The bulk of the president’s speech was devoted to justifying drone strikes. I was shocked when the president claimed that his administration did everything it could to capture suspects instead of killing them. That is just not true. Obama’s reliance on drones is precisely because he did not want to be bothered with capturing suspects and bringing them to trial. Take the case of 16-year-old Pakistani Tariz Aziz, who could have been picked up while attending a conference at a major hotel in the capital, Islamabad, but was instead killed by a drone strike, with his 12-year-old cousin, two days later. Or the drone strike that 23-year-old Yemini Farea al-Muslimi talked about when he testified in Congress. He said the man targeted in his village of Wessab was a man who everyone knew, who met regularly with government officials and who could have easily been brought in for questioning.
When the president was coming to the end of this speech, he started talking about Guantánamo. As he has done in the past, he stated his desire to close the prison, but blamed Congress. That’s when I felt compelled to speak out. With the men in Guantánamo on hunger strike, being brutally forced fed and bereft of all hope, I couldn’t let the president continue to act as if he were some helpless official at the mercy of Congress.
“Excuse me, Mr. President,” I said, “but you’re the Commander-in-Chief. You could close Guantánamo tomorrow and release the eighty-six prisoners who have been cleared for release.” We went on to have quite an exchange.
While I have received a deluge of support, there are others, including journalists, who have called me “rude.” But terrorizing villages with Hellfire missiles that vaporize innocent people is rude. Violating the sovereignty of nations like Pakistan is rude. Keeping eighty-six prisoners in Guantánamo long after they have been cleared for release is rude. Shoving feeding tubes down prisoners’ throats instead of giving them justice is certainly rude.
— Medea Benjamin, Why I Spoke Out at Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech (via fariyah)