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When U.S. Strikes Go Wrong, Not All Civilian Lives Are Equal

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway on Nov. 4, 2012 (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

 

 (McClatchy) — The unusual announcement by President Barack Obama last week that a U.S. strike on an al Qaida compound in Pakistan inadvertently had killed two hostages – one a U.S. citizen, the other Italian – came with an apology and the speedy pledge of monetary compensation for the families.

None of that happened for another American who was killed in a U.S. strike in 2011. Abdulrahman al Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of al Qaida propagandist Anwar al Awlaki, wasn’t believed to have been involved in militant activities and, by the U.S. government’s own version, was an unintended casualty of the U.S. attack that killed him in Yemen.

Yet four years on, despite a media campaign and a lawsuit, the Obama administration has not apologized for the killing or offered compensation to the Awlaki family. Human rights advocates say the reason is that, when it comes to making amends for civilian deaths in U.S. counterterrorism operations, not all lives are valued the same – even when they’re American.

“All that Abdulrahman’s family got was an acknowledgment that Abdulrahman had been killed and that he had not been specifically targeted,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, which handled the Awlaki family’s lawsuit. “They received no apology, no investigation, no compensation.”

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