The use of drone strikes by President Barack Obama's administration in the war on terror is so familiar by now that I didn't catch an important omission in the president's statement yesterday about the accidental deaths of an American and an Italian hostage in a U.S. strike against al Qaeda in Pakistan. At no point did Obama actually utter the word "drone." During his comments yesterday, he just called it a "counterterrorism operation."
A frustrated Dan Froomkin at The Intercept takes note of the ommission and of this rather absurd exchange at a press briefing with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest:
Q: How will this incident affect specifically the U.S. policy, government policy on usage of drones?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jeff, there are certain aspects of this specific operation that I'm not going to be able to discuss, including how this specific operation was carried out …
Q: Can you address the issue of drones, though, in any way? I take it you don't want to confirm that that's what used in this particular strike.
MR. EARNEST: I'm not in the position to talk specifically about how the operation was carried out.
Q: Can you talk, though, about a future review of drone strategy more generally?
MR. EARNEST: What I can say is that these counterterrorism operations that are critical to the national security of the United States and critical to the safety of the American people continue …
So the transparency the president has said he would apply in the case of this war on terror misfire would not extend enough to admit to the public that drones were involved, even though everybody knows that drones are involved. Froomkin asks, "If they cannot even say the word, how can they even begin to tell the truth?"
They don't intend to. They intend to say as little as they possibly can. As we noted yesterday, the drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan over the course of years. They just weren't American civilians. Their deaths haven't stopped these strikes from continuing, and clearly neither will the deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto.
In other drone responses, Ron Paul has blasted the drone strikes, but Rand Paul, who filibustered for the purpose of clarifying drone laws, has put out a short statement saying his "prayers and thoughts" are with the families of the hostages killed. Those who paid attention to Rand Paul's filibuster know that he was more concerned with deliberately targeting and executing of American citizens without due process, not accidental deaths (nor the deaths of foreign combatants). It also just so happens that two other Americans were killed in the drone strike who were allegedly members of al Qaeda. Rand Paul did not comment on them (Ron Paul did). According to the original reporting of the strikes, American intelligence didn't even know those two guys were at the compound either, and they were not being specifically targeted.