After insisting that his administration seeks "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured" in drone strikes, President Barack Obama on Thursday acknowledged that the operations have resulted in the loss of innocent life — a fact that he said will haunt him.
"And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set," Obama said at National Defense University, according to text of the speech as prepared for delivery. "This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."