Did Obama’s Drone Strike Policy Kill an Innocent 16-Year-Old American Boy?

Horrifying 32

yemenNow that counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan is facing Senate confirmation as head of the CIA, a tragic story from 2011 is coming back to haunt him. Brennan has been largely responsible for drone strikes believed to have killed some 3,000 people. (Drone strikes are targeted, unmanned air strikes.) The targets are supposed to be enemy combatants who post an imminent threat to America's security. But that doesn't explain why a drone killed a 16-year-old American citizen, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, two years ago.

We didn't get a satisfying explanation for that killing then. And I don't know if we'll get a satisfying explanation from Brennan now. But you'd better believe he's going to be asked about it.

Abdulrahman was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, a high-profile American and Yemeni imam who was believed to be working with al Qaeda. (Anwar had been killed by a drone two weeks earlier.) It's no surprise that Anwar was targeted. But his son? Abdulrahman was living in Yemen at the time of his death. One night he snuck out of the house, leaving behind a note to his mother that he would return in a few days. He was killed while eating at an outdoor restaurant.

According to Abdulrahman's grandfather, Nassar al-Awlaki, the boy was just looking for his father:

Since the issue regarding Anwar came, I tried to insulate the family of Anwar from everything, regarding this matter. I took care of him, and suddenly after 2 year absence from his father, he decided to go to our government in Yemen to seek information from his father. That was the only reason he went, and he did not tell us.

Abdulrahman knew his father was on America's "kill list." He didn't know his father had already been killed. The boy was not working with al Qaeda. So why was he targeted? Was he up to something more sinister than just looking for his father? And even if he was, does that justify killing a kid?

It doesn't help that when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Abdulrahman, he replied:

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.

Oh my god. Really? Look, I voted for this president. I will defend many things this administration does. But that was a shitty answer. What the hell was Gibbs thinking, giving that bullshit answer?

Conservatives are coming out hard against the White House over this -- but so are liberals. They're getting it from both sides. We are ALL horrified.

You know what's even worse? Nassar had written President Obama a letter specifically asking that he not kill his son and grandson. Why we went after Anwar anyway is somewhat understandable. I guess. I'll give them that. But I feel for this grandfather trying to protect his kid from both his hell-raising father and from the American government. What a horrible crevice to be squeezed in.

One thing that has come out of this mess is that the White House has ordered the Justice Department to release memos giving the legal justifications for drone strikes against U.S. citizens to two Congressional intelligence committees. In other words, we're getting a LITTLE more transparency and accountability about those drone strikes.

Imagine being in the same room as President Obama while he pores over the CIA's "kill or capture" list. Two of the people on the list look young enough to be teenagers. Was one of them Abdulrahman? Or was that an accident? I hope the memos being released shed some light on the question.

Do you think we'll ever learn why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed?


Image via Sallam/Flickr

barack obama, in the news, military, politics, white house


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LostS... LostSoul88

Just because he was a US citizen dioesn't mean he wasn't a terriost.. 

sugar... sugarmansmom

Lostsoul-He was 16.  I get that terrorists are in many ways a different breed of criminal than most, but would you support a death sentence against any other 16 yr old without any kind of due process or transparency?  

sugar... sugarmansmom

I think these drone strikes are terribly dangerous for everyone involved, and I don't think the public has been given anywhere near enough information on how, when and why they are being used, and what unintended consequences are coming out of it.

Autum... Autumnleaves87

Weird. I agree with Gibbs on this one.

Don't want to die? How about do something real easy: don't be a terrorists.

Or in this case, don't go looking for information about your terrorist family, despite what your motives are.

See? Just that easy.

bills... billsfan1104

Hahhahahh typical that Autumn would defend this administration on this. It proves my point that liberals would follow this President into the gas chambers.

But yet when Bush was wire tapping or ordered water boarding on GROWN terrorists, they were up in arms calling for hearings and impeachment. Funny how the liberal press and people like Pelosi, Reid and others are quiet about this.

nonmember avatar Kristi

I don't know....is the death of one to save thousands or millions justified? Unfortunately my answer is yes.

quinn007 quinn007

We have this thing in America called the Constitution which the President swears to uphold and abide by.  The secret kill list and resulting assasination of two US citizens (both the father and son were citizens) should make ANY citizen question this administration.  They were judged guilty without a jury of their peeers, without presentation of evidence, without allowing for a proper defense and that is not only criminal but completely lacking in morals and ethics for anyone that has sworn to uphold the laws of our country.

sugar... sugarmansmom

Typical that Bills would jump on here and make sweeping generalizations about liberals, completely ignoring that fact that a mere 3 posts above hers is a liberal condemning the very thing she claims all liberals would support.  For goodness sakes woman.  And actually a lot of the "liberal press" have been condemning the use of drones for years.  Lupe Fiasco-not necessarily my favorite liberal, but a liberal nonetheless, was very recently booted from an inagural party for speaking out against Obama's use of drones.  I wouldn't exactly call him a tea party favorite either.

sugar... sugarmansmom

Quinn-there is some debate about whether or not the rules of law apply in cases such as this because, technically, we are at war with terrorism/terrorists.  I agree with you in theory, but I wonder if when it was torture going on on American soil without due process, if you were as certain that these activities were criminal in nature?  I know I was.  Honestly, it is my belief that America has been guilty of committing war crimes since long before Obama took office-though I do agree that he continues to perpetuate these offenses, I am doubtful that Americans will ever come to a point where we can admit that as a nation we are as bad as many of those we are fighting against.

nonmember avatar Joshua

It always comes back to comparing this administration with world war 2 atrocities with Billsfan. Weird.

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