The Efficacy of Drone Assassinations


Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 04:35 a.m. DST, 24 May 2014

"Protest against US wars and drone attacks" Photo by: Fibonacci Blue

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The White House announced this week that it will release classified documents about the planning and justification behind drone attacks that killed four American expatriates in 2011.

Growing pressure from a bipartisan array of Senators and legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were instrumental in the forthcoming publication, which will be made available in the coming weeks.

2011 was a deadly year for American citizens living in the Middle East. In September, Anwar al-Awlaki and his affiliate Samir Khan were killed during a drone strike in Yemen. Both men were proud al-Qaeda operatives, but Khan was not targeted in the unmanned attack. However, his death was seen as a bonus for Washington, who was aware that Khan's role in al-Qaeda included writing and editing for the English-language al-Qaeda magazine Inspire.

Days later, al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a similar fashion when a remotely piloted aircraft took his life, supposedly by accident. Abdulrahman was born in Denver, Colorado and had been living with his father in Yemen until late September. Additionally, a November offensive in Pakistan killed U.S. citizen Jude Kenan Mohammad via aerial fire.

It was all but inevitable that the United States would pursue the elder al-Awlaki, who had a hand in the 9/11 terror plot and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Publicly, he spoke out against the September 11th attacks as a misuse of Islam and participated in interviews with The New York Times under the guise of a moderate Muslim. All the while, al-Awlaki was leading a secret life of hateful blogging, where he encouraged violence against Israeli and American citizens.

However, as heinous as his duplicity, no one expected his teenage son to be targeted and killed by drone attacks weeks after al-Awlaki's elimination. Military coordinators claim the heavy shelling that killed the young al-Awlaki was unintentional, a tactic often employed to excuse drone hostility gone wrong. Despite this feigned contrition, drone operators subsequently killed five students and three teachers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkwah Province of Pakistan in November 2013.

I am not sure which is worse -- a callous disregard of this tragedy or the inept military strategy behind it. Though the actions of the adults targeted and killed by the drones was equally and morally reprehensible; as American citizens they had the right to due process, and if found guilty, imprisonment.

The American military's silence on this matter is consistent with a policy that tacitly condones the use of remote control assassination machines despite the collateral damage of innocent bystanders. This article does not serve as a blanket indictment of U.S. military strategies that serve to protect its citizenry from terrorism, but it does advocate for the need of greater transparency.

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