Drone warfare, and consequences

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30,000 Drones To Police U.S. Airspace

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Drone Tax

[Image: An otherwise unrelated image of the unmanned Draganflyer X8 system, courtesy of Draganfly].A post on sUAS News—a blog tracking the “small unmanned aviation system industry”—we read about the possibility of drone aircraft being used to enforce residential property tax.Citing a recent court ruling in Arkansas that “has approved the use of aerial imagery to collect data on property sizes,” and making reference to the already-controversial state deployment of aerial surveillance tools, sUASsuggests that drones could someday be used to manage a near-realtime catalog of local property expansions, transfers, and other tax-relevant land alterations.Whether enforcing local building codes—keeping an eye, for instance, on illegally built structures such as the so-called Achill Hengein Ireland—or reconciling on-the-ground property lines with their administrative representations back in the city land archives, how soon will drones become a state tool for regional landscape management?[Images: Might semi-autonomous systems such as this someday track residential property lines? Images courtesy of Draganfly].“Imagine your local planning officer having access to your back garden at a moment’s notice!” sUAS writes with alarm. “With the pullback from Iraq and other spots under way, this scenario is much easier to imagine. Perhaps it’s already happening.”(Thanks to Ruth Lyons for the Achill Henge link).

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     A Brief History of Drones


A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Portions of this article are adapted from The Violence All Around, forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

It was ten years ago this month, on February 4, 2002, that the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing. The strike was in Paktia province in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost. The intended target was Osama bin Laden, or at least someone in the CIA had thought so. Donald Rumsfeld later explained, using the passive voice of government: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.” The incident occurred during a brief period when the military, which assisted the CIA’s drone program by providing active service personnel as operators, still acknowledged the program’s existence. Within days of the strike, journalists on the ground were collecting accounts from local Afghans that the dead men were civilians gathering scrap metal. The Pentagon media pool began asking questions, and so the long decade of the drone began.

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  • Drone
John Sifton: Why Do Drones Disturb Us?

About the Author

John Sifton
John Sifton is the advocacy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.

Also by the Author

Low-ranking soldiers are taking the blame in the torture scandal while higher-ups get a pass.

Low-ranking soldiers are taking the blame in the torture scandal while higher-ups get a pass.

The CIA had been flying unarmed drones over Afghanistan since 2000. It began to fly armed drones after the September 11 attacks. Some were used during the air war against the Taliban in late 2001. But by February 2002 the CIA hadn’t yet used a drone for a strike outside military support. The February 2002 attack was a pure CIA kill operation, undertaken separately from any ongoing military operation. The drone operators were reported to have come across three people at a former mujahedeen base called Zhawar Kili—later, officials would never claim they were armed—including a “tall man” to whom the other men were “acting with reverence.” (On one previous occasion, a year before the September 11 attacks, CIA observers thought they’d seen bin Laden: a tall man with long robes near Tarnak Farm, bin Laden’s erstwhile home near Kandahar. This sighting by an unarmed drone was what had led to the first arguments among the White House and CIA about arming drones with missiles, a debate that simmered until it was snuffed out by the September 11 attacks.)

After the February 2002 strike, military officials quickly acknowledged that the “tall man” was not bin Laden. But they insisted the targets were “legitimate,” although they struggled to explain why, using vague and even coy language to cover up what appeared to be uncertainty. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark said, “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target.” But she added, “We do not know yet exactly who it was.” Gen. Tommy Franks told ABC News that he expected the identities of the three to prove “interesting.”

Pentagon spokesman John Stufflebeem spoke of the government’s being in the “comfort zone” of determining that the targets were “not innocent,” noting there were “no initial indications that these were innocent locals,” a curious phrase reflecting a presumption of guilt. “Indicators were there that there was something untoward that we needed to make go away…. Initial indications would seem to say that these are not peasant people up there farming.” Rumsfeld later chimed in, offering his signature pseudo-philosophical analysis to address the allegations that the dead were civilians. “We’ll just have to find out. There’s not much more anyone could add, except that there’s that one version, and there’s the other version.”

The government’s evasion was helped by the fact that Zhawar Kili, the site of the strike, was an infamous mujahedeen complex built with CIA and Saudi support by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the mujahedeen scion allied with the Taliban, then and now. In the 1980s CIA officers and journalists used to visit the base. It was the site of two major battles against Soviet forces in the mid-’80s. President Bill Clinton ordered a strike on the area with Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1998 after the two Africa embassy bombings, and the US military pummeled it with airstrikes beginning in late 2001. For a time the military thought that bin Laden and his Al Qaeda forces might have fled to Zhawar Kili after the battle of Tora Bora (a puzzling hypothesis because the area had already been hit by withering fire and was more exposed than Tora Bora). In January 2002 the military sent several search and demolition units there to gather leftover material with potential intelligence value and to blow up the caves.

By February 2002 the place had been deserted by militants for months. Several journalists headed to Zhawar Kili after the strike and spoke with local leaders and the families of the dead, who confirmed the identities of the men killed: Daraz Khan, the tall man, about 31, from the village of Lalazha, and two others, Jehangir Khan, about 28, and Mir Ahmed, about 30, from the village of Patalan. The New York Times’s John Burns was among those who spoke with the families, saw the men’s graves and confirmed their extreme poverty. The men had climbed to the mountainous area to forage for leftover metal from the US airstrikes, bits of shrapnel and bomb tail fins—scavengers could fetch about 50 cents per camel load. Although Daraz Khan was admittedly tall by Afghan standards—5 feet 11 inches—he was six inches shorter than bin Laden.

Reading about the strike later, I felt a slight connection with Daraz Khan. I am also 5 feet 11, and at around the same period I spent time foraging for bomb fragments in remote locations in Afghanistan. As a researcher for Human Rights Watch, working on an assessment of the US air war in the winter and spring of 2002, I had visited locations like Zhawar Kili. With colleagues I had climbed into craters, poked at the twisted tail fins of bombs, and interviewed witnesses and families of the dead. And I was the tallest among my colleagues. Perhaps I could have been mistaken for bin Laden too.

* * *

Air warfare has been with us for a hundred years, since the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, and the development of drones was in the works from the start. The reason is simple: even with all the advantages offered by air power, humans still needed to strap themselves into the devices and fly them. There were limits to the risks that could be taken. Whatever an airplane was used for, it ultimately had to return to base with its pilot. Not surprisingly, from the start of the development of airplanes for use in war, engineers labored to circumvent this limitation.

During World War I, the Navy hired Elmer Ambrose Sperry, the inventor of the gyroscope, to develop a fleet of “air torpedoes,” unmanned Curtis biplanes designed to be launched by catapult and fly over enemy positions. A secret program was run out of a small outfield in central Long Island, New York. A New York Times report from 1926, when the secret was revealed, said that the planes were “automatically guided with a high degree of precision” and after a predetermined distance were supposed to suddenly turn and fly vertically downward, carrying enough TNT to “blow a small town inside out.” The program ran out of steam because the war ended in 1918. In reality, according to a Navy history, the planes rarely worked: they typically crashed after takeoff or flew away over the ocean, never to be seen again.

In World War II a different approach was taken: the Navy launched a new program, called Operation Anvil, to target deep German bunkers using refitted B-24 bombers filled to double capacity with explosives and guided by remote control devices to crash at selected targets in Germany and Nazi-controlled France. Remote control technology was still limited—involving crude radio-controlled devices linked to motors—so actual pilots were used for takeoff: they were supposed to guide the plane to a cruising altitude and then parachute to safety in England, after which a “mothership” would guide the plane to its target. In practice, the program was a disaster. Many planes crashed, or worse. John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, was one of the program’s first pilots: he was killed in August 1944 when a drone-to-be that he was piloting exploded prematurely over Suffolk, England.

And here lies a small irony in history. The target of that particular mission of Kennedy’s was a Nazi site where scientists were working on technology in the same vein, the remote delivery of explosives: the world’s first military rocket program. Indeed, German engineers had switched to rocketry, given the difficulties in building full-scale pilotless airplanes. They worked extensively on rockets during the war, and after the war US and Russian governments carried on their work. (In the late 1940s and ’50s, hundreds of former German rocket engineers and other Nazi scientists were brought to the United States and granted citizenship in exchange for their help on rocket engineering efforts—some despite clear ties to Holocaust-related atrocities. Stanley Kubrick’s character Dr. Strangelove was a caricature of an expatriate Nazi scientist.)

The development of drones stagnated for decades because there was little need for them, thanks to developments in rocketry. By the late 1950s, the US military had developed, in addition to many rockets, a slew of slower but more guidable “cruise missiles”—which, in their own way, were like little airplanes. Cruise missiles maintain airplanelike “lift” on stubby little wings, unlike ballistic missiles, which move through a long curve of flight comprising a launch and rise followed by a guided fall.

Cruise missiles were, in a sense, proto-drones, miniature versions of what the military had attempted as far back as 1917. They could be dispatched and guided in flight; some had cameras; and, in some incarnations, could even change target midflight. But cruise missiles could not linger over a battlefield in the manner of a holding pattern, nor could they return to base. And their weapons delivery was blunt and inflexible; the delivery was the missile itself, its single warhead. So in the 1960s and ’70s, Air Force engineers continued to tinker with unmanned aircraft—in particular for use in surveillance flights, which don’t engage in complex flight maneuvers and require less sophisticated piloting. Only with major improvements in computing and electronic controlling systems in the 1980s and ’90s were modern-day drones made possible. And it wasn’t until the late ’90s that the Air Force began working on the technical aspects of arming unmanned aircraft with missiles.

The CIA, which had been using the drones for surveillance, became involved with the military effort to arm them after September 11. Although the agency had been authorized to support military operations even before the attacks, the legal parameters governing its involvement in military or paramilitary operations were murky, then as now. There were questions about who was allowed to “pull the trigger” and in what settings. Outright assassinations were illegal under a presidential executive order in the wake of CIA scandals from the Nixon period, and the laws of armed conflict contained complicated provisions on the circumstances in which civilian personnel—CIA officers not in uniform—could use lethal force.

So government attorneys worried back in 2001. Ten years later, the CIA works side by side with the military, launching kinetic strikes from Pakistan to Somalia. Few concerns are raised anymore, except by a handful of academics and activists who worry that the CIA is less accountable than the military for its targetting (and, as we saw in Zhawar Kili, for its mistakes). Still, many people seem to be leery of drones in the abstract—whether they are used in armed conflict or in targeted killings.

* * *

What, in the final analysis, is troubling about the CIA’s use of drones? Drones are only one weapon system among many, and the CIA’s role, while disturbing, is not the primary cause for alarm. Certainly the legal identity of drone operators, CIA or military, matters little to the victims of a Hellfire strike. So what is it about the drone, really, that draws the attention of victims, insurgent propagandists, lawyers and journalists, more than other forms of kinetic violent force? Why do drones interest us, fascinate us or disturb us?

Perhaps one clue comes from the linguistics. The weapons’ names suggest ruthless and inhumane characteristics. The first drone aircraft deployed by the CIA and Air Force after 2001 was the Predator, a rather coarse name even for a weapons system, suggestive that the enemy was not human but merely prey, that military operations were not combat subject to the laws of war but a hunt. (Some of the computer software used by the military and the CIA to calculate expected civilian casualties during airstrikes is known in government circles as Bug Splat.) The Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper, a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones’ payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness.

But the real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones—and the names reinforce this—is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence. Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target—a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills Anwar al-Awlaki, or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence—the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination—while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.

This characteristic, the distance between targets and CIA executive officers at Langley, is the defining characteristic of drones. They are the zenith of the technological quest that runs back to the invention of slings and arrows thousands of years ago, efforts of the earliest perpetrators of violence to get away from their victims. That process, which brought catapults and later artillery, reached its first peak with the development of intercontinental nuclear missiles; but those are weapons of limited tactical use and have never been used. Drones allow all the alienation of long-range missions but with much more flexibility and capacity for everyday use. The net result is everyday violence with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs. This is disturbing perhaps because alienation is disturbing.

The work of animal behaviorists like Konrad Lorenz sheds some light on why. Lorenz—a onetime member of the Nazi party who later renounced his politics and won the Nobel Prize in the 1970s—spent much of his life studying violence in animals. His book On Aggression posited a theory whereby many animals, male and female, have a natural “drive” to be aggressive against opponents, including members of their own species.

The aggression drive, Lorenz posited, was often limited within species by a “submission” phenomenon, whereby potential victims turn off the aggressive drive in others by displaying signs of submission. In this way, most animal violence is checked before it occurs. Lorenz suggested that in humans, the submission safety valve was blunted by the technological creation of weapons, which emotionally “distanced” the killer from his victim. When a spear or sling is used to kill, victims lose the opportunity to engage in submission and trigger the aggression “off switch.” The drone represents an extreme extension of that process. Drones crossed into a new frontier in military affairs: an area of entirely risk-free, remote and even potentially automated killing detached from human behavioral cues.

Military research seems to back this up. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychologist and former professor at West Point, has written extensively on the natural human aversion to killing. His 1995 book On Killing contains a collection of accounts from his research and from military history demonstrating soldiers’ revulsion with killing—in particular, killing at close range. He tells the story of a Green Beret in Vietnam describing the killing of a young Vietnamese soldier: “I just opened up, fired the whole twenty rounds right at the kid, and he just laid there. I dropped my weapon and cried.” The most telling accounts are with the “close” kills of hand-to-hand combat. Grossman tells of a Special Forces sergeant from the Vietnam War describing a close kill: “‘When you get up close and personal,’ he drawled with a cud of chewing tobacco in his cheek, ‘where you can hear ‘em scream and see ‘em die,’ and here he spit tobacco for emphasis, ‘it’s a bitch.’”

Obviously the primary advantage of the drone is that it insulates its operators from risk. Yet one can’t help wondering whether aversion to the unpleasantness of violence is another factor making drones popular with the military and CIA. Drones make the nasty business of killing a little easier. Or do they?

There are reports of military drone operators suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and studies showing that those who conduct strikes or watch videos of strikes suffer from “operational stress,” which officials believe is the result of operators’ long hours and extended viewing of video feeds showing the results of military operations after they have occurred—i.e., dead bodies. Still, these reports pale in comparison with those of PTSD among combat veterans. And there is no public information about stress among those ordering the strikes—the CIA strike operators or the decision-makers at Langley.

A little-noticed 2011 British Defense Ministry study of unmanned drones discusses some of these points: from concerns about drone operators’ potential alienation from violence to the propaganda opportunities for enemies (noting that drones’ use “enables the insurgent to cast himself in the role of underdog and the West as a cowardly bully—that is unwilling to risk his own troops, but is happy to kill remotely”). The paper also discusses concerns raised by military analyst Peter Singer, who has written on “robot warfare” and the risk that drones might acquire the capacity to engage enemies autonomously. The report envisions a scenario where a drone fires on a target “based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.”

The authors note that in warfare, the risks of the battlefield and the horror that comes from carrying out violence can act as controls on brutality. Citing the oft-quoted adage of Gen. Robert E. Lee, reportedly uttered after the battle of Fredericksburg, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it,” the authors then ask:

If we remove the risk of loss from the decision-makers’ calculations when considering crisis management options, do we make the use of armed force more attractive? Will decision-makers resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously?

The issue is not that armed drones are more terrible or deadly than other weapons systems. On the contrary, the violence of drones today is more selective than many forms of military violence, and human rights groups recognize that drones, in comparison with less precise weapons, have the potential to minimize civilian casualties during legitimate military strikes.

Nor is the issue the remote delivery of weapons: alienation from the effects of violence reached a high-water mark in World War I. What makes drones disturbing is an unusual combination of characteristics: the distance between killer and killed, the asymmetry, the prospect of automation and, most of all, the minimization of pilot risk and political risk. It is the merging of these characteristics that draws the attention of journalists, military analysts, human rights researchers and Al Qaeda propagandists, suggesting something disturbing about what human violence may become. The unique technology allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion. Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.

In this sense, drones foretell a future that is very dark indeed.

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Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones

The military says the nearly 7,500 robotic aircraft it has accrued for use overseas need to come home at some point. But the FAA doesn’t allow drones in U.S. airspace without a special certificate.

RQ-4 Global HawkDrones such as the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman have been successful in providing aerial coverage of recent catastrophic events like the tsunami in Japan and earthquake in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force / January 25, 2012) 
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles TimesFebruary 13, 2012, 9:57 p.m.
With a growing fleet of combat drones in its arsenal, the Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft.As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the military says the drones that it has spent the last decade accruing need to return to the United States. When the nation first went to war after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the military had around 50 drones. Now it owns nearly 7,500.

These flying robots need to be shipped home at some point, and the military then hopes to station them at various military bases and use them for many purposes. But the FAA doesn’t allow drones in national airspace without a special certificate.

These aircraft would be used to help train and retrain the pilots who fly the drones remotely, but they also are likely to find new roles at home in emergencies, helping firefighters see hot spots during wildfires or possibly even dropping water to combat the blaze.

At a recent conference about robotic technology in Washington, D.C., a number of military members spoke about the importance of integrating drones along with manned aircraft.

“The stuff from Afghanistan is going to come back,” Steve Pennington, the Air Force’s director of ranges, bases and airspace, said at the conference. The Department of Defense “doesn’t want a segregated environment. We want a fully integrated environment.”

That means the Pentagon wants the same rules for drones as any other military aircraft in the U.S. today.

Robotic technology was the focus of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review conference in Washington last week. For three days, a crowd made up of more than 500 military contractors, military personnel and industry insiders packed the Omni Shoreham Hotel to listen to the foremost experts on robots in the air, on the ground and in the sea.

Once the stuff of science-fiction novels, robotic technology now plays a major role day-to-day life. Automated machines help farmers gather crops. Robotic submarines scour the ocean floor for signs of oil beds. Flying drones have become crucial in hunting suspected terrorists in the Middle East.

Drones such as the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman Corp.have also been successful in providing aerial coverage of recent catastrophic events like the tsunamiin Japan and earthquake in Haiti.

The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren’t allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don’t have an adequate “detect, sense and avoid” technology to prevent midair collisions.

The FAA does allow exceptions. Unarmed Predator drones are used to patrol the nation’s borders through special certifications. The FAA said it issued 313 such certificates last year.

The vast majority of the military’s drones are small — similar to hobby aircraft. The FAA is working on proposed rules for integrating these drones, which are being eyed by law enforcement and private business to provide aerial surveillance. The FAA expects to release the proposal on small drones this spring.

But the Pentagon is concerned about flying hundreds of larger drones, including Global Hawks as well as MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers, both made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway.

And last week Congress approved legislation that requires the FAA to have a plan to integrate drones of all kinds into national airspace on a wide scale by 2015.

The Army will conduct a demonstration this summer at its Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, testing ground-based radars and other sense-and-avoid technology, Mary Ottman, deputy product director with the Army, said at the conference.

These first steps are crucial, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who co-chairs a bipartisan drone caucus with Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.

McKeon also said he was in favor of moving along the process of integrating drones into civil airspace. This came before he was abruptly interrupted by an anti-drone female protester during a speech.

“These drones are playing God,” she said, carrying a banner that read “Stop Killer Drones.” She was part of a group that wants the end of drone strikes.

Within seconds, hotel security personnel surrounded the woman. She was carried out chanting, “Stop killer drones.”

McKeon, who stood silent throughout the brief protest, went on with his speech.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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Joining the drones club

Aug 15th 2011, 11:20 by The Economist online

THE future of air power is likely to be unmanned. It may also be surprisingly small. Reapers and Predators grab the headlines, but these big, high-profile drones are already outnumbered by small and cheap but capable craft.

One good example is the RQ-11B Raven, made by AeroVironment of Monrovia, California, and widely used by America’s armed forces. It looks like a model aircraft. When disassembled it fits into a backpack. Launching it is just a matter of snapping the parts together and throwing it into the air, whence it is carried aloft by an electric propeller. It weighs just two kilograms. That means the American army’s entire annual purchase of almost 1,300 Ravens is lighter than a single fully armed Reaper. Pilots might dismiss Ravens as radio-controlled toys, but they are popular with soldiers and more are being rushed to Afghanistan.

At its simplest, a Raven acts as a flying pair of binoculars that can look over the next hill, or escort a convoy from above. Being small and quiet, it can get close to targets unobserved, for a good look. Unlike the bigger drones, whose limited numbers mean that officers in the field are in constant competition for their services, Ravens are abundant and thus generally available to provide instant video imagery, day or night. The global-positioning system tells it exactly where it is, and special display software means the images it sends back can be overlaid on a map to produce a moving picture of what is going on on the ground. A Raven’s operator can thus call down artillery fire with lethal precision without having to see the target directly. For extra accuracy, Raven can also mark targets with a laser illuminator.

Another reason for Raven’s popularity is that it is easy to use. The controlling hardware is a tablet computer with buttons on the side, something like a portable games machine, and most people can get the hang of it in a couple of days. Predators, by contrast, were originally flown by real, albeit ground-based, pilots—and, though high demand for operators has led to a new rapid-training course for groundlings, this course still takes 22 weeks to complete.

Ravens are now being upgraded to use a communications system that provides enough bandwidth for 40 of them to fly in the same area, instead of the current four. This digital upgrade also turns the drones into networked devices that can communicate with other robots and systems.

AeroVironment is collaborating with DARPA, America’s main weapons-research agency, to use this ability to network in a project called HART (Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team), which has a pool of drones including Ravens that fly autonomously over the battlefield. When a soldier wants to see a particular area or follow a specific vehicle, he just clicks on it on a map. The system selects a drone from those available in the area, flies it into position and sends back pictures with no need for human control.

Future Ravens may be able to strike as well as scout. The American army has experimented with turning the drones into miniature bombers, capable of delivering grenade-sized weapons. Such bombs would be enough to destroy a small vehicle or take out the occupants of a particular room with high precision and little collateral damage.

For greater punch, AeroVironment has a prototype version of a lethal drone called Switchblade. This resembles Raven, but is a flying bomb, packed with explosives. Its guidance software enables it to lock on to and follow a rapidly moving target, even if that target is trying to evade its attention. A mixture of Ravens and Switchblades could thus make an effective hunter-killer team.

As electronics get ever smaller, small drones get more capable. At the moment, Ravens cost around $56,000 each, and economies of scale should bring this down. By contrast, machines like the Predator cost at least $5m, and another $5,000 an hour to fly. That is how the Pentagon can afford to buy so many Ravens, compared with just a few dozen Predators and Reapers each year. From the army’s point of view, small is definitely beautiful.

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YuraGSeptember 6th 2011, 08:38

It’s good that the Economist doesn’t overlook the subject, hopefully the Taliban or traffickers don’t read it. Otherwise, ISAF, the customs and border guards must also look deep in the sky, for the drug dollars can fly quite far.

 

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U.S. Drones Targeting Rescuers and Mourners PDF Print E-mail

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World Press – World Press
Written by Glenn Greenwald Salon.com, 2/5/2012
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 17:01

On December 30 of last year, ABC News reported on a 16-year-old Pakistani boy, Tariq Khan, who was killed with his 12-year-old cousin when a car in which he was riding was hit with a missile fired by a U.S. drone. As I noted at the time, the report contained this extraordinary passage buried in the middle:

Asked for documentation of Tariq and Waheed’s deaths, Akbar did not provide pictures of the missile strike scene. Virtually none exist, since drones often target people who show up at the scene of an attack.

What made that sentence so amazing was that it basically amounts to a report that the U.S. first kills people with drones, then fires on the rescuers and others who arrive at the scene where the new corpses and injured victims lie.

In a just-released, richly documented report, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, on behalf of the Sunday Times, documents that this is exactly what the U.S. is doing — and worse:

The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of  civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.

The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a “targeted, focused effort” that “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”. . . .

A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.
There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days.

As I indicated, there have been scattered, mostly buried indications in the American media that drones have been targeting and killing rescuers. As the Bureau put it: “Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN,Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera.” Killing civilians attending the funerals of drone victims is also well-documented by the Bureau’s new report:

Other tactics are also raising concerns.  On June 23 2009 the CIA killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud, a mid-ranking Pakistan Taliban commander. They planned to use his body as bait to hook a larger fish – Baitullah Mehsud, then the notorious leader of the Pakistan Taliban.

“A plan was quickly hatched to strike Baitullah Mehsud when he attended the man’s funeral,” according to Washington Post national security correspondent Joby Warrick, in his recent book The Triple Agent. “True, the commander… happened to be very much alive as the plan took shape. But he would not be for long.”

The CIA duly killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud in a drone strike that killed at least five others. . . .

Up to 5,000 people attended Khwaz Wali Mehsud’s funeral that afternoon, including not only Taliban fighters but many civilians.  US drones struck again, killing up to 83 people. As many as 45 were civilians, among them reportedly ten children and four tribal leaders.

The Bureau quotes several experts stating the obvious: that targeting rescuers and funeral attendees is patently illegal and almost certainly constitutes war crimes:

Clive Stafford-Smith, the lawyer who heads the Anglo-US legal charity Reprieve, believes that such strikes “are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.”

Christof Heyns, a South African law professor who is United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra- judicial Executions, agrees. “Allegations of repeat strikes coming back after half an hour when medical personnel are on the ground are very worrying”, he said. ‘To target civilians would be crimes of war.” Heyns is calling for an investigation into the Bureau’s findings.

What makes this even more striking is how conservative — almost to the point of inaccuracy — is the Bureau’s methodology and reporting. Its last news-making report, issued last July, was designed to prove (and unquestionably did prove) that top Obama counter-Terrorism adviser John Brennan lied when he said this about drone strikes in Pakistan: “in the last year, ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.” The Bureau’s July, 2011 report concluded that Brennan’s claim was patently false: “a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA ‘secret’ drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died.” As I noted at the time — and again when I interviewed Chris Woods of the Bureau — their methodology virtually guarantees significant under-counting of civilian deaths (and, indeed, their July, 2011, count was much lower than other credible reports) because they only count someone as a “civilian” when they can absolutely prove beyond any doubt that the person who died by a drone strike was one. The difficulty of reporting and obtaining verifiable information in Waziristan ensures that some civilian deaths will not be susceptible to that high level of documentary proof, and thus will go un-counted by the Bureau’s methodology.

The point is that the Bureau is extremely scrupulous, perhaps to a fault, in the claims it makes about civilian drone fatalities. Its findings here about deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral attendees are supported by ample verified witness testimony, field research and public reports, all of which the Bureau has documented in full. As Woods said by email: “We have been working for months with field researchers in Waziristan to independently verify the original reports. In 12 cases we are able to confirm that rescuers and mourners were indeed attacked.”

As the report notes, it’s particularly remarkable that these findings come on the heels of President Obama’s recent boasting about the efficacy of drones and his specific claim that the policy has “not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”, adding that it was “important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.” Compare that claim to the Bureau’s almost certainly under-stated conclusion that it has “found that since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children.” And targeting rescuers and funeral attendees of your victims is quite the opposite of keeping the drone program on a “very tight leash.” As Samiullah Khan, one of the Bureau’s field researchers put it:

In a war situation no one is allowed to attack the Red Cross. Rescuers are like that. You are not allowed to attack rescuers. You know, the number of Taliban is increasing in Waziristan day by day, because innocents and rescuers are being killed day by day.

Strictly speaking, the legality of attacking rescuers may be ambiguous because, as the Bureau put it: “It is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions to attack rescuers wearing emblems of the Red Cross or Red Crescent. But what if rescuers wear no emblems, or if civilians are mixed in with militants, as the Bureau’s investigation into drone attacks in Waziristan has repeatedly found?” But there’s nothing ambiguous about the morality of that, or of attacking funerals (recall the worst part of the Baghdad attack video released by WikiLeaks: that the Apache helicopter first fired on the group containing Reuters journalists, then fired again on the people who arrived to help wounded). Whatever else is true, it seems highly likely that Barack Obama is the first Nobel Peace laureate who, after receiving his award, presided over the deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral mourners of his victims.

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In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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See also

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Hearing: Rise of the Drones II: Examining the Legality of Unmanned Targeting
April 28, 2010
Lawful Use of Combat Drones
Mary Ellen O’Connell∗

See HERE

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See nano quadcopter robots swarm (video)

CNET.comBy Martin LaMonica | CNET.com – 14 hrs ago

In the future, a swarm of flying robots may do the work now done by human search teams.A robotics research team at the University of Pennsylvania has designed a system to coordinate a number of small quadcopters, a step toward coordinating multiple robots for tasks such as surveillance or searching areas after a disaster.

The General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) lab at UPenn yesterday posted a video on You Tube with nano quadcopters showing remarkable agility and the ability to perform as a team.

The quadcopters are able to flip over and maintain flight. More amazing (unnerving?) is their operation in formation. Based on commands, 16 quadcopters change direction, land, navigate past obstacles, and even fly in a figure-eight formation.

Coordinating the action of multiple robots is one of the big technical challenges in robotics research now. Small robots, such as these nano quadcopters, could be well-suited for certain missions, but people need methods for programming small, inexpensive robots in large groups rather than manually configuring each one.

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New drone has no pilot anywhere, so who’s accountable?

The Navy is testing an autonomous plane that will land on an aircraft carrier. The prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.

 The X-47B drone, above, marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently. (Chad Slattery, Northrop Grumman / January 25, 2012)
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles TimesJanuary 26, 2012
The Navy’s new drone being tested near Chesapeake Bay stretches the boundaries of technology: It’s designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, one of aviation’s most difficult maneuvers.What’s even more remarkable is that it will do that not only without a pilot in the cockpit, but without a pilot at all.The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently.GRAPHIC: How the X-47B landsAlthough humans would program an autonomous drone’s flight plan and could override its decisions, the prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.”Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability,” said Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and robotics expert. “This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?”Sharkey and others believe that autonomous armed robots should force the kind of dialogue that followed the introduction of mustard gas in World War I and the development of atomic weapons in World War II. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the group tasked by the Geneva Conventions to protect victims in armed conflict, is already examining the issue.”The deployment of such systems would reflect … a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities,” committee President Jakob Kellenberger said at a recent conference. “The capacity to discriminate, as required by [international humanitarian law], will depend entirely on the quality and variety of sensors and programming employed within the system.”Weapons specialists in the military and Congress acknowledge that policymakers must deal with these ethical questions long before these lethal autonomous drones go into active service, which may be a decade or more away.Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said policy probably will first be discussed with the bipartisan drone caucus that he co-chairs with Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.

“It’s a different world from just a few years ago — we’ve entered the realm of science fiction in a lot of ways,” Cuellar said. “New rules have to be developed as new technology comes about, and this is a big step forward.”

Aerial drones now piloted remotely have become a central weapon for the CIA and U.S. military in their campaign against terrorists in the Middle East. The Pentagon has gone from an inventory of a handful of drones before Sept. 11, 2001, to about 7,500 drones, about one-third of all military aircraft.

Despite looming military spending cuts, expenditures on drones are expected to take less of a hit, if any, because they are cheaper to build and operate than piloted aircraft.

All military services are moving toward greater automation with their robotic systems. Robotic armed submarines could one day stalk enemy waters, and automated tanks could engage soldiers on the battlefield.

“More aggressive robotry development could lead to deploying far fewer U.S. military personnel to other countries, achieving greater national security at a much lower cost and most importantly, greatly reduced casualties,” aerospace pioneer Simon Ramo, who helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, wrote in his new book, “Let Robots Do the Dying.”

The Air Force wrote in an 82-page report that outlines the future usage of drones, titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047,” that autonomous drone aircraft are key “to increasing effects while potentially reducing cost, forward footprint and risk.” Much like a chess master can outperform proficient chess players, future drones will be able to react faster than human pilots ever could, the report said.

And with that potential comes new concerns about how much control of the battlefield the U.S. is willing to turn over to computers.

There is no plan by the U.S. military — at least in the near term — to turn over the killing of enemy combatants to the X-47B or any other autonomous flying machine. But the Air Force said in the “Flight Plan” that it’s only a matter of time before drones have the capability to make life-or-death decisions as they circle the battlefield. Even so, the report notes that officials will still monitor how these drones are being used.

“Increasingly humans will no longer be ‘in the loop’ but rather ‘on the loop’ — monitoring the execution of certain decisions,” the report said. “Authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions.”

Peter W. Singer, author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said automated military targeting systems are under development. But before autonomous aerial drones are sent on seek-and-destroy missions, he said, the military must first prove that it can pull off simpler tasks, such as refueling and reconnaissance missions.

That’s where the X-47B comes in.

“Like it or not, autonomy is the future,” Singer said. “The X-47 is one of many programs that aim to perfect the technology.”

The X-47B is an experimental jet — that’s what the X stands for — and is designed to demonstrate new technology, such as automated takeoffs, landings and refueling. The drone also has a fully capable weapons bay with a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, but the Navy said it has no plans to arm it.

The Navy is now testing two of the aircraft, which were built behind razor-wire fences at Northrop Grumman Corp.‘s expansive complex in Palmdale, where the company manufactured the B-2 stealth bomber.

Funded under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program has grown in cost to an estimated $813 million.

Last February, the first X-47B had its maiden flight from Edwards Air Force Base, where it continued testing until last month when it was carried from the Mojave Desert to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. It is there that the next stage of the demonstration program begins.

The drone is slated to first land on a carrier by 2013, relying on pinpoint GPS coordinates and advanced avionics. The carrier’s computers digitally transmit the carrier’s speed, cross-winds and other data to the drone as it approaches from miles away.

The X-47B will not only land itself, but will also know what kind of weapons it is carrying, when and where it needs to refuel with an aerial tanker, and whether there’s a nearby threat, said Carl Johnson, Northrop’s X-47B program manager. “It will do its own math and decide what it should do next.”

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM EST

The Drone War Goes Global

U.S. airborne drones now striking in half-a-dozen countries. The world and future of drone warfare.

A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan. (AP)A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan. (AP)

In the Hollywood version, the Star Wars version of war, the guys using drones to fire down on rebels are rarely the good guys.

Drones are too cold, faceless, lethal to win the crowd. But around the world, drones –- for reconnaissance and for lethal attack –- are increasingly the face of the U.S. military.

In half a dozen countries now, they can and do rain down sudden, devastating violence. They’re cheaper than “boots on the ground.” They’re easier and quieter to deploy. They’re the future, experts say.

And very busy right now. But where does drone war go?

This hour On Point: Drone war.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Peter Singer, senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. He is also the author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

John Arquilla, professor and director of the Information Operations Center, department of defense analysis, at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author of Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military.

Matt Martin, U.S. Air Force pilot, he ‘flew’ Predator combat and surveillance missions over Afghanistan and Iraq from 2004 to 2008. He now trains future UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] pilots for the Air Force. Author of “Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story.”

The New America Foundation keeps a running tall of reported drone strikes. You can see their work here.

From Tom’s Reading List:

More:

Here’s a report on drone technology from the Air Force.

Here’s a critical report on the nature of the drone campaign from Russian Television.

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Showing 65 comments

  • If Americans don’t develop and use drones, the enemies of America will develop and use drones against us.  Do we really want a world controlled by Islamic fundamentalists who oppose freedom of religion.  Americans are the good guys because we support the rights of women, religion, speech, etc.  Anyone who wants Islamic law across the world should go ahead and denounce the drones.  To me, drone pilots are the best defense against a world where Islamic leaders run every country… a true nightmare scenario.

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The Legal Mess That Is Drone Warfare

0 Comments

PolicyMicAn MQM-107E Streaker in flight alongside an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Are U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan legal? This is a straightforward question that is far more likely to leave you with a headache than an answer. Nonetheless, the question stands, eliciting myriad legal arguments, for and against, that only experienced legal-scholars and practitioners may fully comprehend.

During a speech in 2010, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh defended U.S drone policy stressing that an armed conflict against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces is being waged. He cites the U.S.’s inherent right to self-defense following the 9/11 attacks as the legal underpinning for justifying hostilities.

He further argues that the principles of distinction and proportionality, implementing operations solely against enemy combatants and prohibiting attacks that produce excessive collateral damage in relation to their strategic objective i.e. civilian casualties, guide targeting procedures.

So which of Koh’s assertions fuel the legal debate? Pretty much all of them.

Koh’s logic assumes that operations in Pakistan are occurring within the context of an armed conflict, a highly contestable point.

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston differentiates between international and non-international armed conflict both of which theoretically allow drone warfare under particular circumstances. An international armed conflict is defined as hostilities between two states and is clearly governed by International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles. IHL also governs non-international armed conflict but adequately justifying the presence of one depends on a litmus test that includes the existence of an identifiable non-state “party,” threshold criteria for intensity and duration of hostilities, etc.

As Alston asserts, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to legally substantiate their actions under the framework governing a non-international armed conflict.

If it were decided that U.S. operations in Pakistan were implemented outside the context of an armed conflict, international or otherwise, the standards established under human rights law apply, drastically limiting the ability of the U.S to use lethal force and certainly prohibiting targeted killings.

The U.S. may utilize extraterritorial force in Pakistan by obtaining consent or by invoking their right to self-defense as a result of Pakistan’s inability to combat the sub-national groups operating in the tribal areas. The U.S. would need to demonstrate that their actions are in response to armed attacks in Afghanistan. These attacks must be of a certain intensity to validate a necessary use of force extraterritorially and U.S. retaliation would need to be proportionate. Simple enough on paper, yet its application, particularly since non-state actors are involved, is controversial.

CIA control of the drone program is another concern. Civilians are permitted to operate within a war, yet the distinction lies in the prosecutorial repercussions that may befall them. Since CIA civilian employees and those contracted by them are directly engaging in hostilities, they become legitimate targets for the other side. They, however, lack the immunity conferred, for the most part, upon members of the armed forces to domestic prosecution.

The real controversy surrounding C.I.A. involvement is the secrecy in which it conducts operations. Alston’s main point of contention regards the issues of transparency and accountability. Refusal by the C.I.A. to divulge information on the criteria utilized for determining legitimate targets and post-op evaluations, which speak to the principles of distinction and proportionality respectively, deems it near impossible to assess whether the program adheres to IHL laws governing conduct of hostilities.

This is especially significant due to the asymmetric nature of these non-state groups. They are distinct from one another and are not easily identifiable, further complicating intelligence gathering and verification procedures.

Koh explicitly acknowledges the principles of distinction and proportionality as major considerations, yet does not offer any insight into the specific guidelines employed or the process for prosecuting violators. This is certainly understandable from a strategic standpoint but frustrating from a legal one.

Strategically, as PolicyMic Contributing Writer Laura Hughes argues, drone technology may be the most effective weapon the U.S. has for tackling the obstacles posed by Pakistan and the sub-national groups operating in its tribal region.

Within this limited analysis, various questions emerge. Does international law adequately address the contemporary realities of the threat posed by non-state actors or should a new framework be formulated?  Why should the U.S. care about all this when they are clearly able to do as they please with impunity? For now, it seems, the debate persists.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Glenn Greenwald
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2011 8:18 AM Eastern Standard Time

NPR’s domestic drone commercial

VIDEO

By Glenn Greenwald

drone test

 (Credit: Viachaslau Kraskouski via Shutterstock/Salon)

(updated below)

Excitement over America’s use of drones in multiple Muslim countries is, predictably, causing those weapons to be imported onto U.S. soil. Federal law enforcement agencies and local police forces are buying more and more of them and putting them to increasingly diverse domestic uses, as well as patrolling the border, and even private corporations are now considering how to use them. One U.S. drone manufacturer advertises its product as ideal for “urban monitoring.” Orlando’s police department originally requested two drones to use for security at next year’s GOP convention, only to change their minds for budgetary reasons. One new type of drone already in use by the U.S. military in Afghanistan — the Gorgon Stare, named after the “mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them” — is “able to scan an area the size of a small town” and “the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence that [can] seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity”; boasted one U.S. General: “Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything.”

As of the 2010 year-end report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were already “more than 270 active authorizations for the use of dozens of kinds of drones” (35% held by the Pentagon, 5% by Homeland Security and others by the FBI). Employing them for domestic police actions is following the model quickly being implemented in surveillance-happy Britain, where drones are used for “the ­’routine’ monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.”

