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June 1, 2012


Joe Charlebois

The president’s moral and logical compasses have been altered. This week it was announced that he has taken the sole moral responsibility of nominating for execution those who are alleged al Qaeda operatives without any attempt to capture and question them for their knowledge of possible threats to the United States.


The “Whack-a-Thug” policy by drone strike should continue only against those who present imminent threats to the United States and should not be carried out against those who are United States citizens.


The president, who as a candidate four years ago railed against the capture and intense interrogation of al Qaeda suspects, has now painted himself into an impossible political corner. He cannot possibly afford to disturb anymore of his political base. If he were to order the capture of these 15 Yemeni al Qaeda just months before the election, he would be seen as continuing the indefinite detention and “torture” policies of his predecessor.


The president realizes that it is much more convenient to call in a drone strike and execute suspected terrorists and possibly innocent civilians nearby instead of capturing them and warehousing them at Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama’s policy seems to be “look strong and keep your hands from getting dirty.”


The right policy is to continue with the policies set forth by the Bush Administration. We need to gain information from these operatives. Just as important information was garnered through enhanced interrogation techniques in sites throughout the world and Guantanamo Bay which led to the location of Osama bin Laden, we need to do the same to stay ahead of these terror cells and uncover cells that yet to be discovered.


The fact that several of the Yemeni Fifteen are United States citizens doesn’t seem to bother the president whatsoever. This is the time and place for trials in the United States; these operatives should be captured and brought to justice in the United States, unlike those currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay that the Eric Holder led Justice Department – through the direction of the president – attempted to try in civilian courts earlier.


It may be politically expedient to launch drone strikes into Pakistan and Yemen as risk to U.S. casualties is essentially nil. It also provides cover for the president as he can present himself as a strong military leader when this fall’s election comes around. However, these strikes are actually easy choices in comparison to what should be done.


The drone strikes that Mr. Obama has ordered have in essence invaded two sovereign nations, neither of which we are currently at war with. They have led to a significant deterioration in our relationships with each of them.


What is not being said is that this may set a precedent for other powers to see that it is their moral right to use drone strikes on those they deem a threat to their sovereignty, even those in the United States or United States citizens abroad.


Even The New York Times this week editorialized on the problems associated with these drone strikes and has questioned the president’s policy when it comes to taking out the 15 al Qaeda targets based in Yemen, including the several Americans.


The United States should reserve the option to use drone strikes against enemy combatants; however, it should be limited and carried out judiciously when the risk of capturing those same combatants and gathering intelligence is outweighed by need of immediate action.


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