(C)overt war: Despite Pakistan’s protest, US defends drone strikes

Published: May 1, 2012

Obama’s aide says US president has ordered more openness about the secretive war. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: While Pakistan formally protested over the latest drone strike in its tribal belt, a top US official defended the controversial tactic, saying that it is fully legal under international law.

“It is hard to imagine a tool that can better minimise the risk to civilians than remotely-piloted aircraft,” President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan said in a speech briefly interrupted by a Code Pink anti-war protester.

Brennan insisted that the controversial programme was legal, ethical, proportional and saved US lives.

“Broadly speaking, the debate over strikes targeted at individual members of al Qaeda has centered on their legality, their ethics, the wisdom of using them, and the standards by which they are approved,” Brennan said.

“The United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely-piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” Brennan said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts.”

Brennan said the strikes had been certified as complying with US law by US Attorney General Eric Holder, among other top officials.

“The constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack,” Brennan said, adding that Obama’s action was also authorised by measures passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

He also argued that the strikes were ethical, proportional and conformed to US efforts to spare innocent civilians from being caught up in the crossfire.

“There is absolutely nothing casual about the extraordinary care we take in making the decision to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, and the lengths to which we go to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.”

Meanwhile, US Embassy’s political counselor Jonathan Prat was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday to protest Sunday’s drone strike in North Waziristan Agency.

“US Political Counselor, Jonathan Pratt was summoned at the Foreign office by Director General America over yesterday’s drone attack,” an official statement issued said.

(Additional reporting by our correspondent in Islamabad and AGENCIES)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • chacha
    May 1, 2012 - 12:47PM

    The US has long made the case — unevenly and sporadically — that Islamabad cannot protest about violation of its sovereignty when it cannot, or does not or will not, act against terrorist groups that freely operate in Pakistan, in some cases with knowledge and support of its establishment.

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  • May 1, 2012 - 7:51PM

    International law,any way does not permit to killing innocent people, children in street or fields and women at homes
    International law does not allow to falling bombs on marriage parties or group of person,consisting on children and women.

    When we consider the previous record find more innocent which was become fuel of fire falling on civilians by predator drones,across the roads and near the hill area.

    No doubt,
    insurgents deserve no sympathy they are liable to sentence but all are not terrorists.
    It is essential,must be a new technique for fighting with those comes there and hide,insurgents are not friend of Pakistan or The United States,both the countries should move forward shoulder by shoulder so that no ally raise any objection on any action,consensus is dire need of the time.

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  • May 1, 2012 - 11:50PM

    John Brennan laid out for the first time a detailed defence of the administration’s drone program in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington and called civilian casualties from drone strikes “exceedingly rare,” and that the attacks are “in full accordance with the law,” “ethical,” and “wise.”
    Someone should ask him: Are over 1000 civilian deaths by USA drones in tribal area of Pakistan, mostly children and women, “exceedingly rare.”
    How come a foreign power intrudes in the air space of other countries, showing no respect to the international law and kills the citizens of the sovereign nations as well as its own citizens with drone attacks? Is it because it can? Well in layman’s language, it is called nothing less than extra-judicial killing, not allowed by any law, moral and even common sense.
    It is a shame that a country, which prides in human rights, democracy and rule of law acts like a cowboy and mafia gangster and worst of all, tries to justify wit arrogant excuses.

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  • o b server
    May 2, 2012 - 6:46AM

    Would it be legal if another power used drones to attack the USA to eliminate the people it regards ‘terrorists’?

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  • Sexton Blake
    May 23, 2012 - 8:16AM

    Yes. the U.S.A. is squeaky clean They have not intentionally killed anybody in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan. Nothing to worry about. Several million innocent people are dead, but it was their fault for getting in the way.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 4:28AM

    @Sultan Ahmed: I think you are engaged in a gross misrepresentation of international law. I demand to know under what grounds you believe in your own opinion!

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