WASHINGTON — A series of U.S. predator drone strikes just after dawn this morning killed at least 220 suspected terrorists, many presumed to have ties with al-Qaeda, at the naval detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to two senior White House officials.
“We hit the jackpot,” said one official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “We killed a whole damn bunch of them there terrorist sons of bitches,” the source said, the sound of clinking glasses and celebratory gunfire audible in the background.
The strikes come just days after the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines flight by a 23 year old Nigerian man alleged to have received ineffective crotch bomb training in Yemen. President Barack Obama himself authorized the mission, according to the officials, upon receiving word that nearly half of the men based at the Guantanamo Bay facility were Yemeni nationals, some of whom were suspected of being Muslim and having maintained an interest in herding sheep, possibly in order to recruit them as suicide bombers.
In launching the attack, Mr. Obama has not only diffused a perceived threat to U.S. national security, but he has fulfilled a key campaign pledge to shutter the Guantanamo detention facility, which had become an object of widespread international condemnation. Meeting the pledge had proved difficult, however, in the face of congressional opposition, with GOP lawmakers and centrist Democrats seeking to block the planned release of the Yemeni men housed there to their native country, where they argued it would be more cumbersome and expensive to bomb them.
While the U.S.’s legal authority to imprison men and boys at the Guantanamo detention center has been a matter of some dispute, its right to conduct drone attacks against targets it deems potential threats has provoked little controversy either at home or abroad, at least in countries populated with white people. Indeed, even as Mr. Obama has overseen a significant escalation in drone attacks, authorizing strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s received a Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition of his efforts to promote peace through war.
Given international acceptance of the drone attacks, the Obama administration expects the same level of support for today’s strikes, which likewise took place on foreign soil — as it happens, in a country deemed by the U.S. government to be a state-sponsor of terror. As one American official put it, “if we can kill ‘em without trial in Yemen, why the hell couldn’t we do the same a whole heckuva lot closer to our own shores?”
Though questioned by some human rights groups long considered hostile to freedom, the Guantanamo attack has been met with overwhelming praise from those who actually matter, with political analysts predicting a healthy boost in the Mr. Obama’s approval ratings among the general public as well.
“The president has shown that he’s tough, a regular blue collar guy not afraid to throw a few punches and kill a couple hundred bad guys trapped in cages when he needs to, which is really going to help him win those independents come 2012,” said University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato in an interview. “You can’t overestimate the electorate’s hunger for mass killing. Monday Night Football’s got nothing on Shock and Awe.”
Cable news commentators were similarly aflutter with praise for Mr. Obama. “Can’t you just imagine this guy’s masculine musk? I mean, I just want to douse myself in whatever his sweat glands are emitting,” said a visibly aroused Chris Matthews on his afternoon MSNBC program, Hardball.
But not all praised the president’s decision. In a fiery speech on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Mr. Obama’s challenger during the 2008 election, denounced the administration’s approach to the war on terror as timid, “gook league” and lacking in theatrics.
“Why weren’t these men doused in acid and set ablaze amid fireworks and the loud and proud blaring of the national anthem? C’mon,” McCain thundered. “Why was there no consideration of the history books, here — or pay-per-view? And frankly, my friends, why weren’t these men killed the moment our intelligence agencies learned they were actively living in the Middle East?”
A couple of other people also disagreed with the president’s decision, questioning the morality and wisdom of handing one fallible man the unilateral power to order the death of anyone he chooses, but no one really takes them seriously.