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I think that a lot of liberals in particular have sort of coat-checked their conscience during the two terms of the Obama party. And, to me, it calls into question if these are principles in play, because you were against these things when Bush was doing it and now you seem to support it when Obama's doing it, or you're silent in the face of him doing many of the same things Bush and Cheney were doing.
And I also empathize with some of these people. Look at all these racist, bigoted attacks on the president, coming from the craziest corners of the right wing. It's not like the guy isn't under siege. His citizenship has been called into question. They portray him as a sort of bizarre, Marxist Manchurian candidate and not a real American.
I also think the president has been very effective in convincing people that this is a smarter, more effective way of waging war against people who are plotting against the United States. There's been a portrayal of this as surgical and not so many civilians have died, and you don't subject American forces to being killed or maimed on the battlefield. I think a lot of people have bought into that idea.
I just disagree that that's the reality. I disagree not based on being embedded on my couch but going in and talking to people in areas that are being targeted. I think we've killed a tremendous number of innocent people, and in some places, our policies are making more enemies than they are killing terrorists.
In the film, you document the deaths of an Afghan policeman and two women who lived in the same house. It was obvious that they weren't Taliban.
I'll tell you something about that family. We originally had a line in the film explaining how these guys weren't ethnic Pashtuns, meaning they were not the almost exclusive ethnicity of the Taliban. The women were not wearing burqas. These guys had a proven record of fighting against the Taliban. They were a minority in a very Taliban part of Afghanistan, and I write all of this in the book.
When you know these details, it makes it [the strike] even more egregious. So let me get this straight: The Americans went into this place and they gunned these people down. And it turned out it was one of their allies, a guy who was on the Taliban's death list, we killed there? One of the Afghans who was actually collaborating with us? Which is why, when the guy [a relative of the victims] said, "I wanted to put on a suicide vest and blow myself up among the Americans," it's so profound because this was a very pro-American family. And we lost them. The male members of this family wanted to kill Americans in retaliation.
At the same time, the film shows that Anwar al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, despite losing a son and a grandson to drone strikes, is still not denouncing America.
This guy [Anwar] was not his only son. One of his children is a beekeeper. One is a schoolteacher. The other works for an international oil company. They're all modern, sort of Western-oriented folks. Anwar al-Awlaki, for reasons we try to get into in the film, became radicalized, I think in a large part because of American foreign policy. To this day, they are still based in the United States.
This is a guy who went to the United States in 1966 as a Fulbright Scholar and wanted to raise his children in the spirit of sort of American culture and values. I'm always in awe of people who let us come in and talk with them and share their stories. Look, he's fighting in the court system still in the U.S. to try to get answers, particularly as to why his grandson was killed. And, in part, it's because he has faith that if the American people were to look at all the facts, they would give an honest assessment. That's pretty profound that he still believes that.