Himes calls hostage deaths a tragic but unavoidable result of war

Rep. Himes calls hostage deaths in U.S.  drone strike tragic but inevitable.

Rep. Himes calls hostage deaths in U.S. drone strike tragic but inevitable.

Rep. Jim Himes called the deaths of two al-Qaida hostages _ an American and an Italian _ a “tragic mistake’’ that is an inevitable byproduct of war.

“I don’t want to sound callous,’’ said Himes, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. “It is a horrible tragedy when any noncombatants are killed.’’

President Obama on Thursday revealed that the American, Warren Weinstein, and the Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto _ both aid workers kidnapped by al-Qaida _ were inadvertently killed in a U.S. drone strike in January aimed at an al-Qaida compound in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. An al-Qaida leader who was a dual U.S.-Pakistani national also was killed.

Obama said mistakes can and do happen in “the fog of war,’’ a sentiment that Himes said he shared.

“I know the government works very, very hard to avoid these mistakes,’’ said Himes, who noted that the president said hundreds of hours of U.S. surveillance had failed to detect presence of hostages. “You have what is truly a tragic mistake that sadly has happened many times in the history of warfare.’’

He cited the deaths of U.S. military POWs killed in World War II by U.S. air and sea attacks against Japan.

More than 20 such POWs were killed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

A 2002 Department of Veterans Affairs study concluded that over 10,000 U.S. POWs being transported on 25 unmarked Japanese ships were killed in American submarine and air attacks.

Daniel Freedman