On May 6th 2012, Fahd al-Quso was getting out of his car in Yemen along with another al-Qaeda operative. Out of the clear blue sky, a missile fired from a CIA drone reduced the two men to vulture kibbles. Who was al-Quso?
Fahd al-Quso’s involvement with al Qadea goes back to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, where 17 American sailors were killed and another 40 wounded. He was also involved in the unsuccessful Christmas 2009 “underwear bomber” of Delta Airlines flight 253 over Detroit, and linked to many other attacks. He had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for years, and there was a $5 million bounty on his head.
Sometime before May 6th of this year, the CIA learned (with assistance from Saudi, Jordanian and possibly Israeli intelligence services) that al-Quso was again plotting to blow up an airliner. This time, a U.S. bound jet from Europe with 300 Americans onboard. But things didn’t go according to al-Quso’s plan. The suicide bomber he had coaxed into meeting his maker turned out to be a double-agent. The agent convinced al-Quso that he was ready to die for the cause, so al-Quso sent him on his mission with a brand new pair of Fruit of the Looms packed with the latest formula of al Qaeda-approved explosives. The double-agent (not willing to sleep with the fishes just yet), went directly to the CIA, turned the underwear bomb over to them, told them all the details of the plot, the future plots al-Quso was working on, and most importantly, his exact location. The CIA contacted the White House with the data, which went directly to the President and his advisors.
You’re the president of the United States of America. What do you do? You’ve got the guy cold. You have the witness (the double-agent). You have possession of the bomb itself, his plans for future bombings, plus the coordinates of his current digs. You can’t inform the Yemeni government, for obvious reasons. He’d be gone before you could say Tora Bora. You can’t parachute in and read him his rights, as he and his pals are in the terrorist bomb factory business… not exactly friendly turf to try and slap handcuffs on a man willing to die for his cause. So the order was given to the CIA to send a Hellfire missile up his ass. Which is exactly what happened.
Immediately, the outrage came from right and left alike. “How can the president just murder someone like that?” The reality is very different, of course. Had al-Quso not been stopped when he was, his next plot too would probably have been successful. In fact, there are 300 people who would be dead today, had our double-agent not revealed al-Quso’s location.
And what if President Obama had played it safe? What if, in order to prevent accusations of American involvement, he’d outsourced the job of dealing with al-Quso to the Yemeni government? And they let him get away… as they did at least once before? What would the Republicans in Congress say; that President Obama KNEW of a plot to kill 300 American citizens, but neglected to act on it? Or worse, procrastinated to the point where al-Quso managed to bring down this airliner and possibly several more before we finally caught up with him? The GOP wouldn’t just accuse him of being derelict in his duties, they’d try to impeach him for it. And rightfully so.
This isn’t in defense of every drone op, so don’t go there. In my opinion, the drone program has a specific use, and the life and death of Fahd al-Quso was a textbook example of how and when the drones can be used for good. Fahd al-Quso was one nasty dude, and he got exactly what he’d been dishing out for almost 12 years. I’d rather see 300 Americans alive, than the two bloodthirsty terrorists who died on May 6th, 2012. President Obama made the right call, and to those who accuse him of playing “war games” with our drones, try personalizing the situation: ask yourself if you’d feel this way if it was your son or daughter who was on a flight that was blown out of the sky by fanatics.