Even leaving aside the issue of weaponization (police officials now openly talk about equipping drones with “nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun”), the use of drones for domestic surveillance raises all sorts of extremely serious privacy concerns and other issues of potential abuse. Their ability to hover in the air undetected for long periods of time along with their comparatively cheap cost enables a type of broad, sustained societal surveillance that is now impractical, while equipping them with infra-red or heat-seeking detectors and high-powered cameras can provide extremely invasive imagery. The holes eaten into the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections by the Drug War and the War on Terror means there are few Constitutional limits on how this technology can be used, and there are no real statutory or regulatory restrictions limiting their use. In sum, the potential for abuse is vast, the escalation in surveillance they ensure is substantial, and the effect they have on the culture of personal privacy — having the state employ hovering, high-tech, stealth video cameras that invade homes and other private spaces — is simply creepy.

But listeners of NPR would know about virtually none of that. On its All Things Considered program yesterday, NPR broadcast a five-minute report (audio below) from Brian Naylor that purported to be a news story on the domestic use of drones but was, in fact, much more akin to a commercial for the drone industry. Naylor began by describing a video on the website of a drone manufacturer, AeroVironment, which names its drone “the Qube”; the video, gushed Naylor, shows police officers chasing a criminal who hides, only for the police to pull a drone out of their trunk, launch it airborne, receive images of where the criminal is hiding on their iPad, and then find and arrest the suspect, who was armed and dangerous. NPR listeners then heard from that corporation’s Vice President touting how much the Qube will help “public safety professionals like law enforcement, search and rescue, and first responders.”

Naylor then told NPR listeners that drones “have been a success with the military” — though he didn’t mention things like this, this or this — and then moved on to talk to an official in a Sheriff’s office in Colorado who uses the Dragonfly X6; in Naylor’s words, that police official explained how the drone product has “been especially useful in search operations.” The Sheriff official then hailed the drone’s low cost, light weight, and fantastic safety record.  Next up in NPR’s report was — seriously — an official with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which Naylor called “an industry trade group.” That’s the organization that represents the drone manufacturing industry, and NPR decided that this, too, was an important source for its story examining the domestic use of drones. That official touted all the fantastic private-sector uses for drones, including “Utility companies – so oil and gas – using a UAS to do surveillance over a pipeline; electrical companies that want to do surveillance over some of their electrical wires; the agriculture market. So, you can use UAS for crop testing. You could use UAS for tracking livestock. ”

With about 20 seconds left in the report, it came time to tack on a brief, cursory note about privacy and abuse issues. Said Naylor: “All that flying around of unmanned aircraft has some people a little wary.” A “privacy advocate” was put on the air for about ten seconds to note that “drones can easily be equipped with facial recognition cameras, infrared cameras, or open WiFi sniffers” and could also be used by “paparazzi, your homeowners’ association, your neighbor.” Naylor then noted that the FAA is working now on safety regulations, and with that, the report ended. So NPR listeners heard for 4 1/2 minutes about the wonderful, exciting uses of drones from an executive of a drone corporation, an official with the drone industry, and a sheriff’s spokesman using drones, and then for about 10 seconds at the end from someone who is “a little wary.” If the drone industry had purchased commercial time on NPR, how would this report have been any different?  (An industry commercial might have given more prominent play to the privacy advocate just to make it seem less one-sided).

There is no question that domestic political unrest is a major concern of law enforcement officials at every level. A new report released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development documents that “the gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years,” and, as an OECD official said, “the social contract is starting to unravel in many countries. . . Without a comprehensive strategy for inclusive growth, inequality will continue to rise.” As The Washington Post said today: the report “comes as rising dissatisfaction with economic inequality has spilled over into street protests in dozens of cities around the world.” Moreover, “the United States, Turkey and Israel have among the largest ratios between the incomes of those at the top and the bottom, roughly 14 to 1.”

Drone technology is but the latest War on Terror weapon to be imported onto U.S. soil, and the dangers should be manifest. One article prominently touted on AeroVironment’s website hails the “Switchblade,” which the author excitingly describes as “an ingenious, miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is also a weapon” and “the leading edge of what is likely to be the broader, even wholesale, weaponization of unmanned systems. ” The Switchblade drone is “a very short-range, low-altitude, lightweight, tube-fired UAV that is carried and deployed by individual warfighters.” It’s ideal for killing a person “behind barriers, around the corner of a building or in a cave.” Because of how small, light and easily deployable it is — it is meant to be used by a single individual on the ground, at the scene of the target — the article dubs this new product “the ultimate assassin bug.” I found that article because it was touted on the same website of the same drone company featured by NPR; that might have been an informative fact to include in the story.

As I’ve written about before, a prime aim of the sprawling Surveillance State — justified in the name of Terrorism — is to empower the government domestically. Indeed, the War on Terror now has a decidedly domestic flavor: with bin Laden dead and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan virtually nonexistent (i.e., with the original War on Terror justifications now gone), U.S. officials have been emphasizing that the leading threat is “homegrown Terrorists,” and the latest new War on Terror bill passed by the Senate focused on domestic powers and U.S. citizens as much as anything else. And, of course, the Obama administration has infamously asserted the power to target even U.S. citizens for assassination without a shred of due process. While one can certainly envision how drones could perform legitimate police functions, the importation of instruments like drone technology into domestic police activities raises a slew of profound questions, and there is one thing we can be certain of: establishment media outlets like NPR will do their best to obscure and belittle those questions while glorifying these weapons. That’s what it means to be the “establishment media.”

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Look, Up In The Sky! It’s A Drone, Looking At You

 A Predator drone takes off on a U.S. Customs Border Protection mission from Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

EnlargeRoss D. Franklin/APA Predator drone takes off on a U.S. Customs Border Protection mission from Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
text size A A A

December 5, 2011

Unmanned aircraft — or drones — are playing a large role in U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, but they’re starting to show up the the skies above the U.S. as well. Drones are already used to patrol the border with Mexico and now they may soon be coming to a police department near you.

Just consider a video on drone manufacturer AeroVironment’s website: Police officers chase a suspect to his home. The suspect runs behind the house, out of sight. The officers open the trunk of their patrol car and pull out what looks like a toy model aircraft with four rotors and a video camera. They launch the aircraft, which allows them to monitor their suspect’s movements through a video feed on an iPad-like tablet and, ultimately, to apprehend him.

AeroVironment calls its unmanned aircraft the Qube, and while it may look like something kids would look for under the Christmas tree, it’s no toy.

“The Qube is the first solution that AeroVironment has introduced specifically targeting what we identify as the public safety market, and that’s really public safety professionals like law enforcement, search and rescue, and first responders,” says company vice president Steve Gitlin.

Drones — or unmanned vehicles — have been a success with the military, and companies such as AeroVironment hope to make them an increasingly common sight in this country. Gitlin says the Qube costs just a bit more than a police patrol car, making it a much less expensive alternative to a manned helicopter.

A drone takes its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California in February. In the near future, drones could be used outside of the military for things like traffic helicopters or flying jumbo jets.

What Will We Watch As Drones Evolve?

Drone technology is advancing fast, with potential for everyday use — and new security concerns.

In Mesa County, Colo., the sheriff’s department is testing a drone called the Dragonfly X6. Ben Miller, unmanned systems coordinator for the sheriff’s office, says it’s been especially useful in search operations.

“We had a lost subject in a vegetated creek bed and we were given about a mile length of that creek to search,” Miller says. “We completed that search in just a little over an hour with two staff members.”

Miller says a typical search using volunteers marching shoulder-to-shoulder would have taken hours. On top of that, he says there have been no bugs with the drones and they’re easy to operate.

“At about 2 pounds, the safety risks to people on the ground are rather minimal,” he says. “In fact it weighs less than your common Canadian goose.”

While law enforcement is a big market for makers of unmanned aircraft systems — known as UAS’s — there are many other potential civilian users.

Gretchen West is with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group.

Drones aren't unlawful killing machines, but misunderstood and useful military tools, some say.

Foreign Policy: If Drones Had Feelings, They’d Be Hurt

Military drones have been misrepresented in the media but this list may set the record straight.

“Utility companies — so oil and gas — [are] using a UAS to do surveillance over a pipeline,” she says, as are electrical companies wanting to watch over their electrical wires. West says drones can be used for crop-dusting and tracking livestock. They’ve already been used for flood mapping in North Dakota, and they could also be used for weather research.

But all those unmanned aircraft have some people a little wary. Privacy advocate Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology says drones are basically flying video cameras.

“Drones can easily be equipped with facial recognition cameras, infrared cameras or open Wi-Fi sniffers,” Geiger says. “So when people think about drones they shouldn’t just think that a telephoto lens is the only feature that can raise a privacy issue.”

Nor, says Geiger, is it only law enforcement that could be watching: “The paparazzi, your homeowners’ association, your neighbor, a journalist can all sic drones on you as well.”

Geiger says people should watch the Federal Aviation Administration, which is currently working on rules to establish standards such as how high drones can fly and what kind of training operators need. He hopes the agency will also address privacy concerns in the proposed regulations that could be released next month.

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US steps outside the law as the war on terror drones on

Justin Randle

January 24, 2012

Opinion

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‘Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are the new face of the war on terror.’ Photo: Reuters

The use of unmanned aircraft belies America’s rhetoric about its values.

The CIA recently launched its first drone attack of 2012. Three people in North Waziristan were killed. If you haven’t yet heard of these Terminator-style US drones, it is likely you will soon. Their usage in surveillance, modern warfare and covert ”counter-terrorism” measures is rapidly expanding.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are the new face of the war on terror and the latest attempt by the United States to circumvent international law in pursuit of its alleged enemies. After failing to fulfil his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama spent New Year’s Eve signing the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA). The NDAA codifies the indefinite detention, without trial, of US citizens. The third part of this trinity is the increase in a multi-agency network of drones carrying out secret extrajudicial assassinations of suspected militants. In his inauguration speech, Obama said: ”As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Yet these policies enshrine just such a false dichotomy.

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Equipped with Hellfire missiles, Predator drones operate mainly in north-west Pakistan. New America Foundation has attempted to map the strikes, which have hugely escalated under Obama’s presidency. Between 2004 and 2011, the foundation conservatively estimates 1717 deaths have resulted from drone strikes in Pakistan. It also estimates a 32 per cent civilian death rate.

New York Times reporter David Rohde, who was kidnapped and held in Pakistan for seven months, referred to the drones as a ”terrifying presence”. Pashtun tribal elders have also spoken of the ongoing drone presence and living with the constant fear of death.

At a meeting held in Waziristan, organised by the UK legal charity Reprieve, locals were encouraged to accumulate photographic evidence of the damage these strikes cause. Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old boy, offered to collect this information if it would help protect his family. Within 72 hours the car he was travelling in was blown up by a drone.

American officials have reportedly praised the precision of the drone attacks. According to The Guardian, ”the CIA does not comment on drones, but privately claims civilian casualties are rare”. Was Tariq Aziz a militant? Was his 12-year-old cousin – also killed – a militant? Was he involved in plotting attacks that may have jeopardised American lives? Here is the problem: amid official secrecy and in the absence of an allegation tried, tested and proven or disproven in an independent and transparent court, we can only guess. If Guantanamo and the NDAA represent an assault on the right to due process, drones dispense with the principle entirely.

The situation in Waziristan is further compounded by the absence of journalists who can refute claims that innocent people are killed or independently investigate them.

The targets of drones are not only ”unpeople” – people whose rights and lives are deemed expendable in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives. In September 2011, US citizen and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was extrajudicially assassinated in a US drone strike in Yemen. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old son was also killed in a drone strike. That the US government is practising a policy of death penalty without trial for US citizens should be alarming for both progressives and conservatives.

Howard Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, has stated drone strikes ”comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war”. But one can argue anything is legal if a ”self-defence” or ”for security reasons” is placed in front of it. That doesn’t necessarily make it just, right or wise.

Drone strikes rely on fallible intelligence from local informants, which leads to errors. The price is innocent people’s lives. It also sets a dangerous international precedent – that the secret extrajudicial execution by one country, to kill people in another country, with minimal oversight and no judicial process, is acceptable. This is the policy being carried out by drones.

At a very basic level, it is difficult to gauge whether the policy actually works. Supporters claim the policy has successfully disrupted terrorist networks. Yet suicide attacks in Pakistan and violence in Afghanistan and Iraq have often intensified following the drone deaths of senior al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives.

According to various sources, Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed multiple times, exposing both the imprecise nature of the policy and the prevalence of misinformation.

Drone strikes also fuel anti-American sentiment. Waziristan native Noor Behram has stated that typically after a drone strike the view is: ”America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims … hatred builds up.” As such, it is no surprise that the former director of US National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, has criticised the policy, saying: ”Drone strikes are no longer the most effective strategy for eliminating al-Qaeda’s ability to attack us.”

But any debate regarding merits, costs and legitimacy is obscured by the secrecy within which it is conducted. In the absence of information, the people in whose names these actions are committed are denied the opportunity to make an informed judgment. But perhaps that is the point.

Justin Randle is a former ministerial adviser working in public policy.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/us-steps-outside-the-law-as-the-war-on-terror-drones-on-20120123-1qdsu.html#ixzz1kUhmY53j

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U.S. opened Pandora’s box with drones

Posted on on January 4, 2012 // Leave Your Comment

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by Darrell L. Shahan

Modern warfare has entered a new era. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can fly thousands of miles, conduct surveillance or target and kill individuals with precision. Unfortunately, this precision does not prevent collateral damage, the military term for unintended civilian deaths. Military experts predict this will be the pattern for future military conflicts.

Quite often, the drones are operated by personnel who are far removed from the conflict. They kill enemy combatants by day and go home at night to their families. A definite advantage is the fact that unmanned aircraft do not place any pilots at risk.

Now for the dark side. A disadvantage is that this type of warfare depersonalizes warfare and reduces it to just another video game. The warfare acquires an antiseptic quality that could make the decision to go to war more likely and acceptable. The popular perception is that, because of our advanced technology, the United States has a virtual monopoly on drones. According to CNN, nothing could be farther from the truth. Quoting the article, “As many as 50 countries are developing or purchasing these systems, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran.”

In Palestine, Hezbollah used a small drone for surveillance. It flew so slowly that the Israeli jets could not reduce their speed enough to shoot it down.

Drones are now available commercially. Farmers could use them for the purposes of dusting crops. This application would appear to lend itself to the distribution of biological weapons over a metropolitan area, by an enemy. Terrorists could conceivably buy a commercial version.

The Iranian capture of a U.S stealth spy drone over Iran, which was conducting surveillance of their nuclear program, undoubtedly will aid the drone development program of other countries.

There also are disturbing legal questions. Military personnel are authorized to operate drones during war, but it is reported that they also are operated by civilian CIA members under their covert programs. This dilutes responsibility and prevents scrutiny by the public.

The FAA is expected to issue rules allowing drones to be used by law enforcement in the U.S. The ACLU fears drones might be used indiscriminately, leading to constant monitoring of the public, in any outdoor location, instead of only gathering evidence in specific cases. The ACLU wants specific guidelines defining their use. Citizens now are under constant monitoring in many municipal settings. The only privacy left would be in your own home. Would invasion of the sanctity your home be next? Freedom usually is not lost in one fell swoop. It usually disappears piecemeal. When the public becomes accustomed to the newest incremental change, the next one is implemented.

By being the first to use drones, we have unleashed a Pandora’s box upon the world. Imagine a world where your every move outside your home is monitored. Drone warfare demands that we learn to settle conflicts without war.

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Livestreaming Journalists Want to Occupy the Skies With Cheap Drones

Livestreaming journalist Tim Pool shows off his modified drone, dubbed the Occucopter, intended to make aerial coverage available to citizen reporters. Photo: Sean Captain

It may not sound like much: A video blogger bought a toy helicopter.

But the blogger is 25-year-old Tim Pool — an internationally known journalist who attracts tens of thousands of viewers to his live-stream broadcasts from Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, DC, LA and other cities. (His feeds and archival footage are also aired on mainstream networks such as NBC.) He and his partners hope that the toy chopper — the $300 Parrot AR Drone — will be one step toward a citizen-driven alternative to mainstream news.

Along with “general assembly” and “99 percenters,” Occupy Wall Street has brought the phrase “livestreaming” to the forefront. Rising-star reporters — known best by their Twitter and Ustream handles — such as Pool (timcast) in New York City and Spencer Mills (oakfosho) in Oakland are passionate, deeply embedded correspondents who provide live video reporting — sometimes lasting a dozen hours or more — of protests, general assemblies and other Occupy events. Instead of using a satellite truck, they broadcast live “TV” coverage from 3G- and 4G-equipped smartphones over video networks such as Ustream.com and Livestream.com.

They are real-life embodiments of Jimmy Burns, of Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman’s 2006 online graphic novel The Shooting War about a video blogger made famous for being first to cover a major news event (a terrorist attack at a Brooklyn Starbucks).

Having thoroughly figured out how to cover giant events from ground level, they are now exploring ultra-cheap alternatives to the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollar news choppers used for aerial reporting of big events like protest marches and police clashes. In the process, the video bloggers are discovering both how far low-cost consumer technology has come and how much farther it needs to go.

Like the HD video cameras now included in the livestreamers’ cellphones, aerial surveillance drones have progressed from ultra-expensive professional gear to impulse-buy items. What was once in the Pentagon budget is now at Toys “R” Us – in a simple form, at least.
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?&width=660&height=423&flashID=myExperience1365918576001&bgcolor=%23FFFFFF&playerID=3698508001&publisherID=1564549380&wmode=transparent&isVid=true&dynamicStreaming=true&%40videoPlayer=1365918576001&autoStart=&debuggerID=&startTime=1326134598450

“The AR Drone is the first toy that came out,” said Sam Shapiro, a 24-year-old programmer from Brooklyn who’s helping Pool hack together an airborne news network.

While he supports their aims, Shapiro says that he doesn’t identify with the Occupy protesters. He does, however, want to use technology to keep them safe.

“The way I got involved in this originally is from watching the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said, referring to the October 1 march and arrests of more than 700 Occupy demonstrators on the iconic span. “While I can’t be involved in stuff like that, I don’t want to see my friends being beaten up because they don’t have tactical knowledge of what’s going on.”

He started, but didn’t finish, building a website that pulls together the live feeds from traffic cameras that New York City makes available to the public.”It kind of turned from that to how do you expand the coverage, how do you get cameras all over the place, how to allow people to pull this off so they can be predictive of what’s going on instead of responsive to it,” he said.

This $300 AR Drone is sold as a toy, but it’s also hackable. Photo: Sean Captain

Like Pool, Shapiro saw the AR Drone as a good start for aerial surveillance. Each came to the same conclusion on his own, and they met when Pool posted a request on Twitter asking for help building a Web site.

Introduced in 2010, the one-pound styrofoam craft has four rotors and a plethora of sensors to keep it stable and navigable. In some ways, it resembles an iPhone, with accelerometers and a gyroscope to measure movement and location, for example. Parrot says that it can fly 50 feet high, up to 11 miles per hour and stay aloft for about 12 minutes on a charge.

Built-in Wi-Fi allows control from an iPhone or Android phone. The Wi-Fi also beams back moderate-resolution (640-by-480-pixel) video to the phone.

But the point of live-stream journalism is to broadcast from a smartphone not to it. What Pool and Shapiro thought would be a little software fix for that – using the company’s laptop software and a screen-capture program – turned into a nightmare.

In theory, Parrot encourages tinkerers with a software developers kit and sample programs for controlling the copter. But the one for Windows didn’t work at all, said Shapiro. The Linux program could pilot the craft but yielded crappy video. His efforts to fix the program got nowhere. “You need to be an experienced, serious Linux programmer to deal with this in any way, shape or form, and their [tech] support is terrible,” he said.

Sam Shapiro is partnering with Pool to build a citizen-run aerial news network. Photo: Sean Captain

Finally, Shapiro tracked down a European hobbyist group that had written its own software, called Javadrone, from scratch “and did a much better job of it.”

Pool first used the AR Drone, which he’s dubbed the Occucopter, in December to cover a New York City rally for immigrant rights, but he said that the video from that attempt was unusable. He also made a test-run at Occupy Albany. Pool expects his first coverage with the new software and high-quality video will be at the Occupy Congress action on January 17 in Washington, DC.”  A live stream journalist out of California used an Occucopter to shoot on December 19th. (But not without crashing and cussing.)

But the AR Done isn’t in his long-term plans due to its clear limitations. “You need perfect weather. It just doesn’t weigh enough,” said Shapiro.

“I lost one in a tree in Albany. It’s still there,” said Pool. A mild wind nixed an outdoor demonstration for Wired. Instead, Pool and Shapiro flew it around the basement of a New York coworking center where Pool has a tiny office space. (See video.)

Still, the AR Drone is simple for people who aren’t hackers, and it’s cheap. “Right now it’s probably the best bet for the occupations,” said Pool. “They can go out and pick one up at the store, and we can email them the instructions.”

But Pool and Shapiro are already thinking bigger for their projects, and developing better tech to eventually provide to other live stream journalists.

“The most important thing is the zeppelin,” said Pool. Basically a big balloon, it will be able to lift a lot of gear with just a little power for the rotors that steer it. And the slow speed is a benefit: It holds the camera steady and won’t suddenly go out of control.

In fact, they are trying to build copters that work more like zeppelins.

“It doesn’t need to be doing aggressive dogfighting maneuvers,” said Shapiro. “All it needs to do is hover and take a proper picture.” Instead of relying on constant commands from the ground, the zeppelin and copter will dial in periodically for updates.

An example would be: ascend to an altitude of 40 feet, move to specific GPS coordinates, position the camera at a shot angle of 12 degrees down, face northwest, and pan back and forth 30 degrees at 12 degrees per second. It’s more like directing a camera operator than being a flyboy.

That mellow flight pace allows people to easily take turns with the craft –if they want to or if they need to.

“Even if one operator is compromised, another operator can spring right back up,” said Shapiro.

“There can be a chain of command,” added Pool. “People know what their number is. They can even get text alerts.”

In this case, “compromised” means getting nabbed by cops. That may not seem so far-fetched after a January 3 police raid and arrests – on vague charges — at OWS-focused live streaming organization Global Revolution in Brooklyn.

AR Drone can be piloted over WiFi using this ‘cockpit’ view.

Equipped with a 3G or 4G wireless card, a copter or zeppelin could take commands over the Internet, from anywhere. One idea they have is a Facebook page where approved pilots can send commands to the drones.

“You’d have to take down all of Facebook to take out every operator,” Shapiro said. (It resembles the decentralized security strategy that’s driving a separate project to build an independent, decentralized social network for the occupations.)

But even with small, slow-moving craft, Shapiro and Pool have to deal with the prospect of crashes, which is new, unknown territory for any news organization. Till now, drones have been used over empty disaster areas or in acts of war, where public safety isn’t much of a concern.

“OK, we’re going to be flying over a friendly crowd,” Shapiro said. “What happens if we lose control of it, and the propellers go smashing into the crowd?” Even though a balloon and a styrofoam helicopter are unlikely to be very dangerous, they are a legal liability. And the two men are planning for bigger craft.

Newscorp’s The Daily has been experimenting with Parrot and larger drones, and Shapiro hopes that will resolve some questions. “So they are going to be our legal benchmark for what we can do. They are going to the government to get all these rules locked down for citizen drone usage.”

All their plans for zeppelins and steadycam choppers go well beyond what a toy copter can do. But Pool and Shapiro have been surprised to find many other options.

At the high end is Polish company RoboKopter. Its stunning video of clashing demonstrators in Warsaw in November prompted the New York Times to proclaim “Drone Journalism Arrives.” Shaprio hasn’t gotten pricing from them, but he priced out a similar craft from a company called Draganfly and got a quote close to $30,000.

Pool and Shapiro are instead going with a product called ArduPilot made by DIY Drones. It’s based on the Arduino board – microcontroller that’s a mainstay for robot builders. ArduPilot is a version equipped specifically to control aircraft. They will have to modify the open-source software to support their camera-operator maneuvers. (Full disclosure: Wired Magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson is the co-founder of DIY Drones.)

Tim Pool, who has thousands of followers when he’s livestreaming Occupy protests, has big plans to take over the skies. Photo: Sean Captain

Pool and Shapiro are using ArduPilot to build both an Occu-Eye zeppelin and a next-gen Occucopter that they hope to have aloft in about six weeks. The cost for two high-end models will be close to $2,000 – too much for most citizen journalists, but doable for Pool. Just during his live streaming of the Occupy Wall Street New Years protests, he picked up $1,990 in donations from viewers.

They also aim to “mass-produce” cheaper versions for about $350 that they will sell to citizen journalists at cost and help them setup and maintain. (It will be part of an entire kit for aerial and on-foot reporting that will cost about $600.)

Pool is already thinking well beyond that. “We want to start playing with EEG controllers,” he said. “They sell them in children’s stores.” He meant the $60 Mattel Mindflex, which uses a simple headset to roughly measure the level of brain activity. By concentrating, kids control a fan that keeps a plastic ball suspended in the air.

“There’s no reason we can’t translate up and down of the ball to up and down of the drone,” he said. Considering all the projects that a toy helicopter has kicked off for them, maybe a mind-controlled aircraft, a la Clint Eastwood’s 1980s flick Firefox, isn’t so far fetched.

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Joshua Foust – Joshua Foust is a fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net.
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Unaccountable Killing Machines: The True Cost of U.S. Drones

By Joshua Foust

Dec 30 2011, 9:49 AM ET 27

Officials often portray the global expansion of deadly drone strikes as an unequivocal success. But are we really accounting for all the consequences?drones-body.jpg
ReutersA series of articles have been published recently about the extent and, in some cases, failures of the drone program so famously expanded under President Obama’s watch. The first, a blockbuster article by the Washington Post‘s Greg Miller, brings to light some truly worrying aspects of a policy that seems to have taken on a life of its own (emphasis mine):

In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t matchCIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives…

Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.

In other words, Jaffe is describing a system in which a decentralized apparatus carries out summary executions of people we’re assured are bad and who are sometimes U.S. citizens, and the president knows about this but chooses not to exercise oversight or control of the process.

The upside to this system of drones, administration officials insist, is that al Qaeda has been crippled, and that it has created an intense strain on the ability of terrorists to carry out plots. And this is undoubtedly true — the drone war has achieved its immediate purpose of thwacking bad people. But do we really understand the true cost of this form of warfare?

It is practically impossible for anyone to exercise proper oversight over the program

In the countries where the drone system is most active — Pakistan and Yemen — relations with local governments and communities are awful, and perceptions of the United States could barely be any worse. There is agreement seemingly only on the need for long distance killing, and even then — especially in Pakistan — there is a great deal of contention.

In fact, one could argue that the severe degradation of relations with Pakistan, which are driven to a large degree by popular anger over drone strikes (as well as a parallel perception among some Pakistani elites that the U.S. disregards Pakistani sovereignty at will), is driving the current U.S. push to ship supplies and, eventually, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, through Uzbekistan. While overall it might seem like a good trade to policymakers, engaging with the regime in Tashkent in this way nevertheless carries substantial reputational and moral costs, to say nothing of long term consequences we cannot predict.

In Yemen, the insistence on drone strikes in the absence of any broader (and more intensive) political engagement with the opposition political movements has created the mass perception that the U.S. is intimately tied to the oppression of the Yemeni people — a dangerous social meme that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula certainly tries to coopt for its own advancement. But focusing on AQAP like that opens the same trap that cripples U.S. policy in the country: the assumption that terrorism is the only consequence that matters. On a more practical level, the U.S. negligence of Yemeni politics in its pursuit of terrorists is making it more likely, not less, that the eventual Shah-like fall of President Saleh will result in a hostile or indifferent power in Sana’a — the opposite of what the current CT policy there requires.

Beyond the political consequences, the drone program also imposes severe bureaucratic costs. Within the U.S. Intelligence Community, various lethal targeting programs are heavily classified, compartmented, and SAPed — meaning, they are mostly closed off from each other. This is one reason why the CIA and JSOC maintain separate, non-overlapping kill lists in Yemen. It also means it is practically impossible for anyone, in any position including the top of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to exercise proper oversight over the program. In other words, we have created an unaccountable killing machine operating at an industrial scale, to borrow CNAS President John Nagl’s phrasing.

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama

Within the U.S. government bureaucracy this shift in priority has distorted staffing choices and led to a momentum that will be difficult to ever stop. When I testified about Intelligence contracting before the U.S. Senate earlier this year, I noted the problems with how these programs get staffed: often without regard to specific skill sets, and usually under the assumption that more staff means better results. Both assumptions lead to muddled results. In some targeting programs, staffers have review quotas — that is, they must review a certain number of possible targets per given length of time. Because they are contractors, their continued employment depends on their ability to satisfy the stated performance metrics. So they have a financial incentive to make life-or-death decisions about possible kill targets just to stay employed. This should be an intolerable situation, but because the system lacks transparency or outside review it is almost impossible to monitor or alter.

Furthermore, the Intelligence Community (IC) as a whole has been reoriented to support the killing machine. While that isn’t of itself a bad thing, we should be asking very probing questions about whether it is necessary and if it is accomplishing the goals it should. The IC already struggles with making useful predictive analysis (i.e. understanding threats to the country and thinking of ways to respond to them). By focusing the IC so strongly on the identification of individuals to kill, the drones program is distorting the collection and analysis priorities of the IC, and in a very real way restricting the resources available to responding to larger economic, military, and nuclear threats. Bureaucracy becomes its own force after a while, and the possibility of ever reassigning these analysts and decision makers becomes less and less realistic the longer the program exists.

A final, important consequence of the dramatic expansion of the drone program is the continued degradation of the IC’s Human Intelligence capabilities and the increasing reliance on liaising with “local partners.” In both Pakistan and Yemen this has led to severe consequences both for our reputation and for our relations with each government. In Afghanistan, poor HUMINT tradecraft has led to a lot of unnecessary deaths because we relied on sketchy local sources instead of doing the hard work to develop thorough human intelligence. The result, way too often, is firing blind based on “pattern of life” indicators without direct confirmation that the targets are, in fact, who we think they are — killing innocent people in the process. In Pakistan, the drones program has become so contentious that it’s inspired death squads that summarily execute people they suspect of participating in the targetting process. And in Yemen, we are now slowly realizing that our “local partners” are really anything but, and we face the very uncomfortable possibility of being used as pawns to violently resolve conflicts that have nothing to do with us.

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama. But, he has decided to both distance himself from it while also taking credit for its successes, even as it focuses on ever less important and marginal figures within the terrorist milieu.

The enormous expansion of drone operations has been a success in the narrowest sense of killing some bad guys. But it has come at an enormous cost: to our reputation, to our morals, to our relationship and status with countries we need to work with to contain and defuse terrorism, and in the lives of the many innocent people we’ve killed through either sloppiness or ignorance. Rather than asking the difficult questions of whether the success of the drone program has been worth it, though, President Obama has chosen instead to amplify its operations and thus claim victory in killing bad guys, even while he distances himself from the knowledge and personal responsibility for who these dead people are and what crimes they may have committed.

It is an absolute scandal. We owe ourselves better questions and more accountability of the drones we use to wantonly kill people around the planet.

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More Predator drones fly U.S.-Mexico border

View Photo Gallery —  Unmanned drones are patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in larger numbers in an effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

More Predator drones fly U.S.-Mexico border

By , Wednesday, December 21, 7:01 AM

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — In the dead of night, from a trailer humming with surveillance monitors, a pilot for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was remotely flying a Predator drone more than 1,000 miles away.

From an altitude of 15,000 feet, over the desert ranchlands of Arizona, the drone’s all-seeing eyeball swiveled and powerful night-vision infrared cameras zeroed in on a pickup truck rattling along a washboard road.

“Hey, where’s that guy going?” the mission controller asked the drone’s camera operator, who toggled his joystick, glued to the monitors like a teenager with a Christmas morning Xbox.

This is the semi-covert cutting edge of homeland security, where federal law enforcement authorities are rapidly expanding a military-style unmanned aerial reconnaissance operation along the U.S.-Mexico border — a region that privacy watchdogs say includes a lot of American back yards.

Fans of the Predators say the $20 million aircraft are a perfect platform to keep a watchful eye on America’s rugged borders, but critics say the drones are expensive, invasive and finicky toys that have done little — compared with what Border Patrol agents do on the ground — to stem the flow of illegal crossers, drug smugglers or terrorists.

Over Arizona, the Predator circled a ranch, as unseen and silent as a hunting owl. On a bank of computer screens, the team watched the truck, which appeared in ghostly infrared black and white, turn and pull up by a mobile home. In the yard, three sleeping dogs quickly woke up, their tails wagging.

“Welcome home,” one of the agents said.

A popular security solution

Eight Predators fly for the Customs and Border Protection agency — five, and soon to be six, along the southwestern border. After a slow rollout that began in 2005, government drones now patrol most of the southern boundary, from Yuma, Ariz., to Brownsville, Tex.

To hear their supporters, Predators are the new, sexy, futuristic fix for immigration control. They are irresistible to border hawks and the “Drone Caucus” in Congress, whose interests in homeland security and defense contractors neatly dovetail to produce a must-have technology to meet the still-unrealized threat of spillover violence from Mexican drug cartels.

Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Calif.) has said the drones are so popular that a Predator could be elected president. Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar pronounced domestic drones “invaluable.” Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer called them “ideal for border security and counter-drug missions.” GOP presidential contender Texas Gov. Rick Perry argues that the solution to security along the frontier is not a border fence but more Predators.

In his trips to testify on Capitol Hill, Michael Kostelnik, the retired U.S. Air Force general and former test pilot who runs the Office of Air and Marine for the Border Protection service, said that he’s never been challenged in Congress about the appropriate use of domestic drones. “Instead the question is: Why can’t we have more of them in my district?” Kostelnik said.

Planning documents for the CBP envision as many as 24 Predators and their maritime variants in the air by 2016, giving the Border Protection agency the ability to put a drone up anywhere in the continental United States within three hours.

The drones, though operated by Customs and Border Protection, have been deployed to assist sister law enforcement agencies. This month, the Los Angeles Times reported that domestic Predators were used in North Dakota to help local police run down a trio of ordinary crime suspects in a cow pasture.

These unarmed Predator-Bs are the same unmanned aircraft known for lethal hunter-killer missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, except they don’t carry the missile package.

One of the first Predators deployed by the border service crashed in 2006 when its remote pilot, a contractor for the plane manufacturer General Atomics, turned off the engine by mistake. The downed plane missed a residential area by 1,000 feet.

Current U.S. protocols require the drones to stay on the American side of the Rio Grande. “We don’t do Mexico,” said Lothar Eckardt, director of the Homeland Security’s National Air Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi.

But the aerial platforms do peer a little over the fence into Mexico.

What can they see? “We can see cows, pigs, coyotes, sometimes rabbits,” Lothar said. “At 20,000 feet you can see windshield wipers, you can see if a person is running or walking, you can see backpacks, sometimes. We can see Border Patrol, but not their uniforms, and so we can communicate with them and say wave your arms, and that way we can distinguish between our guys and the bad guys.”

Privacy and cost concerns

Privacy watchdogs are concerned about the use of drones over domestic airspace. “The loss of privacy is real. You want to sunbathe in the nude on your own property? Now you can’t be sure nobody is watching you,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Americans will have to wonder if our enthusiasm for catching illegal immigrants is worth the sacrificing our freedoms.”

U.S. courts allow law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance from helicopters and airplanes, and privacy protections end when the public goes outside. The domestic Predator’s surveillance cameras do not allow them to see through windows.

Despite its initial reluctance, the Federal Aviation Administration allows the drones to fly a high-altitude corridor along the Mexican and Canadian borders but still forbids them over congested urban areas — for safety, not privacy, concerns. Because of the orientation of the runway at the Corpus Christi naval base, the Predators are grounded when the wind direction requires them to pass over a neighboring suburb.

The mission over the Arizona ranch lands last month was typical. The Predator was searching for scouts who hide in the brush and signal with a cellphone when smugglers can attempt to cross with a load of marijuana or humans. The drone did not find any scouts on this night. The night before, however, they helped the Border Patrol in Texas capture a dozen illegal migrants.

The Predators reached a milestone in June, having flown 10,000 hours. The Homeland Security Department reported their drone operations led to the apprehension of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers since the program began six years ago.

Those numbers are not very impressive. Some 327,577 illegal migrants were caught at the southwest border in fiscal 2011, meaning the drones have contributed to tiny fraction of arrests.

With an hour of flight time costing $3,600, it costs about $7,054 for each illegal immigrant or smuggler caught, based on numbers calculated from a recent Government Accountability Office report to Congress. The government has spent $240 million buying and maintaining its domestic drones, which does not include their operation.

It is hard to put a dollar value on the services that the Predators can supply, Kostelnik said, citing as an example, a scenario in which a nuclear reactor, like the one in Japan damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, needed to be inspected from the air.

“What is the value of a ‘can’t be seen, can’t be heard’ technology, when you absolutely, really need it?” Kostelnik said. “The unmanned aircraft does things nothing else can do.”

The authors of the GAO report were not so sure.

They highlighted an obscure program called “Big Miguel” run by the Joint Task Force North out of the U.S. Army’s Biggs Field in El Paso that leased a piloted Cessna with an infrared sensor that cost $1.2 million for the year and assisted in the apprehension of 6,500 to 8,000 undocumented immigrants and seizure of $54 million in pot, according to defense officials. That would make the Big Miguel cost per undocumented immigrant caught about $230.

“Congress and the taxpayers ought to demand some kind of real cost-benefit analysis of drones,” said Tom Barry, trans-border project director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank, who has studied the domestic Predator program. “My sense is that they would conclude these aircraft aren’t worth the money.”

Hippo-drone

Huge blimp-like spy craft will hover over Afghanistan

Seth Millstein Sunday, October 30, 2011

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

    The biggest spy drone to date goes by the name Blue Devil Block 2.

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

    The biggest spy drone to date goes by the name Blue Devil Block 2.

1 2
The Goodyear blimp has nothing on this.The Blue Devil Block 2, the biggest spy drone ever made, will hover over Afghanistan by mid-2012, Wired reports. The 370-foot-long craft, now in a North Carolina airplane hangar, will dock 20,000 feet up in the air for five days at a time, monitoring an area of 36 square miles below.The $211 million (optionally manned) blimp will house a supercomputer, audio and video surveillance gear, an infrared lens and targeting radar so that it can transmit information to ground troops within 15 seconds of capture.Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former intelligence chief for the Air Force and head of Mav 6, the company in charge of making the craft, said the drone “could change the nature of overhead surveillance.”

>

Photos From an Anti-War Rally,

speak millions & common sense

protesting  against the unmanned US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan near the US Capitol building

Art Laffin protests gainst the unmanned US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan near the US Capitol building

Terrorism by Drones

Predator Targeted Assassinations

(with lots of Collateral Damage)

<>


Predator Drones

– two words for you –

no joke

(they provoke counter attacks

seen as legitimate defense)

Obama was joking when he said:

“….boys, don’t get any ideas, I have two words for you —

predator drones.

You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking…”

Thus were the words  spoken by President Obama joking around about a highly controversial targeted killing program which eerily recalled the the worst  of the Phoenix Program, read on…

Predator Drones:

no joke for the thousands upon thousands killed by this

modern,

robotic,

electronically laser guided,

unmanned aircraft missile weapon system,

fired thousands of miles away in Nevada in impersonal chambers.

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

This is not a video game, but real kill,

with lots of “Collateral Damage,”

provoking moral outrage, anger

and counter attacks seen as legitimate defense)

> Some recent articles

<>

The US love affair with drones
A war strategy built around drone attacks is not only unethical, but will hurt US interests in the long run.
Ted Rall Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 07:39
Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker
A jirga, or tribal assembly, discusses US drone strikes in Pakistan after a Predator drone attack killed three men in South Waziristan [EPA]

One of the pleasures of traveling through the developing world is that things develop. They change. There’s always something new.

Afghanistan is, depending on one’s point of view, developing, deteriorating, or doing both at once.

