In the wake of Thursday’s revelation that the U.S. government, specifically the CIA, killed one American and one Italian hostage held by al-Qaeda in a drone attack in Pakistan earlier this year, will a renewed and possibly elevated debate on the Obama administration’s so-called “kill list” or assassination campaign finally break into the mainstream?
In a televised address, President Obama said he “takes full responsibility,” that a full investigation was being conducted, and that relevant information would be de-classified and released to the public.
“Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qaeda hostage since 2012,” read a White House press statement. “Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages.”
Though long-standing critics of the Obama’s drone war and the existence of a presidential “kill list” have been issuing objections for years over the legality of the program and the number of innocent people from foreign countries—including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere—who have been killed, maimed, or left traumatized by these bombings, observers noted that when it came to the U.S. media on Thursday, it was the death of two Western hostages that finally caught the attention of the broader public.
As journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the most consistent and outspoken critics of Obama’s drone policy, wrote on Friday, “In all the years I’ve been writing about Obama’s drone killings, yesterday featured by far the most widespread critical discussion in U.S. establishment journalism circles.”
This dynamic was also noticed by Huffington Post staff writers Ryan Grim and Jason Linkins in a piece titled, A Drone Program That Has Killed Hundreds Of Civilians Finally Killed Some That The White House Regrets. They wrote:
Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights program, called the Obama administration’s admission on what happened with these two hostages a welcome step, but made it clear that “apology and redress should be available for all civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes, not just U.S. citizens and Europeans. The U.S. government could be just as transparent about the hundreds of other drone strikes it has conducted in Pakistan and Yemen.”
And as journalist Ryan Devereaux asked in his Friday headline at The Intercept, “When will Obama apologize for all the other innocent victims of drone strikes?”
Writing for the Guardian on Friday, Trevor Timm, director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, notes that the Obama administration has proven its tightly-held belief, time and again, that “it can kill US citizens overseas without a trial or even a finding by any independent body.” He continues:
Meanwhile, the U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), which has tracked the deaths and injuries of drone victims closer than any other global outlet, reported on Thursday that though the killing of Westerners is not a new or isolated phenomenon, it represents a miniscule fraction of those who end up killed by such attacks. “Western casualties are a tiny percentage of the total killed by CIA and Pentagon drone operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” TBIJ stated. “The Bureau has established a country or region of origin for 2,350 people killed by drones. Of that total, the 38 Westerners [we found] comprise just 1.6%.”
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