Some estimates indicate that since 2002, at least 2,800 people have died in 420 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Of those killed, more than 400 are likely to have been civilians.
It’s understandable that Obama and our other leaders might be haunted by their deaths, but it’s also clear that they are willing to use all the powers at their disposal to stop terrorists before they commit acts of terror.
The goal, of course, is a world that has been freed from the shackles of fear, where people in most locales on Earth can’t go anywhere without facing the possibility of being shot or blown up. And that includes Americans, as illustrated by the shootings and bombings that now regularly occur in our own nation.
Some have believed that achieving such a goal required an eternal declaration of war against potential terror and a continuing infringement on the civil rights of Americans at home. To his credit, the president is not willing to sign on to that thinking and insists he eventually would like to repeal the post-9/11 perpetual war declaration.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress three days after the 9/11 attacks has been used to justify everything from the Iraq war to drone killings to unwarranted surveillance of Americans. At times, however, the AUMF may be doing more to extend the terrorism and fear rather than achieve its intent to end them.
Referring to the AUMF, Obama said “Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.”
Naturally, the president came under attack from both the left and the right. The former, dished out immediately by Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin, blasted Obama for not being willing to extend his talking points into action by ending drone strikes, and the latter for giving a speech that “will be viewed by terrorists as a victory.’’