White House Pretends to Loosen Standards for Drone Killing

Drone killing, as anyone knows who bothers to keep up with it, doesn’t have very strict standards. As the New York Times reported back in June,

The group found that more than a decade into the era of armed drones, the American government has yet to carry out a thorough analysis of whether the costs of routine secret killing operations outweigh the benefits. The report urges the administration to conduct such an analysis and to give a public accounting of both militants and civilians killed in drone strikes.

The findings amount to a sort of report card — one that delivers middling grades — a year after President Obama gave a speech promising new guidelines for drone strikes and greater transparency about the killing operations. The report is especially critical of the secrecy that continues to envelop drone operations and questions whether they might be creating terrorists even as they are killing them.

There is no indication that a U.S. strategy to destroy Al Qaeda has curbed the rise of Sunni Islamic extremism, deterred the establishment of Shia Islamic extremist groups, or advanced long-term U.S. security interests,” the report concludes.

“No indication that a U.S. strategy to destroy Al Qaeda has curbed the rise of Sunni Islamic extremist groups”? You mean like ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State—by whatever name you use?


Anyone can look at our documented “double tap” policy to know our standards have always been a sham.

So now that it more months have passed since President Obama did not give new guidelines, what does he do now? He loosens the standards that were allegedly in place. What else would a Nobel Peace Prize winner do?

Thus, Yahoo News tells us, “White House exempts Syria airstrikes from tight standards on civilian deaths.”

The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.

A White House statement to Yahoo News confirming the looser policy came in response to questions about reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.

The village has been described by Syrian rebel commanders as a reported stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front where U.S officials believed members of the so-called Khorasan group were plotting attacks against international aircraft.

But at a briefing for members and staffers of the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last week, Syrian rebel commanders described women and children being hauled from the rubble after an errant cruise missile destroyed a home for displaced civilians. Images of badly injured children also appeared on YouTube, helping to fuel anti-U.S. protests in a number of Syrian villages last week.

So, basically, Obama imposed “strict standards” that don’t actually apply to the major battlefield. So why not put it out there as a general principle:

The strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations using drones anywhere in the world.

As much as I am opposed to sending troops back to Iraq, these deaths are the inevitable result of launching mass death from the sky. You can’t do surgery with a sledge hammer.

The main reason we were told we had to intervene in ISIS was because they were killing people, including women and children. Does this long-term, gradual (assuming it will ever succeed) “degrading” of ISIS really constitute help for those victims when we are victimizing them more?