Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Muslim boy who brought a homemade clock to school and was subsequently arrested because the clock looked similar to a bomb that resembled a movie prop, has been rightly recognized worldwide as a victim of anti-Islam paranoia that has spread in the US like a cancer. Obama, being the postwar on Terror President, invited young Ahmed to the White House to display his homemade device. When he does make his trip to DC to visit the President that declared the War on Terror to be over, what will they talk about? If the subject of foreign policy does come up, as well as Muslim fear-mongering and the need to protect young Muslims such as himself from persecution, young Ahmed might rightly ask Obama this: how similar do I look to the hundreds of young men that have died from your drone strikes? How similar do I look to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old boy who was killed via drone while eating dinner in Yemen? Are you inviting me to the White House as a political stunt? He could go on and on with this line of questioning, but might be escorted out before he received an answer. Obama has attempted to sustain the narrative that the “War on Terror” is over, that he ended it, since it was just a war on a tactic anyway, and from now on it’s going to be a cool and collected foreign policy, a reversal of the paranoid Bush years. It could be a teachable moment in the limits of hypocrisy, although it would probably never be allowed in the presence of a President keen on continuing the narrative that he is a friend to young Muslim men and women, rather than their executioner.
Semantic gymnastics aside, the ‘War on Terror’ is in full swing, and Obama is neck deep. The War on Terror may have been redefined, but the actions that are the hallmark of that foreign policy have not changed, regardless of what it’s called. Aerial robots being the weapon of choice in this “new” war, the death toll is climbing just as quickly. Obama’s drone war has killed far more innocents than “targets”, with The Guardian estimating that 41 bystanders are killed for every intended target. Over 2,500 have died outside the United States’ declared war zones since the beginning of the Obama Presidency. These are real people, with lives, struggles, pain, heartbreak, family, who live and breathe just like young Ahmed. Their deaths are no less real than Ahmed’s humiliation at school. More so, because their lives were stolen from them. They are ignored, however, because they are never seen. They can be learned of, if one takes the time to do an Internet search, but most don’t. Sanitized numbers, like “1,100 killed”, flash across a television occasionally, but it’s hard for us to sympathize with a number. But the survivors know who these dead were, and they won’t forget. Just as we would never forget a foreign drone bombing the school down the street, or a wedding at the church next door.
A drone strike in Yemen killed a 6th grade boy, among others, earlier this year. Where’s his honorable mention, his posthumous White House invite for being an innocent life snuffed out due to a paranoia-based foreign policy? His name was Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, someone who probably had aspirations, goals, loved ones, hobbies, and a future. Does Obama see the humanity in their lives just as he appears to see it in Ahmed? Taeiman was twelve years old, and he would be alive, and living in a far more stable country, were it not for the US drone war. His life was effectively taken from him by President Obama via the technological terror that he has made his own. As for Yemen, this is solely Obama’s war, it can’t be placed on the backs of previous administrations as he has done in the past. Only one drone strike occurred in that country during the Bush years, back in 2002. It didn’t happen again until 2011, but it hasn’t stopped since. Obama has been pounding that country with drones, striking the country at least 103 times, killing at least 580 people. Their stories aren’t blasted across social media, but they had stories nonetheless. Their stories have ended due to a misguided foreign policy, a policy conducted in our name, of which we are oblivious to. When the blowback does arrive, will we recognize the source of it? When the survivors pray for our death as they drag their children out from under rubble, will we understand that the hatred is fueled because US drones are the reason for their dead?
Ahmed is busy receiving cushy invites from all over the world, which is just. But the outpouring of support is a natural reaction when we see a human face, and see tragedy affecting them. The faceless are forgotten. No one remembers, or has cared to learn of, the thousands dead from Obama-approved drone assassination campaigns. If Ahmed had lived in Yemen, Somalia, or the other countries that cower under drones flying overhead, he could very easily have died at the hands of the President now congratulating him and offering him a chance to visit the White House. Ahmed has withdrawn from the school that targeted him due to his appearance, the victims of the US drone wars aren’t as easily able to escape their fate.
Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.