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United States Crime The Military

Drone Killed Hostages From U.S. and Italy, Drawing Obama Apology 334

HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that President Obama has offered an emotional apology for the accidental killing of two hostages held by Al Qaeda, one of them American, in a United States government counterterrorism operation in January, saying he takes "full responsibility" for their deaths. "As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations," including the one that inadvertently took the lives of the two captives, a grim-faced Obama said in a statement to reporters in the White House briefing room. The White House earlier released an extraordinary statement revealing that intelligence officials had confirmed that Warren Weinstein, an American held by Al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held since 2012, died during the operation. Gunmen abducted Warren Weinstein in 2011 from his home in Lahore, Pakistan. They posed as neighbors, offered food and then pistol-whipped the American aid worker and tied up his guards, according to his daughter Alisa Weinstein.

The White House did not explain why it has taken three months to disclose the episode. Obama said that the operation was conducted after hundreds of hours of surveillance had convinced American officials that they were targeting an Al Qaeda compound where no civilians were present, and that "capturing these terrorists was not possible." The White House said the operation that killed the two hostages "was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies" but nonetheless the government is conducting a "thorough independent review" to determine what happened and how such casualties could be avoided in the future.
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Drone Killed Hostages From U.S. and Italy, Drawing Obama Apology

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  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:47PM (#49538831)
    So, if he's fully responsible for accidentally killing an American, he'll be prosecuted for manslaughter, right?
    • by orasio ( 188021 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:55PM (#49538939) Homepage

      Is killing an American hostage worse than killing a non American hostage? For practical purposes, we know it is, and even the Italian guy is from another NATO country, so not an American but an ally.
      But I just would like to know if there's any difference on paper in your responsibility, when you kill non hostile local civilians vs your own civilians / allies .

      Also, about the title, drones don't kill people. Some force did, or some guy behind the controls, but the drone itself, no matter how autonomous it might be, doesn't kill people.

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        For the American president? Yes. Much worse.
      • Also, about the title, drones don't kill people. Some force did, or some guy behind the controls, but the drone itself, no matter how autonomous it might be, doesn't kill people.

        yet, give it time

        • But if you listen to the FAA... drones *could* kill people and therefore we must fine their operators huge sums (Raphael Pirker for example) and we must enact new regulations that says they can't be used by terrorist organisations such as Amazon.com or DHL without expensive and difficult to get permissions. What do you mean that's a different type of drone? You mean the ones that kill can be used by the US government with impunity against the evil and the innocent alike -- while the ones that don't kill

    • by JamesRing ( 1789222 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:56PM (#49538957)
      If you want to talk about legal responsibility for their deaths, you should charge the hostage takers with murder under the felony murder rule. If they hadn't taken the hostages in the first place, they never would have been in harm's way.
    • by holostarr ( 2709675 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @02:02PM (#49539021)
      I swear Netflix's House of Cards foreshadows everything we are seeing in American politics. Its almost like watching a documentary.
      • We use to reference these things as Wag the Dog [imdb.com]
      • I swear Netflix's House of Cards foreshadows everything we are seeing in American politics. Its almost like watching a documentary.

        The eerie part is that the third season came out after only a month or two after this incident occurred, but they filmed it in advance. I would be quite surprised if they didn't talk to some people in the government, because there is a lot of correlation between what happens in the show and what occurs in reality...

    • Funny how so many people are assuming or asking about something like that.
      Do you know nothing about how leadership "takes full responsibility" for anything people at least 2 management levels lower do?

      Basically it means they'll yell at some underling to fix this, and actually check in on progress once a week or so as long as people keep bugging them about it. Also, they'll do the "sad face in public" thing to help with press releases and photo ops.

      Doesn't matter if it's a politician or a corporation, it's a
      • by swv3752 ( 187722 )

        Originally dance cards were small booklets for women to record the names of men they intend to dance with.

        During WWII, Women would record the names of the men they danced with at USO dances. Saying your dance card was full was any easy way to avoid someone particular.

      • (One of these days I'm going to look up "dance card" and find out what that is, assuming someone bothered to wiki something that old.)

        In MtG, if you play a dance card then you 1-up somebody who played a different card.

    • "Full responsibility" is one of those terms that sound tough and makes you feel like they are holding themselves accountable. Most people will be impressed at how he had the courage to tell the truth and to take full responsibility that they will never question what that actually means.

