Obama Administration White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained to a reporter why President Barack Obama was justified when he ordered an airstrike, targeting and killing a 16-year-old American citizen eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Yemen on October 11, 2011:

Reporter: Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was an American citizen, underage...he was a minor and was killed without due process, without a trial.

Gibbs: I would suggest that you would have a far more responsible father if they were truly concerned with the well-being of their children.

By the time this boy was killed by President Obama's specific orders, his father had already been killed, also by an Obama-ordered drone attack.

Anwar al-Awlaki was a Muslim cleric, born in New Mexico, who went on to inspire "lone wolf" al Qa'eda sympathizers to kill Americans and was publicly speaking out against America and justifying the killing of as many as possible.

Anwar renounced his citizenship and moved him and his family to Yemen before making such dangerous public statements. He was an al Qa'eda supporter and recruiter for sure. With a phone call and a push of a button, a drone's missile took him out on a Yemen road on September 30, 2011. White House officials insisted that he was centrally planning lethal al Qa'eda operations there.

Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 22, 2013, justifying the strike on Anwar:

"High-level U.S. government officials concluded that al-Aulaqi posed a continuing and imminent threat of violent attack against the United States. Before carrying out the operation that killed al-Aulaqi, senior officials also determined, based on a careful evaluation of the circumstances at the time, that it was not feasible to capture al-Aulaqi. In addition, senior officials determined that the operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles, including the cardinal principles of (1) necessity – the requirement that the target have definite military value; (2) distinction – the idea that only military objectives may be intentionally targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted; (3) proportionality – the notion that the anticipated collateral damage of an action cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage; and (4) humanity – a principle that requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering. The operation was also undertaken consistent with Yemeni sovereignty. [...] The decision to target Anwar al-Aulaqi was lawful, it was considered, and it was just."

Interesting that the Democratic administration felt the strike was lawful and justifiable based on 1) necessity, the requirement that the target have definite military value; 2) distinction, the idea that only military objectives may be intentionally targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted; and 3) proportionality, the notion that the anticipated collateral damage of an action cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage.

President Obama actually had a "Kill List," a list of human targets (allegedly) guilty of physical actions or inspirational words that contributed to terrorism against the United States. Some were American citizens who were denied due process under the Constitution, and others were radicalized foreigners overseas.

Compare that to President Trump's ordered drone airstrike on General Qasem Soleimani, a legitimate military target, a man who was also a mass murderer, a leader of two known terrorist groups, the Quds force and Hezbollah, and a man known to have orchestrated ambushes which killed over 600 American servicemen and women.

Soleimani's last known act was to orchestrate the attempt to sack the U.S. Embassy in Iraq with thousands of Hezbollah-allied Iraqis. They were gathered in large numbers to protest the U.S. airstrike that killed more than two dozen Hezbollah operatives who were part of a campaign to attack Americans in the prior week which killed a U.S. contractor.

The White House suggests that they were aware of imminent attacks he was orchestrating at the time he was killed on January 2, 2020.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that the data was "razor-thin" or arguably not enough to consider as actionable intelligence. So what?

Soleimani was every bit as "just," "lawful" and as legitimate a target that Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder listed as criteria for such an attack. He had military value, as it provided America with a distinct military advantage by ending his life.

To be honest, I agree with the airstrike that killed Anwar al Awlaki. He inspired people to murder Americans, from the September 11th hijackers to Major Nidal Hasan, the "underwear bomber" and others. Anwar al Awlaki was a legit target. But so was Soleimani.

Soleimani was a hell of a lot more of a legit target than Anwar's 16-year-old minor son, American-born Abdulrahman, who was merely searching for his father and who had no intel suggesting he was a threat to Americans as he ate dinner at a café when he was disintegrated by a U.S. Predator drone missile two weeks after his father's death and 400 miles away, at the specific direction of President Obama – an act which no one in Congress called for impeachment, nor for the removal of his war powers.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@townsquaremedia.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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