An official from the U.S. State Department has called the Charlotte family of al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan to offer the government’s condolences on his death in a U.S. drone attack last week in Yemen, according to a family spokesman.
“They were very apologetic (for not calling the family sooner) and offered condolences,” Jibril Hough said about the Thursday call from the State Department to Khan’s father, Zafar.
The phone call came a day after the family released a statement through Hough that condemned the “assassination” of their 25-year-old son – a U.S. citizen – and said they were “appalled” that they had not heard from the U.S. government to discuss their son’s remains or answer questions about why Khan was not afforded due process…
Hough said the Thursday conversation lasted a few minutes. “It wasn’t just ‘I’m sorry’ and hang-up,” said Hough, who added that the phone call included no discussion of the status or condition of Khan’s remains.
Khan wasn’t just pals with Awlaki, caught in the crossfire of a drone strike. He was allegedly the editor of Al Qaeda’s magazine “Inspire,” which contained articles on bomb-building and Khan’s own musings on how he’s “proud to be a traitor.” The Jawa Report guys tracked him from the time he was a keyboard commando in North Carolina, fantasizing about jihad, until he actually followed through and decamped for the Middle East, ending up by Anwar al-Awlaki’s side. The fact that the State Department is now apologizing for the fact that collateral damage in the Awlaki strike happened to be an American citizen who ranked as one of Al Qaeda’s chief English-language propagandists tells you two important things. One: They’re very nervous, as they should be, about public reaction to the news of Americans being targeted, no matter how filthy and treacherous they were. There’s simply no way to spin a headline like this. Two: They’re being careful to draw a distinction between people like Awlaki, whom the White House suspected of operational planning, and Khan, who appears to have been exclusively a propagandist. That was a distinction that got lost in the aftermath of the drone strike, I think. Some people thought Awlaki was targeted only because he was an especially effective jihadi messenger, churning out English-language sermons about the kaffir to recruit western Muslims into terrorism. Not so. Obama’s first public comments about Awlaki’s killing took care to describe him as AQAP’s “external operations” chief to emphasize that he was doing more than just talking. If they’re targeting people only for their rhetoric, no matter how toxic that might be, it puts them on even thinner ice with civil libertarians given the very high bar for dangerous speech under the First Amendment. I assume that’s what the call to Khan’s family is about: If he did nothing more than talk, even though he was obviously in cahoots with the guy running AQAP’s external operations, then they’ve got to pretend that they’re sorry. Even though, almost certainly, they’re not sorry.