U.S. President Barack Obama listens as Medea Benjamin, a Code Pink activist, shouts at him while he speaks at the National Defense University May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
President Barack Obama is being accused of taking an Osama bin Laden quote out of context during his counterterrorism speech at National Defense University. And while the speech occurred last Thursday, the idea are still being discussed this week.
Defending his administration's use of drones, the president said the audience shouldn't "take [his] word for it" that they are effective.
"In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden's compound, we found that he wrote, 'We could lose the reserves to enemy's airstrikes. We cannot fight airstrikes with explosives!'" Obama said.
But here is the full passage (president Obama's selected quote in bold):
In the meanwhile, we do not want to send the reserves to the front line, especially in areas where the enemy only uses air strikes to attack our forces. So, the reserves will not, for the most part, be effective in such conflicts. Basically, we could lose the reserves to enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives!
We have plenty of time to view and examine the appropriate time to begin our jihad work against the apostate regimes in the region...
We still have a powerful force which we can organize and prepare for deployment.
The president's quote seems to imply that we are decimating al-Qaeda's reserves, when the full context indicates they are plotting to ensure that doesn't happen.
However, to the president's credit, it is clear al-Qaeda is having to modify its strategies, and that does speak to the efficacy of the drones.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was one of the first to bring the issue to light in the Weekly Standard on Friday. He argues that, contrary to Obama's implication that we are decimating al-Qaeda's reserves, the terrorist group has "simply moved some of its forces elsewhere."
As the issue gained traction, Joscelyn added Tuesday that the "selective citation" is indicative of how "the president and his administration only see what they want to see in the fight against Al Qaeda and affiliates groups."
Watch president Obama's complete counterterrorism speech and decide for yourself (skip to around 18:20 for relevant drone statements):