Back during the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was directing bombing strikes from the White House. For those who understand the three levels of warfare — strategic, operational, and tactical — you realize this is a complete violation of principles of warfare. Now, I have no issue with the utilization of drones as a means to attack Islamic terrorists.
However, this is a weapon system best employed by the theater operational commander who has intelligence cognizance — not approved at the strategic level, especially as directed from the White House. What could be the unintended consequences of such action?
As reported by USA Today, “President Obama expressed “grief and condolences” Thursday for a January drone strike against suspected terrorists in Pakistan that accidentally killed two hostages, including an American aid worker. Obama said he took full responsibility for the operation and apologized to the families of the hostages. “I profoundly regret what happened,” he said. The two Western hostages — one American, one Italian — were killed during a drone strike that targeted members of al-Qaida, the White House said. They were Warren Weinstein, 73, an aid worker from Maryland who was a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, an Italian citizen working for a German aid agency. Both were kidnapped by al-Qaida in Pakistan — Weinstein in 2011 and Lo Porto in 2012. The White House said the counterterrorism operation, and another this year in the same region, also killed two other Americans believed to be working with al-Qaida. In an extraordinary eight-minute statement to reporters, a solemn Obama halted at points during his brief remarks, looking down at notes. “I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today,” he said.”
The first issue has to be, why is the family just now finding out about this fratricide by drone strike, which occurred in January? I thought this was supposed to be the most transparent administration in American history.
Of course there will be those who challenge the use of drones to target Americans – a la Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed along with his son in Yemen. It is imperative that we establish a policy addressing Americans who depart these shores and take up arms or propagandize against America supporting Islamic terrorists and jihadists. I assert that any American who leaves this country to do such and is engaged in operations against America on this battlefield, abdicates his citizenship and should be seen as an enemy. But, without a clear designation of this current conflagration — war on terror is a horrific misnomer — we are operating in murky waters. We need a definitive rule of engagement for these circumstances.
The two Americans killed supporting al-Qaida were Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qaida leader, and Adam Gadahn, who was also killed in a separate operation in January. Earnest said Gadahn was not the specific target of that strike.
President Obama stated, “It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and our fight against terrorism specifically, that mistakes, and sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur”.
I understand Clausewitz’s “Fog of War” but I also realize that something went terribly wrong in the decision-making authorizing this strike.
“The site of the attack had been under surveillance for hundreds of hours, and that surveillance was “near-continuous” in the days just before the attack, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. The spying used a variety of methods, including drone imagery, and discovered a known al-Qaida operative driving into the compound, said U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity. Based on that intelligence, Earnest said, intelligence analysts concluded with “near certainty” that al-Qaida leaders were present and that civilians were not.”
What is apparent is that HUMINT intelligence assets were not used to validate imagery. Then again, why would anyone want to support U.S. intelligence gathering in Pakistan after how this administration has treated Dr. Shakil Afridi who assisted in the identification of Osama bin Laden’s hideout?
The preeminent question must be, who granted approval? If we are restricting drone usage to the U.S. military, it is fairly easy to ascertain the chain of command in the decision-making for this engagement. But, if this was not within the military operational command chain emanating out of Afghanistan — then we have a bureaucratic, administration issue.
And based on the lack of transparency and length of time before this was revealed, — it leads me to believe this decision came from the latter, not the former. And that ladies and gents, is the reason why the president of the United States took the podium.
USA Today states, “U.S. forces DID NOT know the hostages were at the al-Qaida site when the counterterrorism operation took place in January along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, administration officials said.”
Uh-oh Kimosabe! The follow-on question has to be, did U.S. forces know this drone strike had taken place and the “suspected target” set? Was this strike coordinated with theater of operation intelligence assets?
Obama said he spoke to Weinstein’s widow, Elaine, on Wednesday. She released a statement Thursday saying she “did not yet fully understand” what happened and looked forward to the results of the government investigation. “But those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility,” Elaine Weinstein said. “I can assure you that he would still be alive and well if they had allowed him to return home after his time abroad working to help the people of Pakistan,” she said. “The cowardly actions of those who took Warren captive and ultimately to the place and time of his death are not in keeping with Islam and they will have to face their God to answer for their actions.”
I offer my sincere condolences to Mrs. Weinstein but she must understand that to the enemy her husband was a Jew and an infidel — therefore their actions are in keeping with the doctrine of Islam.
But adding insult to injury is the fact that the bodies of Weinstein and Lo Porto have not been recovered.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is not exactly pleased with yesterday’s revelation. “In each of the operations acknowledged today, the U.S. quite literally didn’t know who it was killing,” said the ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer. “Unfortunately, the president’s stated commitment to transparency can’t be squared with the secrecy that still shrouds virtually every aspect of the government’s drone program.”
Therefore, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I must agree.
Perhaps there are those who will just dismiss this story, but there is one very sad point. The Obama administration killed American and Italian hostages in January. We were just told in April. An American who prayed for his government to rescue him ended up being killed by it — and a family never knew, and will never have the closure of a funeral.