Washington: US President Barack Obama hoped to have a formalised process of conducting drone strikes and releasing annual information on it to the public by the time he leaves office next January.
“My hope is that by the time I leave office, there is a not only an internal structure in place that governs these standards (for drones) that we’ve set, but there’s also a institutionalised process whereby the actions that the US government takes through drone technology are consistently reported on an annualised basis, so that people can look,” Obama said in his remarks at the University of Chicago.
He said this was really important to him as there is a lot of misinformation about the drone strikes. “There is no doubt that some innocent people have been killed by drone strikes. It is not true that it has been this sort of willy-nilly let’s bomb a village, that is not how folks have operated,” Obama said.
“What I can say with great certainty is that the rate of civilian casualties in any drone operation are far lower than the rate of civilian casualties that occur in conventional war,” the US President said in response to a question.
Citing the example of the Osama Bin Laden raid, he said this was as precise, as effective an operation that anybody would dispute was in the national security interest of the US. “We put our best people in there who operate as precisely and as effectively as any group of individuals probably ever have in the history of the planet. They executed their mission flawlessly,” he added.
“But there were a number of people who were killed in that, who you might describe as not the targets of the mission — members of Bin Laden’s family for example. Now, that would be counted as a civilian casualty under the standards from which you drew your information,” he said in response to a question that sought justification of drone strikes involving civilian casualties.
If you calculated it as a percentage, there was actually a
pretty high civilian casualty rate for this extraordinarily precise mission. “Now, imagine during the height of the Iraq war or when we were still actively fighting in Afghanistan, the number of civilians who were killed in normal military operations,” he said.
“We talk about the number of US troops that were killed in Iraq. The number of Iraqis that were killed, primarily by AQI and those we were righting, but also by US military that was trying to be as careful as possible in chaotic situations like Fallujah or Ramadi, were in the tens of thousands,” he said.
Obama said part of his job as president is to figure out how he can keep America safe doing the least damage possible in really tough, bad situations. “I don’t have the luxury of just not doing anything and then being able to stand back and feel as if my conscience is completely clear. I have to make decisions because there are folks out there who are genuinely trying to kill us and would be happy to blow up this entire room, without any compunction, and are actively trying to find ways to do it,” he said.