Drone damage


A U.S. drone strike in Yemen this month killed 12 people, reportedly in a wedding party. Some were possibly militants; others were innocent civilians.

Apart from the enemies such strikes create for the United States in the countries where they occur — including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen — the drone program appears uncoordinated by the U.S. government. President Obama’s pledge in a speech last May that no strikes would be carried out without near certainty that no civilians would be killed or injured is not being respected.

Drone attacks in Yemen are executed by the Defense Department from a base in the East African state of Djibouti, or by the Central Intelligence Agency from a base in Saudi Arabia. It is not clear whether the Pentagon and CIA coordinate their activities. If they don’t, they should.

Mr. Obama stated that attacks would occur only if the targets constituted a continuing and imminent threat to Americans. It is hard to imagine that the Yemeni wedding party posed such a threat. The Pentagon clearly ignored the President’s no-civilian-victims promise in staging this month’s strike.

Either the Pentagon isn’t following the President’s orders on the use of drones, or Mr. Obama has deliberately misled Americans in an attempt to put a civilized face on a brutal, uncoordinated U.S. practice. It needs to be fixed.