Anwar al-Awlaki and America's fear of the enemy within

Anwar Anwar al-Awlaki Awlaki's death follows a series of other killings of senior al-Qaeda operatives this summer

Related Stories

Anwar al-Awlaki was an example of one of America's most potent fears: the enemy within.

He was born, raised and educated in America, a citizen of America who turned against the country he knew best.

He literally spoke their language and used it to exhort other Americans to kill their fellow citizens.

It is claimed that he was the intellectual driving force behind just about all the recent attacks or foiled plots.

He is meant to have given religious advice to the soldier accused of the Fort Hood killings.

The man who planned a Times Square bombing said Awlaki was his inspiration.

He "communicated" with the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a plane using explosives in his underpants.

Attack on First Amendment?

But it is perhaps as a symbol that he both puzzles and infuriates Americans.

Not a tribesman from a distant country who knew of America only through ill-digested propaganda.

He lived here, day by day, for the best part of two decades. He knew the country well. And he hated it.

That scares Americans and makes a minority of them look with suspicion on all those who share his religion.

There will be questions raised about his killing. He was at the top of the US hit list - but this is the execution of an American citizen without a trial.

If the pundits are to be believed, he inspired attacks rather than plotted them, although there are suggestions he had a more operational role recently.

But it raises the possibility that he was assassinated for what he said, not what he did.

Although this will be looked at by many as a legal question, it is really a moral and political one.

Still, very few Americans will worry about the infringements of his rights under the first amendment.

Those who will be most alarmed are left-wingers, natural supporters of the president.

Their distaste undermines Republican arguments that he is craven when it comes to national security, so it does President Obama little political damage and some good.

Indeed, this appears to be another vindication of Mr Obama's policy of seeking out and killing terrorists.

Although aides point out he's merely doing what he said he would do during his election campaign, it is also part of an important transition from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism.

Yemen is a more virulent breeding ground for America's enemies than Afghanistan. But there aren't thousands of US troops in the Arabian peninsula, nor will there be.

Of course, Yemen and Afghanistan's backgrounds are very different.

Put simply, Mr Obama believes that you don't need thousands of American troops on the ground to keep America safe.

This killing will help him argue the success of that policy.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Trident question comes to the surface

In 2016, the new government will have to decide whether to continue to invest in the Trident programme - and this could be a key issue in a hung Parliament, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Pmk: Iran has revealed a new version of the Chinese-designed C-802 anti-ship missile

    If China is building things like this for Iran who knows what else they are building?

    No one knows for sure how much they actually spend on their military

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Pmk: because weak, backward Afghanistan would be much easier to control

    Hence the situation today

    Was it right or wrong for us to take part in such?

    Well, its done now and Afghan doesn't seem to remember Charlie Wilson

    Pmk: ISI still does

    Thats why we are so wary they have nuclear weapons

    Karzai's trying to hold on but its tough with Pak as their neighbor

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    604. powermeerkat

    And booze (up to 100 ml per day) has been found to prevent heart attacks, thrombosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

    So is 200 ml per day twice as effective,(please say it is,even if you have to fib).

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Afghan intelligence officials say they have arrested six people who were planning to assassinate President Hamid Karzai.

    The alleged plotters had recruited one of Mr Karzai's bodyguards, the officials said.

    Those arrested were linked to the militant Haqqani network (BBC)

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Iran has revealed a new version of the Chinese-designed C-802 anti-ship missile that is unlike any variant of this missile seen previously. The new weapon, dubbed Ghader (meaning 'capable' or 'able' and also reported as Qader), was unveiled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a ceremony to mark Iran's annual Defence Industry Day in Tehran on 23 August.

    (Janes Defence Weekly)


Comments 5 of 609



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.