      And when someone tries to question it, you'll see tons of diversionary tactics from his defenders (usually, "well Bush did it too" - like they have so much respect for Bush that since he did it, it is OK for Obama to.)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Funny thing about "collateral damage" -- if it happens consistently enough, then logically, there must come a point where it can no longer reasonably be called "accidental" (i.e. manslaughter).

      Guess what it becomes at that point?

      The only factor up for debate is just how consistent it must become to no longer be considered accidental. I'll let you decide for yourselves on that one, and simply point out that the victims of collateral damage probably have a vastly different answer than the aggressors.

    • The hostages were jaywalking, so it's okay to kill them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr ( 53032 )

      He took "full responsibility" the same way that Janet Reno did for the Waco massacre.

      -jcr

    • by Flytrap ( 939609 )

      The White House said the operation that killed the two hostages "was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies"

      I do not know of any legal jurisdiction that tries government officials or politicians for the accidental and unforeseeable death of a civilian killed during a legally sanctioned security operation

      nonetheless the government is conducting a "thorough independent review" to determine what happened and how such casualties could be avoided in the future

      However, most societies expect that everything will be done to ensure that the probability of such a tragedy occurring again in future can be minimised

  • Stuff Happens (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:48PM (#49538845)

    I am not an Obama fan but I cannot place blame on anyone here except Al Qaeda. Intelligence isn't perfect, it appears due diligence was done, but unfortunately hostages were killed. Perhaps the blame should go to the group that took perfectly innocent people hostage and held them near military commanders who they knew were being targeted.

    • No mod points left or your comment would get one for being insightful.
    • Re:Stuff Happens (Score:4, Informative)

      by quintessencesluglord ( 652360 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @06:04PM (#49541073)

      Um, no.

      Obama greatly expanded the policies of Bush the Younger, even when he promised to pull out of Iraq (pull out, not forced out), has had a multitude of foreign policy mishaps (ISIS anyone), and has made the region far worse overall.

      And more importantly, has greatly expanded drone operations.

      One of the arguments for not using drones is that they are too far removed from the area of conflict. It is too easy to take risks when there is no skin on the line.

      Boots on the ground tend to make better risk assessments, and have a better feel for what they are getting in to.

      Drone operations are too abstracted, and it's not like this isn't in a long line of unintended killings, the only difference being the US gets to take this one on the chin instead of some brown people.

      There is a reason people are adamantly against using drones. That's all Obama.

  • "Lawful" ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by GrantRobertson ( 973370 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:50PM (#49538867) Homepage Journal

    ... only because they made up new laws (or executive orders) to make it legal.

    Yeah, I voted for the guy, but I am a e seriously disappointed.

    • Welcome to the club. I went through the similar thing with Bush. At least my vote didn't matter in my state but at the time I still believed in the voting for the lesser of two shitty choices and not wasting my vote. You live you learn.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:52PM (#49538881) Homepage

    Drone strikes where you just decide whatever civilians are nearby deserved to die results in unintended deaths.

    Who fucking knew?

    Obama said that the operation was conducted after hundreds of hours of surveillance had convinced American officials that they were targeting an Al Qaeda compound where no civilians were present, and that "capturing these terrorists was not possible."

    In other words, we're bumbling idiots.

    Maybe your remote control warfare doesn't provide you with enough actual understanding of the situation and just deciding to bomb something without really knowing what you're doing is a bad idea?

    'Collateral Damage' is military speak for "we don't actually care who we kill, but we'll pretend it's not a war crime".

    If America keeps bombing Pakistan ... is it OK for Pakistan to bomb America? Because the level of "because we're special" which happens here is mind boggling.

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      is it OK for Pakistan to bomb America? Because the level of "because we're special" which happens here is mind boggling.

      Political power grows out of a barrel of a gun. The US has a bigger gun.
       

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      In other words, we're bumbling idiots.

      If you lock captives in a dark basement, then outside observers will have a hard time knowing they exist. I suppose you could take inventory of the garbage to see if the waste quantity and type matches the known occupants, but stealing garbage in a consistent manner needed by such "I/O research" is probably not realistic.

    • Drone strikes where you just decide whatever civilians are nearby deserved to die results in unintended deaths.

      Who fucking knew?

      I think you're trying to be snarky, but you're actually +1 accurate. The administration set a rule for deciding how many deaths are militants vs innocent civilians. They assume that any man between the age of 18 and 65 is a militant. this lowers the amount of "collateral damage".

      I also want to give a shout out to the Russians, who are the masters at taking a hard line on terrorism even at the risk of civilians. Several years ago 50 armed Chechen terrorists seized [wikipedia.org] a movie theater and 850 hostages, and wouldn

    • Maybe your remote control warfare doesn't provide you with enough actual understanding of the situation and just deciding to bomb something without really knowing what you're doing is a bad idea?

