Drone damage: Reckless U.S. policy needs to be reassessed

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An American drone strike in Yemen Dec. 13 killed at least 12 people, reportedly part of a wedding party, some of them possibly militants, others, innocent civilians.

Apart from the countless enemies such strikes create for the United States in the countries where they take place, which include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, it appears that the drone program is uncoordinated on the U.S. government side, and that President Barack Obama’s pledge in a speech May 23 that no strikes would be carried out without near certainty that no civilians would be killed or injured is not being respected.

Drone attacks in Yemen are carried out either by the Department of Defense from a base in the East African state of Djibouti, or by the C.I.A. from a base in Saudi Arabia. It is not clear whether the two bodies coordinate their activities or not. If they don’t, they should.

Second, Mr. Obama stated that such attacks would take place only if the targets constituted a continuing and imminent threat to the American people. It is difficult to imagine that the Yemeni wedding party posed a threat to the American people, and Mr. Obama’s no-civilian-victims promise was clearly ignored by the Pentagon in the Dec. 13 strike.

So, either the Pentagon isn’t following the president’s orders with respect to the use of drones, or he was deliberately misleading the American people May 23 in an attempt to put a civilized, rational face on what is a brutal, uncoordinated U.S. practice. Either way it needs to be fixed.

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