Jeremy Scahill, on @DemocracyNow today, after returning from Yemen and writing a must-read piece for The Nation ( on how U.S. drone attacks and civilian deaths are strengthening Al Qaeda and fueling anti-American hatred ("Washington's War in Yemen backfires"):


JEREMY SCAHILL: Obama, though, did something that President Bush had only done once, to my knowledge, and that is to start to bomb Yemen. On December 17th, 2009, President Obama authorized cruise missile strikes against Yemen, and they smashed into a remote village in Abyan province called al-Majala and killed more than 40 Bedouins. And when that incident happened, on December 17th, 2009, the Yemeni government took responsibility for those bombings and said that it was a counterterrorism operation, that it had succeeded, that a number of al-Qaeda people were killed. There were even reports that Awlaki himself was killed.

Well, it turns out that, in fact, it was a U.S. missile strike, that it was Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In fact, we were able to interview people from that village: one woman who lost seven members of her family; another man, 17 members of his family. It was a dirt poor Bedouin village that was hit. There was only one man that anyone in the area could identify as having any connection to al-Qaeda, and it was—he was a mujahideen during the war in Afghanistan, which, of course, the United States was supporting the mujahideen during the mujahideen war in the 1980s. That then kicked off a series of air strikes. The Obama administration began an air war in Yemen. Sometimes the strikes hit the people that were the intended targets, but oftentimes civilians were killed. . . .

All of these powerful tribes, that are infinitely more powerful than al-Qaeda, that al-Qaeda wants no war with at all, because they would lose, are now starting to say, "If there’s no government here, if there’s no services, if the Americans are bombing us and killing Bedouins and our civilians and leaving cluster bombs in our countryside and doing nothing to clean them up, and not providing any civilian infrastructure support but just supporting Saleh’s family military and just bombing us, what motive do we have to fight al-Qaeda? They’re our—they’re people from our tribes. They don’t bother us. So, what’s our motivation?"

One tribal leader, who said, very clearly, "Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization. Yes, these guys want to destroy America," said to me, "You consider them terrorists; we consider the drones terrorism," because they don’t bother—they don’t bother them. They’re a threat, on a tiny magnitude, to the United States and its allies, that has been given a prominence in the U.S. counterterrorism paranoia machine that is almost laughable, if it’s not so serious.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, in Yemen, I spent a lot of time with Anwar al-Awlaki’s family, with his father, with the head of the Awlaki tribe. You know, and they—people understand why the U.S. government killed Anwar al-Awlaki, but these are also very intelligent people who have spent time in the U.S. Awlaki’s dad went to school here. And he said, "Is it normal in the United States that you assassinate your own citizens when they haven’t been charged with a crime?"

I mean, Awlaki wasn’t convicted of anything. He wasn’t charged with any crime in a U.S. court. This has nothing to do with what we think of him as a person. There’s rules of law and order. And so, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, prior to Awlaki being assassinated on authority from President Obama, simply tried to ask the U.S. government, "On what authority are you going to assassinate this U.S. citizen?"

AMY GOODMAN: Right. CCR represented his father, right?

JEREMY SCAHILL: They represented his father. And that case was ultimately thrown out. And, you know, no one in Congress wants to touch this, except Senator Wyden and Dennis Kucinich. Senator Wyden said that it’s unacceptable that the Obama administration has still not provided Congress—not about the American people, Congress—with the authority that they killed Awlaki under.

Then, two weeks later, after Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, two U.S. citizens, are killed—by the way, Samir Khan’s family was called by the State Department after he was killed. And they didn’t say, "We killed him." They said, you know, "Your son," who’s a U.S. citizen, "was killed in Yemen," and expressed condolences for him. Then, two weeks later, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who is a normal teenager, who hadn’t seen his dad in years, who was living with his grandparents, on Facebook, going out for dinner with his friends, a normal 16-year-old kid, is killed in a strike.

And the claim was he was with an AQAP leader, al-Banna. Al-Banna wasn’t killed in that strike; he wasn’t there. Who was the target in the strike that killed a 16-year-old U.S. citizen, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? I don’t claim to know, but as a journalist and as an American citizen, we have a right to know. Why did three U.S. citizens get killed in less than a month on President Obama’s authorization? Why?

So the ACLU and CCR, Center for Constitutional Rights, are simply trying to do what journalists should be doing, what members of Congress should be doing, which is to say, if the U.S. is asserting its right to kill its own citizens without trial, without due process, why? Under what authority? How is it legal? And so, that’s what’s at the heart of what the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU are doing right now.

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