Drones

Obama Takes 'Full Responsibility' for Killing Innocent Hostages with Drones, Which Doesn't Mean It Will Stop

America has killed hundreds of civilians with drones in Pakistan.

|

Despite how The New York Times would describe it, President Barack Obama did not sound particularly "emotional," nor did he appear more "grim-faced" than usual when he announced today that a U.S. drone strike on an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan accidentally killed an American and an Italian hostage. American intelligence apparently failed to discover the hostages before the drone strike was called. From the Associated Press:

"Based on the intelligence that we had obtained at the time, including hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed this was an al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorists was not possible," Obama said.

"We do believe that the operation did take out dangerous members of al Qaeda. What we did not know, tragically, was that al Qaeda was hiding the presence of  Warren [Weinstein] and Giovanni [Lo Porto] in this same compound. It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally – and our fight against terrorist specifically – mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur."

Obama said that as commander in chief, he takes "full responsibility" for their deaths and expressed regret for what happened. This should not be taken to mean that President Barack Obama will personally face any consequences for these deaths, obviously. No doubt their families will be paid handsomely by the federal government for their losses. In fact, the president also said that the operation was fully "lawful," though he will call for a full review so that such accidents don't happen in the future.

Here's Obama's full statement:

These "accidents" happen all the time. It's just normally not Americans who are killed. Obama ordered the declassification of information about this strike in order to be transparent about what happened to the American public. The same cannot be said for the hundreds of non-American civilians killed in other drone strikes in Pakistan. The United States has killed an estimated 168 children in Pakistan from drone strikes. And many of the people who have been killed have not even been properly identified.

And by the way, two other Americans were also killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, but they're being treated separately because the administration has determined they were not innocent hostages. Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn were Americans who joined up with al Qaeda. Farouq was killed in the same strike that killed Weinstein. Gadahn was killed in a different strike. According to The New York Times, they weren't specific targets, and intelligence also didn't indicate that the two men were at the locations of these two strikes.

Below, here's our infographic put together by Jason Keisling and Stephanie Slade in March to illustrate that drone deaths like Weinstein's and Lo Porto's are not uncommon. They're just typically not westerners. Click the graphic for a bigger image:

Reason

NEXT: Steve Chapman on Raisin Farmers Fighting for Crop Control

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Involuntary manslaughter?

    1. Dude. He already said he was sorry.

      1. And the drone operator did make it safely from his game station at work to his family.

        1. You don’t really believe the operator had any input into that decision, do you?

          1. You don’t really believe the operator had any input into that decision, do you?

            Other than pulling the trigger? But I get what you are saying. Soldiers take orders, they don’t make policy. As it should be.

            1. Agreed.

            2. Nope, just by freely joining the military he is 100% responsible for those deaths. If he had never joined he wouldn’t have had to push the button. Or he should have ripped off his uniform and told his commanding officer to fuck off and die.

              /sarc

              1. But the sarcasm still raises the issue of the problem with completely disallowing the Nuremburg. if soldiers have a responsibility to disobey illegal orders, it kind of lets those in charge get off with issuing those orders in the first place. But, my guess is that, for the authorities, that’s a feature, rather than a bug.

                1. In this case there is absolutely no way the guy operating the drone would know the intel behind this. Chances are the operator didn’t know anything other than to fly to this coordinate and bomb this building.

                  I don’t buy the fact that they had all this intel to find these guys but didn’t know they had hostages. Now, if the operator knew that there were hostages in the area and still proceeded then I would agree with you.

              2. Nope, just by freely joining the military he is 100% responsible for those deaths. If he had never joined he wouldn’t have had to push the button. Or he should have ripped off his uniform and told his commanding officer to fuck off and die.

                +1 Adam Lanza

                1. Nuremberg and all national law is a farce regardless. It’s only enforced when convenient. And the American government is the ultimate arbiter of what is or isn’t a lawful order. So, you are asking the solider in question to basically martyr themselves because the government has already decided that this is all legal.

