Though everyone already knew that U.S. forces killed American Al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike, the Obama administration only admitted in May that he was among four Americans targeted overseas. The government’s justification for killing one of its own citizens without due process is still sketchy, though Attorney General Eric Holder assured us it was, “lawful, it was considered, and it was just.” The White House has been even more evasive about why al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was killed by a drone two weeks later, saying only that he and two other slain American citizens “were not specifically targeted by the United States.” In a devastating New York Times op-ed published Thursday, his grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki demands to know why. “My grandson was killed by his own government,” he writes. “The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable.”
In the op-ed, Nasser al-Awlaki describes his grandson Abdulrahman as a typical teen who “watched The Simpsons, listened to Snoop Dogg, read Harry Potter and had a Facebook page with many friends.” In September 2011 he left home without permission because he wanted to find his father. He turned up at a cousin’s house in southern Yemen and called after learning of his father’s death to say he was coming home. Two weeks later, Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin, and five other people were killed in an open-air restaurant. al-Awlaki writes:
I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.
Before his son was killed, Nasser al-Awlaki, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s authority to carry out the “targeted killing” of Americans. After that case was dismissed on procedural grounds al-Awlaki filed another suit, and on Friday he’ll go before a federal court in Washington to continue seeking “answers and accountability.”