Example: Last August found me and two fellow Americans in a hired taxi zooming past bombed-out fuel trucks through Taliban-held Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan near the Tajik border. The sense of menace was palpable, but our driver seemed calm.

Then his face darkened. We were passing into the flatlands east of Mazar-i-Sharif. We saw nothing but dirt, dust and rocks, all the way to the horizon. Yet our driver was nervous. He scanned this bleak landscape. “Motorcycles,” he said. “I am looking for the motorcycles.”

The adaptable neo-Taliban increasingly rely on the classic tactics of guerilla warfare. Rather than hold territory, these postmodern Islamists-cum-gangsters rely on hit-and-run strikes using something I hadn’t seen in 2001: motorcycles. Like a scene from the Kazakh film epic about Genghis Khan updated by Quentin Tarantino, squadrons of bearded bikers are terrorizing Afghanistan’s newly- and cheaply-paved highways.

I call them the Talibikers.

One of the more intriguing revelations in last year’s WikiLeaks data dump was that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has been supplying the Taliban with thousands of Pamir dirtbikes, including a 2007 shipment of 1,000 to the Waziristan-based network led by Mawlawi Jalaludin Haqqani. Talibs ride the Pamirs and their preferred brand, the Honda 125 and its Chinese knock-offs, to assassinations. They launch attacks on highways from bases in villages 10 to 15 kilometers away.

The Talibikers speed across the desert in great clouds of dust, “Mad Max” style, to ambush and bomb fuel trucks. There they set up checkpoints where they shake down travelers for cash. Sometimes they kidnap motorists and demand ransom payments from their families. By the time the hapless Afghan national police shows up, the resistance fighters are long gone.

An early report on the Talibikers appeared in the Telegraph in 2003. “The motorcycles have played a key role in Taliban hit-and-run operations in the south of the country where the campaign against international troops and aid workers has intensified,” the British newspaper reported in November of that year. “In the latest incident, a Frenchwoman working for the United Nations was shot dead this month by the pillion passenger on a motorcycle in the south-eastern town of Ghazni. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In another recent attack, a group of motorcyclists opened fire on an aid convoy near Kandahar, killing four Afghans. In August, two motorcyclists threw a grenade into the Kandahar compound of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, damaging the building but causing no injuries.”

ISI-funded motorbikes continue to play a vital role in the Taliban’s war to drive US and NATO occupation troops out of Afghanistan. “Day and night, Taliban assassins on motorbikes hunt their victims, often taunting them over the telephone before gunning them down in the city’s streets,” Paul Watson wrote in The Star, a Canadian newspaper, in February 2011.

“They are working their way through lists, meticulously killing off people fingered as collaborators with the Afghan government or its foreign backers … The build-up of Afghan police and soldiers, and foreign troops, in and around Kandahar city over recent months has improved security, but agile and coldly efficient motorbike death squads remain active.”

Mass attacks continue as well. “About 100 Taliban fighters on motorcycles attacked a northern Afghan village that was working to join the government-sponsored local police program against the insurgency, killing one villager, police said Wednesday. An ensuing battle also left 17 militants dead,” the Associated Press reported in May 2011.

There are fewer than 10,000 Talibikers in Afghanistan. They could be eliminated – if the US and NATO stopped focusing on assassination-by-drone and instead used the same technology to increase security.

Drones, drones everywhere

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) date to the maiden flight of the now-familiar Predator drones in 1994. After 9/11 the United States became addicted to the Predator and its successor, the Reaper.

Today the Air Force and CIA have at least 7,000 UAVs in service around the world, representing the biggest and most visible presence of the US military in Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. This trend is likely to accelerate. As of March 2011 the US Air Force was training more remote drone “pilots” than those for conventional planes. Next year the Pentagon wants $5 billion just for drones.

Drones are getting smaller and more numerous. “One of the smallest drones in use on the battlefield is the three-foot-long Raven, which troops in Afghanistan toss by hand like a model airplane to peer over the next hill,” according to The New York Times. “There are some 4,800 Ravens in operation in the Army, although plenty get lost.” More on this later.

US unveils new ‘micro-drone’

It’s easy to see why generals and politicians are so enthusiastic. The pilotless planes, guided by operators manning a joystick at military and pseudomilitary agencies such as CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and armed by Xe, the private contractor formerly called Blackwater, are relatively cheap. A Predator costs $4.5 million; an F-22 Raptor fighter jet runs $150 million a unit.

Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, cites the “three Ds”. Drones are “dull” because they can patrol empty stretches of barren land 24 hours a day. They’re “dirty” because they can fly in and out of toxic clouds, including radiation.

Most appealingly, they are “dangerous” because the absence of a pilot eliminates the risk that a pilot – they cost millions to train – will be killed or captured by enemy forces. UAVs exploit the element of surprise: though relatively unobtrusive, they fire supersonic armor-piercing Hellfire missiles capable of striking a target as far as five miles away.

“People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying,” The New Yorker magazine reported in 2009.

“‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) [Bleeding] human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.'”

Charming.

According to the Pentagon, drones hit their targets with 95 percent accuracy. The problematic question is: who are their targets?

Thousands of people have been rubbed out by drones since 9/11.

(Press accounts document between 1,400 and 2,300 extrajudicial killings by allied forces, mostly in the Tribal Areas adjacent to Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. According to media reports cited by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 957 Pakistanis were murdered by American drones in 134 airstrikes during the year 2010 alone. Since the media only learns about a fraction of these “secret” killings, the real number must be many times higher.)

Drone attacks illegal, unethical

Since the Pakistani government does not officially acknowledge, much less authorize, such attacks, they are illegal acts of war.

Political philosopher Michael Walzer asked in 2009: “Under what code does the CIA operate? I don’t know. There should be a limited, finite group of people who are targets, and that list should be publicly defensible and available. Instead, it’s not being publicly defended. People are being killed, and we generally require some public justification when we go about killing people.”

One would think.

Legal or not, Christine Fair of Georgetown University says the US doesn’t use drone planes indiscriminately: “You have lawyers, you have targeteers, you have intelligence operatives, you actually have pilots who are manning the drones. These are not 14-year-old kids right out of basic training, playing around with a joystick,” she told National Public Radio.

In the real world, it’s often hard to tell the difference. There’s no doubt that drone operators make mistakes. In April 2011, for example, two American marines were killed by a Predator in Afghanistan.

Of course, the majority of victims are local civilians. In Afghanistan and Pakistan drone strikes have killed countless children and wiped out so many wedding parties that it’s become a sick joke. Estimates of the civilian casualty rate range from a third (by the New America Foundation) to 98 percent (terrorism expert Amir Mir). There is no evidence that a single “terrorist” has ever been killed by a drone – only the say-so of US and NATO spokesmen.

Errors are inherent due to the principal feature of the technology: remoteness. Manned aerial warfare is notoriously inaccurate; pilots zooming close to the speed of sound tens of thousands of feet above the ground have little idea who or what they’re shooting at. Drone operators have even less information than old-school pilots. Like a submariner peering out of a periscope, they are supposed to decide whether people live or die based on fuzzy images through layers of glass. They call it the “soda straw.”

Nowadays, staffing is a troubling challenge: it takes 19 analysts to study images and other data from one drone. In the future, a war could eliminate unemployment entirely: it will take approximately 2,00 men and women to process information from one drone equipped with “Gorgon stare” optics capable of scanning an entire city at once.

First flown in 1994, the Predator became widely used only after 9/11 [GALLO/GETTY]

There’s also a huge gap in education, experience and culture. Virtual warriors require simple rules that don’t apply when trying to kill jihadis. At the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan in 2001, for example, it was an article of faith within the Pentagon that men wearing black long-tailed turbans were Talibs.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of noncombatants were killed because of this incorrect assumption. In February 2002 a drone operator blew up a man because he was tall – as was Osama bin Laden. In fact, he and two other men killed were poor villagers gathering scrap metal. Again, this doesn’t address the broader issue of whether it’s okay to murder people simply because they are members of the Taliban.

At least as interesting as the choice of target is whom the U.S. does not try to kill: the Talibikers.

Unlike the wedding parties, houses and tribal councils that have been mistakenly incinerated by the aptly-named Hellfire missiles, Taliban bike gangs are easy to identify from the air. One or two hundred dirtbikes speeding across the desert toward a truck on an Afghan highway are unmistakable. Most Afghans, even those who oppose the US occupation, fear the Talibikers and resent being robbed at impromptu checkpoints. There have been a few scattershot drone strikes, nothing more. Why don’t the CIA whiz kids make these easily-identified fighters a primary target?

Afghans a low priority for US

I posed the question to Afghan government officials. They told me that the same US military that blows $1 billion a week on the war won’t lift a finger to save Afghan lives by providing basic security. “Afghan lives are worth nothing to the Americans,” a provincial governor told me.

Last week the United Nations announced that civilian casualties were up 15 percent during the first six months of 2011. If the same rate continues, this will be the worst year of the ten-year-long American occupation.

A well-placed US military source confirms that Afghan security “isn’t a priority, it isn’t even much of a passing thought”. Contrary to President Obama’s claim that US is in Afghanistan in order to prevent the country from becoming a base for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups and to combat opium cultivation, he says that Afghanistan isn’t about Afghanistan at all. “Afghanistan is a staging area for drone and other aerial strikes in western Pakistan,” he says. “Nothing more, nothing less. Afghanistan is Bagram [airbase].”

Under Obama the death toll has risen, worsening relations between the White House and its puppet president, Hamid Karzai. Beyond the horror of the deaths themselves, it would be impossible to overstate the contempt that ordinary people in nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan feel for the drone program. “Americans are cowards” was one refrain I heard last year. Real soldiers risk their lives. They do not send buzzing machines to kill people half a world away…people they know nothing about.

Back in 2002, former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith worried about blowback. “If [Taliban leaders and soldiers are] dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs,” he noted. Ongoing drone attacks “suggest that it’s acceptable behavior to assassinate people…Assassination as a norm of international conduct exposes American leaders and Americans overseas.”

These days, the media gives little to no time or space to such concerns. Americans have moved into postmorality. Right or wrong? Who cares?

Recently international law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame University said that the new reliance on drones could prompt an already militaristic superpower to fight even more wars of choice. “I think this idea that somehow this technology is allowing us to kill in more places and … aim at more targets is for me the fundamental ethical and legal problem.”

Meanwhile, adds Mary Dudziak of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law: “Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on…endless war.” No casualties? No problem.

Meanwhile, at a “microaviary” inside an air force base north of Dayton, Ohio, “military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds”, approvingly reports The New York Times.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is rall.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source:
Al Jazeera

<>

U.S. departs Pakistan base, source says

By Nick Paton Walsh and Nasir Habib, CNN
April 22, 2011 — Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. military personnel depart a Pakistan base, a Pakistani official says
  • The location is a hub of drone activity, another official says
  • The news comes amid public furor over civilians killed in drone strikes

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — U.S. military personnel have left a southern base in Pakistan said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN on Friday.

Drones are said to take off and get refueled for operations against Islamic militants from the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

News of a possible U.S. departure comes amid a public furor over American drone attacks, which have killed civilians.

A suspected U.S. drone strike Friday in the Pakistani tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, a Pakistani intelligence source said. Another one on March 17 killed 44, mostly civilians.

Unmanned aerial vehicles

RELATED TOPICS

Another senior Pakistani intelligence official, who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue, confirmed Americans had been using the base as a center of operations for launching drone strikes. He was not able to confirm if the Americans had left.

The first official said that American personnel were no longer operating out of the base, but he could not say whether they had left voluntarily or at the request of the Pakistani government.

The operation of the base — which the U.S. government has not publicly acknowledged — has always been presumed to have occurred with tacit Pakistani military consent.

It was not clear from the Pakistani officials when the presence there began or when it ended.

A U.S. military official who did not want to be identified told CNN: “There are no U.S. forces at Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan.” He did not respond at the time or in writing to queries as to whether U.S. personnel had been based there in the past.

The departure of American personnel — if confirmed — would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the drone attacks and the Raymond Davis affair in which a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in a Lahore neighborhood.

It has always been unclear how many drone bases the United States operates in or near Pakistan. But Friday’s attack in North Waziristan that killed 25 people would indicate the United States maintains the capability to strike tribal areas with drones.

Carl Forsberg, research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, said he doesn’t think such a move would affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.

Many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said Pakistanis could be making such a move to appease a populace angry at the United States.

The southern air base, he said, doesn’t appear to be integral to the tribal area fight and is probably a supporting base.

“It’s not like the Pakistanis shut down the program,” he said. “It’s possible they want to do this as a means of pre-empting drone strikes in Balochistan,” where there is a Taliban presence.

“The United States has an interest in going after the Taliban in Balochistan,” he said, and in an ideal world the United States would like to target Taliban sanctuaries in that region with drones.

Also, he said, it’s possible the Pakistanis are using pressure on the United States to offset any U.S. pressure on them.

He said it’s no coincidence that the development emerged after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pakistan’s Geo TV, Mullen spoke forcefully about the Haqqani Network, saying it “specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they’re killing Americans.”

“I can’t accept that and I will do everything I possibly can to prevent that specifically,” he said.

Mullen said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence “has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani Network. That doesn’t mean everybody in the ISI, but it’s there.”

“I also have an understanding that the ISI and the (Pakistani military) exist to protect their own citizens, and there’s a way they have done that for a long period of time,” Mullen said. “I believe that over time, that’s got to change.”

A senior Pakistani intelligence official responded by saying, “We do have a relationship: that of an adversary.”

“We have made our resolve very clear that (the Haqqani Network) is an enemy we need to fight together,” said the official, who did not want to be identified discussing intelligence matters.

The Pakistani intelligence official told CNN that “we have our hands full” fighting other Islamist militant groups along the border with Afghanistan, notably those under the umbrella of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, “and once we are through with them we can turn on the other (the Haqqanis). We do not have the capacity to undertake simultaneous operations.”

The official said the “onus of providing proof of this” relationship was on the Americans and it was not up to the ISI “to start providing clarification.”

Asked if offense was taken from Mullen’s remarks, the intelligence official said: “Not personally, no.”

In Friday’s attack, a drone fired five missiles on a hideout in Mir Ali of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan, two intelligence officials said.

The officials said the militants, who were staying in the hideout, were planning to move into Afghanistan for an attack against coalition forces.

The militants were local Taliban members from Orakzai agency, another district of Pakistan’s tribal region, who were trained for war, the officials said. The intelligence officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

But the attack also killed at least three women when one of the missiles hit a house next to the targeted compound, officials said. The Pakistani intelligence source identified the slain civilians as five women and three children.

Friday’s drone strike was the 20th this year, compared with 111 in all of 2010, based on a CNN tally.

The strike comes two days after Pakistan issued a strongly worded statement condemning deadly suspected U.S. drone strikes in the country’s tribal region.

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counterterror campaign,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday. “We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists.”

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/22/pakistan.drone.strike/?hpt=T2

>

18 March 2011 Last updated at 11:13 ET

Pakistan: Calls for revenge after US drones kill 40

In this picture taken on Monday, March 7, 2011, a Pakistan army soldier takes position in the Pakistani tribal area of Datta Khel in North Waziristan where the Pakistan army are fighting against militants and al-Qaida activists along the Afghanistan border. Pakistan may now find it easier to put off a full-blown assault in North Waziristan

Tribal leaders in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan have vowed revenge against the US after drones killed more than 40 people near the Afghan border.

“We are a people who wait 100 years to exact revenge. We never forgive our enemy,” the elders said in a statement.

Thursday’s attack has caused fury – most of the dead were tribal elders and police attending an open-air meeting.

Observers say anger over the botched drone raid may help Pakistan delay an assault on the Taliban in Waziristan.

The Pakistani military has so far resisted US pressure for such an assault. It is already fighting militants in a number of other parts of the country’s north-west.

Pakistani tribal elder Malik Jalal, center, flanked by newsmen addresses a news conference to condemn the recent U. S. drone attack in North Waziristan which killed many people, Friday, March 18, 2011 in Peshawar, Pakistan. Tribal leaders described the horror of the attack in Peshawar

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Thursday’s casualties will also add to pressure from Islamabad on the US to scale back drone strikes which regularly target Waziristan.

The area is an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold and a launch pad for frequent attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.

But the strikes are hugely unpopular in Pakistan. The latest one comes at a time of rising tension after the CIA contractor Raymond Davis was acquitted of murdering two men in Lahore.

‘Just a jirga’Thursday’s drone strike is thought to have killed more civilians than any other such attack since 2006.

Officials say two drones were involved. One missile was fired at a car carrying suspected militants. Three more missiles were then fired at the moving vehicle, hitting it and the nearby tribal meeting, or jirga.

Map

At least four militants in the vehicles were killed, local officials said. Most of the rest who died were elders, local traders and members of the tribal police.

“The world should try and find out how many of the 40-odd people killed in the drone attack were members of al-Qaeda,” the elders said in their statement following the attack near North Waziristan’s regional capital, Miranshah.

“It was just a jirga being held under local customs in which the prominent elders of Datta Khel sub-division, and common people were participating to resolve a dispute.

“But the Americans did not spare our elders even.

One of the elders, Malik Faridullah Wazir Khan, said he reached the scene 30 minutes after the missiles hit – four of his relatives were killed.

“The area was completely covered in blood,” he told the BBC.

“There were no bodies, only body parts – hands, legs and eyes scattered around. I could not recognise anyone. People carried away the body parts in shopping bags and clothing or with bits of wood, whatever they could find.”

He said 44 people died at the scene, including 13 children – one as young as seven.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s army chief condemned the raid by US unmanned drones in unusually strong terms, calling it “intolerable… and in complete violation of human rights”.

The Pakistani military often makes statements regretting the loss of life in such incidents, but rarely criticises the attacks themselves.

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, said such “acts of violence” make it harder to fight terrorism.

US missions closed

US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, file image Drones have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan in recent years

Drone strikes have stoked anti-US feeling in Pakistan.

The US embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar were all closed on Friday for security reasons following Thursday’s attack and the release of Mr Davis.

The US does not routinely confirm that it has launched drone operations, but analysts say only American forces have the capacity to deploy such aircraft in the region.

The Pakistani authorities deny secretly supporting drone attacks. Many militants, some of them senior, have been killed in the raids, but hundreds of civilians have also died.

Pakistan has troops stationed in North Waziristan but has resisted US calls for a wider operation there. The region is a stronghold of militants fighting US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe at some point Pakistan’s military will have to move in – if not for America’s sake, then for Pakistan’s. Militants attacking targets inside Pakistan also find sanctuary in North Waziristan.

>

22 July 2010 Last updated at 13:06 ET

Mapping US drone and Islamic militant attacks in Pakistan

Since January 2009 nearly 2,500 people have been killed in Pakistan as a result of US drones and Islamic militant attacks. The graphics below show how Islamic militant strongholds in the border area close to Afghanistan have been targeted by US drone aircraft, while, at the same time, Islamic militants have carried out attacks across Pakistan.
Attacks Deaths Show place names
pak attack pak attack with labels
pak death pak death with labels

Missile attacks by US drones in Pakistan’s tribal areas have more than doubled under the Obama administration, research by the BBC Urdu service shows.

Compared with 25 drone strikes between January 2008 and January 2009, there were at least 87 such attacks between President Obama taking office on 20 January 2009 and the end of June 2010.

More than 700 people have been killed in such attacks under Mr Obama, compared with slightly fewer than 200 from under his predecessor, George W Bush.

The militant backlash over the same period has been even more violent. Extremists have struck more than 140 times in various Pakistani locations, killing more than 1,700 people and injuring hundreds more, the BBC research shows.

Continue reading the main story

Ten cities worst hit by militant attacks

Location No of Deaths
Peshawar 362
Lahore 253
Khyber 120
Rawalpindi 98
Lakki Marwat 93
Kohat 91
Dera Ismail Khan 77
Lower Dir 75
Karachi 69
Dera Ghazi Khan 50

Source: BBC Urdu service. Data from Jan 2009 to June 2010

While attacks by militants cannot be described as direct retaliation for drone strikes, they are firmly part of the battle the US and Pakistani authorities are fighting against radical Islam’s operational bases in Pakistan.

Over the same 18-month period, many more than 2,500 people have died in offensives by the Pakistani army and fighting between troops and militants. Exact figures are impossible to obtain.

Places such as Swat and South Waziristan which have seen offensives by the Pakistani military are virtually closed to independent media and other groups.

The increased frequency of drone strikes follows a reported shift in US policy to extend its drone operations. It has moved from targeting al-Qaeda suspects to including Pakistani Taliban who are believed to be providing a haven for al-Qaeda leaders and operatives.

The bulk of these attacks have been in North Waziristan, with neighbouring South Waziristan the next main target.

While more than 700 people have died in these attacks, positive identification of the victims, either by Pakistani or US authorities, has been made in fewer than a dozen instances.

Continue reading the main story

Areas hit by drone attacks

Province No of deaths
South Waziristan 279
North Waziristan 386
Bajaur 14
Bannu 5
Orakzai 8
Kurram 54

Source: BBC Urdu service. Data from Jan 2009 to June 2010

There have been notable successes for the Americans and Pakistanis, including the killing of Taliban militant leader Baitullah Mehsud last August and several people described as senior al-Qaeda leaders.

The data collected by the BBC Urdu service shows militant attacks dipping when Mehsud was killed and then peaking last autumn when Pakistani troops launched the South Waziristan offensive. Drone attacks reached a high when the operation was declared over and the Pakistani army refused to push on into North Waziristan as the US government wanted it to.

Pakistan has consistently argued that drone attacks are hindering rather than helping with the battle against extremism, saying they fuel public anger against the government and the US and boost support for militants.

On the other hand, the US, which does not routinely confirm drone operations, has always implied there is a tacit understanding between the two countries over the attacks.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

The Taliban say drone attacks make them more determined to fight, but admit that they have disrupted their operations.

This data was compiled between January 2009 and July 2010 by the BBC Urdu service. It is based on reports from BBC World Service correspondents working in Northern Pakistan and the tribal areas.

>

17 March 2011 Last updated at 14:31 ET

Pakistan army chief Kayani in US drone outburst

Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Sri Lanka, January 20, 2011 Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani warned that drone strikes undermined the militant fight

Pakistan’s army chief has condemned the latest raid by US unmanned drones as “intolerable and unjustified”.

In a strongly worded statement, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the attack, which killed about 40 people, was “in complete violation of human rights”.

Most of the victims were believed to be civilians attending a tribal meeting near North Waziristan’s regional capital, Miranshah.

Tension has been growing in recent weeks between the US and Pakistan.

The US drone attacks are a long-running source of bad feeling, but the acquittal of CIA contractor Raymond Davis of murder has sparked protests across Pakistan.

The Pakistani military often makes statements regretting the loss of life in such incidents, but rarely criticises the attacks themselves.

Gen Kayani, however, said such “acts of violence” make it harder to fight terrorism.

“It is highly regrettable that a jirga [meeting] of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life,” he said.

“It has been highlighted clearly that such aggression against people of Pakistan is unjustified and intolerable under any circumstances.”

Pakistan’s intelligence agency is often accused of complicity in the raids, either by supporting them or allowing them to happen.

Militants targetedThe BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Thursday’s drone strike is thought to have killed more civilians than any other such attack since 2006.

Map

Officials say two drones were involved in the latest attack, in the Datta Khel area 40km (25 miles) west of Miranshah.

One missile was fired at a car carrying suspected militants. Local tribesmen say the drones then fired another three missiles at their open-air meeting, or jirga.

Our correspondent says the car was moving close to the jirga, and the missiles hit the vehicle as well as the jirga.

According to the tribesmen, the meeting was being held to discuss a local land dispute over the ownership of chromite deposits in the area. They say that no militants were present at the time.

Officials said the drones were targeting militants linked to Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. One of his commanders, identified as Sharabat Khan, was in the vehicle hit in the attack and was killed, one local official told the BBC.

The US military and the CIA do not routinely confirm that they have launched drone operations, and Gen Kayani did not specifically name the US or mention drones.

But analysts say only American forces could deploy such aircraft in the region.

The attacks have escalated in the region since US President Barack Obama took office. More than 100 raids were reported in the area last year.

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In Peshawar, supporters of political party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, carry a placard reading in Urdu ‘Drone made me orphan’ during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks targeting suspected Taliban and al-Qaida militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border, on April 24. A suspected unmanned U.S. aircraft fired five missiles into a house in the Spinwam area of the North Waziristan district near the Afghan border, on April 22, killing at least 25 people. The United States has intensified its drone campaign with more than 650 people killed last year in approximately 100 suspected missile attacks, which are highly unpopular in Pakistan. (Arshad Arbab / EPA) Share

Related story U.S. drone strike kills 25 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan

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Pakistanis protest against US drone strikes

Demonstrations halt supply NATO supply trucks heading to border with Afghanistan

Below:

Image: Supporters of a Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami arrive to join a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas

Mohammad Sajjad  /  AP

Supporters of a Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e- Islami arrive to join a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, on April 23 in Peshawar, Pakistan.
By RIAZ KHAN
updated 4/24/2011 10:29:45 AM ET

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistanis sang, danced and shouted for an end to U.S. missile strikes Sunday, the second day of protest along a major road that has halted supply trucks heading to U.S. and NATO troops fighting across the border in Afghanistan.

The demonstration is set to end Monday and only around 2,000 people came out. But it has drawn broad attention in this nation at a time of increased tension between Islamabad and Washington, and it has underscored the vulnerability of the Western supply route that runs through it.

As some youth shouted and danced to drum beats, others held banners with slogans such as “Our blood is not for sale” and “Stop drone attacks, stop genocide of innocent Pakistanis.” Others sang along with nationalist songs, while many took shelter from the scorching sun inside hastily built tents.

The demonstration was sponsored by the political party of Imran Khan, a former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team. He has called for peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and opposes the U.S. missile strikes against militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

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“America itself is a champion of democracy, so it should listen the voice of people of Pakistan and stop the genocide of the Pashtuns” — the main ethnic group in Pakistan’s tribal regions, said Ali Khan, 39, a social worker from Peshawar.

On Saturday, authorities halted the NATO supply shipments as the protest began on the outskirts of Peshawar, around 35 miles (57 kilometers) from the Afghan border. The border crossing at the edge of Khyber tribal region is normally closed on Sunday anyway.

Much of the non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in landlocked Afghanistan come through Pakistan. Militants often attack the convoys, and last September Pakistan closed the border for 20 days to protest a deadly NATO helicopter strike inside its borders.

The U.S. and NATO normally say such interruptions have little to no impact on the supply line. But they have been turning more to other roads into Afghanistan from the north in recent years.

Tensions between Pakistan and the United States have risen since late January, when an American CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. Since then, the military has taken a tough line on the missile strikes.

The U.S. rarely discusses the covert, CIA-run program, but officials have insisted it is mostly militants who are killed by the drone-fired missiles.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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CIA drone strikes : A legal war

Thursday 23 December 2010

A UN senior official tells Channel 4 News if CIA personnel are operating drone strikes in Pakistan, they could be prosecuted for murder and war crimes if humanitarian laws are violated.

CIA drone strikes: a legal war? (Getty)

The controversial drone policy has significantly increased under Barack Obama‘s administration. It marks a foreign policy shift from the Bush administration, which relied heavily on rendition and detaining suspected militants in Guantanamo Bay.

A Channel 4 News investigation has examined 113 reported drone strikes this year in Pakistan’s tribal territories on the border with Afghanistan, an area considered by the US as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters and reported figures suggest 500 to 900 militants have been killed. The number of attacks is double the number conducted last year and by far exceeds the number of drone strikes conducted under the Bush regime.

Pakistan drone warfare - special report

An unspecified number of those killed in the drone attacks – believed to be directed by the Central Intellgience Agency (CIA) – are reported to have been innocent civilians, including women and children, suspected to have “links” with militants Channel 4 News has learnt.

Local people in Waziristan and a Pakistan-based expert from the Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict have told Channel 4 News that on top of the 500 to 900 “militant” deaths thought to have been caused by the drone strikes, the number of civilian deaths is likely much higher.

Sometimes covert operations need to remain covert in order to be effective. Mike Baker, former CIA officer

The legality of drone strikes in Pakistan and the alleged role of the CIA has been brought into sharp focus after it was reported that Jonathan Banks, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, was pulled out of Pakistan after his cover was blown by tribesmen from North Waziristan who are taking legal action, blaming him for the deaths of their relatives in drone strikes.

In recent days sources say that the US drone policy in Pakistan has apparently spread from Waziristan to the northwestern Khyber region, where three US drone missiles killed a reported 24 “militants” on Saturday.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions Christof Heyns told Channel 4 News, if these allegations are true, the personnel who operate the deadly drones and their superiors could potentially face prosecution for war crimes, if international humanitarian laws are violated.

He also calls on the US and CIA to be more transparent and accountable in its use of drone attacks on suspected militants along the Afghan and Pakistan border.

Leading international lawyer and Director of the International Bar Association Mark Ellis told Channel 4 News if civilian deaths are underreported by the US and if there is “an allegation of an alleged cover-up” it “should certainly prompt an investigation for possible war crimes”.

President/co-founder of Diligence LLC, a global intelligence and risk management firm, and a former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker told Channel 4 News: “Sometimes covert operations need to remain covert in order to be effective.”

Channel 4 News Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith reported on US military drones in June, 2010.

Drone operators and targets

It is known that theUS military operate drones in Afghanistan, of which there is an acknowledged “armed conflict”, but it is widely reported that the CIA operate drones in Pakistan – a place where the US is not involved in a known “armed conflict”.

The CIA does not admit or deny that it conducts drone attacks on Pakistan or any other country, but it is widely suggested that these “covert” drone strikes in the tribal areas are controlled by the CIA from bases in America, 8,000 miles from the target.

Peter Singer from the Brookings Institute told Channel 4 News: “You have people outside the military chain of command, making decisions about the use of force in a way that would have previously been done inside the military.”

He explained: “The general counsels at the CIA are very serious professional men and women, but they are not military JAG officers. Military lawyers trained for questions surrounding use of force and rules of engagement in air strikes.”

The International Bar Association’s Mark Ellis says there is nothing wrong legally with operating drones from a remote location.

If a targeted killing violates international humanitarian law then regardless of who conducts it – intelligence personnel or state armed forces – the author, as well as those who authorised it, can be prosecuted for war crimes. Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur

But he referred to the Geneva Convention, which states that only members of the regular armed forces involved in an international armed conflict are entitled to combatant status and attendant privileges. CIA members – not covered by this status – could therefore could be breaking international law.

Ellis said: “Lawful combatants are defined as individuals who are members of an organised force, the force used belongs to a party to the conflict, the force is under the command of a person responsible for his subordinates, the member of the force wears a fixed, distinctive sign, recognisable at a distance, they carry arms openly and they conduct operations in accordance with the laws and customs of law.”

Mr Ellis added: “Because members of the CIA do not fall into this category, they would not receive wartime privileges (for example, prisoner of war status if captured) even when engaged in armed combat.”

The UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns went further and suggested in some circumstances it is possible that the personnel who carry out the alleged attacks could face prosecution.

He told Channel 4 News CIA officers are “unlike state armed forces” which would generally be immune from prosecution for the same conduct (assuming they complied with international humanitarian law requirements). Thus, CIA personnel could potentially be prosecuted for murder under the domestic law of a country in which they conduct targeted drone killings, and could also be prosecuted for violations of applicable US law.

“And, if a targeted killing violates international humanitarian law then regardless of who conducts it – intelligence personnel or State armed forces – the author, as well as those who authorised it, can be prosecuted for war crimes.”

Civilian victims

Channel 4 News has learned that civilians, including women and children – some of whom are suspected of having links to alleged militants – have also been victims of the US drone strikes in Waziristan. The implications of this could potentially incriminate the drone operators and US authorities, because a country carrying out attacks must legally try to protect civilians.

The International Bar Association’s Mark Ellis explained: “If a party does use civilians as shields (al-Qaeda for example), the laws of war does not negate the legal obligations of the other party to protect civilian populations. It does not relieve the obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants, taking all feasible cautions to protect civilians. Civilian casualties must be weighed against the military advantages which are expected to result from the attack.”

Pakistan drone strikes: secret war – interactive graphic

Legitimate targets: the principles

1. Only combatants and other military objectives are lawful targets; the civilian population and ‘civilian objects’ must not be made the target of attack (the principle of distinction); and

2. Even military objectives may not be attacked if an attack is likely to cause civilian casualties or damage which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage which the attack is expected to produce (the principle of proportionality)

The International Committee of the Red Cross outlined three principles which constitute a civilian considered to be a Direct Participant in Hostilities: there must be a “threshold of harm” that will result from the person’s act; the act must cause expected direct harm; and the act must have a “belligerent nexus”, in that it must be specifically designed to support the military operations of one party.

Unexploded missile discovered by Pakistanis (Reuters)

Civilian casualties

UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns said the civilian impact Channel 4 News has examined is worrying and that efforts taken to reduce collateral damage hold little weight.

He said it was “very troubling” and raised concerns about “the lack of information about precautions taken to minimise civilian casualties, what is done if mistakes are made”.

“The concept of allowance for the killing of civilians as ‘collateral damage’ does not exist outside the scope of armed conflict.”

So the question arises as to whether the US is actually in an “armed conflict” or not. Whatever the answer, it will go a long way to determining if its “collateral damage” is legally proportionate and necessary or not.

Mark Ellis said: “Only combatants and other military objectives are lawful targets; civilians and civilian objects are never legitimate targets. Even attacks on military targets that may disproportionally impact civilians are illegal.

“Specifically in relation to drones, some proponents claim that drones are superior because they allow for enhanced precision and accuracy in attacks, avoiding civilian casualties.”

Channel 4 News has been told by Pakistani sources on the ground in Waziristan that they believe the true numbers of civilian casualties are not being reported by the media or the US.

Typically, people who argue that any secrets or covert operations are terrible and must be exposed have never operated in the real world or think all government activities are nefarious. Mike Baker, former CIA officer

Christopher Rogers from Civic also told Channel 4 News: “It’s almost certain that US drone strikes are causing more civilian casualties than the US has thus far admitted.”

Reacting to this, Mark Ellis said: “The issue regarding war crimes is relevant because of the alleged attacks against civilians, not because of an alleged cover-up. An allegation of an alleged cover-up, however, should certainly prompt an investigation for possible war crimes.”

Christof Heyns told Channel 4 News that the reporting of civilian casualties from drone strikes in Pakistan is particularly important when talking about transparency and accountability.

He said: “The important issue with CIA involvement in or control of drone strikes is that there is no transparency or accountability for their actions because they operate covertly. This is a very different situation from the military. Problems of transparency and accountability in the military are well-known, but there is at least the potential for the results of military operations or investigations to be made public, for court martials to take place etc.

“This is why I and my predecessor have raised concerns about drone strikes operated by the CIA in particular – because of their covert nature, they undermine basic accountability and transparency principles.”

Former CIA officer Mike Baker told Channel 4 News he is in no doubt that to question covert operations would prove a very big mistake.

He said: “OK… admittedly maybe I’m missing something here… take covert operations and make them overt and focus on transparency and maybe things will work out just fine? Good luck with that.

“Typically, people who argue that any secrets or covert operations are terrible and must be exposed have never operated in the real world or think all government activities are nefarious.

“This is the same crowd that sits at home cursing all the byzantine one world government plots to read our minds and turn us all in to zombies. Sometimes covert operations need to remain covert in order to be effective.”

Channel 4 News Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh reported on thermobaric bombs in August, 2007.

Drone wars: thermobaric bombs and a ‘Playstation’ mentality

One of the concerns raised by Christof Heyns’ predecessor Philip Alston in a UN report on drone strikes earlier this year, was that those who operate the missile strikes thousands of miles from their target, may acquire a “Playstation” mentality.

His successor Christof Heyns said this is still a major concern for the UN: “The concern here is that many of those operating drones are many thousands of miles away from the battlefield, outside harm’s way, and so they are removed from the realities of violence and war on the ground and often in situations where there is not an appropriate emphasis on international humanitarian law.

“In addition, they view the battlefield just through computer screens and operate via controls, similar to a video game. One of the concerns is that the distance and the interface operates to trivialise what the soldiers are doing, thereby making it easier to kill, and lowering the threshold for when force is used.”

Mark Ellis does not necessarily agree with this thesis, telling Channel 4 News: “The same precautions that must be taken to prevent unnecessary civilian deaths apply to the operation of drones. A ‘Playstation’ mentality might weaken this concept, but it is not necessarily the case.”

But former CIA officer Mike Baker told Channel 4 News: “The drone strikes are very accurate in targeting… frankly, far more accurate than a suicide bomber’s mayhem in walking into a market or mosque.

“The drone strikes are very effective and a significant tactical advantage that is correctly being utilised in the war on terror. The program is methodical and labour intensive in target selection and acquisition… It is not simply throw a drone up and let’s see what we can get.
Any concerns? No.”

The international community should work towards greatly limiting the use of these types of weapons. Mark Ellis, International Bar Association

What Mr Ellis is concerned about is the use of particularly destructive weapons via the drones. It has been reported, but Channel 4 News cannot verify due to the CIA’s covert policy, that the drones in Pakistan are operated by the CIA and that they fire the Hellfire AGM 114N missile, which is a thermobaric weapon.

By this, the weapon is designed to target a specific building, where a militant may be hiding, and it vaporises that building with hot air and a fine aluminium powder, before igniting the explosives, thus killing the target, but not causing too much “collateral damage” in the surrounding areas.

Mr Ellis said: “My concerns with these weapons are the same as with the use of white phosphorus and other incendiary weapons that are prohibited in all circumstances where the military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons. Nor can these same weapons be used directly against military personnel.”

He then called for the international community to limit the amount of these types of weapons that are being used: “Although these incendiary weapons are not per se illegal, they can clearly and easily cause ‘unnecessary suffering’ and, thus, violate international law. The international community should work towards greatly limiting the use of these types of weapons.”

US drone policy

In March this year, the Obama Administration’s legal adviser Harold Hongju Koh, addressing the American Society of International Law, defended the policy by arguing that drone attacks are a form of “self-defence” in “an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces”.

The drone attacks are said to have substantially increased since Barack Obama took office. Former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker told Channel 4 News: “Basically (drones strikes have increased) because they work. The increase in strikes is not just in the past year… since Obama took office their use has increased dramatically compared to the Bush/Cheney administration. A point that drives the left crazy.”

Pakistanis protest against alleged CIA drone strikes (Reuters)

CIA accountability

UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns told Channel 4 News that the US and in particular the CIA need to be more accountable and transparent over its use of drones to target kill suspected militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

He said this was important for two reasons: “Surveys and studies in the region indicate that many Pakistanis and Afghans are very concerned about the way that drones, airstrikes, targeted killings, raids etc are carried out. There are also serious concerns that such methods help to foster anti-American sentiment, and are used to recruit new members of al-Qaeda and to justify acts of terrorism.

“In general it creates dangerous precedents and serves to undermine the status and role of a system of international law that should serve to regulate the use of force between nations around the world, in all kinds of crises situations.”

Do the methods comply with human rights and humanitarian law? And do they assist in reducing terrorism and promoting long-term peace in the region? Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur

Mr Heyns said there are two central questions that should always be in mind when a state decides to conduct a drone strike in another country: “Do the methods comply with human rights and humanitarian law? And do they assist in reducing terrorism and promoting long-term peace in the region?

“It is not clear that the answer to either question is yes, and governments should devote more attention to internally and publicly addressing these issues.”

Former CIA officer Mike Baker told Channel 4 News the responsibility for national security should be in the hands of each state.

He said: “Good God… that’s what we need… the UN and special rapporteur could be the arbiters of what keeps us safe. Every country acts according to its own self interest… not an epiphany, just a factual statement.

“The day that we abdicate responsibility for our national security interest to the UN will be the day we lose the war on terror. Perhaps the UN could first focus on the violence and mayhem caused by Muslim extremists… Sort that out and then check with the US, UK, France, Pakistan etc about our conduct.”

