During a discussion of civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes, President Obama said Thursday that he wishes he could deploy a superhero to carry out counterterrorism missions.
“I wish I could just send in Iron Man,” Mr. Obama told students at the University of Chicago Law School.
As the audience laughed, Mr. Obama went on to say, “No, no, I don’t mean that as a joke.”
“I just mean I wish that the tragedy of war, conflict, terrorism, did not end up creating circumstances where we, wielding kinetic power, don’t end up hurting anybody who shouldn’t have been hurt,” he said.
The president defended his administration’s use of drones in military and counterterrorism operations, saying the U.S. is getting much more careful about limiting civilian casualties.
“There’s no doubt that some innocent people have been killed by drone strikes,” he said. “It is not true that it is this sort of willy-nilly ‘Let’s bomb a village.’ That is not how folks have operated. The rate of civilian casualties in any drone operation are far lower than the rate of civilian casualties that occur in conventional war.”
In the Iraq war, he said, “the number of Iraqis that were killed, primarily by [al Qaeda] and those we were fighting, but also by U.S. military who were trying to be as careful as possible in chaotic situations like Fallujah or Ramadi, were in the tens of thousands.”
“So part of my job as president is to figure out how I can keep America safe doing the least damage possible in really tough, bad situations,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t have the luxury of just not doing anything and then being able to stand back and feel as if my conscience is completely clear. I have to make decisions because there are folks out there who are genuinely trying to kill us. I try to set up the system as best as I can.”