President Barack Obama's willingness to take "full responsibility"
for the counterterror missions that led to the deaths of two al-Qaida hostages means he'll also have to justify the possibility of collateral damage, an ex-counterterrorism task force leader told Newsmax TV
's "America's Forum" Thursday.
"It means, I guess, that he's going to have to explain why the potential [for] collateral damage is justified under these circumstances," said former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who chaired the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, nicknamed the Gilmore Commission, from 1999 to 2003.
"It reawakens the entire debate on the question of how you deal with the guerrilla warfare of al-Qaida."
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On Thursday, the federal government revealed that the hostages, one American and one Italian, died in U.S. drone strikes in January. Two Americans who were working with the terror group were also killed in the attack, and Obama said he offered his condolences to the families of the hostages.
Obama did not mention the names of the American jihadists who died, and Gilmore said he has "no idea why he avoided that."
"It's a straightforward thing, anybody that joins the military or the guerrilla operations of people who are enemies to the United States are traitors," Gilmore said. "And by putting themselves on the battlefield in this guerrilla war, they do subject themselves to being either taken back, which would be good, or killed by a drone strike."
Former Illinois Republican Rep. Michael Flanagan, also on Thursday's show, called the deaths a "tragic circumstance" that was "inevitable and it's a tragedy and a sad thing, but it is inevitable."
But what is not inevitable, Flanagan said, "is that this administration at the very beginning reclassified any adult male in shouting distance of the target [who] gets killed is presumed to be an enemy combatant or [allied] with the target."
He accused the Obama administration of doing that to "close off the optics" so "there's no collateral damage" and so that "they can run up their kill total on bad guys. Now they had to unplug that with two Americans who died, and reclassify and redefine that."
Thursday's announcement, said Flanagan, meant "actually now having to discuss collateral damage, which the president has not had to do at all in his drone strikes up until now."
Identifying people who die in a drone strike means never having to talk about collateral damage, said Flanagan, which is kind of like the administration's view with executive orders: "a signature, a smile, and it's law."
Obama never has to "talk about the Syrians, the Iraqis, anyone else on planet Earth," killed as "collateral damage rather than as a combatant," said Flanagan.
But now, Obama has to "get out in front of this in a hurry" and "look very sad," while he tamps down a discussion of non-combatant deaths.
In other matters, Gilmore discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership, calling for a focus on trade issues and free trade.
"I've been talking about this political year and also through my nonprofit, Free Congress Foundation," said Gilmore.
However, secret agreements are problematic, said Gilmore.
"[A] free trade agreement and the presidential authority is intended to enable there to be an actual deal without a lot of wrangling and debate that can go on, that can upset the deal," said Gilmore. "But I'm not in favor of secret negotiations without transparency.
"If it's a good deal for the citizens of the people of these countries, then it ought to be made more transparent and we ought to have a chance to honestly debate it."
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