Did President Obama Just Apologize for the Drone Campaign?

Predator drone

Via Spencer Ackerman and HuffPo.

Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.

The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.

In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”

Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.

President Obama says he’s sorry.

Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.

“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.

We’re going to try again to close Guantanamo. But detention without charges and military commissions will continue.

“Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions,” he said. “I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries.”

Maybe it’s time to re-think the war on terror thing. This part of the speech was surprising, because only a week ago Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told Congress that the war on terror would last another 10 to 20 years.

While Obama would not declare an end to the war on terrorism, Obama offered to work with Congress to constrain some of his own authorities for waging it, reflecting what he and aides described as a discomfort with permanent executive war powers. He said he was “open” to working with Congress to establish some additional mechanism to oversee the proper targeting of terrorists, such as a court modeled on the secretive one that oversees the surveillance of suspected foreign agents. He also expressed a preference to constrain “and ultimately repeal” the broad latitude of warmaking powers granted in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), the legislative wellspring of the war. “This is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions,” Obama said.

President Obama’s credibility isn’t good. Obama was interrupted by Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin three times. After she was removed from the room by security, he acknowledged her opposition to his policies ought to be taken seriously.

“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” Obama said. “Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said. And obviously, she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But, these are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”

More info:
Holder: We’ve Droned 4 Americans, 3 by Accident. Oops.
Obama Swears Drone Surge Is Done
Obama Drones, Guantanamo Policy Laid Out In Major National Security Speech (VIDEO)

UPDATE: Hearts & Minds & La La La I Can’t Hear You

UPDATE: Anwar Al-Awlaki Finally Gets A (Show) Trial

UPDATE: Obama Speech Interrupted: “Medea Benjamin Gets in News Conferences Using ‘CodePink Magic'”

Benjamin shouted, as she was escorted out of the news conference:

“Can you tell the Muslim people that their lives are as precious as our lives?Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer.”

UPDATE: GOP Senator: Obama Speech ‘Will Be Viewed By Terrorists As A Victory’

Obama’s major speech outlining the Administration’s counter-terrorism policy on Thursday marked a win for al-Qaeda, according to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

UPDATE: Marcy Wheeler: Has Obama Presented a New Plan to Fight Terror or More of the Same?

UPDATE: Frank Gaffney: Obama Counterterrorism Speech Was “Signaling Surrender”

UPDATE: New Drone Strike Undercuts Obama’s Promises on Robot War

  1. #1 by cav on May 23, 2013 - 5:30 pm

    Charley Pierce, just now.

    It’s past time that we removed these issues from the cheap-jack political hurly-burly within which Republican vandals — and cowardly Democrats — can practice their vandalism and then blame the president for the results of what they’ve done. It’s past time that we allow people to skate on the clear abdication of their responsibilities for the policies that they put in place while the work crews were still sifting through the rubble, policies that they made iconic, policies that they made the only true measures of patriotism, policies that they used as a club on anyone who said back then what Medea Benjamin said yesterday — which included Medea Benjamin — and who now decide that their sensitivities are ruffled because it is a Democratic president who is forcing the choices on them. The process of making the presidency an office with far more power in foreign affairs than the Founders intended took decades. The process of putting a sharp edge on that office took less than one. Give this president some credit. At least he knows what a deadly weapon his office is.

    • #2 by Richard Warnick on May 23, 2013 - 7:31 pm

      I’m willing to give the President credit, if he does something. But in his speech he simply asked Congress to repeal the war on terror AUMF and close Guantanamo.

    • #3 by Richard Warnick on May 23, 2013 - 7:33 pm


      Moved your comment to this thread. Hope you don’t mind.

      I’m willing to give the President credit, if he does something. But in his speech he simply asked Congress to repeal the war on terror AUMF and close Guantanamo.

    • #4 by Larry Bergan on May 24, 2013 - 10:20 pm

      Oh, THAT Charley Pierce.

      I LOVE Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

      Very nice synopsis of how we got here. Thanks cav.

  2. #5 by brewski on May 23, 2013 - 8:36 pm

    Just think, all of this could have been avoided. Bush could have been known purely as the president who brought little league to the White House lawn. Nothing else. Oh, maybe NCLB and tax bullshit and all that. But if it were not for 9/11 there would have been none of this other stuff. No Iraq, no Afghanistan, no drones, no Patriot Act, no Gitmo, no nothing. The Islamist jihadists reap what have sown and we are all living it.

    • #6 by Richard Warnick on May 24, 2013 - 8:46 am

      Al-Qaeda counted on an American over-reaction. It was part of their strategy, outlined by Ayman al-Zawahiri in the 1990s.

      Zawahiri impressed upon Bin Laden the importance of understanding the American mentality. The American mentality is a cowboy mentality– if you confront them with their identity theoretically and practically they will react in an extreme manner. In other words, America with all its resources and establishments will shrink into a cowboy when irritated successfully. They will then elevate you and this will satisfy the Muslim longing for a leader who can successfully challenge the West.

