This Thursday, President Obama will speak at National Defense University in Washington D.C. to address the use of predator drones for extrajudicial killings and other counterterrorism practices, including efforts to close Guantanamo Bay. Obama's speech is intended to fulfill his State of the Union promise of becoming more "transparent."
According to a White House official, President Obama intended to deliver this speech earlier this month, but a series of distracting events set it back. Those events include the hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay and the subpoena of Associated Press journalists' phone records. According to the official, "[Obama] will review the state of the threats we face, particularly as al Qaeda's core has weakened but new dangers have emerged."
Here’s a list of topics President Obama should address (but probably won’t):
On May 9, "Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ruled that U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory are illegal, inhumane and a violation of the United Nations charter on human rights." The Obama administration classifies any military-aged male living in the strike zone as a military threat.
The official kill list is called a "disposition matrix" and contains names of terrorism suspects and mapping plans for the "disposition" of these threats. Some on this list have included American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. The outrage on this issue comes as those American citizens weren't guaranteed their constitutional rights of due process. This was a point addressed in Senator Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) epic 13-hour filibuster.
"The Bureau estimates that 411-884 civilians are among 2,536-3,577 people reportedly killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, based on its two-year analysis of news reports, court documents, field investigations and other sources." I will not tolerate collateral damage as a reasonable side-effect of drone strikes.
According to the data collected from the Stanford/NYU report, blowback (or increased radicalism as a result of haphazard foreign policy moves) is an unintended consequence of drone strikes in Pakistan.
As a presidential candidate in 2007, President Obama promised to restore proper judicial and legislative oversight to counterterrorism. He criticized the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism through the use of torture and by denying basic legal rights to prisoners in Guantanamo. Rather than closing Guantanamo — President Obama has placed blame on the GOP for their non-cooperation on this issue. He has insisted on doubling down on the drone program and extrajudicial killings, rather than bringing these individuals to justice by allowing due process — a concept as old as the Magna Carta. The hunger strikes are a strategic move by detainees to shed light on the Obama administration's failures toprovide a trial.
When the Obama administration official announced the upcoming speech, he acknowledged the hunger strikes as a "distracting event" that has prolonged the president's ability to draw attention to counterterrorism practices. Let's see if the president decides to acknowledge all the damage his predator drone policies have created in addition to why detainees are refusing to eat in Guantanamo Bay — and whether he plans to actually follow through on his promises since 2007 to close the facility. We should also recognize that no matter which party occupies the White House, extrajudicial killings should not be tolerated.