Drone Strikes or Guantanamo: Is President Choosing One Over the Other?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Drone Strikes or Guantanamo: Is President Choosing One Over the Other?

A Bush administration official claims President Obama is using drone strikes to kill terrorists rather than send them to Guantanamo.

A former member of the George W. Bush administration has an idea about why President Obama claims to want to shutter the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“This administration has decided they don't want to do detention, because the Bush administration got into trouble with detention, so now they're just going to kill people,” said John Bellinger. Bellinger worked as a legal advisor at the State Department from 2005 to 2009 and held the same post in the George W. Bush White House from 2001 to 2005.

Bellinger made these remarks on May 1 during a conference on the legality of drone strikes held at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Although his comments demonstrate a disdain for the president’s use of drones to strike names from his infamous “kill list,” Bellinger is no enemy of assassination by drone. In fact, Bellinger was the primary architect of the legal justification for such killings adopted by the George W. Bush State Department after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Bellinger made clear later in his remarks that he was not against summary execution by drone at all. In his opinion, the problem is one not of lack of due process, but of lack of due diligence in convincing our “allies” in the “War on Terror” that drone strikes are a necessary part of the prosecution of that war.

“We are about the only country in the world that thinks we are in an armed conflict with al-Qaida,” Bellinger said. “We really need to get on top of this and explain to our allies why it is legal and why it is permissible under international law,” he added.

“These drone strikes are causing us great damage in the world, but on the other hand if you are the president and you do nothing to stop another 9/11 then you also have a problem,” Bellinger said.

In other words, the drone strikes shouldn’t go away, but the president should do a better job of explaining them away.

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