Discussion of drones ‘long overdue,’ Metro Detroit Arab-American says

March 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

CAIR Michigan director: Discussion of drones ‘long overdue’

By Detroit News staff and wire reports

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s demand that the government vow not to use drones on American soil without an “imminent threat” reflects the view of some Arab-Americans in Metro Detroit, the leader of an Islamic advocacy group said Wednesday.

“We’ve been long overdue for having a national conversation about the abuse of drones in extrajudicial killings,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan. “It was just a matter of time before the conversation would turn to: Are we not going to use the drones here … the same as we do in Pakistan and Afghanistan?”

Walid spent hours Wednesday watching the Republican senator’s filibuster on the Senate floor, which delayed a vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as his continuous talking pushed into its 12th hour.

President Barack Obama’s choice of Brennan, 57, to head the Central Intelligence Agency has become entangled in growing tensions between Congress and the administration over its use of unmanned, armed drones to attack suspected members and allies of al-Qaeda. Brennan oversees the drone program as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.

The Senate intelligence committee voted 12-3 behind closed doors yesterday in favor of Brennan’s confirmation after the administration allowed panel members a look at Justice Department documents making the legal case for using pilotless aircraft to attack U.S. citizens abroad linked to terrorism. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, and his 16-year- old son, Abdulrahman, who was born in Denver, were killed in suspected drone strikes in Yemen in 2011.

Earlier this year, Walid wrote in a The Detroit News opinion piece that such tactics raise anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. “It becomes difficult to justify the deaths of so many civilians while claiming to be the world’s torchbearer of liberty and justice for all people,” he wrote.

Walid on Wednesday said others across Metro Detroit have also shown concern about the drone policy and are calling for a review.

“I believe that the Muslim community in metropolitan Detroit has had some issues with Sen. Paul’s politics — but not when it comes to this issue,” he said.

Paul, 50, of Kentucky in his filibuster focused on the hypothetical possibility that the administration might use drones to attack an American on U.S. soil.

“Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled. They don’t get their day in court,” Paul said, according to a transcript posted on PolicyMic.com.

“But if you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by e-mail and somebody says, oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism, is that enough to kill you? For goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to arrest and come to the truth by having a jury and a presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue?”

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