Feigned Ignorance Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

A portion of a photo of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki from his Facebook memorial page.

After the US killed AQAP propagandist Samir Khan in a drone strike, the State Department made two calls to his family to express condolences. Doing so was probably the only way they could maintain the fiction his death was an accident, while still boasting about having killed Anwar al-Awlaki in the same strike. Nevertheless, the right wing has predictably gone apeshit over the apology.

Perhaps it’s because the US has seen no propaganda value in boasting about killing an American teenager. Perhaps they want to avoid similar bitching from the right.

But State appears to be adopting a different approach in the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki we killed last week. With Abdulrahman, State is feigning ignorance. (h/t JL)

We are aware of media reports that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki has been killed; however, we have not received confirmation of his death from the government of Yemen.

You see, the folks at State apparently don’t read the WaPo, much less FaceBook, and instead have to rely on getting this information from the Yemeni government we’ve surely instructed not to tell us this information. As a result, they have no way of knowing whether they’ve “accidentally” killed an American citizen too young to vote or even enlist without his dead father’s permission.

But hey! Their feigned ignorance means never having to say they’re sorry.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Karman Argues Against Amnesty for Saleh as al-Awlaki Family Continues Protests

A portion of a photo of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki from his Facebook memorial page.

As I wrote yesterday, the family of Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, Abdulrahman, has spoken out against the US killing of these two American citizens, one just 16 years old, in separate drone strikes in southern Yemen.  The birth certificate of Abdulrahman has now been released to confirm his age and to counter false media reports that he was over 20 years old.  In addition, the family has provided the name and age of a 17 year old cousin, Ahmed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was killed in the same strike with Abdulrahman last Friday while they were enjoying a nighttime barbecue.

So far, I’ve seen no claims issued by the US that Abdulrahman was a militant.  Instead, the implicit assumption is that Abdulrahman was collateral damage in a strike that was targeted at  Ibrahim al-Bana, who is described as the media chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  By contrast, Anwar al-Awlaki was placed on Obama’s official “hit list” of persons targeted for killing.  The US has made multiple accusations against him, but those allegations have not been substantiated.  Here is the Indian publication Frontline on the veracity of the US accusations:

After the events of September 11, 2001, Awlaki was among the small group of radicalised American Muslims who threw in their lot with Al Qaeda. His sermons in English with an American accent urging Muslims to wage jehad against the West reputedly had a wide fan following on YouTube and other websites. After a U.S. Army officer of Palestinian origin, Major Nidal Mallik Hassan, went on a killing spree in a military base at Fort Hood in November 2009, Awlaki’s name hit the headlines. It was reported that the U.S. Army veteran was in touch with Awlaki before he went on the rampage in which 13 people were killed. Awlaki had denied having encouraged Hassan in any way but later praised his act saying that it had prevented the U.S. soldiers who were killed from being deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq where they “would have killed Muslims”.

Awlaki was also blamed for attempts to blow up American passenger planes, though the claims have not been substantiated. The Obama administration linked Awlaki with the failed Christmas 2009 attempt of Umar Farrouk Abdulmutallib, the “underwear bomber”, to bring down a Detroit-bound plane. Awlaki was also accused of playing a key role in the October 2010 “mail bomb” plot. Packets containing bombs, originating from Yemen and bound for the U.S., were intercepted in Dubai and Europe. In May 2010, a Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in Manhattan told the U.S. authorities that he was inspired by Awlaki’s sermons.

In one of his sermons recorded in early 2010, Awlaki urged American Muslims to stage attacks. “Jehad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”

But if reports in the Arab media are anything to go by, Awlaki was only a minor cog, used mainly for propaganda purposes, in Al Qaeda’s major network. His fluency in both English and Arabic coupled with his knowledge of the Quran helped him gather a big fan following, especially among the youth. Experts on Yemen have said that he had no operational role in Al Qaeda. The top commanders are Yemenis and Saudis who have been leading the fight against the U.S. presence in the region for many years. The AQAP’s main leadership continues to be intact and is no doubt busy hatching new terror plans. Awlaki was forced to flee into the desolate mountain region where his tribe is located and where Al Qaeda has a presence in order to escape from the Americans, who had put a bounty on his head. Read more

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.