Bigger than Osama: A New Round of Awlaki Hysteria Emerges

Concerns About AQAP Fuel New Scare About US Citizen

A US citizen, unconvicted and indeed uncharged with any terror related offenses but still on the Obama Administration’s official assassination list. This is Anwar al-Awlaki, a well-known cleric and even better-known bogeyman.

The official rhetoric against Awlaki has been long-standing and continues to grow, with officials now saying that he is an “even bigger threat” than Osama bin Laden because of “his group,” al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Which is “his group” in name only, as officials have never provided any evidence that he is a member of the organization, let alone its ringleader, and the entire case seems to be built on him being in Yemen and AQAP also being in Yemen.

But Awlaki’s infamy, in spite of concrete charges or indeed circumstantial evidence, is staggering. CBS tauts him as the “Times Square Mastermind,” despite the fact that the attacker trained in Pakistan, not Yemen, and officials never even accused him of having anything to do with it, apart from the attacker, Faisal Shahzad, confessing to enjoying Awlaki’s online sermons.

Which comes back to the overall case against Awlaki, to the extent there is one. Awlaki has been extremely popular online, and is an extremely public critic of the US foreign policy. Every time a new incident crops up officials focus in on whether or not the person has heard Awlaki’s sermons, which a large portion of the world of course has, and then determine that his speech equals direct culpability for the actions of others.

But if there is a “slam dunk” case against Awlaki, beyond the one forged in the court of public opinion, the administration seems terrified of the notion that it might have to defend it in court, fighting vigorously against the notion that Awlaki’s father could challenge his assassination on the grounds that the American-born US citizen was never convicted of a capital crime. The challenge, needless to say, was thrown out.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.