Should the U.S. Offer Condolences for Drone Attacks?

by Julian Ku

Interesting story out of Charlotte, N.C. about the family of Samir Khan, one of the U.S. citizens killed in the drone attack on Awlaki last week. (h/t Michael Rubin)

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.

On Friday, State Department spokesman Harry Edwards confirmed to the Observer that the call had been made, but said “privacy issues” kept him from offering details.

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 was not the intended target, so I suppose his death was simply the collateral damage to the attack. Still, Khan was not exactly friendly toward the U.S. government (he said he was “proud to call himself a traitor”) and was assumed to be involved in Awlaki’s strategizing.  I suppose offering condolences is not apologizing, but it is awkward nonetheless. It suggests a some ambivalence about the whole project.

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