Just days after President Barack Obama renewed his vow to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the lawyer who originally designed the legal framework for the U.S. policy of lethal drone strikes under George W. Bush has come out and criticized the Obama administration over its use of drone strikes.
Speaking at a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Wednesday, John Bellinger, a former legal adviser to the State Department and the National Security Council, accused the government of overusing drone strikes because it was unwilling to deal with the consequences of sending suspected militants to Guantanamo Bay.
"This government has decided that instead of detaining members of Al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them," Bellinger said.
And he has a point.
Although the number of drone strikes in Pakistan fell in 2012, they rose steeply in both Afghanistan and Yemen. An estimated 4,700 people have now been killed by U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. But Bellinger is not objecting to the use of drones itself, in fact he still maintains that they are justified under international law, citing the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act.
He also argues that the Obama administration needs to do more to "explain and defend its use of drones as lawful and appropriate — to allies and critics — if it wants to avoid losing international support and potentially exposing administration officials to legal liability." So principled criticism this aint.
Instead of simply killing targets in drone strikes without a trial, Bellinger would rather that the Obama administration captured them and sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Where they can be indefinitely detained without trial and beaten, tortured, abused, and humiliated. Where things like this take place. And detainees need to resort to this to raise attention to their plight.
So, while capturing suspects and sending them Guantanamo Bay might be they avoid instant death in a drone strike, its hardly much of an alternative.