              3. Just not so.

          2. Ummm….yeah. I’m told to drone strike a private home with people walking around, including children. Yeah, I am responsible should I do it. And, I have input.

            I do not have to obey an illegal order.

            I can quit the military rather than kill civilians.

            Just as guilty as the officers in charge.

            1. Ummm….yeah. I’m told to drone strike a private home with people walking around, including children. Yeah, I am responsible should I do it. And, I have input.

              I do not have to obey an illegal order.

              a. It is not illegal to bomb a location where enemy combatants are hiding amongst a civilian population. Whether to do so or not depends upon the value of the target. That decision is not made at the operator level.

              b. There is no reason to believe there were “people walking around” at the time of the strike.

              I can quit the military rather than kill civilians.

              Um…no you can’t. You can refuse to follow a lawful order, meaning you’ll be placed in prison or spend the rest of your life as a ditch digger as a result of your dishonorable discharge. Which is certainly, as you say, still a choice.

              Just as guilty as the officers in charge.

              It is likely, as PFUQ points out above, that the operator had no knowledge of the situation whatsoever, other than he was ordered to kill it.

              1. Operational question for you, Fd’A (though you’ve probably been out long enough not to know?):

                Do the operators even have the ability to pickle the weapon themselves, or is that left to higher-ups, and the operators just run the sensors and whatnot?

                1. The operators shoot the weapon. He might have people looking over his shoulder –or on another screen — verifying that is the correct target.

                2. Do the operators even have the ability to pickle the weapon themselves, or is that left to higher-ups, and the operators just run the sensors and whatnot?

                  As far as I know, it is always the operator firing the weapon.

              2. The statutory law you’re citing is a disease that’s infected human interaction.

                a. It is not illegal to bomb a location where enemy combatants are hiding amongst a civilian population. Whether to do so or not depends upon the value of the target. That decision is not made at the operator level.

                Would that be the case for Microsoft? If murder is illegal, then it’s illegal for anyone to kill in anything other than self-defense or in absence of a fair trial of the would-be victim. But I suppose if Microsoft got themselves a permit from the self-imposed monopoly of legal murder that’s a different story huh? I don’t see why costumes and imaginary contracts ought to change the laws governing conduct that human beings owe one another.

                1. I don’t see why costumes and imaginary contracts ought to change the laws governing conduct that human beings owe one another.

                  Because a small private force cannot defend against the power that a wealthy nation-state can summon. Eventually, the wealthy nation state will find a reason to come take your shit. And when they do, liberty will NOT be the result.

                  But, as I point out below, all war is immoral… It is, however, sometimes necessary.

                  1. Because a small private force cannot defend against the power that a wealthy nation-state can summon.

                    The first place you go is always the non-factuals… Countries that are more internally liberal tend to win wars against the more internally illiberal countries even with less militarism et cetera. Freer societies simply outproduce the wealth necessary to win wars and I see no reason why a private force is necessarily a small one. You seem to assume that confederations or alliances against aggression are something that only large centralized states can form with other states.

                    But, as I point out below, all war is immoral… It is, however, sometimes necessary.

                    Is Hobbes the only thing you’ve ever read? That’s a ridiculous claim. Yes all war is immoral. But just because defense necessary for the defender, that absolutely does not mean that the war in and of itself is necessary.

                    This is like saying bar fights are necessary for the smooth functioning of bar because of the fact that a person being attacked has it in their best interest to defend themselves against attackers.

                    1. I don’t know who Hobbes is, unless you are talking about a cartoon cat.

                      Defense is not war? Is that what you are claiming?

                    2. F d’A: Thomas Hobbes, the Leviathan guy. Wrote a lot about the role of a ‘Sovereign’ in managing society as mankind in an ‘anarchistic’ natural state suffered lives that were ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

              3. Re: people walking around. THEY KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WALKING AROUND. I know there are. How can they not know? You might not know your first few strikes, but open your eyes, read the papers, you’re killing lots of people who should not be killed. How can you not be guilty of doing that?

