Anwar al-Awlaki, father of Nawar, with “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
By Ismail Royer
On January 29, 2017, 8-year old Nawar al-Awlaki, along with over a dozen other civilians, was killed in a raid in southern Yemen by U.S. special forces. U.S. officials said the target of the raid, the first under the Trump administration, was the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Nawar was the daughter of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born spokesman for Al Qaeda killed by an American drone strike in 2011.
Although Nawar’s grandfather has said he believes her killing was unintentional, it is significant for the perception of this raid in the Muslim world that Trump has espoused a strategy of killing the families of terrorists. It is likewise significant that in an earlier attack U.S. forces also killed her 16-year old brother, Abdulrahman. Unintentional though her death may have been, Trump shares moral responsibility for it because he ordered the raid to be carried out with insufficient preparation, his haste apparently motivated by his petty desire to be tougher than Obama.
Trump is also responsible for the foreseeable consequences of this botched raid. Now there are factors behind Islamist extremists’ obsession with America unrelated to its policies toward the Muslim world, and it would be a target even if its leader did not appear to be carrying out his threat to kill the children of terrorists. But clearly some of the United States’s policies have assisted terrorists by feeding their narrative; for that reason, Nawar’s tragic death, and Trump’s jingoistic policies, are useful tools for the Islamist extremist cause. In no way does it absolve the terrorists to observe that Trump and his aiders-and-abettors share responsibility for the harm American interests or people might suffer as a consequence of his actions and policies. Indeed, as one former Department of Homeland Security official has stated, insofar as a terrorist attack would help Trump increase his power, “an attack is exactly what he wants and needs.”
And it is equally true that U.S. attacks on the Muslim world, like the one that killed Nawar, are exactly what AQAP and its ideological brethren want and need. Islamist extremist doctrine explicitly calls for provoking Western powers to invade the Muslim lands. Extremists calculate that such invasions will garner them power by bringing so much misery to the Muslim masses that they will rally to the extremist cause. This doctrine was spelled out by an Al Qaeda strategist in the seminal jihadist work Management of Savagery, which sets forth a “plan of action” of “sequential strikes against America” with the effect of
igniting upheavals and the approach of the fire to the region…[and] an expansion of the jihadi current which more than doubled what it lost in the upheavals of the nineties…[This will] put (America’s) armies, which occupy the region and set up military bases in it without resistance, in a state of war with the masses in the region. It is obvious at this very moment that it stirs up movements that increase the jihadi expansion and create legions among the youth who contemplate and plan for resistance…
The author further asserts that terrorist attacks on the U.S and the resulting invasions will increase the Muslim masses’ support for the jihadists, as they will be “dazzled” by such attacks and angered “over the obvious, direct American interference in the Islamic world, such that that anger compounds the previous anger against America’s support for the Zionist entity…”
Thus, the Islamist extremist “plan of action” involves deliberately “igniting upheavals” in the Muslim lands, provoking “direct American interference in the Islamic world,” and putting America into “a state of war with the masses in the region,” in order to gain power and influence over them by stimulating their anger. This Machiavellian doctrine is central to the extremist movement, which reaffirms its validity again and again. For example, Al Qaeda commander Sayf al-’Adl explained the September 11th attacks in such terms, stating:
Our ultimate objective of these painful strikes against the head of the serpent was to prompt it to come out of its hole. This would…foster our credibility in front of our nation and the beleaguered people of the world…This was what actually happened. The first reaction was the invasion of Afghanistan and the second was the invasion of Iraq…
And this is also “what actually happened” in al-Bayda, Yemen, on January 29, 2017. American commandos were in the area on that day not because they wanted to murder an 8-year old girl but because they fell into a trap laid by AQAP, consistent with the doctrine spelled out in Management of Savagery. Indeed, in a video message released in 2010, Nawar’s father gloated that his organization had succeeded in drawing U.S. soldiers to Yemen:
After the operation of our brother [underwear bomber] Umar Farouk, may Allah protect him, there were rumors on the news that the U.S. may be sending troops into Yemen. When the news was reported, I saw the brothers around me spring up, cheering in joy that finally they will have a chance to fight the American army. These are the men you are facing, these are men who have tried to reach Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against Americans but couldn’t do so. Now is their chance. This is how eager they are to fight you…
So Nawar’s father and his compatriots “cheered in joy” at the thought of American troops invading Yemen. The foreseeable consequence — indeed, the hoped-for consequence — was misery, trial, “upheaval and the approach of fire” to the people of that land. Nawar was only one of over a dozen women and children who died in the January al-Bayda raid, and they were only a few of the millions of Muslims around the world suffering from the evil brought about by the extremists’ sick calculations. In furtherance of those calculations, terrorists and their supporters are cynically using a dead girl’s image in the hope of manipulating the naive Muslim masses.
U.S. commandos would not have obeyed an order by Trump to kill Nawar al-Awlaki, had he chosen to fulfill his campaign promise of killing terrorists’ families. Unlike Al Qaeda, the U.S. military does not condone the deliberate murder of children. But by recklessly ordering the raid without proper planning or solid intelligence, Trump indeed shares moral responsibility for the girl’s death. The primary responsibility, however, falls on her father and his deviant terrorist colleagues for conceiving the Satanic strategy of deliberately bringing invasion, misery, and death to Yemen and Muslim lands around the world.