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Judith Miller: Drone Strikes Preferable If Troops Not an Option

By    |   Friday, 24 April 2015 04:31 PM

Drone strikes on terrorist targets also kill innocents and breed anti-American rage that jihadists channel for recruiting, but they remain the best available option for taking the fight to al-Qaida and its ilk, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller told Newsmax TV on Friday.

Miller told "Newsmax Now" co-host John Bachman that "as long as the United States is unwilling to commit to great numbers of Special Forces" on the ground, drone strikes "are one of the few tactics we have for our disabling and destroying the enemy."

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President Barack Obama on Thursday acknowledged that two hostages — one American, one Italian — were inadvertently killed in a drone strike in January targeting an al-Qaida compound near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Obama said he bears "full responsibility" for the operation and its consequences. But critics are again debating the wisdom, precision and legality of his anti-terror drone campaign — which Miller defended, with caveats.

"I have to say on this one I'm with the White House, and that's an unusual position for me," said Miller, a Manhattan Institute scholar specializing in counter-terrorism and the Middle East, and author of a new memoir, "The Story: A Reporter's Journey," about her controversial tenure at The New York Times.

Miller said critics are questioning the January strike in part because Obama apparently did not personally sign off on it — in contrast to earlier news reports that said a legal basis for the strikes was the  president's deep involvement in selecting targets from a secret kill list.

"This was said to be a situational strike aimed at the compound, which was believed to be associated with al-Qaida," said Miller. "Therefore, it didn't fit the mold either of the public narrative … but also with the standards that they had said they were adhering to, and that's why the legality of this has been questioned."

Miller said that waging war with drones gives ammunition to both sides in the debate.

"On one hand, the drones are extremely useful as a tactic for killing and destroying enemy compounds and individuals associated with ISIS and al-Qaida," she said. "They can be safely used without risking American soldiers and spilling American blood.

"The downside is, when you make mistakes — and of course mistakes are made — they do tend to result in widespread civilian fury, which lays the ground open for greater recruitment," she said.

"They are a tactic that should be used with care and with consideration, but they should also not be confused with a strategy, which is part of the problem with our policy today," said Miller.

Miller also discussed her book and her exit in 2005 from The New York Times, where she clashed with her bosses amid criticism of her reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War and her role in the federal prosecution of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a high-ranking official in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Miller spent 85 days in jail that year for refusing to reveal her sources to the prosecutor, but on her release had a falling-out with the storied newspaper.

"I was surprised and I was also deeply disappointed because their conduct wasn't consistent with the traditions of this proud institution," Miller said of the Times, adding, "It really raised questions about the paper's leadership itself."

The book generated a negative response from the Times, which ran a critical review that called it "sad and flawed" but conceded that "to Ms. Miller's credit, this is not a score-settling book."

Miller said "The Story" also ventures beyond her personal saga to raise "profound questions … about our intelligence community."

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Drone strikes on terrorist targets also kill innocents and breed anti-American rage that jihadists channel for recruiting, but they remain the best available option for taking the fight to al-Qaida and its ilk, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Judith Miller told Newsmax TV.
Judith Miller, drones, terrorist targets, innocents killed
Friday, 24 April 2015 04:31 PM
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