from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Warren Weinstein, R.I.P.

April 23, 2015

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Today President Obama announced that the American hostage Warren Weinstein had been killed by an American drone strike last January, presumably in Pakistan.

Here is part of the White House statement:

It is with tremendous sorrow that we recently concluded that a U.S. Government counterterrorism operation in January killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qa’ida. Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qa’ida since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qa’ida hostage since 2012. Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages. The operation targeted an al-Qa’ida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy....

Many within our government spent years attempting to locate and free Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto. The pain of their deaths will remain with us as we rededicate ourselves to adhering to the most exacting standards in doing all we can to protect the American people.

I’m glad that the administration released this information, and it seems to me the words used by the President were exactly appropriate: “I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the U.S. government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.” The President was also right to say that “It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and our fight against terrorists specifically, that mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur.”

When I served in the Reagan administration in the State Department, I had the opportunity to know Warren Weinstein. He was then a young USAID official. His idealism, his dedication to alleviating poverty, and his patriotism were immediately obvious. His good humor made him a delight to work with. In his seventies he was in Pakistan working for USAID as a contractor, still committed to helping other nations develop. When he was captured in 2011 I feared for his life, especially because his family reported that he was in poor health.

Now we know how and when the tragic end came. Perhaps this offers some slight solace to the Weinstein family, and the exemplary way in which the President handled this entire matter should offer them some solace as well. Warren spent his life serving his country and fulfilling his vision of how a good life should be constructed and lived. R.I.P. Warren Weinstein. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and of Jerusalem.

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