The United States Justice Department has declined an opportunity to apologize to a Yemeni man whose family was killed as a result of a drone strike on August 29, 2012. Faisal bin Ali Jaber has been seeking justice for the deaths of his brother-in-law and nephew for over three years.
In June, Jaber filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to get the U.S. government to acknowledge the deaths and to hold those responsible accountable for violating the law. The Guardian reports that Jaber had previously received a $100,000 cash condolence payment from a Yemeni official on behalf of the United States. It has become common practice for the U.S. to send payments to relatives of those accidentally killed in military operations. However, the condolence payments neither acknowledged the drone strikes nor apologized for the deaths.
In November of 2013, the Guardian reported that Jaber was able to attend a meeting with White House officials but still received no answers on the deaths. On Monday, Jaber’s lawyers, from human rights group Reprieve, offered to settle the case in exchange for an official apology. Attorney Cori Crider said the case would be dropped in exchange for “an apology and an explanation as to why a strike that killed two innocent civilians was authorized.”
President Obama has previously expressed “profound regret” for civilian deaths. In April, he lamented a drone strike that killed Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an American and an Italian who were being held hostage by Al-Qaeda. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to their families,” he said.
Following last week’s U.S. bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, President Obama again took to Facebook to apologize, stating, “On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest condolences to the medical professionals and other civilians killed and injured in the tragic incident at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy.”
In a letter to President Obama last week, Crider wrote: “I write today to make a formal offer of settlement. In consideration for dropping this lawsuit, Mr. Jaber asks for nothing more than what you gave the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto: an apology and an explanation as to why a strike that killed two innocent civilians was authorized.”
However, on September 30, the Justice Department rejected the offer, arguing the “alleged operation” was beyond its jurisdiction. Justice Department attorneys wrote, “Plaintiffs ask the Court to second-guess a series of complicated policy decisions allegedly made by the Executive regarding whether to conduct a counterterrorism operation. The Executive makes such decisions after, among other things, weighing sensitive intelligence information and diplomatic considerations, far afield from the judiciary’s area of expertise.”
In spite of the government’s rejection of his requests, Faisal bin Ali Jaber will continue his search for justice, as will the families of all the victims of the U.S. War on Terror. Until American politicians and puppet masters learn that launching wars will not create peace or spread freedom, we will continue down this dangerous path. Perhaps those at the top of the pyramid are all too aware of this fact and are not actually after peace, but rather, the consolidation of power so strong they need not apologize for innocents killed in their wake.
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