      'Collateral Damage' is military speak for "we don't actually care who we kill, but we'll pretend it's not a war crime".

      There is never a zero percent chance of collateral damage, regardless of the weapon or soldier involved. It's important to set a high threshold of confidence, but that threshold will never be perfection, so from time to time you'll kill someone you didn't mean to. That's still quite a bit different from the terrorist's strategy which is to do 100% collateral damage ON PURPOSE.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @01:58PM (#49538971)

    If kidnapping Westerners and keeping them within 50 feet of you grants you immunity from airstrikes, that increases the incentive to kidnap westerners.

    There's no winning the hostage game -- if you ignore the hostages you lose the PR war, if you play to the hostages then you encourage future kidnappings. It's a lose-lose game. The same is seen for the millions of Euro [nytimes.com] paid by various European nations as ransom -- some of that money goes right back into funding more hostage-taking missions.

    There is no way to time-consistent way reconcile the interests of the current hostage in not getting bombed/beheaded with the interests of future hostages in not being kidnapped in the first instance. It's a repeating game, we cannot evaluate each iteration separately but at the same time we cannot evaluate them all together.

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @03:19PM (#49539785)
      I don't speak for everyone, but if I were a hostage I'd rather be blown up in a drone strike than having my head cut off or being burned alive for some terrorist recruitment video.
    • by Forgefather ( 3768925 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @03:23PM (#49539819)

      There was an interesting article on the BBC about the US and UK's refusal to pay hostage ransoms. They showed that It resulted in far less hostage taking for those two countries compared to the other European nations that did pay the ransoms, but they also showed that it also made the situations for those who were kidnapped far worse than the other countries.

  • I mean, killing innocent Americans and innocent Italians with drone strikes. Now that is totally unacceptable!
    • saying something is "totally unacceptable" is just a phrase pussies use to whine

      reality is there will be collateral damage in fighting terrorists sometimes

      if you travel to the middle east, don't be surprise if terrorists grab you and hold/torture/behead you, and don't be surprised if you get blown up or shot up with one of their bases

      • by Geste ( 527302 )
        Ah, not enough sarcasm sauce. The point I failed to make is that since no apologies are forthcoming for "collateral" murders of non-American and Non-European people, then I guess we have to assume that those are just A-OK, right? I mean, we are the US of A, right? Whatever we do must be good.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @02:07PM (#49539073)

    elephant in the room question: why is a jew (I assume) hanging out in a country that does not accept his way of life as valid?

    there are places that you should not go if you are deeply hated for your last name. pakistan is one such place.

    I will never understand what drives people to go spend time in such a hostile country. it does not forgive what happened, but if you go to dangerous places, bad shit can and will happen.

    • elephant in the room question: why is a jew (I assume) hanging out in a country that does not accept his way of life as valid?

      Like France or England?

      I was just reading that, due to Muslim students, it's no longer possible for someone to be a teacher in France while being openly Jewish.

      The British branch of Amnesty International just refused to look at violence against Jews. And on and on and on...

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @04:36PM (#49540381) Journal

        it's no longer possible for someone to be a teacher in France while being openly Jewish

        Do you have any non-crackpot, non-Zonist citation for that? I'm not seeing anything on the Google.

    • Jews are people of the book, as said by Muhammad. Why should he be afraid to walk among Muslims?

      • by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @03:13PM (#49539719)
        The only thing the religious hate more than unbelievers is heretics. The more similar the heresy, the higher the level of hate. Here is a nice joke from Emo Phillips to illustrate my point:

        Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
        He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
        He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
        He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me too! Protestant or Catholic?”
        He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me too! What denomination?”
        He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
        He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
        He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
        He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me too!”
        “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
        He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” I said, “Die heretic!” And I pushed him over.
    • They don't hate jews, they hate zionists. They're not the same thing.

    • Probably because if you accept the status quo of racism and just avoid those places it does nothing to fix the racism problem. You might as well ask why all the black people didn't up and leave the USA after the civil war. If we want to change peoples racist attitudes and stereo types you have to make it personal. They need to see that their fears and hatreds are unreasonable as frequently as possible. Going to a country where a significantly large part of the population has an unreasonable hatred for you w

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @02:08PM (#49539085)
    I've been thinking about this for a long time, especially after the rash of hostages killed by ISIS. At this point, nobody can really claim to not know the danger. I know nothing about Lo Porto but Weinstein clearly knew the dangers. So we did he stay there? I think there are several reasons why westerners put themselves in deliberate danger in places like Pakistan, Syria, etc.

