In August 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit to subdue the Obama administration’s planned assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born imam and lecturer residing in Yemen. While the case’s proceedings lasted for months, it was eventually dismissed by a federal judge and Awlaki was assassinated by a CIA drone strike later in September 2011. The CIA alleged that al-Awlaki was deeply involved in jihadist military operations as a senior recruitment officer but never gave him the opportunity to appear before a court. As a result, the Obama Administration faced some backlash for denying a United States citizen due process of law.
Two weeks later, another drone strike was sanctioned in Yemen, this time at a restaurant with the utilization of cluster bombs- a type of munition banned under international law. Awlaki’s 17-year-old nephew and and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were among the several civilians that became casualties of this operation. News of Abdulrahman’s killing invited further criticism from the public.
In a disgusting performance at a press conference, Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign senior adviser, blamed 16-year old Abdulrahman for being killed, saying “You should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.” The ACLU and the CCR took action by opening a new case in 2012 against the Obama Administration with the boy’s grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki. The lawsuit charged the government with killing three U.S. citizens on foreign soil outside of an armed conflict zone. Although it was contested for several years longer than the previous lawsuit, it ended just the same in April 2014.
After nearly three years, under a new administration, the al-Awlaki name has resurfaced in the media. On Jan. 29, Abdulrahman’s 8-year-old sister, Nora Anwar al-Awlaki, also a U.S. citizen, was killed in Yemen during a U.S. commando raid authorized by President Trump. The government claims that the operation’s main objective was to secure computer materials containing intelligence on so-called jihadist movements. Showing a similar lack of respect for the lives of civilians, they believed it a wise choice to employ armed drones in a densely-populated area. As expected, Trump intends to carry on his predecessor’s neoliberal agenda in terrorizing the Yemeni people. We must take to the streets and call for an end to drone strikes, U.S. assistance for Saudi Arabian bombing operations, United States intervention and ultimately to Western imperialism.