Who was Anwar Al Awlaki and why did the U.S. government kill him in a 2011 drone strike, despite his U.S. citizenship?
The latter question has been answered with the court-ordered release of a Justice Department memo justifying the action. Awlaki, held “operational and leadership roles” in Al Qaeda in Yemen and “continue[d] to plot attacks intended to kill Americans.”
The first question – who he was – is one many in the media won’t be too eager to revisit, because they got it spectacularly wrong for a long time.
American blood was shed and mobs of Muslims continue to burn American flags and chant “Death to America!” around multiple U.S. consulates. It’s a scene that’s played out on almost a regular basis. A media story (about flushing Korans or other slights to Islam real or imagined) provides some pretext and the “Arab Street” explodes with raging mobs. The ambassador’s death is what sets the current situation apart.
With the news that an American air strike has killed the U.S.-born head of Al Quaeda in Yemen, Anwar Al Awlaki, the media will explain his significance in the terrorist organization, and his role in inspiring the Ft. Hood shooter and the “underwear bomber.” What they probably won’t tell you is that they once celebrated Al Awlaki as a “moderate” and a bridge-builder “between Islam and the West.”
Awlaki once served as imam of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia, the very same place that attracted many of the 9/11 hijackers and, later, Major Nadal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter.
Last week, the media rightfully crowed over U.S. success in killing Osama Bin Laden, an unquestioned bad guy in the war on terror. They noted that intelligence gathered from that raid may have led to an unsuccessful U.S. Predator drone attack on Anwar Al Awlaki, leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Unfortunately, while Al Awlaki is very much as bad as Bin Laden, the media haven’t always known it.
The mainstream media have recently described this America-born terrorist as a “central figure” of Al Qaeda and the New York Times, ABC News, and MSNBC have all called him “radical” when reporting on the recent attempted drone attack. Al Awlaki has been linked to the 2009 Christmas Day Underwear bombing attempt in Detroit, the Fort Hood Shooting and the failed Times Square bombing.
But just 10 years ago they claimed he was a “moderate” a bridge-builder, and a “prayer leader.”