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Published on Monday, January 31, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

The Verdict: Guilty of Protesting US Drones

On Thursday, thirteen of us stood in a Las Vegas courtroom to hear the verdict from Judge Jansen regarding our September trial for trespassing on April 9, 2009 at Creech Air Force Base, headquarters of the U.S. drone operations. Last September, the judge had dramatically announced that he would need at least three months to “think” about the case.

After telling us how “nice” it was to see us, the Judge presented each of us with a twenty page legal ruling explaining why he found us guilty. You argued a defense of necessity, he said, “when an inherent danger is present and immediate action must be taken,” such as breaking a no-trespassing law to uphold a higher law and save life. “In this case, no inherent danger was present, and so I find you guilty.”

Guilty! My friends and I have tried every legal means possible to stop our government from its terrorist drone bombing attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, and so we journeyed to the drone headquarters at Creech AFB  near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday to kneel in prayer and beg for an end to the bombings. This nonviolent intervention is determined to be criminal-not the regular drone bombing attacks on children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I expected this ruling, but it was sad nonetheless. The judge missed a great opportunity to take a stand for justice and peace, to do the right thing, to help end terrorism. Instead, he sided with the war machine. Worse, he dismissed the loss of life caused by our drone attacks. It does not matter that civilians are being killed by our drones, he said in effect. Some lives are not worth as much as others, he ruled.

Before he sentenced us, we each spoke briefly about our action and why we crossed the line. This testimony was the best, most moving part of our ordeal, so I thought I would share excerpts from my co-defendants remarks.

Brian Terrell of the Catholic Worker told the judge that the evil work of Creech Air Force base does involve immediate, present danger-to the children and people of Afghanistan. He cited a recent interview with a young drone operator who sits in front of a computer screen at Creech. “The war is 7,000 miles away and the war is 18 inches away,” the air force operator said. “7,000 miles, the distance from Creech to Afghanistan,” Brian explained. “18 inches, the distance from his face to the screen. This distance is an illusion. And it’s a very dangerous illusion. The purpose behind our action was to dispel that illusion because it is very close and the danger we were addressing was and is imminent.”

Brian should know. He and Kathy Kelly were just back from a three week trip to Afghanistan where they met victims of U.S. drone attacks.

“In Afghanistan, I met a family displaced by a drone attack in the Helmand Province,” Kathy Kelly told the judge. “One man showed me the photos of his children’s bloodied corpses.  The drone attack killed his spouse and his five children. In the Charahi Qambar refugee camp, I sat next to Juma Gul, a nine year old girl whose arm was amputated by the same drone attack.  She was punished horribly even though she committed no crime.  We want to be in solidarity with her.”

“It’s criminal for the U.S. to spend 2 billion dollars per week for war in Afghanistan that maims, kills and displaces innocent civilians who’ve meant us no harm,” she said.

“I deplore the high tech technology used for mass killing which destroys and pollutes this sacred planet,” Sister Megan Rice said. “I had to enter the base in order to obey higher orders.  I have listened to the voice of the victims of drone warfare. These weapons are aptly named drones, predators, reapers. My entry into any place was and is an absolute necessity.”

“We each have a responsibility to work for justice and to act in defense of human life,” Libby Pappalardo said. “The use of drones has increased hatred and violence in our world. I have tried to work through the system, but it isn’t enough.  This is an emergency situation. Our country is worse off because of the violence of war and militarism. It’s necessary to take this next step.

I will continue to struggle for human rights and nonviolence so that all the world’s children can feel safe and embraced by peace and hope.”

“I went to Creech to express my deep sorrow and outrage over the fact that my country was engaged in what I believe were acts of terrorism in the use of drones against my brothers and sisters,” Eve Tetaz said. “I cannot remain silent.  I think of Moses’ words:  ‘I set before you this day life and death, good and evil.  Therefore, choose life that you and your family may live.’ It is my prayer that you will be with us in speaking this truth to justice, that one day our nation will lead the world in the attempt to turn swords into plowshares and learn war no more so that the God of peace, mercy, justice and compassion will bring about law and justice. I invite you and all those who are present in the court to join us.”

“As a veteran, I care about our guys over there,” Dennis DuVall said. “Every time there’s a drone strike, most of the victims are innocent women and children and old men like me.  The younger men are considered militants.  Each attack results in revenge attacks.”

“Last Spring I was in New York City during the nuclear disarmament march in Times Square when a car bomb was almost detonated.  It’s ironic that I was protesting drone warfare at Creech AFB where they’re directing drone attacks and a year later I was almost an unwitting victim of a revenge car bomb attempt in Times Square. The young man who built the bomb, Faisal Shazad, said he was motivated by drone attacks against Pakistan.  There is a greater harm. If this isn’t necessity, what the hell is? We cannot run from the consequences of our drone air war 7000 miles away.  Eventually, it’s going to come home to us. We’re going to be the victims.”

“We are attacking people in an Islamic country,” Brad Lyttle said. “We are shooting missiles and killing them in an arbitrary manner.  It is generating great hatred, and these people have the means to access weapons to cause us tremendous harm.  We need to establish peaceful, just ways to resolve disputes.  This is the message I would like to have people examine and think about.

We have to develop non-military means for achieving justice and therefore peace.”

“I’ve been hearing about the Afghan youth peace volunteers who work for peace and nonviolence in their land,” said Mariah Klusmire. “As long as they’re working for peace in their country, I will too, and no punishment can stop me from working for peace.”

“Through our presence, we were trying to make the imminent danger posed by drone warfare less remote,” Steve Kelly said. “Our presence there was making the connection that would otherwise seem remote. We weren’t there to do civil disobedience.  We were there to make an intervention. Our intention was lawful. I’m disappointed and saddened that you came to the wrong conclusion.”

“As a follower of Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I take seriously his second commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'” Judy Homanich said. “As the mother of two wonderful children – my precious daughter, Sarah, who is just starting her adult life and my gone but not forgotten son, David, whose faith, courage and compassion continue to inspire me-I prayerfully acted in solidarity with all mothers, daughters, wives and sisters here and around the world who suffer loss due to war.  My son David’s death, at age 21, was due to cancer not war, but I understand the heart-wrenching, life-changing pain of losing a child, a loved one.  The U.S. government kills countless innocents in drone attacks and calls it collateral damage.”

“President Obama should heed his own words, spoken in October 2010 while in India,” Judy continued. “He said nothing ever justifies the slaughter of innocent civilians. But the U.S. drone attacks continue. This criminal long distance killing makes us all less human and less safe. I have a duty to bear witness against this killing and I will continue to do so.”

“We are all one family,” Fr. Jerry Zawada said. “The huge numbers of innocent people being killed by drones is something I have to stand up against. We think of people on the other side of the border or the ocean as being different from ourselves. They’re not.  That’s my family and your family too. We are one family. We have to take risks for one another.”

For my two cents, I named these drones are illegal, immoral, and impractical, and said they are bad for us politically, economically, socially and spiritually. I said that crossing the line onto Creech was an act of prayer for an end to these terrorist drones, and for an end to war itself, for new nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. We were obeying a higher law, taking our case to a Higher Power.

In the end, the judge sentenced us to time served. We didn’t go to jail, and meanwhile, our drones continue to drop bombs. A new report says unauthorized U.S. drone strikes last year claimed nearly 1,200 lives. According to Pakistani sources, our drone attacks kill almost 50 civilians for every “militant” we target.

Together, through our action and our courtroom testimony, we argued that we can do better than drop bombs through these drone machines. As we left, we pledged to continue to speak out against the drones, to try to wake one another up about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to stir the embers of the peace movement to speak out and take action for a new world of nonviolence. We give thanks for the opportunity to witness to peace, and we go forward determined to promote peace with everyone.

As Father Jerry said, we are all one family.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/31-1

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Drone attacks next Gitmo

CATCH UP Programme at 1900 weekdays, weekend timings see listings

Drone attacks in Pakistan are ‘next Guantanamo’

Monday 09 May 2011

A lawyer acting for victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan is preparing fresh legal action against the CIA and tells Channel 4 News Osama bin Laden’s death strengthens the case against the attacks.

Pakistan drone war: legal challenge against CIA. (Getty)

Mirza Shahzad Akbar plans to represent 25 families over the deaths of more than 50 people, killed in bombing raids by unmanned US drones in Pakistan‘s Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the legal action charity Reprieve, the lawyer insisted these people “had nothing to do with the war on terror” and dismissed claims that Pakistan had “authorised” the airstrikes as “the lamest thing I’ve heard in my life”. His aim is to bring the cases before courts in the UK or US.

He added: “How could a country be authorised to allow the deaths of its own people?

“These drone strikes are not covered by any instrument of war. There is no such international legal instrument, no US authority.”

How could a country be authorised to allow the deaths of its own people? Mirza Shahzad Akbar

Clive Stafford-Smith, Reprieve’s founder, described the human rights concerns surrounding Pakistan drone attacks as “the next Guantanamo”. Mr Stafford-Smith has campaigned for many years on behalf of prisoners held at the US terror detention camp in Cuba.

It is estimated as many as 2,283 people have been killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004. Of these, only 33 were said to be “high value targets” (HVTs).

First legal case

Mirza Shahzad Akbar brought about the first ever legal case against the CIA on behalf of a drone victim when Kareem Khan, a Pakistani journalist, began a campaign for justice following the deaths of his son and brother in Mirali in December 2009.

More from Channel 4 News: Pakistan drone strikes - the CIA's secret war

The lawyer filed a criminal complaint against the head of the CIA in Pakistan, forcing the official – named as Jonathan Banks – to flee the country in December 2010. Mr Khan is also seeking $500m in damages from US authorities.

Pakistan drone war: Sadaullah, 15, lost both his legs in a drone strike.

‘Perfect recruits’ for Taliban

The human rights lawyer explained that Kareem Khan had rejected the “choice to join the Taliban” but expressed concerns that others who had lost family members in drone strikes might turn to the militia group if they see no legal route available.

Sadaullah Wazir (pictured) was just 15 when he lost both legs and an eye in a drone strike that destroyed his home and left nine people dead. The teenager had been serving food in a “Hujra” (a place where male guests are entertained) when a missile was fired at the building from a US drone.

Mr Akbar explained that Sadaullah, now 19, is no longer interested in going to school and fears boys like him have been turned by the drone strikes into “perfect recruits” for extremists.

He said: “Extremism is not the answer for another extremism. Becoming a suicide bomber is continuing the cycle of terror.”

Bin Laden death

Mr Akbar told Channel 4 News that he believes the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan adds weight to the campaign against America’s use of drones, saying “getting bin Laden was based on surveillance, but with drones the human intelligence is based on local people saying there are Taliban in that house” which he said was unreliable.

He also said that the US had carried out leaflet drops offering tribespeople cash sums in exchange for information on the whereabouts of militants.

Mr Akbar questions the basic intelligence-gathering mechanism which is driving drone strikes.

More from Channel 4 News: CIA drone strikes - a legal war?

He said: “Every month [the drone operators] are given a list of targets, but it is unclear how those names are gathered.”

Clive Stafford-Smith added: “It took ten years to get Osama bin Laden. But what is the policy for firing drones? ‘High value targets’ or anyone in a turban?”

The CIA does not publicly take responsibility for drone attacks in Pakistan and has declined to comment to Channel 4 News.

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Drone Terrorism

by Ghali Hassan
Published: Aug. 06, 2011 – Axis of Logic

The use of unmanned drones by the U.S. to attack civilian population with Hellfire missiles is a form of state terrorism. It is designed not to assassinate individuals (extrajudicial killing), but to instil fear and terrorise the entire population.

We all know the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan is an illegal act of aggression, and there are no legal or legitimate grounds to justify the ongoing aggression. According to countless international law experts, the war on Afghanistan is an unlawful act of aggression. It “violates[s] international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter”. Article 51 only “gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security”, he added. [1]. Indeed, all current U.S.-led wars on Muslim nations are acts of illegal aggression against sovereign nations. The use of armed drones, also known as pilotless planes or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to attack defenceless people and assassinate individuals is criminal.

According to a new report by The Fellowship for Reconciliation, “Armed drones have been used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan (since 2001), Iraq (since 2002), and Yemen (since 2002), by the CIA in Pakistan (since 2004), by the UK military in Afghanistan (since 2007) and by Israel in Gaza (since 2008). It is estimated that drones are being used or developed by over forty countries”. The majority of armed drones are produced and used by the U.S. and Israel, the inventors of terrorism. [2].

While Afghanistan and Pakistan bear the brunt of U.S. violence, U.S. drone attacks have also taken place in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Somalia. In all cases, the violent attacks are illegal and in flagrant violation of international law. Terrorism is the illegitimate use of violent aggression against innocent people to achieve political objectives. With complete media complicity, drone terrorism is shrouded in secrecy and is leading to “boundless war without end”.

In its decade-long war on Afghanistan and now Pakistan, the U.S. has amassed the largest and most technologically advanced war machine in history against an entirely defenceless population. More than forty countries are participating in the bloodbath, although many of them are there just by name.

Recent U.S. media reports reveal that the U.S. has established a new drone base in the Arabian Peninsula, possibly in Qatar or Bahrain, where the U.S. has large military bases. Moreover, the U.S. has just hastily completed a “secret” drone base in Yemen. The locations will provide safe routes for U.S. drones to attack targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and soon Iran.

In addition to using drones for surveillance and intelligence purposes, increasingly the U.S. military and the C.I.A. are using drones controlled via satellite communication to launch missiles and bombs on population centres indiscriminately, often at distances of many thousands of miles. The outcomes of these terror strikes are countless massacres of innocent civilians. These atrocities are ignored by the capitalist media and major Western “humanitarian” organisations that provide a formidable cover-up for U.S. crimes.

On July 06, 2011, a U.S. airstrike in Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan killed eight children and two women. That attack ignited outrage among the population in neighbouring villages. The attack forced the puppet government to acknowledge U.S. crimes of terrorising the entire population were premeditated and “have to stop”. However, U.S.-led NATO’s response to “president” Hamid Karzai’s “warning” has been to increase the airstrikes to 12 per a day.

On August 01, 2011, the German Press Agency (DPA) reported that U.S. drones fired missiles at a vehicle in the Barmal area in South Waziristan, Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border killing at least four civilians and injuring scores others. The identities of those killed are still unknown.

In Afghanistan, “U.S. drones, attack planes and gunships have killed innocent Afghan civilians in homes and wedding parties. They have killed civilians trying to flee dangerous areas, men collecting scrap metal for sale, and boys gathering firewood for their families. In Nangarhar province in 2008, a U.S. plane bombed a bridal procession three times, killing the bride and 46 other people. Hajj Khan, an elderly man who survived, had been holding his grandson’s hand as they walked toward the groom’s village. According to a British paper, the Guardian, a bomb strike threw Mr. Khan to the ground. When he opened his eyes, he said, ‘I was still holding my grandson’s hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere’”. (Mary Meehan, Baltimoresun.com). These are not mistakes; they are deliberate acts of terrorism aimed at terrorising the population.

The ongoing U.S. terror war on Afghanistan has inflicted great suffering on the Afghan people. Refugees International reports (Report) recently that more than 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their towns and villages in the last two years. “Since January 1 [2011], more than 91,000 Afghans have fled their villages – compared with 42,000 over the same time period last year … Not only have NATO-led troops and Afghan forces failed to protect Afghans, but U.S.-led airstrikes and night raids by U.S. Special Forces were destroying homes, crops and infrastructure, traumatising civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people. In the north alone, nearly 30,000 individuals have been displaced, a more than seven-fold increase compared to last year”. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, 3.5 million Afghan refugees have fled their homes because of U.S. war. The overwhelming majority of them took shelter in neighbouring Pakistan.

According to a new study by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, the Obama Administration has dramatically escalated drone attacks on Pakistan. In his first year in office, Obama authorised at least forty-one drone attacks, killing between 326 and 538 civilians, many of them women and children. There are multiple drones flying over Pakistan scouting for targets, i.e., people to kill. [3].

Drone attacks are act of terrorism. Scores of innocent civilians are killed every time a drone fires a missile to assassinate a targeted individual. For example, the assassination of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, the alleged leader of the Taliban Resistance in Pakistan, caused the death of between 250 and 300 innocent civilians over a 14-month operation [4]. Assassination is illegal, under both international and national law.


Predator drone attacks in northwest Pakistan have increased sharply

In 2010, the C.I.A. carried out 132 drone attacks in Pakistan. ”It was the deadliest year in terms of strikes and resultant fatalities since launching of the drone attack campaign in 2004”, according to Conflict Monitoring Centre, an independent research centre based in Islamabad, Pakistan. At least 938 people have been assassinated in these attacks. There have been 9 drone attacks during the month of May 2011, resulting in at least 62 innocent deaths and 17 injured. [5].

Since June 18, 2004, the start of C.I.A. drone attacks on Pakistan, at least 2,500 innocent civilians have been killed in more than 250 drone attacks. The C.I.A. admits that only 35 of those were resistance fighters. While Pakistan has always protested the attacks, it has recently asked the U.S. to stop drone attacks.

On July 11, 2011, multiple strikes by U.S. drones on villages in northwest Pakistan killed at least 45 people. It was the second-largest death toll in a single day since the U.S. drone terror attacks began on Pakistan in 2004. According to Western capitalist media, the criminal attacks came just a day after the Obama Administration cancelled $800 million in military “aid” to Pakistan in order to put pressure on the Pakistani military to participate in U.S. terror.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) in London analysed 116 drone strikes on Pakistan between August 2010 and June 29, 2011. In its ‘conservative estimate’, TBIJ reveals that in 10 drone strikes at least 45 civilians have been killed, including six named children. At least 15 additional strikes are likely to have killed at least 65 more civilians. While the investigation is a rare glimpse into a big atrocity, it might have underestimated civilian deaths. The atrocity is being replicated in Yemen and Libya, the “Pakistanisation” of Yemen and Libya.

On Monday August 01, 2011, the Yemen Post reported that two U.S. drone attacks in the village of Al-Khamila outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan Province in southern Yemen, killed 15 people and more than a dozen people were injured in the attacks. It alleges that the attacks were coordinated with the Yemeni dictatorship regime (propped-up by the U.S.) which is facing mounting pressure from the anti-imperialist opposition. “At least 35 U.S drone attacks were reported in Yemen over the last two months”, added the Yemen Post.

On June 15, 2011, The National  (United Arab Emirates) reported on the escalation of U.S. drone attacks in Yemen. According to The National, an official with the Yemeni Ministry of Defence claims that the U.S. had launched over 15 drone strikes in the country in the first two weeks of June. The newspaper also quoted the deputy governor of Abyan province, Abdullah Luqman, condemning the attacks and stating: “These are the lives of innocent people being killed. At least 130 people have been killed in the last two weeks by U.S. drones”, Mr Luqman said.

The use of armed drones by the U.S. to attack defenceless civilians and assassinate individuals is a form of terrorism designed to terrorise the population to achieve political objectives. It is the worst terrorism ever hurled on defenceless population and must be condemned.

Footnotes:

[1]. Michael Mandel, “This War is Illegal,” CounterPunch, 09 October 2001.

[2]. Cole, C., Dobbing, M. & Hailwood, A. (2011). Convenient Killing: Armed Drones and the ‘Playstation’ Mentality: The Fellowship of Reconciliation, England.

[3]. Bergen, P. & Tiedemann K. (2010). The year of the Drone. New America Foundation.

[4]. Mayer, J. (2009). The Predator war. The New Yorker, 26 October 2009.

[5]. Conflict Monitoring Centre (2010, January). 2010, The Year of Assassination by Drones. Islamabad, Pakistan.

*Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.

Source: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_63504.shtml

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Drone surge: Today, tomorrow and 2047

The Rotten Fruits of War: U.S. Drone Attacks over Pakistan

Right-Wing Mad Militarist And His Mindless Murdering Drones

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The Drones Are Coming: New War on Civilians

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MAP

CATCH UP Programme at 1900 weekdays, weekend timings see listings

Pakistan drone strikes: the CIA’s secret war

Wednesday 22 December 2010

The number of drone strikes in Pakistan, believed to be led by the CIA, has doubled under the Obama administration in 2010 – leading to hundreds of deaths. Channel 4 News maps a secret war.

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In the last 12 months there have been at least 113 attacks by secret US drones in Pakistan‘s mountainous Waziristan region.

It is double the number of strikes in 2009, which itself saw a dramatic spike, bringing the total number of attacks under President Obama to an estimated figure of 166. That marks an increase of nearly 300 per cent compared with the last four years of the Bush presidency.

In the sights of these unmanned spy planes (UAVs) are Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders held responsible for unrest and attacks on coalition troops in the long-running Afghanistan war.

As a result of the 2010 drone surge, there have been 500-900 known deaths. Of these, media reports suggest the majority were militant fighters.

It’s almost certain that US drone strikes are causing more civilian casualties than the US has thus far admitted. Christopher Rogers, Civic

But Channel 4 News has found that women and children – some with alleged links to militants – have also perished while the sheer number of drone flights have caused “panic and terror” among ordinary tribespeople. It is clear that a changing strategy has often put villages rather than remote hideouts in the firing line.

In a recent study by the Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict (CIVIC), report author Christopher Rogers said: “It’s almost certain that US drone strikes are causing more civilian casualties than the US has thus far admitted”.

He told Channel 4 News “faulty intelligence” could be leading to civilian deaths.

He said: “In our research… in a number of instances there was no doubt that faulty ‘intel’ was to blame – hitting a pro-government peace committee member’s house, for instance. In other cases, though victims stated that militants were indeed killed in the strike, non-combatant civilians were hit collaterally. i.e. a militant car passing by a house that collapsed from the blast.”

He added: “In the end, it’s for the US and Pakistan to demonstrate and prove that such low civilian casualty rates are indeed being achieved – the responsibility is on them.”

Channel 4 News special report - interactive map and analysis from Jonathan Rugman: Pakistan drone warfare
Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud is seen after a meeting with security forces in Sara Rogha, located in Pakistan's South Waziristan. (Reuters)

Unmanned war

It is the warfare of George Orwell and science fiction: unmanned craft loaded with deadly laser-guided missiles, sent into action via a joystick thousands of miles away.

Nicknamed “wasps” or “mosquitoes” drone aircraft have quietly become the US weapon of choice in the war on terror. In his first year in office President Obama oversaw more US drone deployments in Pakistan than George W Bush did during his entire administration.

These “covert” drone strikes over the border in Pakistan are believed to be controlled by the Central Intelligence agency (CIA) – although this is not openly stated by the US government.

Peter Singer from the Brookings Institute told Channel 4 News: “You have people outside the military chain of command, making decisions about the use of force in a way that would have previously been done inside the military.”

Are CIA drone strikes in Pakistan a legal war? Channel 4 News investigates. 

He adds: “The general counsels at the CIA are very serious professional men and women, but they are not military JAG officers – military lawyers trained for questions surrounding use of force and rules of engagement in air strikes.”

People who argue that any secrets or covert operations are terrible… have never operated in the real world. Mike Baker

But speaking to Channel 4 News, former CIA officer Mike Baker said the drone surge has taken place “basically because they work”.

He explained: “They have been effective in taking out both leadership targets and in creating an unstable environment for extremists.

“People who argue that any secrets or covert operations are terrible and must be exposed have never operated in the real world.”

Rise of the drone

2010 has been highly active for the drone operators targeting Pakistan’s mountainous Waziristan region. US air force drones fly from Creech Air Force base in Nevada. There is also a base in Tucson, Arizona.

A detailed study by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann for the New America Foundation, The Year of the Drone, lists 113 drone strikes in 2010 (correct on 22 December).

The New America Foundation study estimates that between 2004 and 2010 drones have killed between 1,267 and 1,945 individuals. They based their research on “reliable media accounts” – sourcing casualty data from Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC. They calculate that the “non-militant” fatality rate since 2004 is approximately 28 per cent.

But Channel 4 News has learnt that in many cases the true cost in lives to “non-militants”, or civilians, may be significantly higher.

Residents stand near the coffins of victims of a missile attack in Mir Ali on the outskirts of Miranshah near the Afghan border in January 2009 following a suspected US droneb attack. (Reuters)

‘Bodies of tribespeople’

On 21 March US drones fired Hellfire missiles on a house and car in the Lowera Mandi area of Datta Khel, North Waziristan. The New America Foundation analysis counted the deaths of four to 13 militants following the operation targeting Taliban leaders. The number of civilians harmed in the attack was recorded in the study as “unknown”.

A Channel 4 News team on the ground returned with information which suggested the initial strike had caused the deaths of five local tribespeople and the destruction of two homes.

There is a huge US military camp on the other side of the border and it was not clear as to why the drone targeted this house on our side of the frontier. Pakistani security officer

A local security officer, who did not want to be named, said: “There is a huge US military camp on the other side of the border and it was not clear as to why the drone targeted this house on our side of the frontier.”

He added that a further three villagers were killed in a second drone strike which came half an hour later.

It is clear from witnesses on the ground that US military strategy has shifted from pinpointed strikes on known targets, beginning with the killing of Pakistan Taliban leader Nek Mohammad in 2004, to multiple bombardments involving numerous drones and follow-up attacks.

Kareem Khan, a tribesman who says his brother and son were killed by a US drone in North Waziristan, has told CIVIC that there are “two or three attacks almost every day” and that “innocent people are being killed”.

A pilot's display in a ground control station shows a truck from the view of a camera on an MQ-9 Reaper during a training mission. The Reaper is the Air Force's first
'Is it a bit like playing a video game?'
You don't have to be a qualified fighter jet pilot anymore to be allowed to fly these things - or an officer. Thousands of young enlisted soldiers - many as young as 18 - are being trained to fly these aerial vehicles and the US military just can't get enough of them.

"Is it a bit like playing a video game?" I asked as I handled the joystick. It is they admitted - although everyone was at pains to stress that doesn't mean they don't take their job seriously. Even the trainer admitted it's easier to teach the "video game generation" and told me that all those hours they'd spent in their bedrooms - being nagged by their mothers to do something more productive - was now paying off.

More from Channel 4 News Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith: Drones - tools of modern warfare

‘Never seen drones in such large numbers’

September saw a notable upsurge in drone activity in Pakistan, with at least 22 separate strikes and two militant leaders – al-Qaeda chief Dheikh al-Fateh and Taliban commander Saifullah – reportedly killed. There were increasing cases of multiple strikes in the same area within hours, sometimes minutes.

On 15 September it is reported that the village of Dargah Mandi in North Waziristan came under fire twice in 15 minutes. Official sources told Channel 4 News a dawn raid saw a drone fire eight missiles at a suspected militant hideout of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network. Witnesses said the spy plane first fired four missiles at the building before a further four missiles were deployed as efforts were made to retrieve bodies from the rubble. Twelve people died, among them villagers.

An unnamed official said it “seemed someone had provided wrong information to the American military in Afghanistan about the presence of a high value target (HVT) in the village” as 11 spy planes were seen flying overhead.

Local tribespeople told Channel 4 News they had “never seen the US spy planes in such a large number”. They added that the sight of multiple drones approaching caused widespread panic among women and children.

In the same day came the 13th attack of September. The New America Foundation suggests the target was a military compound at Payekhel village in Dattakhel district. Media reports show three to seven fighters linked to regional Taliban chief Hafiz Gul Bahadur were killed, with civilian deaths unknown.

Gul Bahadur has branded US strategy “open aggression”. Prior to the Dattakhel attack he had signed a peace agreement promising not to attack security forces or government installations.

Single vehicle attacks

Another ten people were killed in an strike on 26 September, at the end of a month which saw a sharp upsurge in the number of drone attacks. The strike took place at Dattakhel in North Waziristan.

Local villagers claimed all the victims were local tribespeople travelling from a nearby village to Madakhel town, a hometown of Taliban commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

To support their claim, a tribesman, Habib Khan, said that after suffering losses in continuous drone attacks militants had stopped travelling in a single vehicle or living in one room in a large number.

The tribesman also hit out at the media for calling innocent tribespeople militants. He said: “Allah Almighty will ask you people for your taking sides with these worldly big powers against these hapless tribespeople.”

Channel 4 News has approached the CIA and US Embassy in London for a response but both declined to comment.

How long have these drones been around? Unmanned drones have actually been used for about 30 years. They were first used for surveillance.
When did drones start to be used in attacks? The first test of an armed drone was in 2001 by the CIA. They put Hellfire missiles on a Predator drone, which was previously used for spying. These are the missiles they still use today.
When was the armed drone first used on a "real" target? The first deployment was in Yemen in 2002, again by the CIA. They used it to blow up a sports utility vehicle in the middle of the desert. They claimed it killed an al-Qaeda member, and five of his associates.
Who "flies" them? At the moment the drones in Afghanistan are controlled from Creech air force base in the Nevada desert. In the US you can just take a course to learn how to control these aircraft, while at the moment the British stipulate that you must have been a combat pilot to control them. Pakistan drones are said to be controlled by the CIA, but this activity is neither confirmed nor denied by US authorities.
How are they controlled? It's a bit like a console games controller. These people are sat in front of a big screen. It is actually called a "man in the loop" system. It has high-resolution cameras and sensors to see things on the ground. It does have heat sensors to work out whether people are in a building or not.
Who makes the decision to fire the missiles, the drone or the human? The pilot does, although in a lot of instances they won't have that much time - the drone will identify a target and ask them whether to shoot: yes or no? A lot of the time the pilot is vetoing targets rather than finding them.
Are other countries developing these armed drones? Yes, at the moment there are 43 countries developing these programmes. Russia alone has 18 programmes, while the Chinese have a drone known as the Invisible Sword.
Why have they proved so popular with military forces? Firstly you don't have to worry about your pilot getting fatigued or shot down. If they want to go to the toilet during a shift they can and someone else can take over. After work than can go home to their families. There's also the cost: a drone can cost $40m, whereas a fighter plane can cost $350m.

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Predator Drones

– two words for you –

no joke

(they provoke counter attacks

seen as legitimate defense)

“….boys, don’t get any ideas, I have two words for you —

predator drones.

You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking…”

Thus were the words  spoken by President Obama joking around about a highly controversial targeted killing program which eerily recalled the the worst  of the Phoenix Program, read on…

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As one commentator said:

In reality, civilian deaths stir up hatred in Afghanistan from the friends and families of the victims, some of whom take revenge and become “the enemy,”, thus strategically prolonging the stay of our soldiers who are caught in the middle of Washington’s geopolitical chess game.

*****

Posted by America 20xy at 9:31 AM

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Predator Drones:

no joke for the thousands upon thousands killed by this

modern,

robotic,

electronically laser guided,

unmanned aircraft missile weapon system,

fired thousands of miles away in Nevada in impersonal chambers.

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

This is not a video game, but real kill,

with lots of “Collateral Damage,”

provoking moral outrage, anger

and counter “revenge” attacks seen as legitimate defense)

>

Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

– David Kilcullen (Counterinsurgency Expert) Center for New American Security

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As one of the remote warriors  said about a similar robotic system:

“Great! That means we can kill Jihadonazis by day, and head off to Sin City Las Vegas for a night of debauchery.”

<>

Click image above to enlarge

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Drone Revenge is seen as Blowback effect, by many experts and analysts: the natural outcome of many civilian deaths, indiscriminate impersonal bombing from afar.

Indeed violence breeds violence, and the cycle continues….

<>

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Some Recent News on DroneWarfare

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The US love affair with drones
A war strategy built around drone attacks is not only unethical, but will hurt US interests in the long run.
Ted Rall Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 07:39
Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker
jirga, or tribal assembly, discusses US drone strikes in Pakistan after a Predator drone attack killed three men in South Waziristan [EPA]

One of the pleasures of traveling through the developing world is that things develop. They change. There’s always something new.

Afghanistan is, depending on one’s point of view, developing, deteriorating, or doing both at once.

Example: Last August found me and two fellow Americans in a hired taxi zooming past bombed-out fuel trucks through Taliban-held Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan near the Tajik border. The sense of menace was palpable, but our driver seemed calm.

Then his face darkened. We were passing into the flatlands east of Mazar-i-Sharif. We saw nothing but dirt, dust and rocks, all the way to the horizon. Yet our driver was nervous. He scanned this bleak landscape. “Motorcycles,” he said. “I am looking for the motorcycles.”

The adaptable neo-Taliban increasingly rely on the classic tactics of guerilla warfare. Rather than hold territory, these postmodern Islamists-cum-gangsters rely on hit-and-run strikes using something I hadn’t seen in 2001: motorcycles. Like a scene from the Kazakh film epic about Genghis Khan updated by Quentin Tarantino, squadrons of bearded bikers are terrorizing Afghanistan’s newly- and cheaply-paved highways.

I call them the Talibikers.

One of the more intriguing revelations in last year’s WikiLeaks data dump was that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has been supplying the Taliban with thousands of Pamir dirtbikes, including a 2007 shipment of 1,000 to the Waziristan-based network led by Mawlawi Jalaludin Haqqani. Talibs ride the Pamirs and their preferred brand, the Honda 125 and its Chinese knock-offs, to assassinations. They launch attacks on highways from bases in villages 10 to 15 kilometers away.

The Talibikers speed across the desert in great clouds of dust, “Mad Max” style, to ambush and bomb fuel trucks. There they set up checkpoints where they shake down travelers for cash. Sometimes they kidnap motorists and demand ransom payments from their families. By the time the hapless Afghan national police shows up, the resistance fighters are long gone.

An early report on the Talibikers appeared in the Telegraph in 2003. “The motorcycles have played a key role in Taliban hit-and-run operations in the south of the country where the campaign against international troops and aid workers has intensified,” the British newspaper reported in November of that year. “In the latest incident, a Frenchwoman working for the United Nations was shot dead this month by the pillion passenger on a motorcycle in the south-eastern town of Ghazni. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In another recent attack, a group of motorcyclists opened fire on an aid convoy near Kandahar, killing four Afghans. In August, two motorcyclists threw a grenade into the Kandahar compound of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, damaging the building but causing no injuries.”

ISI-funded motorbikes continue to play a vital role in the Taliban’s war to drive US and NATO occupation troops out of Afghanistan. “Day and night, Taliban assassins on motorbikes hunt their victims, often taunting them over the telephone before gunning them down in the city’s streets,” Paul Watson wrote in The Star, a Canadian newspaper, in February 2011.

“They are working their way through lists, meticulously killing off people fingered as collaborators with the Afghan government or its foreign backers … The build-up of Afghan police and soldiers, and foreign troops, in and around Kandahar city over recent months has improved security, but agile and coldly efficient motorbike death squads remain active.”

Mass attacks continue as well. “About 100 Taliban fighters on motorcycles attacked a northern Afghan village that was working to join the government-sponsored local police program against the insurgency, killing one villager, police said Wednesday. An ensuing battle also left 17 militants dead,” the Associated Press reported in May 2011.

There are fewer than 10,000 Talibikers in Afghanistan. They could be eliminated – if the US and NATO stopped focusing on assassination-by-drone and instead used the same technology to increase security.

Drones, drones everywhere

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) date to the maiden flight of the now-familiar Predator drones in 1994. After 9/11 the United States became addicted to the Predator and its successor, the Reaper.

Today the Air Force and CIA have at least 7,000 UAVs in service around the world, representing the biggest and most visible presence of the US military in Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. This trend is likely to accelerate. As of March 2011 the US Air Force was training more remote drone “pilots” than those for conventional planes. Next year the Pentagon wants $5 billion just for drones.

Drones are getting smaller and more numerous. “One of the smallest drones in use on the battlefield is the three-foot-long Raven, which troops in Afghanistan toss by hand like a model airplane to peer over the next hill,” according to The New York Times. “There are some 4,800 Ravens in operation in the Army, although plenty get lost.” More on this later.

US unveils new ‘micro-drone’

It’s easy to see why generals and politicians are so enthusiastic. The pilotless planes, guided by operators manning a joystick at military and pseudomilitary agencies such as CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and armed by Xe, the private contractor formerly called Blackwater, are relatively cheap. A Predator costs $4.5 million; an F-22 Raptor fighter jet runs $150 million a unit.

Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, cites the “three Ds”. Drones are “dull” because they can patrol empty stretches of barren land 24 hours a day. They’re “dirty” because they can fly in and out of toxic clouds, including radiation.

Most appealingly, they are “dangerous” because the absence of a pilot eliminates the risk that a pilot – they cost millions to train – will be killed or captured by enemy forces. UAVs exploit the element of surprise: though relatively unobtrusive, they fire supersonic armor-piercing Hellfire missiles capable of striking a target as far as five miles away.

“People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying,”The New Yorker magazine reported in 2009.

“‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) [Bleeding] human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.'”

Charming.

According to the Pentagon, drones hit their targets with 95 percent accuracy. The problematic question is: who are their targets?

Thousands of people have been rubbed out by drones since 9/11.

(Press accounts document between 1,400 and 2,300 extrajudicial killings by allied forces, mostly in the Tribal Areas adjacent to Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. According to media reports cited by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 957 Pakistanis were murdered by American drones in 134 airstrikes during the year 2010 alone. Since the media only learns about a fraction of these “secret” killings, the real number must be many times higher.)

Drone attacks illegal, unethical

Since the Pakistani government does not officially acknowledge, much less authorize, such attacks, they are illegal acts of war.

Political philosopher Michael Walzer asked in 2009: “Under what code does the CIA operate? I don’t know. There should be a limited, finite group of people who are targets, and that list should be publicly defensible and available. Instead, it’s not being publicly defended. People are being killed, and we generally require some public justification when we go about killing people.”

One would think.

Legal or not, Christine Fair of Georgetown University says the US doesn’t use drone planes indiscriminately: “You have lawyers, you have targeteers, you have intelligence operatives, you actually have pilots who are manning the drones. These are not 14-year-old kids right out of basic training, playing around with a joystick,” she told National Public Radio.

In the real world, it’s often hard to tell the difference. There’s no doubt that drone operators make mistakes. In April 2011, for example, two American marines were killed by a Predator in Afghanistan.

Of course, the majority of victims are local civilians. In Afghanistan and Pakistan drone strikes have killed countless children and wiped out so many wedding parties that it’s become a sick joke. Estimates of the civilian casualty rate range from a third (by the New America Foundation) to 98 percent (terrorism expert Amir Mir). There is no evidence that a single “terrorist” has ever been killed by a drone – only the say-so of US and NATO spokesmen.

Errors are inherent due to the principal feature of the technology: remoteness. Manned aerial warfare is notoriously inaccurate; pilots zooming close to the speed of sound tens of thousands of feet above the ground have little idea who or what they’re shooting at. Drone operators have even less information than old-school pilots. Like a submariner peering out of a periscope, they are supposed to decide whether people live or die based on fuzzy images through layers of glass. They call it the “soda straw.”

Nowadays, staffing is a troubling challenge: it takes 19 analysts to study images and other data from one drone. In the future, a war could eliminate unemployment entirely: it will take approximately 2,00 men and women to process information from one drone equipped with “Gorgon stare” optics capable of scanning an entire city at once.

First flown in 1994, the Predator became widely used only after 9/11 [GALLO/GETTY]

There’s also a huge gap in education, experience and culture. Virtual warriors require simple rules that don’t apply when trying to kill jihadis. At the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan in 2001, for example, it was an article of faith within the Pentagon that men wearing black long-tailed turbans were Talibs.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of noncombatants were killed because of this incorrect assumption. In February 2002 a drone operator blew up a man because he was tall – as was Osama bin Laden. In fact, he and two other men killed were poor villagers gathering scrap metal. Again, this doesn’t address the broader issue of whether it’s okay to murder people simply because they are members of the Taliban.

At least as interesting as the choice of target is whom the U.S. does not try to kill: the Talibikers.

Unlike the wedding parties, houses and tribal councils that have been mistakenly incinerated by the aptly-named Hellfire missiles, Taliban bike gangs are easy to identify from the air. One or two hundred dirtbikes speeding across the desert toward a truck on an Afghan highway are unmistakable. Most Afghans, even those who oppose the US occupation, fear the Talibikers and resent being robbed at impromptu checkpoints. There have been a few scattershot drone strikes, nothing more. Why don’t the CIA whiz kids make these easily-identified fighters a primary target?

