by Nicholas J. Vocca
Washington D.C.: During his address Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., President Barack Obama defended the use of drone strikes in what he called a "just war" against deadly terrorist militants and a campaign to make America a "safer nation for all."
In defending the use of drone strikes that killed four U.S. citizens abroad who were known to be strongly allied with terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Yemen, Mister Obama stated that the United States is engaged in "a war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first."
"So this is a just war...a war waged proportionately, as a last resort, and in self-defense."
Adding how the fight has entered a "new phase," Mister Obama emphasized strongly that "America's claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance."
Claiming that America is now at a "crossroads" in its efforts to combat terrorism, Mister Obama said his administration would be "willing" to accept increased oversight on the use of drone strikes outside of war zones like Afghanistan.
After warning that a "perpetual war on terror" would be "self-defeating" regardless of whether it was conducted by drone strikes, special forces operations or troop deployments, Mister Obama then brought up his renewed promise of five-years ago to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After being interrupted by a female protester who shouted about the months-long hunger strike by prisoners at that facility, Mister Obama responded calmly that he was willing to cut the young lady "some slack" because the topic is worth being "passionate" about, and added how the controversial base at Guantanamo is one that has become "a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rules of law."
Faced with sharp criticism by human rights groups worldwide who are demanding the Guantanamo base be closed, and strong opposition from many in Congress who feel it should remain open, Mister Obama said he would lift the moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen, then called on Congress not to block his efforts in transferring inmates at that base to U.S. high security jails by claiming that "No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States."
Mister Obama then announced that he was "appointing special envoys" from the state and defense departments to negotiate the transfers of prisoners to other countries.
While a spokesperson from the Yemen embassy in Washington said that nation would "welcome" this move, Georgia's Republican Senator Saxby Chamliss informed reporters that he felt Mister Obama is "wrong" in lifting the moratorium on prisoner transfers because Yemeni authorities could not be "trusted" to "handle them."
"We've got 166 of the meanest, nastiest killers located at Guantanamo Bay today," Mister Saxby declared. "If we were to transfer them to Yemen,it would be just like turning them loose."
Mister Chamliss then expressed his belief that the prisoners should be tried in the courtrooms at Guantanamo, "and then we can make a decision what to do with them."
A White House spokesman said that Mister Obama's speech coincided with the signing of a new "presidential policy guidance" on the use of drone strikes that curtails the circumstances in which drones can be used in areas that are not overt war zones, such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.