Durbin Delivers Opening Remarks During Hearing On U.S. Drone Strikes And Civilian Casualties

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered his opening statement during a hearing entitled “‘Targeted Killing’ and the Rule of Law: The Legal and Human Costs of 20 Years of U.S. Drone Strikes.” This is the first hearing since 2013—which Durbin also chaired—on the United States’ use of drone strikes to lethally target suspected terrorists overseas.


Key quotes:


“In the nine years since that 2013 hearing, the watchdog group Airwars estimates that as many as 10,000 to 30,000 more civilians have been killed by U.S. coalition strikes. These are not just numbers, these are real people.”


“We have ended the war in Afghanistan—the longest war in American history. Let me be clear—the world continues to face challenges from terrorists. Terrorists operate in failed states or ungoverned spaces.  They do not wear uniforms, distinguish themselves from the civilian population, or otherwise follow the laws of war.  We cannot ignore these threats.” 


“I want to commend the Biden Administration for the recent mission against ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi.  Rather than a drone strike, the Administration deployed ground forces – putting our brave service members at risk – in an effort to minimize civilian casualties.”


“Our Constitution is clear: only Congress has the power to decide when the nation goes to war. As the Commander-in-Chief, the President must act within the Constitution’s boundaries. Twenty years ago, Congress authorized the use of force against those responsible for 9/11. In 2001,  the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or ‘AUMF,’ has been stretched by successive presidents far beyond what I, and many of my colleagues who joined me in voting for it, ever, ever imagined. It has been used as the legal basis for strikes in more than half a dozen countries and against just as many different groups—including groups that did not even exist when Congress voted to pass the AUMF. I and many of my colleagues – on both sides of the aisle – have long urged that Congress take its responsibility seriously and revisit the outdated AUMFs.”


“Through it all – 20 years and four Administrations – the Department of Justice’s legal analysis permitting these lethal strikes has remained shrouded in secrecy.”


“The Biden Administration has also rightfully sought to restore American leadership on human rights.  To do so, it should improve its lethal-force polices. The Executive Branch also must address systemic problems that for two decades have routinely led to the erroneous targeting of innocent civilians.”


“In addition to doing more to prevent these mistakes in the first place, we must ensure that erroneous strikes are followed by appropriate investigations and accountability – including redress to the victims and their families.”


Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.


Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.