Afghans a low priority for US

I posed the question to Afghan government officials. They told me that the same US military that blows $1 billion a week on the war won’t lift a finger to save Afghan lives by providing basic security. “Afghan lives are worth nothing to the Americans,” a provincial governor told me.

Last week the United Nations announced that civilian casualties were up 15 percent during the first six months of 2011. If the same rate continues, this will be the worst year of the ten-year-long American occupation.

A well-placed US military source confirms that Afghan security “isn’t a priority, it isn’t even much of a passing thought”. Contrary to President Obama’s claim that US is in Afghanistan in order to prevent the country from becoming a base for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups and to combat opium cultivation, he says that Afghanistan isn’t about Afghanistan at all. “Afghanistan is a staging area for drone and other aerial strikes in western Pakistan,” he says. “Nothing more, nothing less. Afghanistan isBagram [airbase].”

Under Obama the death toll has risen, worsening relations between the White House and its puppet president, Hamid Karzai. Beyond the horror of the deaths themselves, it would be impossible to overstate the contempt that ordinary people in nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan feel for the drone program. “Americans are cowards” was one refrain I heard last year. Real soldiers risk their lives. They do not send buzzing machines to kill people half a world away…people they know nothing about.

Back in 2002, former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith worried about blowback. “If [Taliban leaders and soldiers are] dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs,” he noted. Ongoing drone attacks “suggest that it’s acceptable behavior to assassinate people…Assassination as a norm of international conduct exposes American leaders and Americans overseas.”

These days, the media gives little to no time or space to such concerns. Americans have moved into postmorality. Right or wrong? Who cares?

Recently international law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame University said that the new reliance on drones could prompt an already militaristic superpower to fight even more wars of choice. “I think this idea that somehow this technology is allowing us to kill in more places and … aim at more targets is for me the fundamental ethical and legal problem.”

Meanwhile, adds Mary Dudziak of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law: “Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on…endless war.” No casualties? No problem.

Meanwhile, at a “microaviary” inside an air force base north of Dayton, Ohio, “military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds”, approvingly reports The New York Times.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is rall.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source:
Al Jazeera

>

Photos From an Anti-War Rally,

speak millions & common sense

Terrorism by Drones

Predator Targeted Assassinations

(with lots of Collateral Damage)

> Some recent articles

<>

U.S. departs Pakistan base, source says

By Nick Paton Walsh and Nasir Habib, CNN
April 22, 2011 — Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. military personnel depart a Pakistan base, a Pakistani official says
  • The location is a hub of drone activity, another official says
  • The news comes amid public furor over civilians killed in drone strikes

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — U.S. military personnel have left a southern base in Pakistan said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN on Friday.

Drones are said to take off and get refueled for operations against Islamic militants from the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

News of a possible U.S. departure comes amid a public furor over American drone attacks, which have killed civilians.

A suspected U.S. drone strike Friday in the Pakistani tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, a Pakistani intelligence source said. Another one on March 17 killed 44, mostly civilians.

Unmanned aerial vehicles

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Another senior Pakistani intelligence official, who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue, confirmed Americans had been using the base as a center of operations for launching drone strikes. He was not able to confirm if the Americans had left.

The first official said that American personnel were no longer operating out of the base, but he could not say whether they had left voluntarily or at the request of the Pakistani government.

The operation of the base — which the U.S. government has not publicly acknowledged — has always been presumed to have occurred with tacit Pakistani military consent.

It was not clear from the Pakistani officials when the presence there began or when it ended.

A U.S. military official who did not want to be identified told CNN: “There are no U.S. forces at Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan.” He did not respond at the time or in writing to queries as to whether U.S. personnel had been based there in the past.

The departure of American personnel — if confirmed — would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the drone attacks and the Raymond Davis affair in which a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in a Lahore neighborhood.

It has always been unclear how many drone bases the United States operates in or near Pakistan. But Friday’s attack in North Waziristan that killed 25 people would indicate the United States maintains the capability to strike tribal areas with drones.

Carl Forsberg, research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, said he doesn’t think such a move would affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.

Many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said Pakistanis could be making such a move to appease a populace angry at the United States.

The southern air base, he said, doesn’t appear to be integral to the tribal area fight and is probably a supporting base.

“It’s not like the Pakistanis shut down the program,” he said. “It’s possible they want to do this as a means of pre-empting drone strikes in Balochistan,” where there is a Taliban presence.

“The United States has an interest in going after the Taliban in Balochistan,” he said, and in an ideal world the United States would like to target Taliban sanctuaries in that region with drones.

Also, he said, it’s possible the Pakistanis are using pressure on the United States to offset any U.S. pressure on them.

He said it’s no coincidence that the development emerged after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pakistan’s Geo TV, Mullen spoke forcefully about the Haqqani Network, saying it “specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they’re killing Americans.”

“I can’t accept that and I will do everything I possibly can to prevent that specifically,” he said.

Mullen said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence “has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani Network. That doesn’t mean everybody in the ISI, but it’s there.”

“I also have an understanding that the ISI and the (Pakistani military) exist to protect their own citizens, and there’s a way they have done that for a long period of time,” Mullen said. “I believe that over time, that’s got to change.”

A senior Pakistani intelligence official responded by saying, “We do have a relationship: that of an adversary.”

“We have made our resolve very clear that (the Haqqani Network) is an enemy we need to fight together,” said the official, who did not want to be identified discussing intelligence matters.

The Pakistani intelligence official told CNN that “we have our hands full” fighting other Islamist militant groups along the border with Afghanistan, notably those under the umbrella of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, “and once we are through with them we can turn on the other (the Haqqanis). We do not have the capacity to undertake simultaneous operations.”

The official said the “onus of providing proof of this” relationship was on the Americans and it was not up to the ISI “to start providing clarification.”

Asked if offense was taken from Mullen’s remarks, the intelligence official said: “Not personally, no.”

In Friday’s attack, a drone fired five missiles on a hideout in Mir Ali of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan, two intelligence officials said.

The officials said the militants, who were staying in the hideout, were planning to move into Afghanistan for an attack against coalition forces.

The militants were local Taliban members from Orakzai agency, another district of Pakistan’s tribal region, who were trained for war, the officials said. The intelligence officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

But the attack also killed at least three women when one of the missiles hit a house next to the targeted compound, officials said. The Pakistani intelligence source identified the slain civilians as five women and three children.

Friday’s drone strike was the 20th this year, compared with 111 in all of 2010, based on a CNN tally.

The strike comes two days after Pakistan issued a strongly worded statement condemning deadly suspected U.S. drone strikes in the country’s tribal region.

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counterterror campaign,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday. “We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists.”

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/22/pakistan.drone.strike/?hpt=T2

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18 March 2011 Last updated at 11:13 ET

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Time for ‘A Full and Open’ Debate about Drones

12:10 pm in Uncategorized by daphneeviatarhumanrights1st

Last week, in a rare public interview, Michael Leiter, the nation’s counterterrorism chief, acknowledged that the government’s drone and targeted killing strategy, which appears to have become a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s “war on terror,” demands “a full and open debate.”

Leiter was responding to a question from Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff about the fact that the Obama administration has said that it can target for killing certain U.S. citizens abroad based on their alleged connections to terrorism. The U.S. citizen and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen, has been widely reported as a U.S. government target. Leiter said last week that the U.S. believes that Awlaki had a “direct operational role” in failed Christmas day bombing attempt on a plane over Detroit last year.

The idea that the U.S. would target for killing its own citizens, though, has outraged many critics, who claim that amounts to government-sponsored assassinations.

In fact, targeted killings may be legal in some circumstances, when the government can show that the killing is actually necessary in self-defense against some imminent attack, or that the target is an enemy belligerent who’s fighting a war against the United States and therefore can lawfully be killed by U.S. forces. But the Obama administration (and the Bush administration before it) has never offered a real explanation of who it’s targeting and why, and how it knows that those targets are either directly fighting the United States or about to launch an imminent attack against U.S. targets.

Even if it can’t provide all the names and specific evidence in advance, the government could do far more to explain its targeting policy and the legal support for it. Although State Department officials have assured critics that the government is following the law, those assurances amount to a plea to the public to trust that the government is doing the right thing. Unfortunately, government actions over the last eight years surrounding the “war on terror” have demonstrated that “trust us” just isn’t good enough.

Leiter has now publicly acknowledged the point. “[C]ertainly, the policy decisions about the ways in which we should or should not use force demand a full and open discussion,” he told Isikooff. “And again, I think it’s part of my appearance, here, I’m trying to answer the questions to the extent I can.”

Still, Leiter didn’t really answer the question. Of course, the questions are difficult, and to some extent the government may need to keep some of the facts classified for national security purposes. But it could provide a whole lot more information than it’s providing now.

In the case of al-Awlaki, for example, who has already been named as a target, what information connects al-Awlaki to the failed Detroit bombing? And is this the only attempted terrorist incident he’s believed to have been involved in? If so, that might qualify him as conspiring to commit mass murder, but an isolated incident wouldn’t make him an actual enemy belligerent under the laws of war. Or, is the government claiming it can kill him in self-defense? If so, it would have to demonstrate some real reason to believe he’s an imminent threat.

Some critics of the targeting policy suggest that Awlaki, like any other suspect, deserves due process and should be arrested, charged and tried – not simply killed. While that treatment might be a good idea if the circumstances allow for it, if Awlaki is truly an enemy belligerent fighting the United States, then the laws of war don’t require that. As Leiter pointed out: “Just to be clear, the U.S. government through the Department of Defense goes out and attempts to target and kill people, a lot of people, who haven’t been indicted.”

Of course, those are people who are (presumably) actively participating in a war against us. The government cannot simply target people it suspects of, say, financing terrorism or providing material support for terrorist actions. It needs to acknowledge that publicly.

Asked how the U.S. responds to the fact that several recently convicted terrorists, such asFaisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi, have said they were motivated to attack the United States due to the U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Leiter acknowledged the challenge. “I certainly will not try to argue that some of our actions have not led to some people being radicalized.” He added: “That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. That means you craft a fuller strategy to explain why you’re doing that and try to minimize the likelihood that individuals are going to be radicalized.”

Explaining the strategy and its justification is actually the key to minimizing the likelihood that the strategy will motivate others to become radicalized. And that’s exactly the part of the U.S. targeted killing strategy that’s still missing.

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State Dept Promises To Produce Legal Justification for Drone Attacks

4:46 pm in Terrorism by daphneeviatarhumanrights1st

State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has promised to produce the Obama administration’s legal justification for its increased use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, reports Shane Harris of the National Journal.

“I have studied this question,” Koh told the audience at an American Bar Association breakfast yesterday. “I think that the legal objections that are being put on the table are ones that we are taking into account. I am comfortable with the legal position of the administration, and at an appropriate moment we will set forth that in some detail.”

Let’s hope that “appropriate moment” comes pretty soon, because controversy over the drone attacks is heating up. The ACLU in January filed a FOIA request asking the government to turn over that legal justification, as well as the facts underlying it. Then this week, after receiving a response from the CIA that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant documents, the ACLU filed a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, as Adam Serwer points out at The American Prospect, a New America Foundation study raises concerns that about a third of the victims of drone attacks have been civilians, and international lawyers have been debating for months now whether the targeted killings violate international law. (Jane Mayer’s story on drone attacks in The New Yorker last October does an excellent job of laying out the controversy.)

Such an eminent legal expert as Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, has said that the drone attacks, despite their obvious appeal to the U.S. and the U.K., raise serious legal concerns.

As he explained in a recent article in The Guardian with Hina Shamsi, “Drones may only be used to kill in an armed conflict. The killing must fulfill a military need, and no alternative should be reasonably possible.” In Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are fighting armed militants but not the troops of another country, “the target must have a direct connection to the combat, either as a Taliban or al-Qaida ‘fighter’, or as a civilian who is ‘directly participating in hostilities’. The use of force must be proportionate, meaning that commanders must weigh any expected military advantage against possible harm to civilians.” Violating these requirements could constitute a war crime.

Given the secrecy of the United States’ drone program, it’s impossible to know whether the government has met these legal requirements. That’s left the administration open to critics’ suggestions that it has not, and may well be fomenting anger among the residents of areas being targeted.

General Stanley McChrystal has said that reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan is critical to a key part of his counterinsurgency strategy — winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Revealing the facts about how the United States is using its expanded and now well-known drone program must be a critical component of that strategy.

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Pakistan drone victim demands damages from CIA

By CHRIS BRUMMITT
Associated Press
2010-11-29 07:59 PM
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A Pakistani man who says he lost his son and brother in an American missile attack in the northwest threatened Monday to sue the CIA unless he receives compensation, a move that will draw attention to civilian casualties in such strikes.

Kareem Khan and his lawyers said they were seeking $500 million in two weeks or they would sue CIA director Leon Panetta, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a man they said was the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad for “wrongful death” in a Pakistani court.

The United States does not publicly admit to firing missiles into northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border, much less say who they are targeting or whether civilians are also being killed. Privately, officials say they are taking out al-Qaida and Taliban militants and dispute accounts that innocents often die.

Pakistani officials, who face criticism from their own people for allowing the attacks, rarely discuss them.

Khan said his 18-year-old son, Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were killed on Dec. 31 last year in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The third victim was a mason who was staying at the house, he said. Khan said his son and Iqbal were teachers.

“The people who were martyred were innocent,” Khan told a media conference in Islamabad alongside his lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar. “They did not have links with any terrorist group, nor they were wanted.”

The Associated Press and other media organizations reported that three people were killed on Dec. 31 in a missile attack in Mir Ali. Pakistani intelligence officials said then that the men were militants, but offered no proof.

Khan, who was working as a journalist, was in Islamabad at the time of the attack.

Any legal action stands no chance of success unless U.S. officials cooperate with the court, something highly unlikely given the secretive nature of the missile strike program. The most Khan and Akbar can hope for is to bring attention to the issue.

There have been more than 100 such attacks this year, more than twice than in 2009. The attacks began in 2005, but picked up pace in 2007 and have increased ever since. The border region is out of bounds for non-locals and much of it is under the control of militants, meaning independent reporting on who is being killed is nearly impossible.

Most of the missiles are believed to be fired from unmanned planes launched from Afghanistan or from secret bases in Pakistan.

Human rights groups have called on the United States to provide greater transparency about who is being targeted and publicly investigate allegations of civilian deaths. Without knowing, they say it is impossible to judge whether such attacks are legal.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the American military compensates the families of innocents killed once it carries out an investigation.

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1446680&lang=eng_news&cate_img=1037.jpg&cate_rss=General

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Drone strikes in Pakistan could backfire in long-term

2:31am EDT

Wed, Oct 6 2010

Wed, Oct 6 2010

Tue, Oct 5 2010

Tue, Oct 5 2010

Analysis & Opinion

By Michael Georgy

ISLAMABAD | Thu Oct 7, 2010 8:17am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Escalated drone attacks in northwest Pakistan, where a suspected al Qaeda plot to attack European targets may have originated, could hurt the U.S. war on militancy by alienating residents and hardline army officers.

The number of U.S. drone strikes in the region near the Afghan border hit a record monthly high of 21 in September, generating speculation that intelligence pointed to senior militants or the attacks were aimed at disrupting a plan to hit Western countries.

Such strikes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could jeopardize U.S. strategic interests in what is considered to be a global hub for militants.

“It seems Americans want short-term gains and are not interested in long-term ways through which militants can be sidelined by turning the public against them,” said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani expert on militancy.

Reports of eight German militants killed in a suspected U.S. drone attack in North Waziristan this week deepened concern that foreigners, some with Western passports, had traveled to Pakistan and planned attacks on Europe from the remote mountains.

A rare public opinion poll conducted in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas in July by the New America Foundation showed U.S. drone strikes were deeply unpopular among the population, now likely to have stronger objections after wider strikes.

That’s good news for al Qaeda.

“The intensity of opposition to the American military is high. While only one in ten of FATA residents think suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified against the Pakistani military and police, almost six in ten believe these attacks are justified against the U.S. military,” the poll showed.

More than 75 percent of FATA residents oppose drone attacks which have risen sharply under the Obama administration.

“Indeed, only 16 percent think these strikes accurately target militants; 48 percent think they largely kill civilians and another 33 percent feel they kill both civilians and militants,” said the study.

Drones have killed senior al Qaeda and Taliban figures.

HARDLINE ELEMENTS

Pakistan worries they undermine efforts to deal with militancy because civilian casualties inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants. But killing high-profile targets requires Pakistani intelligence, analysts say.

Pakistan may not be so cooperative if often stormy relations are strained – as they are now over NATO cross-border incursions.

Although army chief General Ashfaq Kayani is believed to have good ties with the United States, other senior officers may grow tired of U.S. doubts over Islamabad’s commitment to fighting militancy

By Michael Georgy

ISLAMABAD | Thu Oct 7, 2010 8:17am EDT

Imtiaz Gul, author of The Most Dangerous Place, a book about Pakistan‘s lawless tribal areas, said wider drone attacks would probably create many ripples in the military.

Hardline elements in the army could argue Pakistan had lost thousands of soldiers supporting the U.S. war on militancy and is getting little in return except pressure to do more.

“At some stage they could prevail or would at least be able to influence policy. You cannot totally disregard them,” said Gul.

The survey’s face-to-face interviews with 1,000 residents age 18 or older showed opposition to the drones was not based on general anti-U.S. feelings. They just don’t like the U.S. military.

That does not mean people backed al Qaeda or Taliban insurgents, according to the survey.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69625O20101007?pageNumber=2

UN expert: ‘Targeted killings’ may be war crimes

By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans, Associated Press Writer– 45 mins ago

GENEVA – Governments must come clean on their methods for killing suspected terrorists and insurgents — especially when using unmanned drones — because they may be committing war crimes, a U.N. human rights expert said Wednesday.

Philip Alston, the independent U.N. investigator on extrajudicial killings, called on countries to lay out the rules and safeguards they use when carrying out so-called targeted killings, publish figures on civilian casualties and prove they have attempted to capture or incapacitate suspects without killing them.

His 29-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council will put unwanted scrutiny on intelligence operations of the United States, Israel and Russia, who Alston says are all credibly reported to have used drones to kill alleged terrorists and insurgents.

Alston, a New York University law professor, said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by intelligence agencies such as the CIA to carry out targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is particularly fraught because of the secrecy surrounding such operations.

“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” Alston said.

Although not illegal as such, CIA drone strikes are also more likely to breach the rules of war than similar operations carried out by armed forces, who are more familiar withinternational law and can resort to non-lethal means because they have troops on the ground, Alston said.

“Unlike a state’s armed forces, its intelligence agents do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, rendering violations more likely and causing a higher risk of prosecution both for war crimes and for violations of the laws of the state in which any killing occurs,” he wrote.

In a March speech, U.S. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said the administration’s procedures for identifying lawful targets were “extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise.”

The CIA, which refuses to discuss specific activities, claims all of its operations are lawful and subject to government oversight.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of intelligence matters, said lethal drones were an effective and legal means to target members of al-Qaida and the Taliban in far-flung areas where the United States or its allies have no military presence.

The U.S. official cited Pakistan, which officially condemns drone strikes on its territory but is widely believed to share intelligence with Washington for at least some of the attacks, especially those that target Pakistani Taliban militants blamed for numerous attacks in the country.

There was no evidence to prove large numbers of innocent lives have been lost due to drone strikes, the U.S. official said.

This view has been challenged by human rights groups and independent observers, who say remotely operated drones risk ingraining a video game mentality about war and can never be as accurate as eyewitness confirmation of targets from the ground.

“The point is that innocent people have been killed, this has been proved over and over again,” said Louise Doswald-Beck, a professor of international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

“If you don’t have enough personnel on the ground, the chances of your having false information is actually quite huge,” she told The Associated Press.

Among the most sensitive recommendations in Alston’s report is that governments should disclose “the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective, independent and public investigations of alleged violations of law.”

Doing so could threatened counter-terror operations in countries such as Pakistan, said Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

“The drones program is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high,” he said.

Alston’s report also warns that CIA personnel could be extradited to those countries where the targeted killing takes place and wouldn’t have the same immunity from prosecution as regular soldiers.

Alston claims more than 40 countries now have drone technology, with several seeking to equip them with lethal weapons.

Doswald-Beck said the next step could be the development of fully autonomous drones and battlefield robots programed to identify and kill enemy fighters — but without human controllers to ensure targets are legitimate.

“If that’s the case you’ve got a major problem,” she said.

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Online:

Alston report: http://bit.ly/TargetKillReport

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Associated Press Writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100602/ap_on_re_eu/un_un_taking_out_terrorists


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FIRST PROTEST AGAINST CIA DRONE ATTACKS
COMING TO LANGLEY, VIRGINIA

“Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more
recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”
– David Kilcullen (Counterinsurgency Expert) Center for New American Security

On January 16th, 2010 from 1pm to 4pm activists will descend upon the home of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia to protest the immoral, illegal, and inhumane use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs–also known as “drones”).

Speaking at this event will be:

– Cindy Sheehan (world renowned U.S. anti-war/peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee)
– Cynthia McKinney (former six term member of the U.S. House of Representatives and former Green Party candidate for President of the United States)
– Hadi Jawad (Pakistani-American and Co-founder of the Crawford Peace House)
– Kathy Kelly (U.S. peace activist, pacifist and author, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, one of the founding members of Voices in the Wilderness, and currently a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence)
– Debra Sweet (Brooklyn-based director of World Can’t Wait)
– Bruce Gagnon (coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space)
– Joshua Smith (anti-war/peace activist, analyst and coordinator)
– David Rovics (musician)

By some reports the current implementation and planned operational expansion of the strike-capable drone programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have to date yielded up to 33% civilian (non-combatant) deaths. To any sane and honorable person this statistic alone should prove that the “actionable intelligence” and robotic delivery vehicle do not yield a proper basis and/or method for credible attack. The primary and proven case against drone attacks is that they pose a public danger that can only be deemed as indiscriminate bombing. On the day of the event, activists will demand that the United States and its allies adhere to the protection of civilians (non-combatants) in international armed conflicts in accordance with the multiple existing conventions, protocols and customary international laws. These same activists will, of course, also demand an end to the wars and occupations currently under way and an immediate withdrawal of all troops and contractors.

Drones operate in the theater of war by being fueled and maintained at airbases within their locale but which are remotely piloted via satellite connected ground control stations half-way around the world and from an environment disassociated with any human connection to reality of their actions. The psychological aspect of this endeavor will ultimately create a false sense that war is easier to condone, safer to conduct and more acceptable in U.S. public and political opinion to initiate.

Recently, it has been reported in mainstream media that the United States Central Intelligence Agency has been working in cooperation with Private Military Contractors (PMCs–also known as “mercenaries”) in waging secret operations in utilizing drone attacks. Under this veil secrecy it can only be assumed that impunity for war crimes is being actively cultivated within the highest level of Department of Defense operations via proxy by the Central Intelligence Agency (which then sub-contracts out the directives).

The most well known drone is the propeller driven Predator A (MQ-1). This drone began as merely a streaming video reconnaissance tool but was soon armed with Hellfire missiles. The United States Military then upgraded the entire drone arsenal with what has become a an even more ruthless killer–the Predator B “Reaper” (MQ-9). With millions upon millions, of U.S. taxpayer funded dollars the Reaper became higher, faster and stronger with increased size and fuel capacity, quicker engagement via a turbo-prop engine and a larger weapons payload/assortment. The Reaper is seemingly a “steroid raged monster” that cowardly stalks it’s prey. The next evolution is the Predator C “Avenger” which will employ stealth design/materials, jet engine and highly advanced optics systems.

Within the oration of the activists at this event the most frightening aspect of future drone programs will be explained and spelled out to attendees and to the press. The three most notable facts are (1) that drone programs currently under development will soon yield a series of UAV aircraft that will operate in a fully autonomous mode (meaning that no human will be controlling the craft remotely), (2) that the UAV program is destined to become the primary type of air power for the U.S. military which will also be tasked with the ability to carry out nuclear strikes, and (3) the use of drones will morph into rapid and various domestic roles as well (operating in, around and over cities of the United States).

Location: Langley, VA – Route 123 (Dolley Madison Blvd) between Potomac School Rd & Savile Ln.
Google map is here.

UPDATE: (January 12, 2010) Previously announced speaker Ann Wright is due for some well deserved rest after spending a full month in Cairo, Egypt facilitating the Gaza Freedom March logistics and governmental negotiations.  She will be replaced by Hadi Jawad.

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NEWS LINKS & RESOURCES

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Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

CIA keeping drone attacks data secret

Attack on the CIA in Afghanistan raises jitters in Pakistan

CIA base at heart of drone program

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UN Expert:

CIA Targeted Killings violate international law

U.N. Expert Calls On U.S. To Halt CIA Targeted Killings
William Fisher

NEW YORK, 2 Jun (IPS) – Targeted killings, including those using drones, are increasingly being applied in ways that violate international law, according to a report issued Wednesday by a United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings.

The report by special rapporteur Philip Alston will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. It says that while targeted killings may be permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants, fighters or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities, they are increasingly being used far from any battlefield.

It states that “this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other States can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial killings”.

Alston also criticised the U.S. invocation of the “law of 9/11”, which it uses to justify the use of force outside of armed-conflict zones as part of the so-called global war on terrorism.

The report called for the United States and other countries to end the “accountability vacuum” by disclosing the full legal basis for targeted killings and specifically the measures in place to ensure wrongful killings are investigated, prosecuted and punished.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the report “underscores the alarming legal questions raised by the U.S. program of targeting and killing people – including U.S. citizens – sometimes far from any battlefield”.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Programme, said, “The U.S. should heed the recommendations of the rapporteur and disclose the full legal basis of the U.S. targeted killings programme, and it should abide by international law.”

“The entire world is not a battlefield, and the government cannot use quintessentially warlike measures anywhere in the world that it believes a suspected terrorist might be located,” he added.

In March, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas, and in April sent a letter to President Barack Obama condemning the U.S. policy on targeted killings and urging him to bring it into compliance with international and domestic law.

“The U.S. programme of targeted killing outside of armed conflict zones is illegal and raises serious policy questions that ought to be debated publicly,” said Jonathan Manes, legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project.

“In addition to the legal basis, scope and limits of the programme, the Obama administration should disclose how many civilians have been killed, how the programme is overseen, and what accountability mechanisms exist over the CIA and others who conduct the targeted killings,” he said.

While welcoming an initial effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to offer a legal justification for drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists overseas, human rights groups say critical questions remain unanswered.

In an address to an international law group in March, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insisted that such operations were being conducted in full compliance with international law.

“The U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defence under international law,” he said. “…Individuals who are part of such armed groups are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law.”

Moreover, he went on, “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” which require limiting attacks to military objectives and that the damage caused to civilians by those attacks would not be excessive.

While right-wing commentators expressed satisfaction with Koh’s evocation of the “right to self-defence” – the same justification used by President George W. Bush – human rights groups were circumspect.

Drone attacks, which have increased significantly under Obama, are widely considered to have become the single-most effective weapon in Washington’s campaign disrupt al Qaeda and affiliated groups, especially in the frontier areas of western Pakistan.

In Obama’s first year in office, more strikes were carried out than in the previous eight years under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), they reportedly killed “several hundred” al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban militants since Obama took office in 2009, forcing many of them to flee their border hideouts for large cities where precision attacks would be much harder to carry out without causing heavy civilian casualties.

While noting criticism that the use of lethal force against some individuals far removed from the battlefield could amount to an “unlawful extra-judicial killing”, Koh – who was one of the harshest and most outspoken critics of the Bush administration’s legal tactics in its “global war on terror” – insisted that “a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force”.

“Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise,” he said.

Alston, the U.N. rapporteur, was far from satisfied with these assurances, however, calling Koh’s statement “evasive”.

He “was essentially arguing that ‘You’ve got to trust us. I’ve looked at this very carefully. I’m very sensitive to these issues. And all is well,'” he told an interviewer on ‘Democracy Now’ in March.

In a statement Wednesday, Alston noted that “some 40 states already possess drone technology, and some already have, or are seeking, the capacity to fire missiles from them.”

However, he stressed that, “The most prolific user of targeted killings today is the United States, which primarily uses drones for attacks.”

“It is clear that many hundreds of people have been killed, and that this number includes some innocent civilians. Because the programme remains shrouded in official secrecy, the international community does not know when and where the CIA is authorised to kill, the criteria for individuals who may be killed, how it ensures killings are legal, and what follow-up there is when civilians are illegally killed,” he said.

http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=3100

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UN official criticises US over drone attacks

cites “… extrajudicial killings  …’Playstation’ mentality”

Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 19:22 UK

US use of Predator drones is singled out for particular criticism

The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says.

Philip Alston said that the US in particular was doing damage to rules designed to protect the right of life.

Mr Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, feared a “Playstation” mentality could develop.

His report to the UN Human Rights Council also brings renewed scrutiny of Israel and Russia.

Both nations are also reported to have carried out targeted killings of alleged militants and insurgents. President Barack Obama has increased the use of Predator drones to attack militants in Pakistan.

‘Hundreds of killings’

The UN report comes days after the US hailed news of the death of Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s third in command in Pakistan, who was reportedly killed by a drone strike in May, along with his family.

Mr Alston reserves particular criticism for CIA-directed drone attacks, which he said had resulted in the deaths of “many hundreds” of civilians.

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” the report says.

Mr Alston also suggests that the drone killings carry a significant risk of becoming war crimes because intelligence agencies “do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law”.

And he adds: “Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.”

‘Law of 9/11’

In Mr Alston’s view, there are circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal.

But his report also expresses concern that the US has put forward what hedescribes as “a novel theory that there is a law of 9/11”, enabling it to legally use force in the territory of other states as part of its inherent right to self-defence.

This interpretation of the right to self-defence, he says, would “cause chaos” if invoked by other nations.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that Mr Alston clearly believes that the rules of conflict need updating to encompass weapons that may strike a long way away from any traditional definition of the battlefield.

However, some security analysts are concerned that this could jeopardise highly sensitive counter-terrorism operations.

Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying: “The drones programme is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10219962.stm

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Published on Saturday, May 29, 2010 by BBC News

US Reprimands Six Drone Operators Over Deadly Air Strike in Afghanistan

The US military has reprimanded six operators of an unmanned drone, which mistakenly attacked a civilian convoy in Afghanistan killing at least 23.

Warnings that the convoy was not an attacking force were ignored or played down, while the ground-force commander was not sure who was in the vehicles, an investigation found.

The deadly assault took place in Uruzgan Province in February.

Civilian deaths in strikes have caused widespread resentment in Afghanistan.

A Nato statement at the time said it was thought the convoy contained Taliban insurgents on their way to attack Afghan and foreign military forces.

However, troops then found “a number of individuals killed and wounded”, including women and children.

A US military investigation said the order to attack was based on inaccurate information from the crew monitoring the convoy from an Air Force base in Nevada and on flawed analysis by Nato commanders.

The reports said poorly functioning command posts “failed to provide the ground-force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat”.

The commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, said letters had been issued reprimanding four senior and two junior officers in Afghanistan.

He said: “Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people; inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission.

“We will do all we can to regain that trust.”

The botched strike happened despite Gen McChrystal’s introduction of much tougher rules of engagement in a bid to minimise such casualties.

BBC © MMX

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Secret detention practiced in 66 countries

‘International law clearly prohibits secret detention’

First Published 2010-06-04

UN rights experts call for prosecutions against ‘widespread and systematic’ secret detentions.
GENEVA – UN rights experts called Thursday for action and prosecutions to end the secret detention of terror suspects, in which it alleges 66 countries including the United States are involved.

The experts on torture, counter-terrorism and enforced disappearances said the 66 countries they had named in a January report must investigate the covert imprisonment of alleged terror suspects.

The report warned that the “widespread and systematic” secret detentions could pave the way for charges of crimes against humanity against the countries concerned.

It listed 66 countries allegedly involved and called on governments to prosecute those who ordered such detentions.

“International law clearly prohibits secret detention, which violates a number of human rights and humanitarian law norms that may not be derogated under any circumstances,” said the report.

“Resorting to secret detention effectively means taking (detainees) outside the legal framework and rendering the safeguards contained in international instruments, most importantly habeas corpus, meaningless,” it added.

In a debate Thursday on the report, the experts urged the UN Human Rights Council to take action.

“We think this is enough evidence that the council should take action,” said Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture.

A summary of the debate said “secret detention should be explicitly prohibited along with all other forms of unofficial detention.”

“In almost no recent cases have there been any judicial investigations into allegations of secret detentions and practically no one has been brought to justice.”

The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said it was clear from the debate that the issue had not been brushed away despite months of delay.

“I don’t think the Human Rights Council can ignore the need for inquiries at domestic level, that will necessarily be part of the package,” he told journalists.

The experts noted a shift in attitude in Europe and the US government of President Barack Obama, even though domestic political battles had held up progress since the announced closure of secret CIA prisons.

However there was little promise of action from the United States and other major Western powers as well as countries like Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Djibouti.

UN expert: CIA drones claim ‘licence to kill’ with impunity

A UN human rights expert on Wednesday urged the United States to sideline the CIA from targeted killings using drones, warning that the practice amounted to “a licence to kill without accountability”.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned that the “prolific” US use of targeted killings, mainly by unmanned aircraft, was setting a damaging example that other countries would follow.

“I’m particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe,” he told the 47-member council.

“But this strongly asserted but ill-defined licence to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

Alston’s study on targeted killings sharply criticised the legal arguments invoked to justify them, their civilian toll and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” Alston told the rights council.

Countries had to demonstrate that they were complying with rules limiting killings of targeted individuals to those directly involved in fighting, he underlined.

“The clearest challenge to this principle today comes from the programme operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency in which targeted killings are carried out from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones,” Alston said.

He warned that hundreds of people had been killed including innocent civilians yet the CIA criteria for targeted killings remained shrouded in official secrecy.

“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” he added.

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=39379

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US missile used in Yemen raid

Page last updated at 3:01 GMT, Monday, 7 June 2010 4:01 UK

Amnesty says the images show pieces of cruise missiles

American missiles were used in a raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen in which women and children died in December, rights group Amnesty International says.

Amnesty has released images taken after the raid that it says show remnants of a US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.

Cluster bombs were also apparently used in the attack, which Amnesty described as “grossly irresponsible”.

The US has said its troops gave support for the raid, in Abyan province.

But Yemeni officials have denied any US involvement.

Obama congratulates

At the end of 2009 Yemen suddenly stepped up its offensive against al-Qaeda militants.

The authorities launched a number of raids, saying intelligence showed that Western targets were in imminent danger.

On 17 December two attacks on militant targets were said to have killed more than 30 militants The raids were hailed as a big success in Yemen.

US President Barack Obama telephoned his Yemeni counterpart, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to offer his congratulations.

But Amnesty now says the US in fact supported the raid with cruise missiles.

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.”

Unnamed US officials have said that elite US troops provided essential support, contradicting Yemeni government claims that it was entirely their operation, says the BBC’s Sebastian Usher.

But the US has refused to confirm reports that it had fired cruise missiles – the crux of Amnesty’s new allegations.

Analysts say the US is deeply involved in the country’s drive against al-Qaeda.

But Yemen’s leaders are keen not to appear too closely bound to American interests – one reason why the US has been keeping the extent of its military role in the country under wraps, our correspondents adds.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10251954.stm

US cluster bombs killed Yemen civilians: Amnesty

Posted 4 hours 41 minutes ago

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was behind a December attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International says.

The London-based rights group released photographs that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the December 17, 2009 attack on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen,” said Mike Lewis, the group’s arms control researcher.

“Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards.”

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Philip Luther, the deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Yemen’s defence ministry had claimed responsibility for the attack without mentioning a US role, saying between 24 and 30 militants had been killed at an alleged Al Qaeda training camp.

But a local official said 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed “indiscriminately”.

Amnesty said a Yemeni parliamentary committee reported in February that in addition to 14 alleged Al Qaeda militants, 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, were killed in the attack.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,” Mr Luther said.

Amnesty said photographs it had obtained showed damaged remains of the BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

“This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster sub-munitions which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150 metres away,” an Amnesty statement said.

“An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.”

The Yemen parliamentary committee had said when it visited the site that “all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it had requested information about the attack from the Pentagon, but had not yet received a response.

Amnesty said it had obtained the photographs from its own sources, but had not released them earlier in order to ascertain their authenticity and give the United States time to respond.

The United States and Yemen have not yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty designed to comprehensively ban such weapons which is due to enter into force on August 1, 2010.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/07/2919991.htm?section=justin

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Afghanistan’s Operation Phoenix

Stephen Lendman
Global Research
June 17, 2009

On June 15, AP reported that “Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a four-star American general with a long history in special operations, took charge of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (today), a change in command the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent eight-year war.”

One person involved called Operation Phoenix a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

McChrystal is a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon’s infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – established in 1980 and comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads writer Seymour Hersh described post-9/11 as an “executive assassination wing” operating out of Dick Cheney’s office.

A 2006 Newsweek profile called JSOC “part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to ‘work on the dark side’ after 9/11.” It called McChrystal then “an affable but tough Army Ranger” with no elaboration of his “dark side” mission.

In his May 17 article titled “Obama’s Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice,” James Petras called him a “notorious psychopath” in describing him this way:

His rise through the ranks was “marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building.”

His resume shows contempt for human life and the rule of law – a depravity Conrad described in his classic work, “Heart of Darkness:” the notion of “exterminat(ing) all the brutes” to civilize them, and removing lesser people to colonize and dominate them by devising battle plans amounting to genocide.

In June 2001, McChrystal became Chief of Staff, XVIII Airborne Corp. After the Afghanistan invasion, he was appointed Chief of Staff, Combined Joint Task Force 180, Operation Enduring Freedom. In September 2003, he was Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In February 2006, he became Commander, Joint Special Operations – Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, United States Special Operations, then in August 2008 General Director, the Joint Staff until his current appointment as US/NATO Afghanistan commander.

Detailed information of his role in these capacities is classified and unacknowledged, but Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed some of what he directed in its July 22, 2006 report titled “No Blood, No Foul” – meaning short of drawing blood, all abuses were acceptable and wouldn’t result in investigations or prosecution.

HRW reported soldiers’ firsthand accounts of detainee abuse by Task Force 20/121/6-26/145 at Baghdad’s Camp Nama (an acronym for Nasty-Ass Military Area) and elsewhere in Iraq.

JSOC’s assignment was (and still is) to capture or kill “high-value” combatants, including Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, and many hundreds of Iraqis targeted in sweeping capture and extermination missions that include lots of collateral killings and destruction.

Through most of 2003 and 2004, detainees were held at interrogation facilities like Camp Nama at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). With good reason, it was off-limits to the ICRC and most US military personnel. In summer 2004, it was moved to a new location near Balad and also had facilities in Fallujah, Ramadi and Kirkuk.

US personnel and former detainees reported torture and abuse as common practice, including beatings, confinement in shipping containers for 24 hours in extreme heat, exposure to extreme cold, death threats, humiliation, psychological stress, and much more.

Sergeant Jeff Perry (a pseudonym he requested to avoid recrimination) was a Camp Nama special interrogator during the first half of 2004. He said task force members were military special forces and CIA personnel, none of whom revealed ranks or last names to maintain secrecy.

Five interrogation rooms were used, the harshest called the “black room” where everything was black with speakers in the corners and on the ceiling. A table and chairs were in one corner for a boom box and computer.

Detainees were stripped naked and subjected to stress standing, sleep deprivation, loud noise, strobe lights, beatings, dousing with cold water, and other abuses.

Harshness levels were less severe in other rooms, the “soft room” being least extreme and used for cooperating detainees. However, throughout interrogations, they were shifted from one room to another, but those put in the “black room” were considered the most high-value.

Treatment authorization in writing or by computer came from the camp’s command structure – signed by “whoever was in charge at the time” reporting to McChrystal or one of his subordinates.

Sergeant Perry saw him visit Camp Nama several times, and said its commanding officer told interrogators that the White House or Donald Rumsfeld were briefed on the information they obtained. He also learned that the facility was “completely closed off” and secret, and that ICRC, other investigators, and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) were forbidden access to it.

