In a major policy speech on Thursday, President Obama defended the secret overseas drone war but said the United States cannot continue waging what he described as a boundless global war on terror. Obama’s comments came one day after Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed U.S. drone strikes had killed four U.S. citizens in Yemen and Pakistan.
President Obama: “Simply put, these strikes have saved lives. Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”
According to McClatchy newspapers, Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who could be targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions.” Up until Thursday, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda and associated forces” plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States. But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders.
President Obama: “America does not take strikes to punish individuals; we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.”
CodePink Founder Medea Benjamin Repeatedly Interrupts Obama Speech
President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., was interrupted multiple times by Medea Benjamin, the founder of CodePink.
Medea Benjamin: “Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent families?”
President Obama later referenced Medea Benjamin when he renewed his four-year-old promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo.
President Obama: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is that who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?”