The Invisible War Drones On

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Amy Davidson on the third American citizen killed by a drone attack:


Here is a birth certificate, for a boy who was born in Denver, Colorado, on September 13, 1995. (Via the Washington Post.) He turned sixteen a month ago, and a few days ago he died, killed when one of his country's drones hit him and a number of other people in Yemen. His name was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. His father, Anwar al-Awlaki, who, as the birth certificate notes, was himself born in New Mexico, and was twenty-four years older than his son, was killed a couple of weeks ago, in a separate attack. 

The father was targeted for assassination. He was an American citizen, and there were no judicial proceedings against him, just, reportedly, a White House legal opinion that concluded that it would be fine to kill him anyway, because the Administration thought he was dangerous. Anwar al-Awlaki was a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and wrote angry and ugly sermons for them. The Administration says that it had to kill him because he had become "operational," but so far it has kept the evidence for that to itself.

I strongly suspect that al-Awlaki (the son) was not directly targeted, but he's dead all the same. What's long bothered me--not just about al-Awlaki--but by our death by remote strategy, is the lack of questioning. Does it mean anything that approximately 20 percent of all people killed in drone attacks have been civilians? Should we be bothered that we've just killed a 16 year-old American boy? Are there no long-term implications for our foreign policy and our democracy for this invisible, and secret, war on terror? Is it all fine simply because Obama is more "competent?" 

As always, I refer people to Jane Mayer's reporting
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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