The most controversial campaign promise that Donald Trump made on the trail wasn’t his so-called Muslim ban. While that drew some heat then, and is again under fire now, it was the war crime that he repeatedly advocated carrying out as the Commander-in-Chief that was the most dangerous proclamation. Fueled by his unhinged desire to stoop to the level of murderous terrorists, Donald Trump pledged to “take out their families” on several occasions during the Republican primary. Less than two weeks into his term, President Trump fulfilled that campaign promise to kill the families of terrorists when he ordered a raid in Yemen that killed Nawar Awlaki, an eight year old girl who was an American citizen.
You may recognize the last name Awlaki. It also belonged to her father Anwar who was the first American citizen to be assassinated by a CIA drone strike despite never being formally charged with (nor convicted of) a crime. Anwar Awlaki was a major player in the Yemeni affiliate of Al Qaeda and was specifically targeted by the Obama administration in 2010. But his son, Abdulrahman, was never suspected of involvement and was later killed in a subsequent drone strike. Of course, the Obama administration claimed that Abdulrahman’s death was just collateral damage.
Previous administrations have always maintained that civilian deaths are collateral damage. Whether or not this lessens these deaths’ propaganda and recruiting value to terrorists is up for debate but these actions were at least acknowledged by the government to have been wrong and not intentional. Now, under the current administration, the killing of civilians and members of terrorists families is an official policy of the President. Terrorists have been given license to use civilian deaths to recruit more followers which is sure to happen.
That’s not to say that the military killed these civilians on purpose. It is still against the law. Although, when presented with the evidence that these actions are illegal under U.S. law and military regulations, and U.S. troops would disobey them, Trump insisted that he would force them to comply. If that didn’t work, then he suggested that the administration would “have to expand those laws” to legalize these crimes.
Of all the actions that President Trump has taken so far, his extrajudicial killing of an American citizen and other civilians is by far the most troubling. Whether or not it represents intentional U.S. military policy remains to be seen, but the President’s complete disregard for the law here is disturbing. We can only hope that those protesting the attention-grabbing travel ban will eventually focus their gaze on this much more egregious crime in the future.