                If you’re saying it isn’t a criminal act, you probably are right. And, if that is how you are using the word guilty then I would tend to agree with you. But, if you are using it in the sense of morals and ethics, then yes, they are guilty.

                Resign your commission. It is a volunteer army. Ask to be re-assigned because of your morals until your sign up period ends if you can’t resign. It would kill your career but that is better than having it on your conscience you drone killed a birthday party of 10 year olds because someone thought someone might have been at that location sometime in the recent past.

                1. This is what war IS Pulseguy. The guys in those machines are simply doing what they are sworn to do, and that’s obey the lawful orders of their superiors and the elected civilian government. The soldier doesn’t get to choose which battles he fights. The elected officials do that. It has to be that way. Trust me, you don’t want soldiers deciding when to go to war.

                  How would you fight ANY war if all the enemy had to do was hide among civilians and put his missiles in a church to prevent you from shooting him?

                  The VAST majority of legitimate military targets (power plants, factories, telecommunications nodes…) are run by civilians. People die in war. This shit is a dirty, nasty, horrible business. That’s PRECISELY why you don’t enter into it unless there is no other alternative. ALL war is immoral.

                  Resign? Throw your life away? Have you? Have you quit your job and gotten yourself thrown in jail over the military actions of your government? If not, why not? You are just as responsible as that soldier is, but that’s what you’re asking him to do.

              4. How is it not illegal to kill someone without trial? And also kill whomever is near them…

                Hey, if it is legal, it’s still a morally depraved thing to do.

      2. And he only really meant to drone-taze him?

      3. Oh, that all right then.

    2. HANDS UP! DON’T DRONE!

  2. Barry has long passed Tricky Dick as the most immoral, lying sack of shit to sit in the oval office.

    1. +1 Chocolate Nixon

        1. Count ChocoNix, Americas new favorite breakfast cereal. It’s mostly fillers, fluff and marsh mellows.

          1. Once in a while you get a sharp piece of glass.

              1. Johnny Switchblade Jr doll as the prize in the bottom of the box.

            1. I suspect, that as we get closer to the bottom of the box, the glass content will continue to increase.

  3. “Takimg full resposiblility” is proggie jargon meaning “Yes, I did that, and I have no intenion of stopping, but you may not criticise me because I am one of the amointed and I’ve “taken full responsibility”. This policy is now off the table, amd may not be discussed any longer, no matter how big a clusterfuck it turns out to be.”

    Yes, I loathe Proggies.

    1. I’m trying to think of a way of rewording “the buck stops here” that accurately portrays how it actually doesn’t with all recent presidents, even if they say it does. The fuck stops here? The suck stops here? The buck stops there?

      1. The suck never stops, Epi. Never.

        1. The suck doesn’t stop here?

          1. “Embrace the suck,” as ol’ Nance Pelosi would say.

      2. “Due to my negligence, two Americans were needlessly killed. I take full responsibility and, as of this moment, hereby resign. My deepest condolences to the families. President Biden will answer any questions you may have.”

        1. 4-20 was three days ago, prole.

          1. AND THEN I GOT HIGH

            1. It’s Like, I don’t care about nothin man,
              roll another blunt, Yea (ohh ohh ohh),

              La da da da da da La, Da Daaa,
              La da da da, La da da da, La da da daaa

              I was gonna resign my office until I got high
              I was gonna get up and leave the White House but then I got high
              my Administration is still messed up and I know why (why man?) yea heyy,
              – cause I got high

      3. The buck stops wherever I say it does?
        The buck stops just prior to where it might impact my image?
        The buck stops only to fuck a doe?