      Of course, it was made worse because Karl Rove deliberately politicized the “Global War on Terror” for partisan advantage, and decided that one war was not enough to get Bush re-elected as a “war president.” The strategy President Obama laid out yesterday is the one that ought to have been pursued all along – take out only the people we must kill, and do so with a minimum of fanfare. Make clear our mission is world peace, not world war.

      • #7 by brewski on May 24, 2013 - 4:14 pm

        So they counted on the US bombing the crap out of them and chasing them across the globe and killing them in their tents and caves. Great fucking strategy. I guess the strategy of Napoleon was to lose at Waterloo.

        • #8 by Richard Warnick on May 25, 2013 - 10:50 am

          It actually made sense from al-Qaeda’s point of view. Remember this is a group that never numbered more than a few thousand. However, there are more than 2 billion Muslims. If al-Qaeda terrorism could provoke an indiscriminate military response that led to a widespread “clash of civilizations” between the USA and the Muslim world (Umma), it might unite Muslims and lead to our decline as a world power. The so-called Global War on Terror was close to what al-Zawahiri envisioned. The essence of strategy is to make your enemy conform to your will.

          • #9 by brewski on May 25, 2013 - 9:32 pm

            Get the enemy to conform to your will and then get the crap bombed out of you? If al Qaeda’s strategy is to have as many Muslim martyrs as possible, then they are succeeding. Other than that, I don’t see how they are being successful.

  3. #10 by cav on May 23, 2013 - 9:22 pm

    Que shrill reaction to the President’s apology for innocent deaths abroad by the micro-brained senators and representatives from the red states.

    brewski, Just think on this as well: Had the (expletive deleted) occupant of the WH at that time taken the warnings passed on to him by those in the know, 9-11 might never have happened. Water the bridge. And, when you were keying your comment, surely you knew something like this would be the response…but there was brush to clear. Just sayin’.

    • #11 by brewski on May 24, 2013 - 4:29 pm

      Sure it would have been great if W had stopped 9/11. But I don’t see any evidence that W’s predecessor would have done a better job than W at that. Recall that under Slick Willie that all the hijackers arrived in the US under dubious visas, trained, planned, communicated, etc. Nothing was done under Willie during this extensive time period of their training on US soil.

      In addition under Wille:

      Oct. 12, 2000 – A terrorist bomb damages the destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39.

      Aug. 7, 1998 – Terrorist bombs destroy the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Nairobi, 12 Americans are among the 291 killed, and over 5,000 are wounded, including 6 Americans. In Dar es Salaam, one U.S. citizen is wounded among the 10 killed and 77 injured.

      June 25, 1996 – A bomb aboard a fuel truck explodes outside a U.S. air force installation in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. 19 U.S. military personnel are killed in the Khubar Towers housing facility, and 515 are wounded, including 240 Americans.

      Nov. 13, 1995 – A car-bomb in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia kills seven people, five of them American military and civilian advisers for National Guard training. The “Tigers of the Gulf,” “Islamist Movement for Change,” and “Fighting Advocates of God” claim responsibility.

      February 1993 – A bomb in a van explodes in the underground parking garage in New York’s World Trade Center, killing six people and wounding 1,042.

      Not to mention the Black Hawk Down fiasco in Somalia.

      Famously Bill Clinton said with his own lips:
      “Mr. bin Laden used to live in Sudan. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, then he went to Sudan. And we’d been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again. They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America.”

      • #12 by Larry Bergan on May 24, 2013 - 9:37 pm

        We sure made us a lot of enemies before Clinton got into office, didn’t we?

        Oh! I forgot; they hate us for our freedom and because we have houses. Well we used to have houses, but now that nobody lives in them and the prices have gone WAY down, the vultures are buying them up.

        • #13 by brewski on May 24, 2013 - 10:28 pm

          Richard keeps telling us that W and his policies are why Muslims act like animals and hack innocent people in the street. That works except for the fact that Muslims have been acting like animals long before any of them had ever heard of W. They acted like animals all during the Clinton regime and I don’t think Richard will blame Clinton’s policies for that, since Clinton has a D after his name and we can’t criticize anyone with a D. So things like history, timeline, facts and reality all get in the way of Richard’s narrative which doesn’t stand the test of facts or logic and makes his head explode, but who cares since Richard really “feeeeels” it so it must be true.

          • #14 by Larry Bergan on May 25, 2013 - 12:12 am

            The Nixon years are before your time, but I was reminded of a story today where Nixon had made a long list of people he wanted to get. There was a reporter named John Anderson who was a Mormon with nine children. Some of the tactics they were going to try on him were saying he was gay, putting LSD on his steering wheel, poisoning a drink, and stabbing him to death.

            Gordon Liddy volunteered to stab him before he had to go to jail for breaking into the Watergate. Don’t talk to me about animals.

            By the way, Mr. Liddy has had a radio show for over a decade.

            Most of the people who act like real animals are people like Bush’s dad, Cheney Rumsfeld or Abrams types who have others do the animal acts.

          • #15 by brewski on May 25, 2013 - 6:09 am

            Explain to me what that has to do with anything.

