Anwar Al-Awlaki by Muhammad ud-Deen
Though in the FBI's sites from 1999, Al-Awlaki became a media star after 9/11, interviewed by National Geographic and the New York Times as a moderate, articulate American Muslim. He condemned the attacks, stating "There is no way that the people who did this could be Muslim, and if they claim to be Muslim, then they have perverted their religion." On IslamOnline.net six days after the 9/11 attacks, he suggested that Israeli intelligence agents might have been responsible, and that the FBI "went into the roster of the airplanes, and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default".
The US Secretary of the Army was eager to have a presentation from a moderate Muslim as part of an outreach effort, and a Pentagon employee invited Al-Awlaki to a luncheon in the Secretary's Office of General Counsel. He became the first imam to conduct a prayer service at the US Capitol in 2002 for the Congressional Muslim Staffer Association and officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The hardest evidence against him seems to be that Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, was in touch with him, and Faisal Shahzad, who was behind the New York Times Square car bomb attempt in May 2010, cited him as an inspiration. Obama, in a replay of his May announcement of the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, boasted that Al-Awlaki was killed in a drone attack in the northern Yemeni province of Mareb, home of Al-Awlaki clan, along with his protege, 25-year-old Pakistani-American Samir Khan.
Al-Awlaki tribal leaders insist the body was not Anwar's and demanded DNA analysis. However, assuming that he and Khan indeed died, this is the first case of the US government deliberately killing two American citizens. And their only proven crime was their eloquent Internet appeals to fight the US empire.
This new policy has shocked even mainstream politicians, such as Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, and gives Al-Awlaki's "dangerous message a life and power of its own", according to US imam Yasir Qadhi, writing in the NYT . Claims that he was an Al-Qaeda leader or that he was directly involved in any terrorist action have never been substantiated. His murder was clearly just another feather in Obama's warrior headdress as he launches his re-election campaign this autumn.
The real reason he and Khan were targetted was because they were charismatic communicators of Islam to Western dissidents. As desperate American and European youth become radicalised by the conflicts of the post-2001 period and the endless economic crisis, they will increasingly look to the likes of Al-Awlaki who provide a simple, if deadly, solution for young people with nothing to lose.
Just as new recruits to the Taliban spring up daily, as the US kills Afghan resistance fighters in droves, so the US will have to kill more and more people in Yemen and who-knows-where in a never-ending campaign, what US troops in Afghanistan call "mowing the grass". And its victims will increasingly be Americans, disgusted with their own government and recognising it as the main cause of the world's troubles today.