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26 May 2013

Obama`s drone speech misses the mark


US President Barack Obama`s speech on drones and counterterrorism at the National Defence University in Washington on Thursday falls far short of my expectations. To be blunt, his arguments were deeply flawed and full of contradictions.
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Barack Obama: 'drone strikes have saved lives' - video | World news | guardian.co.uk - The Guardian

www.guardian.co.uk › World news › Drones
The US president defends his country's use of unmanned drones as part of their continued counter-terror policy.
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In what has been described as his new policy to restrict the scope of these counterterrorism operations, Obama continued to justify the drone strikes, or target killing, as `effective` and `legal` although that kind of legality is widely challenged both in the United States and abroad, and that kind of `effectiveness` is contradicted by his own admission that drones have come at a severe cost to the US relationship with Pakistan, citing the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory.

Obama needs to be reminded that he was the one who ordered to dramatically increase the drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries from the days of his predecessor, George W. Bush. And if that escalation was a mistake, he owes an apology, at least to the Pakistani people, especially those whose loved ones died as so-called collateral damages.

Obama did not mention whether the US will compensate the familiesof those civilians killed by drone strikes, including of course, the innocent 16-year-old son of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, both American citizens and both killed during a US drone strike.

Obama also failed to mention the prolonged terror caused by drones on local populations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Let me be clear, please do not call all these premeditated attacks as `target killings` again. Give them the real and more easily understood label of assassination, and please also do not gloss over torture as `enhanced interrogation.

In acknowledging civilian casualties in the drone attacks, Obama said,`Those deaths will haunt us as long as we live,` but he did not say whether he has been haunted in the past four-plus years as president when thousands of civilians, according to various NGOs, were decimated in drone strikes.

Obama has also changed the concept of war when he believes that the US can use drone strikes wherever alleged terrorists are. I wonder if he dares to order drone strikes if a terrorist leader happens to be in Mexico, Canada, Russia, Britain or China.Throughout his speech, Obama did not admit anything wrong on his part, not on drones and not on the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

So many years have passed andObama clearly has not tried hard enough to close Gitmo. I don`t even remember when he last tried or tried hard enough to close Gitmo. Instead, he laid all the blame on Thursday at Congress for restricting its closure and transfer of prisoners out of the facility. Obama admitted that Gitmo, where detainees were held without charges, has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.

In his speech, Obama said: `Imagine a future 10 years from now, or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not part of our country.

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?` These may be the few sensible words in Obama`s muchbelated speech, and he should ask the same questions regarding drones.

Overall he has not correctly addressed the public concerns over the years and he has left many questions unanswered. All these mean that more mistakes will be made in this war on terror.
           
By Chen Weihua, by arrangement with the China Daily/ANN