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Drones: Sen. Graham on Death Toll, Former WH Press Sec. Gibbs on WH Secrecy


Two recent words on drones, a subject that I’m highly skeptical will make it into the “everybody is talking about” category.

First, at The Telegraph, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) is quoted. (emphasis added)

US senator says drones death toll is 4700

It was the first time a politician or any government representative had referred to a total number of fatalities in the drone strikes, which have been condemned by rights groups as extrajudicial assassinations.

The toll from hundreds of drone-launched missile strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere has remained a mystery, as US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of the drone raids, openly cited a number that exceeds some independent estimates of the death toll.

‘We’ve killed 4,700,’ Mr. Graham was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website covering the small town of Easley in South Carolina.

‘Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,’ Mr. Graham told the Easley Rotary Club.

I hear: The end justifies the means. Collateral damage is an unfortunate reality of war. You hate it, but gosh darn it all, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Etc.

Also note: “US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.” Which leads to the second bit of drone news, at MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Up. (emphasis added)

Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed in an interview on Up w/ Chris Hayes Sunday that, when he became the Obama administration’s top spokesman, he was told not to discuss the government’s secret drone program or even acknowledge its existence.

‘When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. …,’ said Gibbs, now an MSNBC contributor. …

The Obama administration has continued to withhold information about the program, including the secret memo prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to justify the program’s legality. But in April 2012, Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan formally acknowledged the program’s existence for the first time, in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

Of course Gibbs is far from alone in being put in such a position by a presidential administration, as Obama is far from alone in laying down such rules. That doesn’t make the hiding and denying any better. It certainly doesn’t make the deaths of “innocent people” any better. Nor make the “I hate that, but we’re at war” line any better.

Gibbs said of Brennan’s 2012 acknowledgement that it

… may have helped boost public confidence in the drone program.

‘In order to bolster that confidence and bolster the belief that we’re making those correct decisions on this policy, you do have to lift the veil some,’ Gibbs said, ‘to both acknowledge that it exists, as he’s done, but also to do it in a way that provides better understanding.’

My confidence didn’t feel at all bolstered by Brennan’s acknowledgement. Nor does learning the estimated number of drone targets “taken out,” as Sen. Graham put it, is at (by his accounting, at least) 4700. And the fact that he says, as any other DC Elected who comments publicly will likely say, “I hate that” — no, I’m still not feeling “bolstered.”

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6 Responses to Drones: Sen. Graham on Death Toll, Former WH Press Sec. Gibbs on WH Secrecy

  1. Cujo359 February 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    We’re not at war. War is violence between nations – roughly equal societies with territorial or other ambitions.

    Once again, we see the vast differences between the two parties, as both justify killing without review people who might or might not have plans to commit crimes in the U.S., and killing it a war.

    • Cujo359 February 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      killing calling it a war.

    • Joyce Arnold February 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      This is one of the most significant areas which reveals the “alike” quality, and how shifts in opinions — “war on terror” good or not good, the easy example — are based to whatever extent on party identification.

      • DaGoat February 25, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

        Agreed, and it’s been going on a while. Many GOP were critical of Clinton’s reasons to bomb Kosovo only to use some of the same arguments to support the Iraq invasion. Of course the Democrats were critical of Bush for using some of the same arguments used by Clinton. When it came time to escalate the war in Afghanistan and bomb Libya, many Democrats forgot their earlier anti-war arguments in order to support Obama.

        The GOP then tried something new, which was supporting military actions while criticizing Obama for not being aggressive enough. That raises the problem that now neither party is condemning war or things like the use of drones.

        Just as the GOP left their traditional role of fiscal conservatism while Bush wasted money, the Democrats seem to have also left their traditional role towards war and violence. Bad things happen when parties leave their traditional values just to support their guy in the White House. That’s my theory anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of holes in it.

        • Joyce Arnold February 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

          Yep. It’s a bipartisan reality … “Traditional” roles are redefined.

          I’m guessing all of our theories have those holes in them :)

  2. jinbaltimore February 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Thank goodness there was a qualified press secretary like Gibbs around to look the othe way when it mattered. His skill for concealing facts will serve him well at MSNBC.

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