May 23, 2013

Via Buzzfeed, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink speaks out during Obama's counterterrorism speech today:

President Barack Obama was heckled during a major counterterrorism speech Thursday. The President was speaking at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

The interruption was caused by Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, according to reporters at the event.

“I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack, because it’s worth being passionate about,” the President said.

“Abide by the rule of law. You’re a constitutional lawyer,” the protestor said.

“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said,” the President added.

The Washington Post reports:

Even as he set new limits, Obama defended the drone program, saying that it had taken an enormous toll on al-Qaeda and associated forces. Still, he acknowledged that some have expressed concerns about its legality and morality.

“As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions about who is targeted and why; about civilian casualties and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality,” he said.

But Obama was confident in saying that the strikes have saved lives by disrupting terrorism plots worldwide. He also defended the actions as legal.

“We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first,” he said. “So this is a just war — a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.”

We studied just war in Catholic school. These drone strikes, with such regular collateral damage, do not meet that criteria.

The president called the deaths of civilians in drone strikes “heartbreaking tragedies,” but he said those deaths should be weighed against the plans that have been foiled.

Obama also justified the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born cleric who died in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. He said Awlaki was plotting attacks against U.S. aircraft with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula.

“Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes — which is why my administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed and briefed the Congress before this strike as well,” he said. “But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens.”

The full text of the speech is here.

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