He was just a boy.
Let's start there.
He was an American boy, born in America. Though he'd lived in Yemen since he was about seven, he was still an American citizen, which should have made it harder for the United States to kill him.
It didn't. It should at the very least have made it necessary for the United States to say why it killed him.
His name was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and he was 16 years old when he died — when he was killed by a drone strike in Yemen, by the light of the moon. He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country — they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Awlaki had proven himself an expert inciter of those with murderous designs against America and Americans: the rare man of words who could be said to have a body count. When he was killed, on September 30, 2011, President Obama made a speech about it; a few months later, when the Obama administraton's public-relations campaign about its embrace of what has come to be called “targeted killing” reached its climax in a front-page story in the New York Times that presented the President of the United States as the last word in deciding who lives and who dies, he was quoted as saying that the decision to put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill list — and then to kill him — was "an easy one."
But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn't on an American kill list. Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla. Nor was he "an inspiration," as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone "operational," as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests. He was a boy who hadn't seen his father in two years, since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who snuck out of his family's home in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him.
He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the second cousin with whom he'd lived while on his search, and the friends he'd made. He was a boy among boys, then; a boy among boys eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all.The fact is that Mitt Romney would probably take this program ever further. But it is morally repugnant as it is.
The fact that it is so little discussed and brings no real shame, let along second thoughts to us, as Americans just compounds the shame.