      4. Around and around, that old buck does go. Where it stops, how should I know?

      5. I never said “the buck stops here”. The world said it. It’s the worlds “buck”.

      6. The buck flops here.

        1. Ok, this is the winner so far.

    2. Nice analysis of the proggie jargon, C.S.P.

      I would have more respect if the users of that expression simply said “FYTW”.

  4. What’s funny is this story was below-the-fold in my newspaper *looks over at Shackford*, taking second billing under such pressing issues as a Crow infestation in Portage Bay, Ann Rule’s kids raiding her bank account, and the officer shooting in Pasco (also covered here on Reason).

  5. Disposition Matrix says: “Fuck you, I’m Obama, Destroyer of Worlds.”

  6. I feel dirty and need to confess.

    My first thought on hearing this was “Well, they finally drone-struck a white guy. Maybe that’ll get them to stop, so good.”

    My second thought was “Oh shit I’m thinking like a progressive. FUCK FUCK FUCK WHERE’S THE VACCINE?”.

    I feel better now, knowing that you all will give me the love and support I need.

    But in any event, fuck drone strikes.

    1. Well, they finally drone-struck a white guy

      Racism is over! Yay!

      1. Doesn’t a white man have to be convicted of raping a black woman or a black man to not be convicted of a white women have to come next before racism is over?

        /confused prog derpist

        1. Doesn’t a white man have to be convicted of raping a black woman

          And then hung from a tree by an extralegal mob…

    2. I prescribe a bolus dose of whisky.

      1. Hence “Vaccine”.

  7. OT: Having an autoplay live stream on the front page doesn’t make my enjoyment of your website better.

    1. + 1111111.
      There oughta be a Two Minutes Hate comment thread for this sort of thing.

      1. These threads tend to last a lot longer than two minutes.

  8. War is immoral…always. It involves killing people without due process as well as innocent bystanders, which is precisely why it should always be the option of last resort.

    Oopsy… The intel was good enough to proclaim these people terrorists and thereby end their lives…but it wasn’t good enough to know there were American/Italian hostages present?

    What high standards you have for identifying bad guys.

    1. Killing and destruction are the first resort now. How enlightened we are these days, huh?

      1. Burning off the old stock of drones so we can order new stock benefits politicians and crony capitalists. The “war on terror” is merely a pretext.

  9. Obama said some stuff. News at 11.

  10. But, they hate us for our freedoms.

  11. Even some my Obot acquaintances are appalled, but I’m sure that soon enough, the talking points will be distributed, and all will be well in the Church of the Obamessiah.

    1. In my other haunt, I’ve been mildly heartened by the fact that at least one person seems to be generally…well, not disgusted so much, but certainly not reflexively defending and agreeing as to the immorality of it.

      Of course he hasn’t received his talking points yet, and hardly anyone else has commented at all, suggesting that the Obamanauts are either completely ignorant until about 6pm today, or are quietly waiting to hear from their minders what to say.

      1. Heh…course the only other douchebag to comment there thinks Obama “is going a great job at his anti-terrorism duties” and that “it’s the cost of keeping hundreds of people alive”.

        Holy fuck…

  12. “My bad”

    I doubt this would be news if it were only Americans killed

  13. Jack, have you been shooting the hostages again?

    1. Interactive TV, Jack! Wave of the future – ha ha ha, huh?

  14. Maybe next time they’ll make better choices about who kidnaps them.

  15. Hey, let’s cut Barak some slack here. When you kill as many people on a daily basis as he does, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made. Not by him, of course, heavens no, but someone will make a mistake and Barak, being the stand-up guy that he is, will man up, step forward and bravely admit: “Someone else made a mistake”

    1. When you kill as many people on a daily basis as he does, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made.

      Hey man, something something omelettes, something something eggs…

  16. So, Mr. Obama has taken “full responsibility” for the deaths.

    I suppose, then, that Mr. Obama is going to issue a waiver, in this instance, of his sovereign immunity with regard to wrongful death lawsuits?