    1) Some people are simply mentally ill. After the first Japanese hostage was killed by ISIS, it came out that he was mentally ill. Not mentally ill enough to need to be locked away, but clearly incapable of making rational decisions regarding his own safety. People like this are simply always going to gravitate towards dangerous places because the internet makes sure that they know where the really dangerous places are.
    2) Some people believe that they are special and the bad guys won't go after them because they are "helping". Most of the hostages fall into this category. Weinstein was like this. Alan Henning fell into this category and possibly the first one as well. Reports are that Henning believed to the very end that the fact that he was there to help would save his life. Sometimes these people get away with being in a dangerous location once and they think that they are simply lucky and won't ever be harmed. Henning went into Syria several times and was left alone. The second Japanese hostage executed by ISIS went to help the first one and he went because he'd been to the area before and thought he was special and the bad guys would leave him alone.
    3) Some people are so overcome with their desire to help others that they can't rationally assess the danger and while they know if they are captured it's going to end very badly for them, they believe that they will simply beat the odds. Remember many years ago when Americans and Europeans volunteered to be human shields for Saddam Hussein? They were like this. A few months ago it got announced that a young American female hostage was supposedly killed in a bombing raid against ISIS. She had operated in the area previously and had to know the danger, but she believed that because nobody had yet bothered her that she could work there at no risk. She died as a result of being wrong about that.

    There's some overlap between those vague 3 reasons I gave for people ignoring the real danger to be in places like Pakistan and Syria and so on, but I don't know how we can ever stop people from willingly becoming victims of their own bad decisions about personal risk.
    • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

      Some Westerners have extended family or cultural ties to dangerous places.

      Also some of these kidnappings occurred when things were safer than now... When there's an outbreak of new crime, there's always people who are caught unaware before it becomes common knowledge to stay away. Some of these people have been captive for over a year.

      I personally travelled to Iran and Eastern Turkey (when it was safer...) because I wanted to better understand the local culture. I learned a lot and I'm glad I did it.

  • "Drone delivers pizza, kills hostage..."
    News at 11.
  • The highest level person that explicitly signed off on the strike should be fired. That's not the president--he authorises programs like this with the intention that they're carried out properly. (Whether or not this is an action the USA should be taking is a matter for elections.) If something goes wrong, someone should be punished for their incompetence. It can't be the lowest level person, because they're not the one calling the shots--it has to be someone high in the chain of command. Only explicit acco

  • If it's lawful to kill civilians with drones, then you should change your rotten laws.
  • But you know we'll just reclassify those guys as enemy combatants, prod the 24 hour news cycle with some photo of some new thing Justin Bieber is doing and SQUIRREL!

    Problem solved.

  • Truly awful timing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @03:20PM (#49539789) Homepage Journal

    It's a shame the pilot was so far away from the aircraft when the warhead was released.

    Had this happened in 1945 and involved people on board a B-29, I don't think anyone would be very concerned, though some of the more sensitive might have muttered, "war is hell."

    Had it been fired by an F-16 or A-10 in 1995, there would be more concern but I really don't think anyone would feel "shit happens" fails to adequately address the issue. Because shit does happen, after all.

    But it's 2015 and, to our horror, we learn that the pilot wasn't on board the aircraft. It was a "drone." So this is very, very serious indeed.

    • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 23, 2015 @03:45PM (#49540007)

      This is a very good thing. The world is improving that we no longer accept innocent deaths which could have been avoided.

      Burning alive an entire city of civilians to destroy one factory was acceptable to our grandparents. Turning jungle villages into moonscapes was acceptable to our parents. Now we have the capability to know where, when, who, and what is going on precisely when we drop a controlled munition with accuracy measured in feet. This progress, expressed through anger when it does not go right, is not a joke to laugh at.

      No one should accept people dying violently through no fault of their own merely because it is inconvenient for us to do otherwise.

      • Neither Obama nor anybody in the US else bats an eyelid at the tens of thousands of innocent civilians accidentally killed by the US in recent wars. Innocent civilians only matter if they're on our side. We're willing to be careful for Americans to make this as rare as possible, but shrug at killing the locals.

  • by jean-guy69 ( 445459 ) on Thursday April 23, 2015 @04:54PM (#49540513)

    Maybe the civilian casualties also deserves apologies too..

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-... [theguardian.com]

    How many civilian casualties hidden under the newspeak term "militant" ?

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