The Executive Branch Chose Not To Talk About its Acts of Terror
Even though this was the first ever public Congressional hearing on "Drone Wars," the Obama administration chose not to participate. And the Senate chose not to issue any subpoenas to compel executive branch testimony.
The Senate did postpone the hearing once, to give the administration more time to prepare a witness. In the end, all the White House contributed was an email from a National Security Council spokes woman that said in part that the White House would work:
"to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and the world."
The hearing's six witnesses included three retired military officers, two lawyers, one think tank director, and a Yemeni journalist who testified to how wonderfully his life was changed by a U.S. State Dept. exchange program that brought him from a remote mountain village to spend his senior year in high school in southern California.
How Does a Yemeni Feel When His Home Village is Bombed?
The journalist is Farea al-Muslimi, who lives and works now in Sana'a, the Yemeni capitol, located about a nine hour drive north of his home village of Wessab. In his testimony, he said,
"Just six days ago, my village was struck by an American drone in an attack that terrified the region's poor farmers".
"I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life and took it from miserable to promising one would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hammed al-Radmi was the target of a drone strike. Many people in Wessab know al-Radmi, and the Yemeni government could easily have found and arrested him. Al-Radmi was well known to government officials, and even to local government--and even local government could have captured him if the U.S. had told them to do so.
"In the past, what Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab."
Farea al-Muslimi first wrote about the attack on Wasseb, that killed five alleged militants, the following day in the new media website Al Monitor that centers on Middle East news. The video of al-Muslimi's five and a half minutes of Senate testimony has gone viral on YouTube.
It's Not That We Shouldn't Dismember People, It's That We Do It Properly
Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks, who served as the Pentagon's special coordinator for rule of law and humanitarian policy during Obama's first administration, testified somewhat gingerly at the same hearing that:
"" right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone anywhere on earth at any time for secret reasons based on secret evidence in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials. That frightens me.
"I don't doubt their good faith, but that's not the rule of law as we know it."
Why a former Obama administration official was talking about her own fear was not explored. But something else al-Muslimi said helped put the lawyer's fears in fuller perspective: