    That if he had shut down drone operations, as we will undoubtedly learn he planned all along in another few years after the pertinent documents are declassified, the Rethuglicans would’ve shut down the country.

    The Rethuglicans killed all these people. Obama was the most progressive President since FDR.

    Don’t you ever forget any of this.

  4. Mobius says

    There are things Obama needs to be called on the carpet for. Unfortunately, those things are not the things Republicans complain about. The things that Obama has done wrong are things the Republicans (mostly) approve of (though they would never say it).

  5. says

    @5 applehead
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! He was so interested in shutting it down that he expanded the program. Good thing he let the drones fly and the bombs fall, god forbid the republicans get upset or something!

    The most progressive president since FDR deported more people and started more wars than Bush Jr.

    The most progressive president since FDR let DAPL protestors get their skulls bashed in and their arms blown off by the police because he “wanted to let it play out”.

    The most progressive president since FDR engaged in cruel and unusual punishment of private Chelsea Manning for the crime of whistle blowing the disgusting atrocities that his army (was he not commander in chief?) inflicted upon helpless civilians and first responders. Sent her to a male prison, giving a presidential thumbs-up to the claim that trans-women aren’t real women.

    The most progressive president since FDR had 2 full years of democratic majority in congress and managed not to do shit before the midterms (which the democrats would’ve won if they had given people a glimmer of the change he had promised) and then 6 years using the republicans as his go-to excuse for being fucking useless.

    He couldn’t even get his “super-progressive, you guys, I swear!” republican buddy in the Supreme Court in an entire year.
    His DNC chair pick lost you every mid-term she had during her time as leader, the senate majority he had during his inauguration, and had a sizable role in losing the election. His endorsed candidate lost to a racist Oompa Loompa who’s almost as beloved as herpes.

    It’s likely that he only got his reelection because Romney had to go commit seppuku with his stupid 47% shit.

    Trump will get power to punish whistleblowers because Obama gave the president that power. Trump will get unsupervised use of tactical drones because Obama gave the president that power. Trump will get to spy on anyone he pleases, in the US and elsewhere, because Obama gave the president that power. Trump will get the power to murder AMERICAN CITIZENS abroad, like what happened to Awlaki, and foreigners, like his cousins, because Obama gave the president that power.

    Don’t you ever forget any of thi…
    Who am I kidding? You either don’t actually give a fuck about the casualties or are too fucking dense to recognize cause and effect.

    Your little hero is a piece of shit. Much of the horrible things that are happening and will happen in the future are the result of both his disgusting neoliberal bullshit and his inability to grow enough of a fucking spine as the supposed “most powerful person in the world” to challenge his even shittier opposition. Go on, kiss his ass some more, why dont’cha?

  6. says

    That if he had shut down drone operations, as we will undoubtedly learn he planned all along in another few years after the pertinent documents are declassified, the Rethuglicans would’ve shut down the country.

    Is that a reverse conspiracy theory? I’m trying to figure out what that even is, other than “hopelessly naive wishful thinking.”

  7. Jessie Harban says

    If and when Donald Trump uses these same methods to murder more people, what will president Obama’s defenders say?

    Based on Pharyngula comment threads (and this one)—

    1. Some will take the Applehead route and simply deny that it happened. “Obama never murdered anyone, it was actually the Republicans’ fault, and no evidence will convince me otherwise!”

    2. Some will take the Nerd of Redhead approach of demanding an actual replacement of the status quo as the price of criticizing it. “Unless you have done the work to put a non-murdering president in the White House, you’re not allowed to complain that Obama commit murder.”

    3. Some will take the “Dear Muslima” approach that seems so popular among Pharyngula commenters (and a few FTB bloggers as well). “Trump committed many more murders than Obama, so you shouldn’t be criticizing Obama for the murders he committed.”

    4. Some will take the extreme tribalism approach. “You shouldn’t criticize Obama because he’s a Democrat and therefore a member of Our Team™ who must be supported no matter what.”

  8. boadinum says

    Marcus Ranum @ #9 I don’t think Obama has returned his Nobel Peace Prize. He did, however, admit to Stephen Colbert that he didn’t know why he received it in the first place.

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