In March 2006, The New York Times published a feature article based on interviews with over a dozen US personnel who served at Camp Nama or were familiar with its operations. Their accounts corroborated Perry’s and included details of other abuses. Much of the same information came out about torture at Guantanamo and other overseas US prisons, including Camp Cropper, Iraq (near Baghdad Airport) now expanded to hold up to 2000 detainees.

HRW reviewed hundreds of “credible allegations of serious mistreatment and torture (as) standard operation procedure” at locations throughout Iraq involving special forces, CIA, and others. Its report is based on firsthand accounts from three locations between 2003 – 2005 when McChrystal was in charge of Special Ops.

On March 31, 2009 on Democracy Now, Seymour Hersh said US forces conducted assassinations in a dozen or more countries, including in Latin and Central America. “And it’s been going on and on and on,” he said. George Bush “authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle East” and elsewhere….” Now Obama’s doing the same thing.

“And the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional power or the legal right to tell soldiers….to go out and find people based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me….”

During his tenure, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) authority to carry out killings anywhere on the globe. Hersh said “it operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings.” One is “the Joint Special Op – JSOC. It’s a special (Navy Seals and Delta Force) unit….black units, the commando units….And they promote from within. It’s a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the elements….about getting ahead….is the number of kills you have,” especially high-value targets. Cheney was deeply involved. Robert Gates likely is now.

Targeting goes on in a lot of countries besides Iraq and Afghanistan, including Colombia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Kenya, or anywhere to “kill people who are believed….to be Al Qaeda….Al Qaeda-linked or anti-American” – fictitious outside enemies without which Obama’s wars can’t continue nor could they under George Bush..

In his book “America’s War on Terrorism,” Michel Chossudovsky uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation from the Soviet-Afghan 1980s war, and in the 1990s Washington “consciously supported Osama bin Laden, while at the same time placing him on the FBI’s ‘most wanted list’ as the World’s foremost terrorist.”

He remains so today, even though David Ray Griffin’s new book (“Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?”) provides convincing evidence that he died in late 2001, a conclusion many US counterterrorism experts support and believe his conveniently timed video messages are fakes.

Capturing or Killing Bin Laden

In a January 2009 CBS television interview, Obama suggested that he’s dead by saying “whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference (is) to capture of kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America.”

Nonetheless, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to the latest purported bin Laden statement that it’s “consistent with messages we’ve seen in the past from al Qaeda threatening the US and other countries that are involved in counterterrorism efforts.”

So it’s no surprise that top administration orders reach field commanders like McChrystal to capture or kill the usual suspects. From known reports about him, he carries them out with relish.

The Obama administration gave him carte blanche authority to choose his staff for their assigned mission – expand the Af-Pak war with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and secret drone and other attacks against any targets he chooses in either country. He’ll also have more political control, possibly with a Washington-appointed civilian authority to run the Afghanistan government day to day, making Hamid Karzai more of a figurehead than currently.

Obama’s war aims to pacify the country and Afghan/Pakistan border areas through scorched earth terror, targeted assassinations, and as much mass killing as it takes to prevail. McChrystal has the job, a man one observer said “comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of government secrecy provides the necessary protection.” All the greater with Obama’s endorsement.

Former 82nd Airborne Division commander General David Rodriquez, Defense Secretary Gates’ top military aide, will be his deputy. Gates praised McChrystal for his “unique skill set in counterinsurgency” and said the mission of both men and their team “requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders.” Clearly implied are the Special Ops skills they possess in what an unnamed Defense Department official called “unconventional warfare….to track and kill insurgents.”

These tactics kill many hundreds, displace hundreds of thousands, and enrage civilians on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Yet pursuing them is Obama’s top war strategy priority that may include Iraq as violence there heats up.

Operation Phoenix

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran or was involved in the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces and its own Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG) involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NLF resistance called the Viet Cong or VC). One person involved called the operation a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine said it was “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” It even targeted certain US military personnel considered security risks and members of the South Vietnamese government.

In simple terms, the program conducted mass killings and seizures of suspected NLF members and collaborators with special emphasis on high-value targets – by some estimates around 80,000 or more before it ended.

Wayne Cooper was a Foreign Service officer at the time. He spent 18 months in Vietnam, most of it as a Phoenix advisor at Cantho in the Mekong Delta. He called the operation a “disreputable, CIA-inspired effort, often deplored as a bloody-handed assassination program (and) a failure.”

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA “Counter Terror (CT) program “never recognized by the South Vietnamese government.” It “recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation – against the Vietcong leadership.”

By 1968, the program was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix. From General William Westmoreland and “Ambassador-for-pacification Robert Komer” on down, “neutralizing” the VC was top priority.

Westmoreland took charge. A Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established, under which Phoenix was run. Cooper cited numerous problems for its failure and criticized experts sifting through them to get it right next time. He called the program a “gimmick” unable to “compensate for South Vietnam’s” popular opposition to the war and concluded that no counterinsurgency can succeed under those circumstances.

Certainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries historically opposed to foreign occupations with a record of brave resistance to end them. They represent what the CIA called Vietnam during that earlier era – “the grand illusion of the American cause;” the latest Washington misadventures no matter how long they go on, whatever amounts are spent on them, or how much mass killing and destruction persist under any command. America hasn’t won a war (or fought a legal one) since WW II, something Obama might consider as he plans his next move.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13999

http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman170609.htm

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Afghanistan-s-Operation-Ph-by-Stephen-Lendman-090617-710.html

http://atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/10187-afghanistans-operation-phoenix.html

http://www.infowars.com/afghanistans-operation-phoenix/

US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan

Posted: 2010/05/02
From: Mathaba
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US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan – by Stephen LendmanAfter General Stanley McChrystal took charge of US/NATO Afghan forces last June, systematic atrocities escalated sharply after promises of kinder, gentler killing (an oxymoron), winning hearts and minds, and fewer civilian casualties as a “paramount” objective – now much higher the result of more than a fourfold increase in night raids, targeting civilians, including children, while they sleep.

McChrystal’s resume exposed his history – death squad terror, mostly against civilians, the same counterinsurgency he waged throughout Iraq as Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), especially in Al-Anbar Province that increased violence to curb it.

It’s no surprise for a man this writer earlier called “a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as (JSOC) head” – since 1980 comprised of Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units, killers to reign terror on vulnerable targets, mainly civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and earlier in Vietnam as part of Operation Phoenix. More on that below.

Rare On-the-Ground Reports

The London Times Kabul-based Jerome Starkey reports what major US media accounts suppress. For example, his March 15 commentary headlined, “Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks.”

The incident involved the February 12 killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a policeman and his brother. “No one has claimed responsibility (and) A US official in Kabul refused to” say for reasons of national security, the usual cover-up for high crimes and misdemeanors prohibited for any reason.

This time, survivors were paid off for their loss, but family head Haji Sharabuddin wants justice, not money, and to get it “will….do suicide attacks and (the whole province) will support us.”

Starkey debunked the official story about the raid being a mistake. These were targeted assassinations, the same kinds rampant daily on the ground and by drone-launched missiles, mostly against civilians called Taliban or Al Qaeda militants.

Sayed Mohammed Mal, Gardez University’s vice-chancellor, told Starkey that he once thought these type raids safeguarded Afghans, what he now knows isn’t so after members of his own family were killed. “I realize I was wrong,” he said. “Now I accept the things (other) people told me. I hate (foreign forces). I hate the Government” that tolerates them.

According to the dead policeman’s son, Abdul Ghafar, “My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him….I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice.” Another victim’s father, Mohammed Tahir, said “They teach us human rights, then they kill a load of civilians. They didn’t come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists.”

A March 8 Starkey article titled, “Karzai offers families ‘blood money’ for sons killed in raid” told a similar story about other victims – “nine children killed (aged 12 – 18) in a brutal night raid” called a mistake – a cold-blooded one murdering children while they slept, shot in their beds, or dragged to another room and killed. Also, Abdul Khaliq, a neighboring farmer, was gunned down when he ran out of his house during the raid.

During the February Marja campaign, Operation Moshtarak killed 19 civilians. US Special Forces bombed three minibuses in Oruzgan province, killing at least 27 more, at times apologizing when victims are revealed as noncombatants.

As for the reported successful US offensive, New York Times writer Richard Oppel’s April 3 article headlined otherwise, saying: “Violence Helps Taliban Undo Afghan Gains,” explaining “how little (control) Marines (have) outside their own outposts,” the Taliban as dominant as ever. So much so that “Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed,” Brig. General Larry Nicholson saying “Most people here identify themselves as Taliban,” stopping short of acknowledging widespread hostility to occupation.

Starkey’s April 19, 2009 article headlined “Botched Afghan raid kills mother and (her brother-in-law and three) children (one a new-born)” in Khost province – another “mistake” the Pentagon conceded, the same kind made daily, always against civilians, admitted only as damage control, the official lie, when cover-up doesn’t work.

A late December Kunar province massacre killed 8 children, dragged from their beds and shot in cold blood, some of them handcuffed. The Pentagon called them terrorists, making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They were kids, students, in grades six through 10 (aged 11 – 17), eight from the same family. After speaking to their school headmaster, a government investigator said:

“It’s impossible they were Al Qaeda. They were children. They were civilians. They were innocent. I condemn this attack.”

In late February, nine more children were killed, aged 12 – 18. Most were “shot at close range while they slept,” another dragged from his bed and murdered, NATO initially alleging their involvement in IED making, then saying they entered a village and took fire so returned it, and finally admitting they were civilians saying:

“Knowing what we know now, it would probably not have been a justifiable attack. We don’t now believe that we busted a major ring,” something known all along but only acknowledged as damage control.

On March 22, Starkey headlined “US-led forces in Afghanistan are committing atrocities, lying, and getting away with it,” saying McChrystal-led forces “are rarely called to account because most reporters are too dependent on access, security and the ’embed culture’ to venture out” and learn the truth. Worse still, they’re paid to lie, cover up, or be fired.

For example, New York Times writers CJ Chivers and Rod Nordland’s February 14 article headlined “Errant US Rocket Strike Kills Civilians in Afghanistan.” It quoted Hamid Karzai expressing “regret (for) this tragic loss of life.” Neither he or the writers acknowledged the cold-blooded murder of 10 Helmand province civilians, including five children, verboten admissions in major US media reports.

Nor by a puppet leader. Yet fearing national opposition to his regime, he’s begun openly criticizing Washington saying, “They wanted to have a puppet government,” virtually admitting that US/NATO forces are invaders.

Paid Lying – What Major US and Western Media Do

Like in America, the entire Western media, including BBC and so-called National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting scrupulously suppress the truth. They rarely mention “embarrassing” incidents, and when they do it’s dismissively. They won’t say raids terrorize, bomb homes and wedding parties, massacre civilians, their wives and children, noncombatants called Taliban or Al Qaeda, to save villages by destroying them, to pacify Afghans by killing them, to bring tyranny papered over as democracy. If reporters did, they’d be fired.

What they suppress, Starkey reports, his latest April 5 article headlined, “US special forces ‘tried to cover-up’ botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan,” saying:

“US special forces dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened….”

The victims – two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother, those killed in the above mentioned February 12 raid. After initial lies and cover-up, NATO finally “admitted responsibility for all the deaths for the first time last night,” yet continuing to deny a cover-up and saying no evidence showed inappropriate conduct. In other words, murdering civilians in cold blood is acceptable and appropriate. Apparently so as it’s ongoing daily.

Extrajudicial Killings – Predator Drones Target Civilians

On March 16, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit:

“demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and the other basis information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.”

At issue is using them against civilians, Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), saying US citizens will be targeted.

The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments after each provided no requested information “nor have they given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU’s request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents.” CIA wasn’t sued because the ACLU will first appeal its non-response to the Agency Release Panel.

Killer drones were used in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, perhaps elsewhere, and virtually anywhere targeted attacks are planned globally.

Officially know as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remote piloted vehicles (RPVs), they’re used, among other purposes, for surveillance and combat equipped with Hellfire or other missiles for targeted killings.

At issue is their legality, given their use outside traditional battlefields for extrajudicial assassinations, a practice US and international laws prohibit. Yet reports confirm the Obama administration ramping up their use – why the ACLU and other human rights groups express concern.

A December 2009 Social Science Research Network-published Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper titled, “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones: A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004 – 2009” said the following:

“First drones launch missiles or drop bombs, the kind of weapons that may only be used lawfully in an armed conflict. Until the spring of 2009, there was no armed conflict (in Pakistan). International law does not recognize the right to kill without warning outside an actual armed conflict. Killing without warning is only tolerated during the hostilities of an armed conflict, and, then, only lawful combatants may lawfully carry” them out.

CIA members “are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing persons – even in an armed conflict – is a crime.” US military forces may be “lawful combatants in Pakistan” only if its government requested them. It did not.

Further, beyond targeted individuals, collateral killing is commonplace. “Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been up to” 50 civilians for each militant. As a result, drone use violates “the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity.”

Yet they happen daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have escalated dramatically under General McChrystal for extrajudicial killings. Along with bombers and helicopter gunships, their use in Afghanistan (and North Waziristan, Pakistan) is so pervasive that anyone in the open or near targeted sites risks being killed – civilians, including women and children, most vulnerable.

Spiegel online (spiegel.de March 13, 2010) calls killer drones the “Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror….the weapon of choice….But the political, military and moral consequences are incalculable.”

One report said in the past two years the Air Force Research Laboratory embarked on a program to “build the ultimate assassination robot (described as) a tiny, armed drone for the US special forces to employ in terminating ‘high-value targets’ ” that most often are noncombatants.

On April 4, New York Times writers Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah headlined, “Drones Batter Qaeda and Allies Within (North Waziristan) Pakistan,” referring to a “stepped-up campaign….over the past three months (casting) a pall of fear over an area (by) fly(ing) overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry….” The ferocity of strikes got one “militant” to say, “It seems they really want to kill everyone….,” civilians, of course, most vulnerable.

Vietnam’s Operation Phoenix – Prototype for McChrystal’s War

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces’ Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG), involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NFL resistance Viet Cong or VC).

It was a depersonalized murder program to remove opposition elements and terrorize people into submission – now used against Iraq, Afghanistan, North Waziristan, Pakistan, elsewhere, and perhaps one day coming to a neighborhood near you.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine called Phoenix “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” Included were security-risk US military personnel and members of the South Vietnamese government. Before it ended, around 80,000 people were killed, yet it failed.

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA Counter Terror (CT) program that recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation against the Vietcong leadership.

By 1968, it was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix, to neutralize the VC as top priority, much like McChrystal’s counterterrorism in Afghanistan and North Waziristan, and earlier in Iraq.

In Vietnam, a Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established overseeing Phoenix. It was a gimmick doomed to fail, much like current Iraq and Afghanistan occupations aren’t sustainable in countries known historically as foreign occupier graveyards.

Phoenix was called Vietnam’s “grand illusion of the American cause,” the same miscalculation today no matter how long current wars continue, whatever amounts are spent, or how much more terror, mass killings and destruction lie ahead for people determined to resist and prevail. Given their past successes, odds are they’ll do it again, no matter the price.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/
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http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=623212

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New US Commander in Afghanistan Assembles

Team of Assassins

By Bill Van Auken

June 12, 2009 “WSW” — Confirmed Wednesday as President Barack Obama’s new commander for the widening war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Stanley McChrystal has been given extraordinary powers to assemble his own staff.

According to press reports published Thursday, in forming a permanent war council-dubbed the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell-McChrystal is drawing heavily from a super-secret assassination squad that he commanded under the Bush administration.

That unit, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was formed in December 1980 in the wake of the military’s abortive operation to free US hostages in Iran. Comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs, the command directs Special Mission Units that carry out classified operations, often in collaboration with CIA squads.

Commanded by McChrystal between 2003 and 2008, JSOC has been linked to assassinations in over a dozen countries as well as abduction and torture. Under the Bush administration, it was reportedly used to carry out covert operations inside Iran, which included the abduction and assassination of officials suspected of aiding Iraqi militia groups.

Earlier this year, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who is writing a book on the subject, termed the command “an executive assassination wing.” He said that it was tasked with “going into countries…finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.” Hersh added that, under the Bush administration, the unit reported to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

According to the New York Times, McChrystal “has been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans.” The newspaper attributed the “extraordinary leeway” granted to the general to the Obama administration’s concern over the war, which over the past year has registered the highest levels of violence since the US invasion of the country in October 2001 and has seen the Taliban and other insurgent elements gain control over much of the country.

Citing Pentagon figures, McClatchy News reported, “The first five months of this year have seen a 59 percent increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, a 62 percent increase in coalition deaths and a 64 percent increase in the use of improvised explosives compared to the same period last year.”

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the sudden ouster of Gen. David McKiernan and his replacement by McChrystal, a move that reflected increasing desperation in Washington. The shakeup followed the findings of a Pentagon task force headed by McChrystal in May that reported in relation to Afghanistan that the “security situation in key areas is poor, stalemated or deteriorating.”

Tapped to serve as McChrystal’s deputy and assigned to oversee day-to-day operations in Afghanistan is Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was chosen last year by Defense Secretary Gates as his personal military assistant. Rodriguez is reportedly a longtime friend and protégé of McChrystal.

McChrystal has selected Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as his intelligence advisor for Afghanistan, the Times reported. Flynn, who is currently director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, had previously served as McChrystal’s intelligence chief in the shadowy operations of JSOC.

Chosen as commander of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell is the longtime special operations officer Gen. Scott Miller, who as a captain commanded Delta Force troops in the US military’s “Blackhawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the so-called coordination cell is “modeled on a system Gen. McChrystal put in place in Iraq, when he commanded the Navy Seals and other Special Operations personnel.”

The units that he commanded in Iraq are reported to have carried out an assassination program in that country aimed at eliminating suspected leaders of Iraqi insurgent groups hostile to the US occupation. Personnel under his command also ran a detention and interrogation center near the Baghdad airport known as Camp Nama, where prisoners were subjected to systematic abuse amounting to torture. The motto of the unit running the camp was “No Blood, No Foul,” meaning that any form of abuse that did not draw blood was acceptable and would not result in investigations or prosecution. Soldiers assigned to the facility have reported that McChrystal was a regular visitor.

Given this background, it is noteworthy that the Democratic-led Senate Armed Services Committee subjected McChrystal to no serious or sustained questioning during his confirmation hearing last week. The committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, disposed of the torture issue at the outset by helping McChrystal to lay the blame on then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and on orders from Washington.

The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal gloated over the Democrats’ failure to make an issue out of torture, writing on June 4 that it assumed this was the case “because General McChrystal happens to have been nominated by President Obama, not President Bush.”

In the end, the only obstacle placed in the way of McChrystal’s nomination was general procedural foot-dragging by the Republicans.

To break the logjam, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the Senate floor Wednesday and made a dramatic announcement that he had received a telephone call from Adm. Mike Mullen. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman had told him, Reid said, that McChrystal had to fly to Afghanistan that very night and was “literally waiting by an airplane,” because there was no commander on the ground in Afghanistan.

“Let’s get the man approved tonight so he can go,” Reid said. Senate Republicans responded by moving to confirm McChrystal and two other military nominees.

Media coverage of McChrystal’s confirmation and the changes in war strategy surrounding the creation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell has centered on innocuous suggestions that the planned rotation of this core group of 400 between the war in Afghanistan and Afghanistan-related planning in Washington would allow these personnel to “accumulate expertise.”

McChrystal’s military career and those of the chief officers he is selecting as his aides, however, suggest that what is being prepared is a dramatic escalation of the killing in Afghanistan, through the utilization of the type of methods employed during Operation Phoenix in Vietnam or the death squad killings during the US intervention in El Salvador.

Speaking to reporters during a flight to a NATO meeting in Brussels, Defense Secretary Gates reiterated the repeated warnings from senior military officials that, as the US continues to build up its forces in Afghanistan to a target of nearly 70,000 troops by the end of the year, the bloodshed will grow accordingly.

“We’ve been very upfront about the fact that as we send in more troops, and go into areas that have not had an Afghan government or ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] presence yet, that there will be more combat and the result of that will be more casualties,” Gates said.

In its escalation of the US war in Afghanistan, and its increasing extension across the border into Pakistan, the Obama administration has chosen as its senior commander an officer who is among those most deeply implicated in the criminal operations carried out under Bush and Cheney. This appointment, and its confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate, is a clear warning that the ruling establishment in Washington is pursuing a consensus policy that will involve even greater war crimes against the Afghan people, as Washington continues its attempt to assert hegemony in Central Asia by military means.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article22812.htm

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US drones killed 2,043 people, mostly civilians, in Pak during last five years

Tue 04 Jan 2011

Islamabad, Jan 2: As many as 2,043 people, mostly civilians, were killed in US drone attacks in northwestern parts of Pakistan during the last five years, a research has revealed.

The yearly report of Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) has termed the CIA drone strikes as an ‘assassination campaign turning out to be revenge campaign’, and showed that 2010 was the deadliest year ever of causalities resulted in drone-hits in Pakistan.

According to the report, 134 drone attacks were reported in Pakistan’s FATA region in 2010 alone, inflicting 929 causalities. December 17 was the deadliest day of 2010 when three drone attacks killed 54 people in Khyber Agency.

Regarding civilian causalities and attacks on women and children, the report said: “People in the tribal belt usually carry guns and ammunition as a tradition. US drone will identify anyone carrying a gun as a militant and subsequently he will be killed.”

“Many times, people involved in rescue activities also come under attack. The assumption that these people are supporters of militants is quite wrong,” The Nation quoted the CMC report, as stating.

The document cited the Brooking Institute’s research, which suggested that with every militant killed, nearly ten civilians also died.

It also mentioned a related research report of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which underlined that at least 2,100 civilians were killed and various others injured during 2009, in the ongoing war on terror and drone attacks.

“It is unclear whether CIA counter-checks human intelligence with other available sources or not. Because in Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal belt people use to settle their personal enmity by accusing their opponent as militant and passing wrong information to US forces,” it stated.

The CMC report also revealed that Pakistan and US were deliberately concealing civilian deaths, and that they lacked any proper mechanism to ascertain civilian deaths, and it also accused the FATA Secretariat for overlooking civilian causalities.

“Civilian casualties were deliberately overlooked to avert the public reaction,” the report said.

ANI

January 02, 2011, All voices

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Published on Saturday, May 29, 2010 by BBC News

US Reprimands Six Drone Operators Over Deadly Air Strike in Afghanistan

The US military has reprimanded six operators of an unmanned drone, which mistakenly attacked a civilian convoy in Afghanistan killing at least 23.

Warnings that the convoy was not an attacking force were ignored or played down, while the ground-force commander was not sure who was in the vehicles, an investigation found.

The deadly assault took place in Uruzgan Province in February.

Civilian deaths in strikes have caused widespread resentment in Afghanistan.

A Nato statement at the time said it was thought the convoy contained Taliban insurgents on their way to attack Afghan and foreign military forces.

However, troops then found “a number of individuals killed and wounded”, including women and children.

A US military investigation said the order to attack was based on inaccurate information from the crew monitoring the convoy from an Air Force base in Nevada and on flawed analysis by Nato commanders.

The reports said poorly functioning command posts “failed to provide the ground-force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat”.

The commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, said letters had been issued reprimanding four senior and two junior officers in Afghanistan.

He said: “Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people; inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission.

“We will do all we can to regain that trust.”

The botched strike happened despite Gen McChrystal’s introduction of much tougher rules of engagement in a bid to minimise such casualties.

BBC © MMX

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Australian SAS Units Function

as Death Squads in Afghanistan

By James Cogan

December 11, 20008 “WSWS” — An Australian Defence Department (ADD) report published in October, and highlighted on November 26 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Lateline” program, provides a rare account of the shameful operations being performed by the Australian military as part of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

The units most involved are from the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and the Fourth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), the Army’s designated commando battalion. These are highly trained troops and their ostensible role in times of war is to carry out long range reconnaissance, surveillance, harassment or raids on enemy targets. In the so-called “war on terror”, they are being used as little more than death squads.

The ADD report presents the findings of an inquiry into a September 17 Australian operation that resulted in the mistaken killing of Rozi Khan, the pro-occupation governor of Chora district in Uruzgan province and a long-time colleague of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The intended target, codenamed “Musket” by the Australian military, was an alleged member of the Islamist Taliban movement. While much of the mission statement remains censored, it is apparent that a squad was sent out to storm into the man’s house in the dead of night and execute him in cold blood.

The possibility for things to go wrong is inherent in such operations in civilian areas, and on September 17, they went terribly wrong. Just days before the hit on “Musket” was ordered, the Taliban had issued threats against residents of a village, which lay on the route being taking by the Australians. Rozi Khan had encouraged the villagers to resist any attack and promised to come to their aid with his armed followers.

As the Australian troops moved close to the village, sentries atop houses spotted them and assumed they were Taliban intruders. Within minutes, dozens of villagers were firing on the Australians from the east, west and north. Khan and his men, alerted by the gunfire, began moving toward the fighting, as did local Afghan police.

Troops in an Australian back-up unit, who had manoeuvred to try and flank what they believed to be Taliban, engaged Khan’s group and, the inquiry found, most likely inflicted fatal wounds on the district governor. It was not until a police vehicle arrived that the Australians made efforts to communicate with the men they were attacking.

After realising their mistake, the Australian troops aborted their “Musket” mission—at the cost of two dead and five wounded Afghans. The Defence Department inquiry ruled: “That Rozi Khan was among the casualties is resultant of his unfortunate intervention into a complex situation, albeit with altruistic motives.”

The September 17 mission was no isolated incident. It was part of a broader and ongoing operation codenamed “Peeler” that tasks the Australian special forces with “disrupting [i.e., killing or capturing] Taliban leadership or improvised explosive device facilitators”.

Not all missions result in the target’s assassination. Last month, the alleged Taliban “shadow” governor of Uruzgan, Mullah Bari Ghul, was detained in a raid that was most likely conducted by Australians.

Other missions result in massacres. On November 23, 2007, Private Luke Worsley of 4RAR was killed during an assault on a residence in Chenartu village in Uruzgan. Because of the Australian fatality, details of the incident were made public. The target was Taliban leader Mullah Baz Mohammed, who was expected to be at the house that night.

Australian troops crept up under the cover of darkness, blew the outer doors off the housing compound and rushed in. They left the Daad family—three men, two women and one female child—dead on the floor. A neighbour, Faiz Mohammed, told Time magazine: “There was blood everywhere.” Worsley was shot as he entered the house. Mullah Baz Mohammed was not there.

“Lateline” commented that the Defence Department report “prompts questions about the legality and the ethics of targeted killings, even in the dusty and chaotic battleground of Afghanistan”.

Tim McCormack of Melbourne University, a professor of Humanitarian Law consulted by the program, provided reassurances. “International law is not pacifist law,” he said. “It does allow the killing of enemy combatants and civilians who take a direct part in hostilities—just as it’s also legal for the Taliban to hunt down an Australian SAS person or anybody on the Australian side or any of the allied side”.

McCormack’s remarks, however, serve only to obscure the essential issues. They ignore the thoroughly predatory and, therefore, criminal motives behind the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were utilised as the pretext to deploy military forces into the desperately impoverished country with the aim of securing long term bases in the very heart of Central Asia, a region rich in untapped resources. Over the past seven years, the Afghan war has evolved into a component of the struggle for regional dominance between the US—supported at present by its European NATO allies—and Russia and China.

The existence of Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the decision to send in troops. Not only did the Bush administration reject offers by the Taliban to hand Osama bin Laden over to a third country if evidence were presented of his involvement in 9/11, but virtually no steps were taken by the US military to prevent the bulk of Al Qaeda simply moving across the border into Pakistan’s tribal agencies—where it has largely operated ever since.

Australia’s involvement in the war was the result of the most cynical calculations. By sending troops to fight in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the former Howard government hoped to cement Washington’s backing for a series of military operations that would secure Australian strategic and economic interests in the South Pacific, as well as a free trade agreement with the United States. The Rudd Labor government is continuing the same policy.

There is a stark difference—both politically and morally—between the activities of citizens resisting the invasion of their country and those of the invading army. Afghans are fighting for the right to determine their own future free from foreign domination. The Australian military in Afghanistan is an instrument of imperialist aggression. It is conducting a campaign of terror throughout Uruzgan province to force the population to accept a US puppet government.

One obvious parallel to the Afghanistan operation is the Vietnam War’s Operation Phoenix. Over a five-year period, American and South Vietnamese death squads assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese on the grounds they were supporting the Viet Cong (VC) liberation movement. Only the most craven apologist for US imperialism would claim that such atrocities were “legal” on the basis that many of the victims belonged to the VC.

The Labor government repeatedly tries to ennoble the Afghan war with flowery descriptions of Australian soldiers as “heroes” who are “putting their lives on the line for the rest us”. The truth is they are killing and maiming people, including entirely innocent civilians, of an oppressed country for a thoroughly reactionary, neo-colonial cause.

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http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21430.htm

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Drone Wars


What was once the stuff of science fiction – remote controlled drones dropping bombs onto targets thousands of miles away – is now taking place on an almost daily basis. indeed it seems to have become the preferred method of attack by US and British forces. However one aspect of warfare has not changed.

According to the Washington-based think-tank, The Brooking Institution ,

for every ‘militant’ killed in a drone strike at least 10 civilians also die.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are small remotely-piloted aircraft controlled from the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. While there are literally dozens of different types of drones, they fall into two basic categories: those that are used purely for surveillance and intelligence purposes and those that are also armed with missiles and bombs and can be used for attack. Whilst armed drones were first used in the Balkans war, their use has escalated massively in Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently in the undeclared war in Pakistan.

Britain began using armed UAV’s in Afghanistan in Oct 2007 after purchasing three Reapers from General Atomics in 2007 at a cost of £6m each. One of these crashed in Afghanistan in April 2008 and was later replaced, leaving three in service. The UK has ordered a further two Reapers which are due to enter service in 2010.The UK is also developing its own “sovereign” armed UAVs under a £124m programme called Project Morrigan, which has resulted in an armed UAV, still under development by BAE Systems, called Taranis.

Whilst the British and US Reaper and Predator UAVs are in physically in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are actually operated via satellite communication from Nellis and Creech USAF base just outside Las Vegas in Nevada. Ground support troops launch the UAVs from Kandhar airbase and then, once they have reached several thousand feet, control of the drones is handed over to a crew of three operators sitting in front of video screens in specially designed trailers in the Nevada desert. One person ‘flies’ the drone, another controls and monitors the cameras and sensors, whilst a third person is in contact with the “customers”, ground troops and commanders in the war zone.

You can watch a 12 minute film by CBS about armed Reaper and Predator drones being operated from Creech here

Although the use of armed drones is still relatively new, FoR has a have a number of serious concerns not least because there is a picture beginning to emerge of high civilian casualties. In addition the use of armed drones to target specific individuals could amount to summary or arbitrary execution, and currently drone operators are making life and death decisions when they are emotionally and mentally exhausted by long hours and regular schedule changes.

Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth. FoR calls on the Government to make public the number of causalities resulting from British drone attacks and we urge that there is a serious, informed and open discussion about the use of armed drones by British forces in the very near future. We believe that there should be a ban on the use of armed unmanned drones.FoR advocates nonviolent conflict transformation in order to bring about genuine and lasting peace. Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth.

FoR is developing information and campaigning resources on the use of armed drones.

If you would like to be notified when new resources are ready or informed about campaign events please contact dronecampaign@for.org.uk

http://www.for.org.uk/node/486

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Q&A: military drones explained

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 June 2009

In the skies of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, more and more missions are being carried out by unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

A predator control room

The drones, controlled 6,000 miles away in the Nevada desert, can carry up to 14 missiles.

The United States has the Reaper drone, the Chinese have the Invisible Sword. Robotics expert professor Noel Sharkey, from Sheffield university, explains where drones came from, and what they can do:

How long have these drones been around?
Unmanned drones have actually been used for about 30 years. They were first used for surveillance.

When did drones start to be used in attacks?
The first test of an armed drone was in 2001 by the CIA. They put hellfire missiles on what is known as a predator drone, which was previously used for spying. These are the missiles they still use today.

When was the armed drone first used on a ‘real’ target?
The first deployment was in the Yemen in 2002, again by the CIA. They used it to blow up a sports utility vehicle in the middle of the desert. They claimed it killed an al-Qaida member, and five of his associates.

How many armed drones are there?
There are about 200 of the armed Predator drones now; while it also has a bigger brother now called the Reaper – which can carry 14 missiles, there are about 30 of those now too.

Who ‘flies’ them?
At the moment the drones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are controlled from Creech air force base in the Nevada desert. In the US you can just take a course to learn how to control these aircraft, while at the moment the British stipulate that you must have been a combat pilot to control them.

How are they controlled?
It’s a bit like a console games controller. These people are sat in front of a big screen. It is actually called a “man in the loop” system. It does an awful lot of things automatically. It has high resolution cameras and sensors – it sees things on the ground. It does have heat sensors to work out whether people are in a building or not.

Who makes the decision to fire the missiles, the drone or the human?
The pilot does, although on a lot of instances they won’t have that much time – the drone will identify a target and ask them whether to shoot: yes or no? A lot of the time the pilot is vetoing targets rather than finding them.

How long can the drones stay in the air for?
The predator can stay up for about 26 hours, whereas some of the unarmed drones can stay in the air for up to 72 hours.

Are other countries developing these armed drones?
Yes, at the moment there are 43 countries developing these programmes. Russia alone has 18 programmes, while the Chinese have a drone known as the Invisible Sword.

Why have they proved so popular with military forces?
Firstly you don’t have to worry about your pilot getting fatigued or shot down. If they want to go to the toilet during a shift they can and someone else can take over. After work than can go home and have a meal with the wife and kids. There’s also the cost: a drone can cost $40m, whereas a fighter plane can cost $350m

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Taking out the Taliban; Home for Dinner

For these Air Force pilots, the front line of the war in Afghanistan is right here, at a base less than an hour from Las Vegas.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/waging-war/remote-control-war/taking-out-the-taliban-home-for-dinner.html?play

WAR BY UAV

As you read this, the odds are good that there’s a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a mission somewhere over Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The MQ-1 Predator UAV used most commonly by the military and CIA is about the size of a small Cessna prop plane. It’s equipped with at least three different types of cameras that record full-motion video. It can fly up to 454 miles at a maximum height of 25,000 feet and at a speed up to 135 mph. Following the September 11th attacks and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Predator was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles.

Rudimentary pilotless flying machines were first attempted by soldiers in the Civil War, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used by the U.S. military as surveillance tools since the 1950s. Other types of U.S. UAVs include the MQ-9 Reaper, three times faster than the Predator and capable of carrying 15 times more firepower, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the first pilotless aircraft to fly non-stop across the Pacific. In the Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers allegedly surrendered to a unmanned aerial vehicle, marking perhaps the first time in history that man surrendered to a robot. Today, the Air Force has 195 Predators and 28 Reaper UAVs in its fleet.

The Predator and its cousins are controlled remotely by a two- or three-person teams: a pilot and one or two sensor operators. Most of the CIA’s Predators are flown by teams at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, while the Air Force’s UAVs are run out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where pilots hunker down in air-conditioned trailers in front of multiple screens streaming live video. Both locations are more than six thousand miles from their target zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the past year, under pressure from citizens, the Pakistani government has publicly protested the U.S. use of UAVs while simultaneously requesting control of the planes. Controversy surrounding the use of UAVs has mounted, with critics faulting the UAV campaign for alienating Pakistani citizens and providing recruitment propaganda for the Taliban. The tension has continued to build as the Pakistani Army begins to take on the Taliban near the capital, Islamabad. The CIA and the military do not confirm UAV missile strikes in Pakistan, but some reports claim that up to 370 people have been killed since UAV attacks intensified in August 2008. A recent LA Times Op-Ed quotes a counterinsurgency official claiming the elimination of 14 senior Al Qaeda operatives by UAV attacks since 2006. The official places the civilian death toll during this time at around 700.

Resources

The Future of War

As we speak, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used to carry out our wars remotely. P.W. Singer, the author of Wired for War, and an expert in military technology, looks at the benefits and the costs of using robots to fight for us.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/waging-war/remote-control-war/the-future-of-war.html?play

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Drone attacks provoke calls for revenge

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

In a report on the CIA’s campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan, the Los Angeles Timesrecounts the stories of some of the civilian victims of the attacks.

Many of the boys that Zaman Khan grew up with in the South Waziristan town of Shakai eventually joined the Taliban. He knew they had become militants, but he never thought it odd to have them over for tea.

Whether it was because of Taliban visits or the proximity of a regular Taliban meeting place 30 yards away, Khan’s house became a target March 15, 2008.

The missile struck while everyone slept, killing Khan’s brother, Wazir Khan, 40; Wazir’s wife, Zara Bibi, 30; and their 4-year-old son, Irshad. The left half of Wazir’s body had been sheared off. Zara’s and Irshad’s bodies were charred from head to toe.

Wazir’s two other children, Noor Rehman, 10 at the time, and Ishaq Khan, 3, survived. Physically, they recovered but suffer from psychological problems, Zaman Khan said.

“Ishaq doesn’t talk at all,” Khan said. “He can’t recognize his family, and he drinks only if someone helps him.”

Three weeks after that strike, a house full of civilians in the same neighborhood was struck, instantly killing cousins Sher Maan, 20, and Azeem Ullah, 30, and Azeem’s wife, Gul Anama, 25.

“It was a huge blast that shook the ground,” said Amin Ullah, 20, a Shakai farmer.

“I believe that most of the victims of these drone attacks are innocent people,” Ullah said. “Pakistan should be carrying out these attacks. Pakistan knows the terrain, knows its people and knows the militants.”

Andrew Exum, a former Army officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, has declared the drone program counterproductive and called for an end to it. In an analysis published last year, Exum and David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency advisor to the head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, dismissed drones as technology substituting for strategy.

“Every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement,” they wrote.

Drones have proved invaluable in Afghanistan, where they focus on surveillance, intelligence-gathering and watching over coalition troops, Exum said in an interview. But in Pakistan, the U.S. and the government in Islamabad need to make the case that the attacks are part of a joint strategy supporting Pakistani policy, he said.

“I’m not saying drones can’t be part of the solution, but right now I think they’re part of the problem,” Exum said.

Drone attacks have enraged men such as Momin Khan. On a September morning last year, Khan heard the thunderclap of a drone strike in Machis, his village in North Waziristan, and ran to see what had happened.

As he joined other villagers running down a dirt road, the 50-year-old unemployed teacher saw black smoke and flames curling out of a house about 60 yards away. The missile had killed two people there. As he ran closer, a second missile strike shook the ground.

Shrapnel from the blast cut into his shoulder and legs. He woke up in a hospital.

Four people were killed in the second strike, he said. Although Taliban militants have often used Machis as a haven, Khan said he was sure the house initially targeted had only civilians in it.

“These drones fly day and night, and we don’t know where to hide because we don’t know who they will target,” he said. “If I could, I would take revenge on America.”

Philip Alston, the United Nations special representative on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, said that without full disclosure of the CIA drone program, “the opportunities for abuse are immense.”

“The CIA is running a program that is killing a significant number of people, and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international law,” he said.

Scott Horton, while considering some of the legal issues surrounding the program notes:

No weapons system remains indefinitely the province of a single power. Drone technology is particularly striking in this regard, because it is not really all that sophisticated. It seems clear that other powers have this technology–Israel and Iran have each been reported to be working with it, Russia and China could obviously do so easily if they desired, and the same is probably true for Britain, France, and Germany, not to mention Japan and Taiwan, where many of the cutting-edge breakthroughs in robotics actually occur. The way America uses this technology is therefore effectively setting the rules for others. Put another way, if it’s lawful for America to employ a drone to take out an enemy in the desert of Yemen, on the coast of Somalia, in a village in Sudan or Mauretania, then it would be just as lawful for Russia, or China–or, for that matter, for Israel or Iran. What kind of world is this choice then creating? Doesn’t it invariably lead us closer to the situation in which a targeted killing will be carried out in a major metropolis of Europe or East Asia, or even the United States? And doesn’t that move us in the direction of a dark and increasingly lawless world?