    1. Like other LEOs whose mistakes have lethal consequences, he will be punished with paid vacation at taxpayer expense.

  17. The CIA missed the Americans and Italians while pouring over the Google Maps satellite images of the area.

    1. At least they didn’t hit the Chinese Embassy.

  18. I know attribution to incompetence is always a better route than malice. But a part of me will always wonder with this administration. I can’t shake this gut feeling that the hostages here may have had some information or knowledge of Bowe Bergdahl’s outright treasonous actions and that such information would be a great embarrassment to the administration. Ergo, kill the hostages to ensure that the truth about Bergdahl, known to the administration, never sees the light of day.

  19. It was a Jewish guy killed. Why would he show emotion for that?

    Anyway, he’s a psychopath. How could he show emotion?

    1. Obama shows emotion all the time. Mostly contempt for his enemies and irritation at being questioned.

      1. What’s that sorta smug, smiley-face stuff when he gives a speech?

    2. Is that different from a bikepath?

  20. I have a different take on this: mistakes happen in war. That is bad and effort should go into minimizing it, but it’s reality. That is an argument for only going to war when you absolutely need to.

    I’m of the opinion that we don’t need to be at war in Pakistan, but this mistake doesn’t really have any bearing on that decision, nor should it.

    1. Yeah, maybe in actual war that the country has signed up for. In arbitrary drone attacks without a real state of war, well, maybe that’s not so good.

      1. The state of war is quite real. AQ hates us for our freedoms.

    2. Are we at war? And, if we are, against whom and has it been authorized to do this in Pakistan? Since when has drone war been legal and/or legitimate? If the intel doesn’t say there are hostages present how good is it and can it be relied on to say there were actually any important AQ present?

      We keep hearing how many combatants are being killed, but no one actually knows if all of it is a lie. I doubt if a birthday party had been droned by mistake we would be hearing of it. But an American doctor was killed, so we heard about it.

      1. I still have my doubts Bin Laden was actually killed. I know a tall guy was killed. But, he was shot in the face, so he was left unrecognizable, and then his body was dumped at sea. They announced within hours DNA results proved it was him. That obviously was a lie as it would have taken more than hours to just get the samples to a lab to begin the process.

        Who could have confirmed it was Bin Laden that was shot? The shooter? At night when you’ve never seen the person in real life? And, no one else could have after because his face would have been unrecognizable. And, the body was never seen by anyone as it was dropped out of a plane at sea.

        The whole thing is fishy to me.

  21. My best friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 /hour on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    Visit this website ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  22. Interesting. It harkens back to Harry Truman’s ‘The buck stops here’. Contrast that with the fancy footwork Bush Jr and Dick Cheney provide when faced with their lies and the disastrous outcome of their wars.

  23. Re chart: does anyone actually believe these numbers are anything more than propaganda? You don’t have to believe the USG to not believe these guys.

  24. Empty words, he’s insulting our intelligence. Pity he can’t be hit by a strike.

  25. Too many, “ifs”, “maybes” and “we think.” What a load of crap from a total liar.

  26. What?! He didn’t blame Bush? Too bad the SCOAMF won’t take full responsibility for all of the unconstitutional, unlawful crimes his regime has committed the last 7 years.

  27. Murder is murder no matter who does it. Giving an “order” to murder doesn’t exempt anyone from the law, ask Charlie Manson, don’t ask obama, apparently he has no clue of the law. And, sadly neither does the USDOJ.

  28. Janet Reno also took “full responsibility”, as memory serves.

  29. I understand that drone strikes are incredibly distasteful to a democratic country but I suspect the lack of drone strikes would be even worse………and, yes, the president is responsible for the deaths.

  30. How long before Michael Moore speaks out condemning Obama and drone pilots as a cowards?

    1. Don’t think it fits with his agenda. Would be nice though.

  31. If he takes full responsibility, shouldn’t he be in jail? Man, it sure is hard to bomb stuff without ridicule when you can’t see who’s inside.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.