          • #16 by cav on May 25, 2013 - 6:43 am

            Why? You brought people behaving like animals, but still fail to see that some people are NOT Muslim.

            Talking with you is pointless.

          • #17 by brewski on May 25, 2013 - 9:34 pm

            I give you facts and history and you give me snark. You are right, your talking is pointless.

          • #18 by cav on May 25, 2013 - 10:13 pm

            brewski fact: Muslims act like animals and hack innocent people in the street…Muslims have been acting like animals long before any of them had ever heard …

            Hardly factual. More like racist blather.

            No snark here.

          • #19 by Larry Bergan on May 25, 2013 - 10:28 pm

            The least you could do is defend one of your own, brewski. Don’t leave Gordon Liddy hanging like that. Even I’d have to admit he was out in the field instead of behind a desk somewhere.

          • #20 by brewski on May 26, 2013 - 9:32 am

            In what conceivable way is Liddy one of my own? Your understanding of the world is misguided.

          • #21 by Larry Bergan on May 26, 2013 - 7:46 pm

            Gee, if somebody with a bloody meat cleaver walked up to me, I don’t think I’d stand there and film him.

            Pretty weird.

          • #22 by brewski on May 26, 2013 - 10:44 pm

            Blame the victims.

        • #23 by brewski on May 26, 2013 - 9:34 am

          • #24 by Richard Warnick on May 26, 2013 - 12:12 pm

            Shorter attacker: “Muslims are not extremists, and to prove it I just beheaded a guy at random.”

          • #25 by Larry Bergan on May 26, 2013 - 7:49 pm

            Gee, if somebody with a bloody meat cleaver walked up to me, I don’t think I’d stand there and film him.

            Pretty weird.

          • #26 by cav on May 26, 2013 - 8:32 pm

            Longer attacker: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you UNTIL YOU LEAVE US ALONE.” “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day.”

          • #27 by Larry Bergan on May 26, 2013 - 10:59 pm

            I think brewski meant to put his “blame the victims” comment here. [reply to your cleaver video to get here]


            You mean like blaming Iraq for 911?

          • #28 by cav on May 27, 2013 - 7:58 am

            There’s no time to blame the victims! I’m too busy blaming the victims!

  4. #29 by cav on May 23, 2013 - 9:35 pm

    And, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) can kiss my ass.

  5. #30 by Larry Bergan on May 23, 2013 - 10:16 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting speech, but I haven’t had time to watch the whole thing. Interesting they knew Medea Benjamin was there and let her in.

    Come on Democrats. Like the song says: “let’s drop the big one and see what happens“.

    • #31 by Richard Warnick on May 24, 2013 - 10:39 am

      Randy Newman: “Political Science”

      No one likes us
      I don’t know why.
      We may not be perfect
      But heaven knows we try.
      But all around even our old friends put us down.
      Let’s drop the big one and see what happens.

      We give them money
      But are they grateful?
      No they’re spiteful
      And they’re hateful.
      They don’t respect us so let’s surprise them;
      We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them.

      Now Asia’s crowded
      And Europe’s too old.
      Africa’s far too hot,
      And Canada’s too cold.
      And South America stole our name.
      Let’s drop the big one; there’ll be no one left to blame us.

      We’ll save Australia;
      Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo.
      We’ll build an all-American amusement park there;
      They’ve got surfing, too.

      Well, boom goes London,
      And boom Paris.
      More room for you
      And more room for me.
      And every city the whole world round
      Will just be another American town.
      Oh, how peaceful it’ll be;
      We’ll set everybody free;
      You’ll have Japanese kimonos, baby,
      There’ll be Italian shoes for me.
      They all hate us anyhow,
      So let’s drop the big one now.
      Let’s drop the big one now.

      • #32 by Larry Bergan on May 24, 2013 - 9:25 pm

        Randy Newman was recently interviewed on NPR and people were asked to weigh in on what their favorite song of his was so they could play it at the end of the show.

        Yep, that’s the one.

        • #33 by brewski on May 24, 2013 - 10:34 pm

          Not even close to:

          • #34 by Larry Bergan on May 25, 2013 - 12:00 am

            Certainly a happier theme. 🙂

          • #35 by brewski on May 25, 2013 - 9:35 pm

            My homies back in the ‘hood.

  6. #36 by Richard Warnick on May 24, 2013 - 10:37 am

  7. #37 by brewski on May 24, 2013 - 4:29 pm

    I am in moderation.

  8. #38 by obama's jack booted truncheon wielding goons on May 26, 2013 - 11:55 am

    Best job of being a day late and dollar short I have heard of without getting fired.

    What’s that? He is getting fired?


    I love the reminiscent call to a warmer, fuzzier obama by progressives onsite here with the recent revelations of what a total fraud criminal he is. It’s a nice touch, despite it’s obvious nature. obama better get to rehab, he jus’ say, no, no, no…it’s over kids.

    • #41 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 4:48 pm

      Cliff and Glenden think you are a racist.

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