This is not idle speculation. The choices the United States has made are being studied very closely in capitals around the world. In Russia, for instance, national-security analysts have noted the American drone strikes with a measure of approbation, because they see such strikes as justifying lethal countermeasures of their own against perceived terrorist enemies. A number of enemies of the Russian government who were critical of policies or actions connected with the Second Chechen War have recently met violent death, often after Russian authorities linked them to Chechen terrorist groups. The Polonium poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, for instance, or the assassination of Umar Israilov in Vienna, which Austrian prosecutors linked earlier this week to a Putin-protégé, the president of Chechnya, are two examples that suggest that Europe may have been cleared as a theater for targeted killings by a great power. The 2004 killing of former Chechen President Zelimkhan in Qatar is an example of another Russian targeted killing in the Gulf. The recent likely Israeli assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai is another instance. Targeted killings of this sort have always been with us, of course, but with the Bush-era “War on Terror” they are making a strong comeback and are gaining in claims of legitimacy and legality. The drone technology promises to take targeted killings to a whole new level.

My point here is a simple one. The United States cannot assume exclusivity in this technology, and how it uses the technology will guide others. The United States has to decide now whether it wants to legitimize a broader right of sovereign states to assassinate their enemies using drones. The consequence of such a step to the world as a whole will be severe. This also points to the danger of the United States using drones for targeted killings and keeping silent about the process, which invites the view that the practice involves an arbitrary and capricious use of power. If the United States elects to continue on its current path, it also owes the world a clear accounting for its use of drones as a vehicle for targeted killings.

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Christopher Hoare May 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Sorry, Mr Horton, the barn door is already open and the horse has escaped. The US has no moral standing to issue any guidance on the use of targeted murder — in the same way that the owner of a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons is justly accused of hypocrisy when it seeks to prevent other states from having them.
The world looks fondly back at the good old days early in the 20th century when the US pursued an isolationist policy and didn’t try to mind everyone elses’ business. Almost everything they’ve done since 1945 has brought misery and suffering to millions — for no good end.

http://warincontext.org/2010/05/04/drone-attacks-provoke-calls-for-revenge/

Predator warfare blowback

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

“Looks like you just lost that bet, Mr. Woodward. I’ll be waiting for your apology,” a reader said after I wrote on Sunday, “if I was to place a bet on who did this, I’d go with someone whose sympathies are probably more Tea Party than Taliban.”

Indeed I was wrong, though I’m not sure what I’m being asked to apologize for. Having engaged in premature speculation or having entertained the suspicion that there could be among the ranks of the Tea Party crowd anyone crazy enough to try and set off a bomb in Times Square?

Even if I and others were mistaken in suggesting that the Times Square incident might be connected to the Tea Party movement, the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem — not pretend it’s simply the victim of unfair criticism.

Moving on, Noah Shachtman reports:

Federal agents have made an arrest in the Times Square bombing attempt. And YouTube may have provided some clues to the investigators.

Faisal Shahzad was attempting to board a plane for Dubai when he was apprehended at New York’s JFK airport. Law enforcement officials believe the Connecticut resident recently bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged with explosives and fertilizer and left smoldering in Times Square.

One “clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are being sought by law enforcement,” ABC News reports.

The video (below), features the voice of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the “Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers,” according to the Long War Journal. The clip congratulates fellow Muslims for the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.” “The attack a revenge” for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan, the video continues, and is a response to “the recent rain of drone attacks.”

If Faisal Shahzad was the best recruit the Pakistani Taliban could find, the threat they pose to the United States is probably limited, but DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s initial assessment that this was a “one-off” operation is clearly premature. Indeed, if the intense campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan has triggered enough outrage among a few Pakistani Americans to seek revenge in Times Square, then there is one word that this administration should now be thinking about seriously: blowback.

President Obama seems to pride himself in having been less hesitant to take the war to Pakistan than was his predecessor, yet as the reappearance of Hakimullah Mehsud should make clear, the successes of the drone campaign have not been as great as the CIA has often claimed, while the costs have just as frequently been understated.

Killing innocent people “over there,” inevitably elevates the risk that innocent people will again end up dying here.

The bomb-making abilities on display in Times Square may have made some observers respond dismissively — and I am guilty of having done so — but the Taliban’s threat to bring the war to the United States can no longer be regarded as empty rhetoric.

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DE Teodoru May 4, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think– like our wooden headed military– we’re missing the point. I can understand Mr. Woodward’s error as no one would think that anyone but Tea Party would send out such incompetents. But so would alQaeda because they do the job: TERRORIZE US even as they fail. Look, Taliban gets one guy to buy an SUV with peanuts from their unlimited Gulf stocks of cash and tries something. Like a guerrilla soldier, let’s say, he dies or is captured. So what? What vital assets were invested in him? With that level of investment into his competence he’s no loss as he scares people even as he fails. Meanwhile, we talk about our “Special Forces” (SF) guys. It costs a fortune to train them and they are precious few. They’re more muscle trained than brain trained to observe and many seem to come up with magic formulas of their own:
http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-content/themes/stevenpressfield/one_tribe_at_a_time.pdf
WE can see the limits of their strategic thinking there!

Now I always admired soldiers who go native. But this is kind of native on amphetamines! Yet it is at least concrete compared to what the Pentagon guys write. Yet no one considers how expensive are our SF guys, how long and expensive the logistic trail for our expeditionary corps, and how disruptive to our society as they drain its assets. The Taliban, on the other hand, sends in some fool who either blows himself up or doesn’t. IN Mideast one way shahids are limitless, far more than our SFs. How little preparation they need (and get) indicates how little of terrorism’s unlimited assets it took to send him forth. He failed so what? As my dad used to say when other researchers stole his ideas: I’ve got millions!

Wunjo May 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm

“the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem”

“If I were to place a bet”, I would say it would be more fruitful to psychoanalyze people like Paul Woodward in order to understand its image problem among people like Paul Woodward. When someone looks at the old ladies at Tea Parties and sees bomb planting extremists, I really don’t think the old ladies are the ones we should worry about.

Ian Arbuckle May 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Paul, you have nothing to apologise for. The muddy waters run deep and it is by design not accident. Taleban this, or the Al Qaeda that, these are words and names that are slung around like blankets to cover anything but have very little real meaning except on this side of the info-propaganda war divide. Western half baked intelligence seems more often wrong than not and has mostly been hell bent on identifying “the enemy” (or even finding one). Regularly they have fallen pray to false information often designed to lead them to commit unjustifiable atrocities like the bombing of weddings, stabbing of pregnant women in the night, shooting tied up children in the head or the old family members of Afghan-Canadian parliamentarians protecting their compound from apparent special forces marauders.

Yes there are extremists who see the Western aggression in the Middle East, East Africa, Iraq and South Asia as a war on Islam, and not without good reason, but on the other hand recruiting and organizing these extremists has not been the exclusive domain of other Middle Eastern, Arab, or South Asian zealots and their funds and complex organizations have been known to lead to agents and strings being pulled from Tel Aviv and Langley.

So because a south Asian or an Arab is arrested or even later proven to be involved in any of these attempted “shows” of potential violence does not preclude that the powers and motives behind them are not much more mundane and conventional.

Put more simply, the war on terror “must go on” and is just the latest manifestation of the military industrial complex’s innitiative and nobody is going to sustain those billions and trillions in wars and homeland defence against “imagined” enemies. Now and again they need something substantial to justify their efforts. Real, if difficult to accept in terms of pathetic, “terrorists” must be shown to the masses Just like the witches in the 16th and 17th century, we need the occasional inquisition and trial by fire too, with all the hocus-pocus of torture and state secrecy and all the self righteous political crowing of satisfaction from “leaders” too. They say truth is stranger than fiction even if it is as pathetic as an American Muslim preacher “wanted dead or alive”, apparently coordinating from his pulpit and hiding in Yemen the pathetic attempt by a Nigerian boy, known and advised repeatedly to authorities, including by his father a diplomat, and helped by other “authorities” seemingly to board a plane in Europe, to try and set off a very stupid and improbable devise on his leg just before landing in the US.

Now we have this pathetic attempt at igniting a car bomb in Time Square… Sorry but to me it all begs belief. I know terrorism when I see it and I have no doubt who is responsible for both sides of the coin. Cause and effect, smoke and mirrors, agent provocateurs, false flag events, all for what end? Now that is an important question mor people should ask.

DE Teodoru May 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hey Wujo, Mr. Woodward, from his perch on the American continent, gave us his personal suspicion and explained why, period. Do you recall after 9/11 the “teabagger types” insisting that there was a dark “Middle Eastern looking” guy with McVey because no on the Right believed that a Red Blooded American veteran would do such a thing on his own so must have been brainwashed by Muslim terrorists? But what’s not discussed is that, so far, the “training” these terrorists get must make the Unabomber laugh in his cell. What all this proves is that our PREVENTIVE security guys are the dummies, rather than alQaeda being the brilliant one. Had security insisted on airlines following the claw and maintaining the pilot’s cabin impenetrable in flight, four airliners would never have been seized in ten minutes each (I won’t mention how all these guys going to flight-school was disregarded by them). On the other hand, it is the “let’s find the guys that did it” gum-shoes who are the real heroes. Instead of beefing up our police detectives should we send drones over Connecticut and, from video consoles in Nevada, drop JDAMs on anything that looks like a mosque?

Please recall that Mr. Woodward’s hunch about “teabaggers” is based on the assumed competence of alQaeda trainers NOT sending from their terror school such bumbling “grads” against us. If anything, perhaps his problem is that he accepted too much of the Bush-it about what a danger is the alQaeda training camp, as fed to us by the last administration. But I don’t recall such assumption, per DSM VI being diagnostic reason to recommend psychotherapy; has taking your Gov’s words seriously become a mental disorder

http://warincontext.org/2010/05/04/predator-warfare-blowback/

Post: Would-be Times Square Bomber

Wanted Revenge

for U.S. Drone Attacks on Taliban

Photo: orkut.com

Thirty-year-old Faisal Shahzad said that even though he had traveled to Pakistan to receive terror training from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, it was what he witnessed while there that actually spurred him to load up a Nissan Pathfinder with propane and leave it to explode in Times Square. According to the Post, after drone attacks by the United States government wiped out the leadership of the group, Shahzad told authorities that he vowed revenge. Sources told the tabloid that during his months in Pakistan Shahzad witnessed many of the drone attacks, which have gone on for the past year. So far U.S. authorities have downplayed the Pakistani Taliban’s claims of credit for the attempted Times Square bombing, even though the group specifically mentioned it was revenge for drone attacks. But yesterday Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Qureshi told reporters, “This is a blowback. This is a reaction. This is retaliation. And you could expect that.”

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission [NYP]

By: Chris Rovzar

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/05/post_would-be_times_square_bom.html

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission

* Revenge for US drone slayings * Trained for terror in Pakistan * 8 Islamic cohorts rounded up

By BRUCE GOLDING, JOHN DOYLE and DAN MANGAN

Last Updated: 7:27 AM, May 5, 2010

Posted: 3:02 AM, May 5, 2010

Comments: 104

More Print
Read more:http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/taliban_lackey_Su3wybDRpAYfahVx03zskI#ixzz0na7qc1bS

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/taliban_lackey_Su3wybDRpAYfahVx03zskI

US drone bombing blowback in NYC bomb plot

Posted on May 6, 2010 by The Editors

NYC Bombing Retaliation for CIA Drone Strikes: U.S. officials

U.S. officials say they now believe the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) may have played a role in the failed car bombing of New York’s Times Square. The TTP which wages war on Pakistani citizens and the Pakistani government because it considers them allies of the US– has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has reportedly provided new information about his alleged contacts with Pakistani militants under continued interrogation.

A top Pakistani official meanwhile has echoed speculation the failed attack could have been retaliation for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with CBS News.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: “This is retaliation. Let’s not be naive. They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you to eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

In a video made before the bombing attempt, Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud called the attack “revenge” for drone attacks in Pakistan as well as the killings of militant leaders in Iraq. According to the New York Post, Faisal Shahzad told interrogators he witnessed several drone attacks during his recent eight-month stay in Pakistan.

Filed under: Current Affairs | Tagged: NYC bomb plotUS drone bombing

« Death Penalty: Shehzad should get same punishment as McVeigh Pressurizing Pakistan »

http://pakistanledger.com/2010/05/06/us-drone-bombing-blowback-in-nyc-bomb-plot/

Published on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 by Wired

Times Square Terror: Drone Payback?

by Noah Shachtman

Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb Times Square as payback for American drone attacks in Pakistan.

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a screen during a press conference at the US Justice Department in Washington. Outside his locked family homes, shocked Pakistanis remember Shahzad as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

That’s what the New York Post is reporting, at least. The tabloid, relying on anonymous “law-enforcement sources,” says that Shahzad was an “eyewitness” to the unmanned “onslaught throughout the eight months he spent in Pakistan beginning last summer.”

In a video made prior to the attack, the Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud said “the attack is a revenge” for “the recent rain of drone attacks,” and for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan.

There have been an estimated 121 American drone strikes in Pakistan since early 2008. The death toll, by some calculations, is over 1,000 people.  Counterinsurgency and counterterror experts have warned that the drone strikes risked creating more enemiesthan they offed.

I’m skeptical of neat, tit-for-tat rationales, however. I’m guessing Shahzad was radicalized long before American drone war over Pakistan got into full swing in 2008. The robot attacks might have helped convince Shahzad to assemble his crappily-made, Rube Goldberg bomb. I’m sure there were other factors.

Shahzad remained attached to his native Pakistan; he bought a one-way ticket there after the failed bombing. But the Pakistani Army is publicly doubting whether their local militants had anything to do with the terror attempt.

“Anybody can claim anything, but whether the organization has that kind of reach is questionable,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military’s chief spokesman, said. “I don’t think they have the capacity to reach the next level.”

© 2010 Wired

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/05/05-4

Blowback On the Border: The Purpose of the Terror War System
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:37
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(UPDATED BELOW)

Let me say — or rather, reiterate — up front that it is my personal view that the form of vigorous activism known as non-violence is the only way, or the best way, that we can hope to even begin to address the inherent and intractable conflicts of human existence in a genuinely effective profound, sustainable and humane manner. That is the ideal I strive toward.

Of course, I also recognize that being what I am — a white man of Christian heritage living safely and comfortably under the penumbra of empire — it is easy for me to espouse this ideal. No drone fired in the distant black sky is going to kill my children tonight as they sleep warmly in their beds. No raiding party of assassins is going to tear down the door of my parents’ house tonight and shoot them at the dinner table. No one with a grudge against me — or simply in need of quick cash — is going to sell me into the captivity of a worldwide gulag. I’m not going to be caught in the crossfire of marauding mercenaries on my way to work. I’m not going to wake tomorrow in a refugee camp, my home and livelihood abandoned in the wake of a ravaging “counterterrorism” operation. No foreign soldier is going to shoot me, or abuse me, or humiliate me, or simply refuse to let me pass down the street of my own city. I’m not going to be stopped, “profiled,” or regarded with suspicion or hatred simply because of my skin color or the cultural or religious etymology of my name.

If I lived under the bootheel of such forces, I don’t how I would react, how firmly I could hold to my ideal. I don’t know if I would have the strength of mind and will, or the fortitude and wisdom it would take to resist our primal pull to violence — especially if I grew up in a culture that exalted certain forms of violence as cardinal virtues. (Of course, as an American, I did grow up in such a culture — and so has almost every other human being in history. To take the non-violent way is to appear — and yes, often feel — unnatural, deracinated, alien.)

Nonetheless, despite all these caveats and complexities, the ideal abides. I decry, denounce and mourn for the use of violence. Each act of violence — however understandable it might be in context — is a vast, ruinous defeat for our common humanity.

And of course many acts of violence are not “understandable” in any context, save that of our bestial desire to dominate others in one form or another. Here the defeat is even greater, its reverberations deeper, wider, longer-lasting: a degradation and degeneration that further brutalizes both the dispenser and victim of violence — especially the former, and especially when the dispensing culture comes to countenance an ever-widening array of violent acts as worthy, necessary, laudable, even honorable.

Each such act perpetuates the cycle of violence, the horrific dynamic of blowback: a self-perpetuating feedback loop that uses itself to engender more violence, in new and expanding forms. We are living today in the midst of a particularly virulent form of this dynamic, the so-called “War on Terror,” which I think has been designed — more or less deliberately so, although the obscene ignorance and arrogance of the powerful have also played their fateful part in unwittingly exacerbating these evils — to rage on without chronological end, without geographical, limits, and without any moral, social, legal or financial restraints. In his book X Films (reviewed here), Alex Cox uses an apt term borrowed from systems analysis — POSIWID: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.

The Terror War is not an event, or a campaign, or even a crusade; it is a system. Its purpose is not to eliminate “terrorism” (however this infinitely elastic term is defined) but to perpetuate itself, to do what it does: make war. This system can be immensely rewarding, in many different ways, for those who operate or assist it, whether in government, media, academia, or business. This too is a self-sustaining dynamic, a feedback loop that gives money, power and attention to those who serve the system; this elevated position then allows them to accrue even more money, power and attention, until in the end — as we can plainly see today — any alternative voices and viewpoints are relegated to the margins. They are “unserious.” They are unimportant. They are not allowed to penetrate or alter the operations of the system.

These reflections were prompted bylast week’s attack on the CIA base near Khost, Afghanistan, and by the reaction to the attack among the operators and servants of the Terror War system. As the world knows, seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomber. (Two of the dead were actually Blackwater mercenaries, but as CNN solemnly informs us, the Agency considers such hired guns to be part of the family.) The officers were at a “forward operating base” near the Pakistan border. From this redoubt, they plotted and directed attacks by drone missiles and, if they were similar to other CIA teams, which seems likely, also helped run assassination squads, with bombs and ground raids launched against villages, private homes and other locations which allegedly contain alleged terrorists, both in Afghanistan, which American forces are now openly occupying, and in Pakistan, a sovereign, allied country where American military and security forces are carrying out a more and more open “secret war.”

The officers were killed when a suicide bomber — apparently a ‘native’ whom the CIA was grooming as a potential agent — walked into a gym and set off his hidden belt of explosives. Again, as noted above, I decry all deaths by violence, although I direct most of my attention to the violent deaths caused by the gargantuanly disproportionate infliction of state terrorism that characterizes our age, as opposed to the piecemeal pinpricks of small bands of extremists and isolated individuals — incidents which themselves often betray strong indications of the fomenting or facilitating hand of various operators in the Terror War system.

So it gave me no pleasure to note the grim truth that was confirmed, yet again, by the attack at Khost: Those who live by dirty war, die by dirty war. The CIA-mercenary squad at the base was a key part of what the New York Times rightly describes as the CIA’s evolution into a “paramilitary organization.” Like all terrorists, they operate outside the law, claiming moral superiority as their justification. And for this particular band, what they have dealt out to others — sudden death in a surprise attack with no possibility of defense —  they have now been dealt in turn.

Of course, the NYT seems to find no moral problem with the United States of America operating “paramilitary” squads of spies and mercenaries carrying out “extrajudicial assassinations” — or “murders,” as they once would have been called — in foreign lands occupied by American military forces slaughtering civilians on a regular basis. (We noted one such slaughter in Afghanistan last week; now yet another one is being reported.) The story which carried this description is concerned largely with describing the struggle of these noble bands as they struggle manfully on distant borders to keep us safe.

In this, the tone of the story strongly echoes the genuinely sick-making words of Barack Obama after the incident. From CNN:

“These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement Thursday.

“The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA.”
The CIA’s decades-long record of sickening crime, outright atrocity, constitutional subversion, bungling, near-unbelievable incompetence, and unrelenting exacerbation of hatred for and violence toward the United States is indisputable. (For just one egregious example, see  “The Secret Sharers.”) Few government organizations in world history have been so inimical to the national interests of the state they purport to serve. It was with very good reason that John F. Kennedy — to whom Obama’s sycophants often liken their hero — once declared his intention to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” (Nor can it be entirely coincidental that Kennedy was later murdered in a case that had innumerable ties to the security apparat.)

There is nothing further from the truth — nothing further from the established historical record — than Obama’s statement that the CIA has been absolutely indispensable in “maintaining the freedom and security” of the United States. On the contrary; the historical record clearly shows that the activities of the CIA have, time and again, reduced both the freedom and security of the people of the United States.

Yet here we have Obama, once again, groveling to this renegade, retrograde, criminal organization — much as he did early on in his presidency, when he  cravenly guaranteed the Agency’s thuggish torturers that they need never fear prosecution from his administration for the KGB-like, Stasi-like, Gestapo-like atrocities they had inflicted on their victims.

Instead of shattering the CIA, or even curtailing it, the NYT story confirms, yet again, that Obama is accelerating the militarization of the agency, and giving it broad new scope to deceive and murder. What’s more, as we noted here a few days ago, Obama’s handpicked “special envoy” for the “Af-Pak front,” Richard Holbrooke, admitted, in a little-noticed story last month, that the United States is carrying out covert operations in “every country in the world.” And all of this is accepted without debate, without demur, as a just, honorable and natural state of affairs.

And while Obama is praising the murderers, torturers and incompetents of the CIA, the Agency itself is plotting its revenge for the blowback against its own dirty war, as CNN reports, with an obvious frisson of titillation at the tough talk:

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” [an anonymous] intelligence official vowed. “There are some very bad people who eventually are going to have a very bad day,” the official promised Friday.

And so, as I wrote the day after 9/11 (and quoted again recently, in this piece about Obama’s surging Terror War): “Blood will have blood; that’s certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations?”

The cycle will go on — because that is what is wanted. The purpose of the system is what it does.

UPDATE: It turns out that the suicide bomber at the CIA center was not a native being groomed as an agent, as previously reported, but a Jordanian double agent pretending to be a “turned” and repentant extremist, hired, no doubt at great cost, by the CIA and its Jordanian offshoot to “penetrate” al Qaeda.

Once again, live by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder, die by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder.  But it sure is great to see our Langley boys working cheek-by-jowl with yet another vicious security apparat of yet another dictator.


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Michael B said:

Counter-Violence
I think the discussion of violence versus non-violence misses the point entirely. The more important argument revolves around the discussion of “What works?”Violence and counter-violence are quite different things. It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance. I suspect you are admitting as much in your opening paragraphs.Let’s take this crude example:A man is walking around the neighborhood and you see him going from house to house shooting up the families in the neighboring homes. You see him approaching your home. You look over at your petrified children. What are you going to do? It is absurd at this point to even consider a response that is “non-violent.” What you will do is take him down. Once that is done it does not perpetuate the cycle of violence, it halts the violence.So let us examine all of the options and consider what is working, what has worked and what has the greatest likelihood of stopping the violence. Let us also be honest with ourselves and examine all that we have attempted and assess it’s efficacy.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

Grandma Jefferson said:

Sooner or Later, They Will Destroy Themselves
I’m convinced the cretinous citizens, so called, understand this on some fumbling subconscious level, that all the “wars” of the past 60 years have just been a complex, self-perpetuating scam of the plutocracy for their own eternal aggrandizement and enrichment, and don’t care. They are enamoured of their own “American exceptionalism” and xenophobia, and just love the idea of killin’ them some foreign butt, for any pretext, and the more elaborate the technology of massacre becomes, the better they love it, and will happily pay for it. They have ever preferred genocide, if it’s ‘Merkin induced, to caring for their own people. The success of the relentless media blitz of lying, war-mongering propaganda across the past decade couldn’t happen if the audience had the slightest flicker of rational intelligence, or moral sense.But the amoral cretins here would shred their pesky Constitution, rather than pull their troops out of these countries and deal with the lethal problems our murderous meddling has created. Americans have never believed “foreigners” to be entitled to any “rights” anyway, so it’s no big deal. Utterly incapable of rational thought, they don’t see the boot coming down on their own necks as a result.Indeed, we prefer global war everywhere, and a permanent police state in the sacred Homeland, to peace and caring for our own destitute people. We rejoice in the expansion of the patriotic CIA, unleashed like the Black Plague in every country on the globe, to “keep us safe”, because, you know, we’re Americans, and our safety must be preserved at all cost to the rest of the world. That’s just gawwwd’s will for its chosen people: their “safety” is paramount to any other consideration.We deserve everything that is coming to us. And the crushing accretion of monstrous war crimes and atrocities done by us across too many years guarantees a terrible retribution here, sooner or later. The CIA, with its track record of cosmic incompetence, corruption, and bungling, is just another step down that road.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +19

Harpfool said:


We’ve been taken over by the same sickness that swept Europe in the 1920s, came to fruition in the 1930s, and collapsed in world war in the 1940s. We know how that story ended for the citizens of countries like Germany, who had supported the rise of the dictators: in a nightmare of horrific dimensions. Our nightmare awaits.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Chris Floyd said:


I think you may be confusing non-violence as a philosophy of political action on a mass level with personal passivity on the individual level. States, organizations and ideologies, etc., are not individual perpetrators of violence who can be “taken down” with one shot, and that’s the end of it. The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.In any case, non-violent resistance to evil remains an ideal, as I noted in the piece. But an ideal cannot automatically be equated with fantasy. Fantasy is something that one simply sits back and pretends is real. An ideal is something that one feels is worthy of working toward, of attempting to make it a reality in the real world. For example, a person might have sexual fantasies that he or she would never try to put into practice; but one might also have an ideal of a love relationship with a particular person, and then try very hard to make that into a reality.But these examples are not very germane, because, as I said, I think there is a difference between the macro and micro level on this issue. If someone is shooting up my neighborhood, then yes, I am likely to take any measure possible to stop him. I would not, however, then go shoot up his neighborhood, or blow up his children, or hunt his blood kin down through the generations — even though this might well “work” in deterring anyone else in town from going on a shooting spree. What “works” can still be an evil and/or unproductive thing to do.And I imagine that both the inner circles of the imperial War Machine and those who direct bands of violent extremists take the same approach to violence as you mention. They too see the main argument as being “what works” when it comes to using violence as their tool. Is it time to back off the airstrikes for awhile? Should we avoid bombing sports events because of the bad PR? Or is now the time to “surge,” to lay some heavy hurt on the other side, come what may? What will “work” best today? I’m sure these kinds of interesting debates go on all the time. And I am also sure that both sides always see their violence as counter-violence, the “good” kind.I agree that we should take a cold, clear-eyed look at the efficacy of all means of resistance to organized violence. I have been trying to take just such a look for at least 35 years of study, investigation and reflection on this topic. That’s one reason I’ve come to regard non-violent resistance, as a philosophical and political approach on the mass scale, as perhaps the best way forward, not only toward stopping organized violence but also toward building a more humane and just civilization. But I do not pretend to have the final answer on this matter — or on any other — and remain always open to further investigation, analysis, new insights, new facts.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Jimmy Montague said:

Nicely put, Chris!
“The purpose of the system is what it does.”We’ve all probably had the same thought many times but none of us has put it so succinctly. Brevity is the soul of rhetoric, as they say, and your one little sentence expresses the whole essay quite nicely. Good job.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

john kelley said:


Michael B said:”It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance.”Well, it is a collective American fantasy to think that violence can be a solution at all. Organized, violent revolution in America is a macho pipe dream (much imbued with that “frisson of titillation”). In the unlikely event that it should come to pass, and in the even more unlikely event that it should be successful, …so what? What exactly are you planning to build with blood-stained hands on a blood-soaked foundation?Social justice through education is the first step to a collective higher consciousness. Clearly, it’s a long road. A hundred years at least. Probably two or three hundred. So, nourish the ideal and grit your teeth.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:


Hopefully this will not sound foolish, but is there a consensus as to what one defines as violence? Because, in Iraq for instance, the number of dead is given as a range of numbers from as low as 100,000 which estimate might refer to dead by physical violence; shootings, bombs, etc by either side, on up to over a million which estimate might refer to people believed to have frozen from lack of shelter, starved from lack of nutritious food, died of illness they might have otherwise been hale enough to survive, etc resulting from the war, as well as those dead by violence.If one decides to perform an action against the war, there is obvious violence like a death by guillotine, and then there is the person who might freeze during the winter having lost her job because one blockaded and damaged a railway line to prevent military shipments… Is violence only the use of force or is it any action that results in readily foreseeable impairment to another’s ability to survive? Also, is one to use the same standard at home as one might apply in say, an illegitimate foreign war of aggression? If not, is violence then circumstantial?“The purpose of the system is what it does”. The system makes perpetual war directly, but it makes many things indirectly: money, power, death, cruelty; destruction. Is it possible to say which if any is/are the primary purpose(s)?
I have heard many people suggest that the primary goal is money or power. Yet I am not so sure that the cruelty, death, and destruction are not the primary goals: they are remarkably consistent byproducts.
This is why I am not anti-violence: because there is violence aimed at stopping evil, and then there is violence aimed at maintaining evil. I do think there is a difference.I am not btw disagreeing with the statement,”The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.”
My contention is: any challenge to evil, whether it is a violent challenge or a nonviolent challenge, will be met ultimately with violence.

January 05, 2010
Votes: +3

scott douglas said:


The puppet government in Kabul has rather petulantly declared the killings in Khost province this week an atrocity, and has demanded that the ‘International Forces’ surrender the perpetrators to justice. Ho! The UN observer agrees: Atrocity. Ho Ho!Yes. Forces in the command of the U.S. corralled, handcuffed, and executed a passel of mere boys last week — as though they were tainted livestock.Funny. There is NO uproar in these United States, as I write. None; none at all! I don’t think there is anything cogent left to say about my personal contempt for this twisted perversion of a so-called ‘Nation’.Chris is absolutely correct that mass, non-violent public action is the only moral avenue to change. I have immense respect for this man: steadily articulating a non-doctrine of humane, rational, reality-based thought and action in response to the horrendous times in which we find ourselves.The relevant question for the domestic subject of this Empire remains: what is the optimum moral strategy in the struggle to remove the strangle-hold of the Plutocracy from around the necks of the average citizens of the Nation? Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action. The TeeVee tells all!Sad to say, the Plutocrats got there first; and they have got it covered, dude! Shoot-you anybody who advocates peaceful mass protest! The sheep only follow; they don’t spontaneously gather in the malls! With no Martin Luther King to follow? No Problema!So, my friends, there is no solution at hand. “Red Horse” is exactly what we’ve got coming. Soon, there will be war with Iran – and that will morph into World War. The United States of America will have been the catalyst for global catastrophe on a scale undreampt-of in either Nostradamus or St. John. This ride is almost over. Hope you got your affairs in order, Kids…

January 05, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:


have y’all seen this article?
http://trueslant.com/nealunger…-blogger/
it contains link to Jordanian’s suicide bomber’s blog and a website he frequented; it is interesting.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

NomNomNom said:

oops that is not working
can just google “cia suicide bomber was a blogger”

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Rob Waller said:


“Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action.”Either a wage-slave or a self-absorbed dickhead too busy slavering after the latest cell-phone and playing with it while watching American Idle (sic) or watching Pravda (AKA Fox Noise)or any other number of soporifics called “American TV”.Then we have the Republican Wurlitzer bellowing about the necessity of attacking everything that isn’t up to snuff with the American Way, whatever that is.American serfs are tied to their overlords as much as the Russian people were, which is where the similarity ends, the Russians had had enough of eating grass and the elitist blood flowed (along with many many peasants’ blood). I am flabbergasted as to what WILL IT TAKE to wake America up from being screwed, blued and tattooed.As that great American patriot George Carlin once said, “The American Dream, cause you’d have to be asleep to believe it”.I’m very fond of a great Beach Boys song… “Serfin’ USA”…Rant ends…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +2

Michael B said:

Misinterpretations or selective reading
Not saying “violence” is the or even ‘a’ solution. Again the point was missed. If someone is punching you in the face every day you better wise up and fight back by any means necessary.Chris got it wrong too by implying that there was any hint of continuing the killing against this hypothetical madman’s kin or “his” neighborhood. However what is actually happening via the imperial juggernaut is the continued killing of any and all neighborhoods and no passive resistance has proven to be able to halt this. Send me one example otherwise.For the record the highest rates of survival during the Nazi aggressions occurred from those who actively took up arms.Could Grandma Jefferson specify as to who she means when she says “we?” Does that include my children? Does that include all of us who have been resisting Empire actively in the streets through the years? Does that include…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Bill Jones said:

The great Robert Higgs
Looked at the political system in the US and like Cox’s “The Purpose of a System is What It Does”, concluded that “There is no such thing as a persistently failed policy” If a policy overtly fails to achieve its stated goals then the real goals of the policy are different from those stated. The “War on Drugs” springs readily to mind.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Grandma Jefferson said:

Michael…..
…The usage of “we” was sarcastic, a sort of antic Greek Chorus in the voice of the maniacs who run this place, and the bovine tea-bagging pizza-chompers who adore them, to sum up some of the more salient aspects of their psychotic ideology and actions, not literal. I sometimes forget that not all people recognize that sort of writing. I have no intention of changing my style, so take from it whatever you do.I console myself for this misapprehension on your part with the fact that you continue to misunderstand Chris also, no surprise. His citation of Ghandi and Martin Luther King as perfect examples of successful, organized, passive resistance on a national scale are certainly applicable here, and IMO the only moral way to combat the abominable depravity the plutocracy represents. Brutality breeds brutality, blood breeds blood, and “If you battle with monsters, have a care that you do not become a monster also”, as the philosopher warned us. You cannot fight evil with evil. But there is no organized passive resistance here to fight them, so one cannot claim, as you do, that it isn’t working. It isn’t being attempted. Endless bitching from one’s keyboard is not “passive resistance”.You falsely claim those who took up arms against the Nazis had higher survival rates. Please name who it is you’re talking about. Are you referring to Poland? Czechoslovakia? France? Russia? They died in the millions. If you mean the victims, random chance insured survival for some. They were certainly not armed, they didn’t allow guns in Auschwitz. If you mean the global alliance that levied world war against Germany and ultimately destroyed it, well yes, some soldiers, who were certainly armed, didn’t get killed, others did, war being what it is. But the assertion has no meaning in the context.But what you’re really talking about is another civil war, an armed revolution, and that will never succeed here, as the traitors of the Confederacy learned to their cost 150 years ago. This isn’t 1776. It is logistically impossible. The G is too physically and technologically entrenched, too thoroughly fused with the corporates who own it, and hold all necessary information on everyone, the nation is too vast, too populous, with too many state, county, and city governments (and enforcers), the surveillance too complete, and the weaponry too terrible, for any popular rising to go anywhere at all.Add to that formidable opposition the utter spinelessness, selfishness,and cowardice of the 300 million here, who do not dare attempt even “passive resistance” against the vampiric oligarchy that has bled them dry, for fear of losing whatever shreds are left to them. Forget about rousing such quaking, craven rabble to take their handguns into the streets.Anyone can foresee the outcome of any attempted revolt: a few hundred thousand jailed forever, a few thousand killed, and the rest groveling on their bellies, begging for “protection” from the revolutionaries.Sorry, it won’t happen.

January 07, 2010
Votes: +1

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http://www.chris-floyd.com/component/content/article/1-latest-news/1895-blowback-on-the-border-the-purpose-of-the-terror-war-system.html

Georgetown Professor:

‘Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians’ in Pakistan

REFUTED BY Jeremy Scahill

I’m not sure how many of you caught the segment last Friday on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC featuring Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a 25 year army veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Task Force STRATUS IVY and Georgetown University professor Christine Fair of the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). The two were discussing the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and potential connections to the Taliban in Pakistan. In the discussion, Lt. Col. Shaffer raised the issue of US drone strikes against Pakistan, which Shahzad reportedly has said were part of his motivation for the attempted bombing. “The Taliban are more motivated than ever to come at us,” said Shaffer, saying that “the Predator program is having the same effect in Afghanistan two years ago in killing innocents” that it is now having in Pakistan.

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Three Democracy Now! journalists were assaulted and arrested while covering protests at the RNC. Now they are fighting back.

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Professor Fair, who has also worked for the RAND Corporation and as a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, acted dumbfounded at the idea that the US drone strikes kill any civilians. “I take extreme exception top the way my colleague characterized the drones,” Fair said. “Actually the drones are not killing innocent civilians. Many of those reports are coming from deeply unreliable and dubious Pakistani press reports, which no one takes credibly on any other issue except for some reason on this issue. There’ve actually been a number of surveys on the ground, in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. The residents of FATA generally welcome the drone strikes because they know actually who’s being killed. They’re very much aware and who’s being killed and who’s not.”

Here is video of the segment:

Some estimates, most of which are indeed Pakistani sources, suggest that the vast majority of Pakistanis killed are civilians. In an Op-Ed for The New York Times last year, David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, called for a moratorium on the strikes, saying they had “killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.” They relied on “Pakistani sources,” which are apparently offensive to Professor Fair. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation recently did a meticulous review of the strikes, citing the following methodology:

“Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks–the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC–and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan–The Daily Times, Dawn, and The News–as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.”

Bergen and Tiedemann concluded that “the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent.” They concluded that under President Obama Under President Obama, who has used the drones with much greater frequency than Bush, “about a quarter [of drone-inflicted deaths] appear to have been civilians.”

I expect that Professor Fair, if confronted on this, will have to retract her definitive statement “the drones are not killing innocent civilians.” It just simply is false.

Jeremy Scahill

May 10, 2010

http://www.thenation.com/blog/georgetown-professor-drones-are-not-killing-innocent-civilians-pakistan

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Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

By michael payne (about the author)     Page 1 of 1 page(s)

For OpEdNews: michael payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama �” Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage.

This appears to be one of those situations in which the use of napalm, white phosphorus weapons and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War enraged the population and resulted in a tremendous blowback. At that time, our military was under the impression that such shock and awe administered on the nation of Vietnam would bring them to their knees. In fact, the result was exactly the opposite when, after 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives, our military was forced to quickly exit that war when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.

You know, if drones were used properly, there could be a place for them around the world. It has been reported that the U.K., Australia, Germany and Italy have begun to experiment with drones for border patrols, to curtail illegal fishing, for illegal immigration and for drug enforcement. So more and more nations are beginning to acquire these drones for apparent peaceful uses. But just consider what might happen if, at some point in time, numerous nations with sizable fleets of drones might begin using them in military operations such as border disputes, typically such as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Where is our nation headed morally? Not long ago, the question of torture was all over the news and there was a furious debate going on about its moral implications. Then the issue just disappeared when Mr. Obama just looked away, with time to only look forward and not dwell on the past. And so, we Americans also let the matter drop.

Now we have another great moral issue with these deadly, lethal drones. Their use and the devastating impact on innocent civilians apparently doesn’t register with our president either as he remains completely silent on the entire matter. He is just looking away. And so, are we the people once again going to let the matter just drop?

When we Americans are witnesses to these extremely moral issues, will we simply look away? Is that what America has become?

Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author

and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Deadly-drones-immoral-wea-by-michael-payne-091021-444.html

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May 4th, 201006:34 PM ET
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U.S. official: Greater use of drones goes back to Bush era

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When the latest apparent U.S. drone strike was conducted this week against militants in Pakistan, the obvious question appeared to be: Did the United States get a “big fish” in the Taliban or al Qaeda organizations?

But a U.S. counterterrorism official says that’s now the wrong question to ask, and chances are those hit were not major players. He wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the latest strike, but with the official backing of his bosses, he sought to explain how U.S. strategy has changed in the crucial effort to attack targets inside Pakistan with missiles fired from drones.

The plan now is to attack a broader set of terrorist targets far beyond the original effort to strike and kill top al Qaeda leaders, the official said.

The strategy originated not with President Barak Obama, but with the previous administration, he said.

While the United States is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones – which are controlled remotely – U.S. officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes.

The more expansive target set was originally approved in the final months of the Bush administration in late 2008, but has been stepped up under the Obama White House, the official said. It is seen as a key strategy to help protect the growing number of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan from insurgents operating in Pakistan’s border region.

Drone-launched missiles are now hitting lower-level al Qaeda and Taliban personnel, camps, training areas, bomb makers, buildings and other targets in the remote region.

“You’ve had an expanded target set for time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” the official said.

