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Black rights activist says drone strikes make Obama a 'Global Zimmerman'

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Dr. Cornel West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, has been critical of President Obama for not doing enough about racial injustice in the U.S. (Source: Esther/Wikimedia) Dr. Cornel West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, has been critical of President Obama for not doing enough about racial injustice in the U.S. (Source: Esther/Wikimedia)

(RNN) - Professor and black rights activist Dr. Cornel West says President Barack Obama's drone strike policy is similar to George Zimmerman's alleged racial profiling of Trayvon Martin - with the same deadly results.

On the left-leaning talk show, Democracy Now, West was asked to respond to Obama's comments last week about the racial tensions that have been expressed nationwide after Zimmerman's acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin. In a press conference Friday, July 19, the president said that racial profiling is a problem in the U.S., and that 17-year-old Martin, "could have been me 35 years ago."

In response, West, who has repeatedly criticized Obama for not doing enough about racial injustice and economic disparity in the U.S., said the president's words do not reflect his actions.

"President Obama has very little moral authority at this point," West said, adding that "George Zimmerman is a criminal - but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there's actually parallels here."

West explained that he was referring to drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, where an estimated 221 children have been killed as a result of collateral damage from drone attacks on suspected terrorists.

"Those 221 precious children are as precious as the white brothers and sisters [Obama] cried tears for in Newtown," West said.

The number of children killed by drone strikes likely comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has covered drone strikes in those three countries. The BIJ estimates that between 199 and 232 children have been killed by drone attacks and other covert operations between 2002 and the present.

Pakistani officials estimate that 94 children have been killed in 75 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan between 2006 and 2009.

In Yemen, at least one child killed was a U.S. citizen. In 2011, Denver-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16 years old when he was killed in an air strike. He was the son of suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in an air strike two weeks before. However, later reports indicate that he had little contact with his father and did not have any ties to terrorism.

The Obama administration admitted to the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, as well as three other U.S. citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki, in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. In the letter, Attorney General Eric Holder said that with the exception of Anwar al-Awlaki, the people killed "were not specifically targeted by the United States."

In 2012, German magazine Spiegel International profiled an American drone pilot who quit his job after realizing he had killed a child. According to the story, a child walked into an area that had been targeted for a drone strike, but it was too late to stop the attack. The following is from the article:

"Did we just kill a kid?" he asked the man sitting next to him.

"Yeah, I guess that was a kid," the pilot replied.

"Was that a kid?" they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn't know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. "No. That was a dog," the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

Despite the controversy surrounding the United States' drone strikes overseas, Obama has repeatedly defended the strategy, although he has not specifically addressed the unintended killing of civilians, including children.

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