“The enemy, to be sure, has lost commanders, operational planners, weapons specialists, facilitators, and more. But they’ve also lost fighters and trainers – the kinds of people who have killed American and allied forces in Afghanistan,” he said. “Just because they’re not big names doesn’t mean they don’t kill. They do. Their facilities – where they prepare, rest, and ready weapons – are legitimate targets, too.”

Success in using the drones depends on larger intelligence efforts, said Frances Fragos Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, and now a CNN intelligence analyst. Drones are just one tool in larger strategy, she said.

It requires other tools – intelligence, military and diplomatic – to support it, she said.

The administration has been sensitive to accusations that a large number of civilians have been killed since the stepped-up raids began. Statistics kept by the New America Foundation indicate that 30 percent of those who died in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 were non-militants.

The U.S. counterterrorism official disputed that, saying, “We believe the number of non-combatant casualties since this campaign intensified is under 30 – those being people who were near terrorist targets, often by choice – while the total for militants taken off the battlefield exceeds 500.”

The official said those figures are based not only on intelligence but also on visual observations before and after strikes.

“The terrorists, who have a real incentive to spread stories of atrocities from the air, haven’t done so because they can’t do so,” the official said. “They’d have to produce names, dates, photos and witnesses – the kinds of things you see almost instantly if the coalition makes a mistake in Afghanistan. But you just don’t see that sort of thing coming out of the tribal areas. Instead, even press accounts from the area speak of militants cordoning off places that have been struck, and of local and foreign fighters being hit.”

Post by: CNN’s Barbara Starr
Filed under: Civilian deaths • Drone strikes • Obama • Taliban • al Qaeda

Displaying 38 Comments | Add comment

1May 4th, 20101:56 pm ET Unfortunately the extremely poor vetting being used in evidence of the large numbers of innocent civilians killed, unknown people being targeted and simply poor directional information makes me wonder if Dick Cheney’s old cronies are still pulling the puppet strings in the vetting conferences which green light the targets of the hell fire missiles.Blasting a innocent village family by mistake directly translates to 100 or more previously neutral residents to take up arms against America in revenge. And they’ll target any American tourist, journalist or soldier they can find. Time and time again there have been public apologies for poor vetting resulting in a wrongful hellfire missile attack. Such happens, however the unintended blow back can have long lasting regional problems which is seldom ever considered.Posted by: Smith in OregonFlag this comment
2May 4th, 20107:42 pm ET An excellent way to make more enemies.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
3May 4th, 20108:28 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,INFlag this comment
4May 4th, 201010:19 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.
Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,IN———–Excellence is in truth, not in a reason or fabrication, No body excels more in criminality, than a criminal, pretending to be beneficent, but in reality a manipulating crook.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
5May 5th, 20102:05 am ET Remember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
6May 5th, 20102:17 am ET Are you sure you’re a paramedic, Iraq Paramedic? You sound more like a freaking chapalin to me.Posted by: Steven MacReadyFlag this comment
7May 5th, 20102:49 am ET Steven McReady, yes I am a paramedic & have been on the streets of large American cities on 911 ambulances, worked night shifts in emergency rooms of hospitals & been on offshore oil rigs as a paramedic & now over here. My personal experiances of having my hands on the newly dead, dieing & severly injuried have only strengthened my belief in GOD & his son JESUS CHRIST. It is quite comforting to know that after witnessing a mans brains all over the walls & cieling of his residence & then having to tell his family that GOD will listen to me & calm me so I can go on to the next call. It is hard some times to realize that it all is part of his ultimate plan but, that is a conversation for another forumn.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
8May 5th, 201011:22 am ET Taking the human out of warfare, takes the possibility or demand for peace out of warfare as well.Also, I know this ‘protects Americans by taking them out of harms way’, but I feel that we are assuming such an enormous technological advantage that we will force the enemy to seek out non-conventional weapons like chemical, biological or God forbid; nuclear.Look at this from their perspective: it’s like War of the Worlds for them, and if we were in their shoes, you bet we’d be looking for the biggest, baddest weapon imaginable to try and level the playing field.Posted by: SteveFlag this comment
9May 5th, 201012:30 pm ET Steve – I am sure they would use chemical, biological, and nuclear if they could get ahold of those items. And an enormous technological advantage is what we are striving for. We do not intend to fight a fair or even fight.Posted by:HeuibFlag this comment
10May 5th, 20101:22 pm ET It is unfortunate that civilians get caught in a hostile environment but if the blame is to be set upon anyone it should be the antagonists. How do you do that when one side claims invasion and one claims self-defense? Islam claims persecution across the globe but at the same time, most of the countries tied up in a conflict with Islam is doing so out of retaliation for something the radicals initiated on them in the first place. Why is it that Islam feels the need to impose it’s will on the rest of the world? How many other religions use death and destruction as a platform to do that? One might argue that Christians do the same thing, but I have yet to hear even one claim that America is in the middle east in the name of God. On the contrary, America is more and more denouncing God and the leader is actually endorsed and supported by the same people who demand seperation of church and state, so, that seems illogical to me. Now if Obama was crying for the destruction of all Arabs or Muslims because God demands it (like the majority of Muslim leaders) then Yes I could catagorize Christians with Islamists but so far that hasn’t happened.Posted by: jcFlag this comment
11May 5th, 20103:16 pm ET “without putting our soldiers in harms way”Dude, that’s what we get paid for. That’s what we train for. That’s what we do!Predator’s… pffft.Posted by: Real soldierFlag this comment
12May 5th, 20103:42 pm ET Beware of making war too easy and less costly in terms of US human lives.Posted by: davecFlag this comment
13May 5th, 20103:49 pm ET Tracking, thats what you get paid for. I am right there with you. But if I can take you over and bring you back, that is even better. The UAVs are a great asset, but like you said this is what we get paid to do.Posted by: Real OfficerFlag this comment
14May 5th, 20104:35 pm ET I have to disagree Smith in Oregon. I would venture to say that there are very few if any innocent villages in the that area of Pakistan. I don’t think there are many people in that area who either have not already taken up arms against the west or support those who have taken up arms. I don’t agree with killing innocent people and I agree that when it happens it can create more problems. However, how would you have the military fight? Wait until they come over to Afganistan or America and shoot at someone or blow something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.Posted by: D in OregonFlag this comment
15May 5th, 20104:49 pm ET The difference is that the use of Drones shows just what a hypocrite Obama is. He uses them because they are out of sight and out of mind of the News Media. But he’s not really willing to do what it takes to win the war. And so soldiers die for nothing – and Afghanistan will fall back into medievalism.Posted by:jkantor267Flag this comment
16May 5th, 20105:04 pm ET May 5th, 2010
2:05 am ETRemember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!———–Life begins with the man, not the woman. Masters Isacc and Ishmael were of the same seed. There is no difference in seed of one man. There is nothing more for one and there is nothing less for other. They were the children of our parents, Adam and Eve. They are our brother and of equal status as human being. They were chosen, we are not. Greatness is not in birth, but in obedience of God as was commanded by the masters, our master and our Imams., peace be upon them. Massage of obedience of the truth, not of the desires. May Allah the merciful, bless us to decide every thing by the Truth, not a reason, because every one of us is created equal. The day you are ready to implement the truth, Muslim will not be far behind. Ba Izan Allah. By the will of the limit most high. The Truth.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
17May 5th, 20105:19 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.Posted by: dr,vFlag this comment
18May 5th, 20105:30 pm ET something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.
Posted by: D in Oregon—————–Do you mean, 9/11 and other attacks are justified. do you agree with them,presumption of guilt by association is justified. If this is the case, probably you have no case against them.Posted by:Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
19May 5th, 20105:40 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.
Posted by: dr,v————–No body else has to judge, if a person makes his choice in truth. 9/11 was not an action but a reaction, one has to remember the action he took to invite the reaction, It is forgivable, if person admits it and rectifies. but denial of it will not make the problem, go away. Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
20May 5th, 20107:12 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.Posted by: slozombyFlag this comment
21May 5th, 20108:13 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.
Posted by: slozomby————–Drones were invented before Bush time. Only thing, mushroomed was the conservative ignorance. A proud contribution of Bush, Chennai.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
22May 5th, 20108:45 pm ET Send in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.Posted by:censorshipFlag this comment
23May 5th, 201010:40 pm ET May 5th, 2010
8:45 pm ETSend in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.
Posted by: censorship
Flag this comment————–So now you wish to do, what Shazad failed to do, Collateral damage in USA besides Afghanistan and Pakistan..Posted by:Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
24May 6th, 20102:18 am ET No matter what, better them than us. Anyone that writes about innocent people getting killed and that we cannot control the kills good enough are playing into the terrorists hands and,,,,,makes me wonder just who they are. Most of the negative remarks are terrrorists themselves or friends of them. Say what you want but, YOU idiots are playing into someones hands and are not protecting OUR soldiers by suggesting that we walk and shake their hands hoping that they’ll be better people. The only good ones are dead ones and anyone near them should consider that their lives might end very quick. Yes, I know that some have no choice but, You’ll never convince me that any ten or twenty or fifty of them is worth one of ours. My suggestion is get a life, get over it, stay away from the terroristsand their friends and when some get converted because of a loss of a loved one, prepare to die also. Once you convert, I really do want you in my crosshairs.Posted by:DANFlag this comment
25May 6th, 20102:25 am ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbyePosted by: ArmyFlag this comment
26May 6th, 20102:26 am ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.Posted by:DANFlag this comment
27May 6th, 20102:40 am ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?—–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
28May 6th, 20104:10 am ET If three men were standing in a field and one took out a hidden gun and shot a bystander,
Only one man is guilty of Murder. How ever it is known in law if you know who fired the gun and do not speak out or oiint out that person with the gun then you are aiding and abetting and felon. This makes you his accomplice. We apply this to bank robbers and the like but does it not also apply here? I think it does. In the Koran and the bible a lie by ommission is still a lie because you do not speak out the truth.Posted by: InterestingFlag this comment
29May 6th, 20106:46 am ET The US. military needs to steep up us of the use of drones in military defeance. I think it is the one od the best tech. advantages we have. Todays warfare is around the world and we can not maintain military bases around the world to defend our country. The us of a drone is no more deferant then cruster bomding and area killing many civilians, with the drone are target is normaly hit.
The use of Dones and more tech. in them is needed.Posted by: Scotch HollowFlag this comment
30May 6th, 20108:38 am ET The US Navy was using drones off destroyers in Vietnam in the sixties. Ballons were used to spot artrillery fire by our founding fathers. Did I see a funny bug the size of a golf ball floating around?Posted by: HereOneTimeFlag this comment
31May 6th, 201012:41 pm ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?-–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.
Posted by: DAN——-Call your self American brain less conservative Osma bin Ladin. He thinks the same way and sending human Drones to inflict civilian casualties like American Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not America or Good sensible Americans deserve it, but Blinded Goons like you. He claims to be taking GANGRENE off of the Worthless brains of self described ignorant conservatives. If there is any thing in there head,other than GANGRENE.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
32May 6th, 201012:52 pm ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbye
Posted by: Army————-see, see they not, hear, hear they not, They just do not under stand. Mathew 13:13. The Ignorant conservative Genitals (Brian less slaves) of the Pharisees, The criminals. True one can not argue with an Ignorant, you and your kind, The slaves.Posted by:Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
33May 6th, 20101:01 pm ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.
Posted by: DAN———–Pray left one will be you, there is no grantee, Match is still on, So for has been blow for a blow, Brainless elephant is loosing strength and Dancing on the tunes of Osama. Intelligent people have their own initiatives, not the ignorant followers of Pharisees (criminal) proud to be Genitals (slaves) not free people, like rest of the Americans.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
34May 6th, 20101:17 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes-precise and effective-have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by:No-Name Terrorists Now C.I.A. Drone Targets as U.S. Set to Expand Airstrikes « Little Alex in WonderlandFlag this comment
35May 6th, 20103:31 pm ET […] Obama cannot waste time with those things either. As an always-unnamed official told CNN: […]Posted by: Bomb Faith « THE NEW TERRORISTFlag this comment
36May 6th, 201011:41 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: The Truth Or The Fight » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
37May 7th, 20103:03 am ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: Technofascism blog » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
38May 8th, 20107:14 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: No-name terrorists now CIA drone targets | Live News Instant

http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/04/obama-administrations-greater-use-of-drones-goes-back-to-bush-era/

http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/04/obama-administrations-greater-use-of-drones-goes-back-to-bush-era/

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Local View: Drone warfare is inhumane

By TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm | (9) Comments

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Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (or drones) more and more are becoming the weapon of choice for America’s international War on Terror. The Predator and the Reaper models, in particular, have become so popular that, in its 2011 budget, the Air Force is requesting more drones than piloted combat aircraft.

Capable of staying aloft unobserved for 24 hours at time and conducting surveillance with spy cameras, at a moment’s notice, these hunter/killer drones abruptly can launch their Hellfire guided missiles and smart bombs at suspected terrorists. The missions for these robot warriors now range from standard military operations in Afghanistan, to targeted assassinations of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan coordinated by the CIA and even the notorious private security firm, Blackwater (now called Xe).

And though its name is almost never mentioned, U.S. Strategic Command here in Nebraska is an active accomplice in each and every one of these drone flights.

StratCom, with its Space, Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance and Global Strike missions, is integrally involved at every stage of these missions-from the intelligence-gathering to the targeting to the actual ‘flying’ of these satellite-controlled aircraft.

Before our very eyes, these airborne robots are changing the art and rules of warfare.

But the butchery that their space-directed missiles and bombs wreak down on the ground is as grisly and hideous ever.

In 2009, the CIA’s almost weekly clandestine drone attacks in Pakistan were credited with killing anywhere from 350 to 550 people-many of them innocent civilians, including children. The non-combatant death toll has fed anti-American sentiment in that country, threatening the stability of the 1-year-old elected government and its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

No less problematic is the fact that these deaths of innocent bystanders have served as a recruiting tool for both al-Qaida and the Taliban. As David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency warfare expert who advised Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, bluntly puts it, “Every one of these non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”

War by robot may be reducing U.S. fatalities, which the folks here at home undoubtedly appreciate. The message it is sending to the developing world, though-of an imperial power that kills brutally, indiscriminately and impersonally-is arriving with the force of a Hellfire missile. And it’s creating serious political blowback for the Obama administration.

The ramifications of this drone warfare policy go even deeper, however-right to the core of our democratic system of governance. With the CIA and even mercenary outfits like Blackwater/Xe now regularly assassinating so-called high-value targets on the U.S. government’s behalf, where’s the accountability? Who exactly is drawing up these hit lists and on whose authority? Covert entities like the CIA whose disregard for legislative oversight is legendary? Soldiers for hire like Blackwater who kill in America’s name? Can our senators and representatives in Washington tell us? Do they even know?

And let’s not forget StratCom. With eight different military missions in its quiver (including combating weapons of mass destruction and cyberwarfare), StratCom today-in the words of its current commander, Gen. Kevin Chilton-is “the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.” Now charged with split second authority to engage and defeat terrorism, StratCom is routinely skating on the edges of national and international law, practicing what’s beginning to look worrisomely like vigilante justice.

Drone warfare is inhuman, inherently undemocratic and based right in Nebraskans’ backyard at U.S. Strategic Command. Our democratic system of checks and balances, however, was never designed to deal with a phenomenon like robot war and this dangerous drift in our nation’s military policy.

Legally and militarily, this is a spooky new world we are blundering into. And our elected officials need to know that we’re worried and we’re watching to see what they plan to do about it.

Tim Rinner is state coordinator for Nebraskans for Peace.

Posted in Columnists on Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm Updated: 8:05 pm.

http://journalstar.com/news/opinion/editorial/columnists/article_772483b6-190d-11df-9c1c-001cc4c03286.html

Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

October 25, 2009 by Infowars Ireland

For OpEdNews: Michael Payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama – Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage. Read full article…

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Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan–

the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

Posted on January 9, 2010 by Juan

I just saw a clip on Aljazeera Arabic of the “martyrdom tape” of Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian-Palestinian double agent who carried out a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan, last week, killing 7 Americans working for the Central Intelligence Agencyalong with his handler, a Jordanian intelligence operative. He said his action was a message to the enemies of the Muslim community in the Jordanian and US intelligence agencies. The tape began with him outside firing a weapon, then he was seated against a black backdrop in Afghan clothing. He said he would prove that religion could not be bought and sold (was the CIA offering him millions as a reward?) He said that his suicide operation would be revenge for the killing by CIA drone of Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Urdu acronym: TTP). He noted that Mahsud had said that Usama Bin Laden was not in South Waziristan, but that if he came there, he would be protected. Al-Balawi asserted that Baitullah Mahsud was killed for these words, which were right words. He spoke of the latter’s son and successor, Hakimu’llah Mahsud, as his ‘amir’ or leader, and wished him every success in his holy struggle. The Arabic print press is now picking up the story.

Although Pakistani troops fighting in South Waziristan had found Arab passports and other effects suggesting a small presence of Arab fighters with the TTP, al-Balawi had clearly joined the movement and given it his allegiance. It seems to me an alarming development, as the Aljazeera anchor also noted, that Arab jihadi volunteers might now be enlisting under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban rather than, as in the past, al-Qaeda or one of the Afghan insurgent groups. The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).

Many intelligence specialists had insisted that the Khost bombing was the work of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. But I read al-Balawi’s emotionalism about the Mahsuds as a clear indication that he was working for them rather than for the Haqqanis. He must have repeated seven or eight times that Baitullah Mahsud would be avenged. The militant founder of the TTTP was killed by a US drone strike in South Waziristan in August.

The Obama administration convinced the Pakistani military to launch an attack on the Taliban Movement of Pakistan in South Waziristan this fall, so that Hakimu’llah Mahsud is on the run.

The day before, Mustafa al-Yazid, the reputed head of ‘al-Qaeda in Afghanistan’ (which doesn’t really exist; there are only 100 al-Qaeda fighters in that country) said that the Khost operation was in revenge for US drone strikes on militants in the Federally Administered Tribal areas of Pakistan.

Two US drone strikes, on Wednesday and Friday, have killed an estimated 16 militants in North Waziristan.

Al-Balawi’s sad biography in fact ties together the whole history of Western, including Israeli, attacks on the Middle East. Al-Balawi’s family is Palestinians displaced from Beersheba by Zionist immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, who in 1948 ethnically cleansed about 700,000 Palestinians from what became Israel. Most Palestinians in Jordan are bitter about the loss of their homes, for which they never received compensation, and some still live in refugee camps. The British Empire and the United States supported this displacement of the Palestinians and to this day the US government often attempts to criminalize even charitable aid to the suffering Palestinian people.

AP has a video interview with al-Balawi’s Turkish wife, in which she traces his radicalization to the brutal US occupation of neighboring Iraq, including reports of the rape of Iraqi women by US troops at Abu Ghraib (where much of the torture had sexual overtones) and the US destruction of the city of Fallujah in November-December 2004.

The Arabic press is confirming that al-Balawi was further enraged by the Israeli war on poor little Gaza last winter. A physician, he volunteered to be part of a group that intended to go to Gaza to do relief work for the victims of Israel’s brutal targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. (The Israelis were trying to destroy the fundamentalist Hamas party, which rules Gaza, and gave as their pretext the occasional rockets Hamas fired into Israel, though in fact there had been a truce for much of 2008, a truce of which the Israelis coldly took advantage to plan their war.)

The Jordanian secret police arrested al-Balawi to prevent him from going to Gaza. It may be that he had to agree to work for it as a quid pro quo to regain his freedom.

After the vicious war on Gaza was over, and the schools and hospitals lay in ruin, Israel ratcheted up a siege of the small territory of 1.6 million persons, half of them children, denying them enough services, fuel and even food for a decent life. In some parts of Gaza, 10 percent of the children are stunted because of malnutrition. Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport and harbor and strictly controls what goes into the territory. Israel never says what its end game is here, and how long exactly they are going to keep the children of Gaza in what one Vatican official has called a ‘concentration camp.’

In the past couple of weeks (though you would not know it from American television), two separate civilian Western aid convoys were mounted to relieve the Gazans via Gaza’s small southwestern border with Egypt (the Israelis would never have allowed them to do this, and the Egyptian state wasn’t happy either). One was supported with a hunger strike by an elderly Holocaust survivor. Some of those in the second were assaulted by the Egyptian police. British MP George Galloway was deported and forbidden to return to Egypt. Egypt is dragooned into supporting the illegal blockade of Gaza by the US on behalf of Israel, and is also afraid of the fundamentalist Hamas, which has resorted to terrorism.

Collective punishment of a whole population, especially one still technically occupied, is illegal in international law.

What is fascinating is the way al-Balawi’s grievances tie together the Iraq War, the ongoing Gaza atrocity, and the Western military presence in the Pushtun regions– the geography of the Bush ‘war on terror’ was inscribed on his tortured mind.

Morally speaking, al-Qaeda is twisted and evil, and has committed mass murder. Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Al-Qaeda or a Taliban affiliate turned al-Balawi to the dark side. Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us the proper response to social injustice (and it should not be forgotten that Gandhi had a significant following among the Pashtuns). But from a social science, explanatory point of view, what we have to remember is that there can be a handful of al-Balawis, or there can be thousands or hundreds of thousands. It depends on how many Abu Ghraibs, Fallujahs, Lebanons and Gazas the United States initiates or supports to the hilt. Unjust wars and occupations radicalize people. The American Right wing secretly knows this, but likes the vicious circle it produces. Wars make profits for the military-industrial complex, and the resulting terrorism terrifies the clueless US public and helps hawks win elections, allowing them to pursue further wars. And so it goes, until the Republic is bankrupted and in ruins and its unemployed have to live in tent cities.

So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.

End/ (Not Continued)

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20 Responses to Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan– the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

  1. gdamiani says:

January 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.

Then who is ?

Also with all the due respect Professor but mass murder are not social injustices…

Reply

  1. Jean-ollivier says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Excellent paper, though a saddening one. It is fascinating to note that Afghanistan remains the graveyard of empires (no quote unquote marks) after such a long time and so many experiences.

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Where do we go from here? To be safe are we yet wiling to board air planes naked? Are we yet willing to be handcuffed while in flight?

No, these are not the answer. The answer can only be found by first asking the question, why they hate us. No, they don’t hate us for our freedom – as suggested by our government, and propagated by our corporate owned media. (Unless the freedom we are talking about is our freedom to bomb and occupy their countries with impunity)

So, where do we go from here? It should be clear to everyone that Pres Obama is not the answer. Our government is run by a military-industrial-congress complex. Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy). Today, as voters, we do not have a choice – both major parties represent the same interests.

We need campaign finance reform and we need independent media. Come next election we should vote only for candidates who support the above two issues to start with. Unless we do so I see no hope of peace for the world an no hope for our country getting back on track.

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  1. James-Speaks says:

January 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

“So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.”

Now, now Juan. Donald Rumsfeld explained to us several years ago that al-Balawi is an “unknown unknown” upon which US policy is based, so you see, the system works.

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  1. Scott Corey says:

January 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I very much agree with Prof. Cole’s identification of political benefit being derived from a vicious circle of violence.

This would be a good moment for readers to check the Wikipedia entry for German philosopher Carl Schmidt. The entry suffers from some spelling and grammar problems, but see if you do not recognize Dick Cheney’s “unitary executive” in Schmidt’s ideas about authority making a permanent exception for itself, and the role of enmity against guerrillas and other “partisans.”

This ideological connection has been openly discussed among political scientists for more than a decade. It is what distinguishes the unitarists from other neo-cons, and it is how we can realize that the political party of limited government has been infiltrated by a faction that believes in unlimited government.

I would leave out the connection to the military industrial complex. The Bush administration did not mind starving the traditional military industries that wanted to produce armor for the Iraq war. Money went instead to military “contractors” that were, for instance, given immunity from prosecution for any crime whatsoever in Iraq. It is not really about the money, it is about unrestrained power and violence.

What has been added to Schmidt is the realization that such a system of arbitrary, violent authority creates enemies and, as Prof. Cole points out, this feeds back to support further abuse of power.

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  1. JamesL says:

January 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Dr. Cole,

You write that neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Then you continue with many reasons why US and Israeli policies create intolerable conditions which facilitate violence and increase despair, the continual combination of which is the best growth medium for violent crackpots. That the US and Israel are not responsible is only true within a thin theoretical slice.

The numbers of the radically disaffected are not as important as the trend, the dynamic, and the energy. Al-Balawi’s clearly stated reason was revenge for Mahsud’s death via a drone strike. The trend, dynamic, and energy of the conflict he describes are not simply those of Mahsud, Al-Balawi, and other disaffected people, but also of the US (and perhaps other unknown players). Focusing on the reactions of those labelled “terrorist” misdirects away from the reasons for the reactions. The US trend, dynamic, and energy are toward MORE drone attacks, MORE military intervention, more local covert activity, more intervention. Drone stikes didn’t even exist just a few years ago. They are the new baby of the CIA and US military about which every detail, including the dead, is “reported”. No proof means no oversight. And, in terms of care and feeding of continual war, as long as the dead are unidentified that identity can be used repeatedly. Who will run DNA checks on a mid level terrorist? Does Bin Laden lie crushed and buried in some collapsed cave while his legend marches on?

The log in America’s eye is that it choses not to comprehend that many actions such as those of Al-Balawi are merely blowback–payback– for US actions, made possible by technology and individual will. The choice to not comprehend is intentional ignorance, which Bush II enthusiastically endorsed and which has become increasingly popular. But intentional ignorance is unpleasant beyond the short term and suicidal in the long term. Actions such as Al-Balawi’s only rate in the short-term/unpleasant category. In the scope of time and with increasing US interventions, much uglier consequences await. America’s further dilemma is that the log in its eye is held there by continual constructs by the military and military industrialists–which before advertising were hated by Americans as blood sucking war profiteers–to whom the effective manipulations of social science upon the public mind are as critically important as a plump budget and a new upcoming war.

If the dynamic of the US is toward more and more violent intervention, by what equation does one believe that the reactions of ordinary people will not follow suit. By what equation does the US prove it can “win” by using one multi-million dollar missile to kill six people, half of them innocent, when ordinary people, motivated to suicide by a personal compulsion based on family, religion, and culture, can kill several people for a hundred dollars or less. How does the equation change if the number of missiles is 50, 100, or 500? This is America’s dilemma, not that of those affected by American policy, because Americans, placed in the same situation, would do the same thing. America’s dilemma is how to stop shooting itself.

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  1. Emrys says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This mess is the result of policy decisions dating back to at least FDR. As unintended consequences from these policy decisions exploded in our faces, new decisions were made which also had unintended consequences. So like a person in a maze, we continue to blunder along looking for the exit, taking advice from whomever promises us an exit. The military/industrial complex tells us that the increased use of drones, along with increased intelligence, will suppress terrorist elements in the Middle East and East Africa. Is this without conseqences? And with every hurt inlicted on us, we react with outrage, demanding revenge. This all works to those elements that want our continued involvement in this region, and as near as I can tell, it is exceeding.

Reply

  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

>> So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy. <<

Say someone comes to the intelligence agencies and says “I’ve got a background with these jihadist groups, I’ve been involved with them for several years, I’ve got a history of expressing views that’ll give me credibility with them, if they check out my history and family background they’ll find it convincing, and I can use this to find some of their leaders for you.”

They check out his story and it’s all like he said. He does have that background and those connections and has expressed those views.

Now what do you make of this background check?

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  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Anonymous wrote:
>> Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back? <<

Wait, are you implying that this somehow shows Baitullah Mahsud’s threats “on the US homeland” are somehow bigger than they seemed? How so?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Dear Professor Cole :
You wrote ; “The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).” That is how I understood the origins – but I’ve just read Churchill’s tale of The Malakand Field Force . He wrote ;
” Their superstition exposes them to the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood–”Mullahs,” “Sahibzadas,” “Akhundzadas,” “Fakirs,”
–and a host of wandering Talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey, and live free at the expense of the
people. ”
Young Winston was not the most unbiased reporter , and I doubt he knew more Pushtu than me , but … ” talib-ul-ilm ” ?
I suspect that there is more to the history of the talibs than we hear about . In a society that is mostly illiterate , those who are learning must have some status , so I suspect that there may be stories about ” students to the rescue ” which predate the present taliban .
Please shed some light on this – I suspect there is a story here .

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  1. jcc2455 says:

January 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

“Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?”

And if he did, so what? Since when is Khost, Afghanistan part of the “US Homeland?” Did I miss a congressional annexation vote, and an application for statehood by the new US territory of Afghanistan?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

“Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

Do you not believe in self defense?

Maybe your use of this phrase hinges on the word “crackpots”, because surely by invading and occupying a country you are responsible for the ensuing civil unrest. You can’t expect to illegally invade a country without encountering legitimate resistance.

Otherwise, for example, the Nazis would be blameless for the actions of the French Resistance. I wouldn’t call them crackpots. Would you have expected them to behave like MLK?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:13 am

Cole: “Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

From Glen Greenwald’s piece “Helen Thomas Deviates From the Terrorism Script”:

“The evidence of what motivates Terrorism when directed at the U.S. is so overwhelming and undeniable that it takes an extreme propagandist to pretend it doesn’t exist.

What is (John) Brennan so afraid of? It’s true that religious fanaticism is a part of their collective motivation, but why can’t he just say what’s so obviously true: “they claim that the U.S. is interfering in, occupying and bringing violence to their part of the world, they cite things like civilian deaths and our support for Israel and Guantanamo and torture, and claim that their terrorism is in retaliation”? ”

Reply

  1. Arnold Evans says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:20 am

Following the link, the stunting rate in Gaza was 10% in 2006.

It is certainly higher now, as much less food is entering, unfortunately I don’t think a solid figure is available.

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 1:32 am

How this suicide bomber opened a new front in Al-Qaeda’s war

New details have emerged of the failures that led to the deaths of seven CIA agents and one Jordanian agent in Afghanistan

The Meaning of al Qaeda’s Double Agent

The jihadists are showing impressive counterintelligence ability that the CIA seems to have underestimated

Reply

  1. Peter Attwood says:

January 10, 2010 at 5:50 am

I’m not clear how blowing up seven CIA people in Afghanistan, while they are engaged in terrorizing that nation’s population with drones, is an act of terrorism. According to the US “Defense” Dept, terrorism is violence directed against a civilian population to further political goals.

Starving and bombing the civilians of Gaza falls under that definition, as does the regular murder of Afghan civilians being undertaken by those CIA people when they were blown up. But blowing up people engaged in such activity in someone else’s country is not terrorism by the Pentagon’s definition, no more than it would have been terrorism for one of Washington’s soldiers to set a match to some gunpowder to kill senior British officers at the cost of his own life.

And it must be said that although the British burned some American seaports, they never contemplated the sorts of atrocities that are routine in America’s colonial wars today.

Reply

  1. MonsieurGonzo says:

January 10, 2010 at 7:53 am

i think it’s weird when Americans and their media talk about terrorist attacks on US = “people within the arbitrary border that is the U.S.A.” when the problem is Americans getting killed by terrorists ~ what, more or less every day? wherever in the world they happen to be. i think it’s weird that Americans put hundreds of thousands of their citizens in uniforms and say, “it’s OK to kill and maim THEM, bring it on,” and so thousands of them die and tens of thousands of them are grievously wounded ~ but somehow these “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over There are not the same as “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over Here. But most of all, i think it’s weird that Americans send hundreds of thousands of their citizens ~ soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines ~ over to places like IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN, obviously to serve as an Occupation Force: yet then, what ~feel ashamed? by this Mission, apparent ~ the word “occupation” itself becomes media radioactive ~ ashamed to such an extent that they fail to Just DO It = OCCUPY the place; take control of it. “What strange occupiers not,” the peoples living under U.S. military occupation-not, must think of US, “that they would so enthusiastically send so many of their citizens over here to die and become wounded, mostly not in real combat, but in the act of just being here in the first place.” That some political leaders and corporations profit from this macabre enterprise is certainly true. but yeah, i think it’s weird that so many Americans hold the delusion that this ritual sacrifice (could future historians and cultural anthropologists reach any other conclusion?) of so many of their citizens somehow makes Americans feel, or will some day then make them real secure.

Reply

  1. Samson says:

January 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I found where you say this following quote to be interesting.

“The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).”

But, when I think of the timelines, the events you site were basically back in the 1980’s. So, if they were the cause, you’d have expected the TTP to arise at around the same time. Yet, you point out that they only arose 7 years ago.

What happened 7 or 8 years ago? It was Bush and the Democrats both agreeing that launching a war on Afghanistan in the region was a great idea.

Doesn’t it seem much more likely that the rising of this new group in the last 7 years is much more to do with the US bipartisan war in the region that it had as anything to do with Charlie Wilson’s war of 20 years ago?

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

“Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy).” And the Israelis can attest to that. Regarding the use of crackpots being twisted and evil, I guess you must agree that the whole Israeli political elite were a bunch of crackpots and terrorists. Weren’t they the initiators of terrorism, the way we know in the Middle East, through Irgun and other terrorist groups?

Reply

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http://www.juancole.com/2010/01/i-just-saw-clip-on-aljazeera-arabic-of.html

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Shahzad saw hits in Pakistan; lost Conn. home to foreclosure

By Kevin Spak| Posted May 5, 10 11:14 AM CDT| // Share

// 4Share

(Newser) – A picture is starting to emerge of what drove Faisal Shahzad to attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square. The 31-year-old father of two lost his home to foreclosure last summer, unable to parlay his Master’s degree into success, the LA Timesreports. Shortly thereafter he spent eight months in his native Pakistan, where he witnessed US drone strikes on Tehrik-i-Taliban leaders, sources tell the New York Post. Outraged, he signed up with the Taliban, and was trained to make explosives.

“This is blowback,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister said yesterday. “This is retaliation. And you could expect that. Let’s not be naïve, they’re going to fight back.” Officials had initially rejected the Taliban’s claims that the botched attack was retaliation for drone hits. ButPost sources say Shahzad was on authorities’ radar before the attack. According to one report, investigators are looking into a possible connection between him and David Headley, a Pakistani-American involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Pakistani villagers gather in front of a locked house, owned by the family of Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, in his native village of Mohib Banda, May 5, 2010.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

http://www.newser.com/story/87850/revenge-motive-for-times-square-bomber-nypostcom.html

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High-Tech Death from Above: U.S. Drone Wars Fuel War Crimes

by Tom Burghardt / May 3rd, 2010

As America continues its uncontrolled flight towards disaster, Israeli-style “targeted killings” (assassinations) of alleged militants and unarmed civilians in the “Afpak theatre” are on the rise.

With indiscriminate attacks by armed drones soaring since President Obama was sworn into office, the Pentagon’s mad dash to achieve what it describes as “full-spectrum dominance” in this regional “battlespace,” has sought to leverage its dominant position as the world leader in robotized forms of state killing and obtain a decisive technological edge over their adversaries.

Judging by proverbial “facts on the ground,” they’ll need it. The World Socialist Web Sitedisclosed May 1, that a “semi-annual report released by the Pentagon on the Afghanistan war recorded a sharp increase in attacks on occupation troops and scarce support for the corrupt US-backed puppet regime of President Hamid Karzai.”

Despite Obama’s dispatch of 35,000 troops since his inauguration as imperial Consul, socialist critic Bill Van Auken writes that the congressionally-mandated progress report “presented a grim picture of the state of the nearly nine-year-old, US-led war,” and that “the country’s so-called insurgents considered 2009 their ‘most successful year’.”

That the drone wars will escalate is underscored by a piece in Air Force Times. Writing May 1, an anonymous correspondent reports that Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Glenn Walters, the deputy director for resources and acquisition for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said “the U.S. military has sent so many of its 6,500 UAVs to the Middle East that other operating theaters are going without.”

Speaking April 28 at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) conference in northern Virginia, Walters said that Obama’s Afghanistan “surge” has stripped other Pentagon commands of drones and that it “will likely be a year before U.S. planners have a better handle on how many UAVs will be needed there and how many can be spared for use outside of the Middle East.”

“By 2012,” Walters told the killer robot conclave, “we’ll have 8,000 UAVs that will have to fit into” the Defense Department’s global maintenance and basing structure.

All the more reason then, in keeping with the Pentagon’s twisted logic, to escalate attacks on Pakistan, raining high-tech death from above!

Remote-Controlled War Crimes

Since its inception under the criminal Bush regime, the administration’s robot assassination policy has been called into question by legal scholars and civil liberties’ advocates who charge that CIA, but also military pilots, waging America’s undeclared drone war on Pakistan may be liable for war crimes.

During hearings last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s National Security and Foreign Affairs panel, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the committee that “Combat drones are battlefield weapons. They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

The one caveat I would add to the professor’s statement are that “police” would be“proper law enforcement agents” outside combat zones were America a “normal” country that abides by the rule of law, including laws governing armed conflict. Clearly, a nation that squanders nearly $800B of it’s treasure in a single year on death and destruction is anything but normal.

O’Connell went on to say that “restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use. Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.” The Notre Dame law prof continued: “At the very time we are trying to win hearts and minds to respect the rule of law, we are ourselves failing to respect a very basic rule: remote weapons systems belong on the battlefield.”

In a sharply worded letter to President Obama, submitted as a statement for the record to the House panel, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero wrote, “I am writing to express our profound concern about recent reports indicating that you have authorized a program that contemplates the killing of suspected terrorists–including U.S. citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict. If accurately described, this program violates international law and, at least insofar as it affects U.S. citizens, it is also unconstitutional.”

Romero stated that the “U.S. is engaged in non-international armed conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq and the lawfulness of its actions must be judged in that context. … The entire world is not a war zone, and wartime tactics that may be permitted on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be deployed anywhere in the world where a terrorism suspect happens to be located.”

But as the imperial project goes to ground, we can expect that the administration’s policy of targeting its enemies for liquidation on the streets of Sana’a, Mogadishu or perhaps, even New York or Washington, will continue along on its merry way.

Last October, investigative journalist Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker that the Air Force UAV fleet “has grown from some fifty drones in 2001 to nearly two hundred; the C.I.A. will not divulge how many drones it operates. The government plans to commission hundreds more, including new generations of tiny ‘nano’ drones, which can fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.”

And given the classified rules governing the CIA’s “geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” the highly-compartmented program affords the President another plausibly deniable weapon in the Executive Branch arsenal. Because of this, Mayer writes, “there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

“Should something go wrong in the C.I.A.’s program,” Mayer reports, “it’s unclear what the consequences would be.”

Judging however, by the response of our “forward looking” President and his “liberal” acolytes in Congress, academia and the media to widespread constitutional abuses (warrantless wiretapping), the waging of preemptive, aggressive wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), and illegal detention and torture by the previous, and current, U.S. regimes, it’s pretty obvious what those “consequences” will be.

“The Predators in the C.I.A. program,” Mayer observes, “are ‘flown’ by civilians, both intelligence officers and private contractors.” Described as “seasoned professionals” by Mayer’s counterterrorism source, the CIA has outsourced “a significant portion of its work.” And “from their suburban redoubt,” we’re informed, “they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target.”

But therein lies the rub for the CIA.

During last week’s congressional hearings, Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, toldthe House panel that the CIA’s crew of killer drone pilots could, in theory at least, be prosecuted because they aren’t combatants in a legal sense.

“It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” Glazier said.

“Under this view” Glazier continued, “CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause.” Here’s where things get interesting. “But under the legal theories adopted byour government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.” (emphasis added)

There it is, plug-and-play state killing; but fear not.

As a top Bush administration aide told investigative journalist Ron Suskind in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

While the swagger and imperial hubris of the Bush regime may have been swapped for the vastly superior Obama (PR) product, the results are inevitably the same: death and destruction on a planetary scale and to hell with the law and human rights.

Drone Wars Escalate

As The Long War Journal noted in January, the American drone campaign “in Pakistan’s tribal areas remains the cornerstone of the effort to root out and decapitate the senior leadership of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other allied terror groups, and to disrupt both al Qaeda’s global and local operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

CNN reported that CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles last May that the American drone war is “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt” the leadership of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda.

But with civilian deaths spiking, the robot reign of terror has sparked widespread opposition across all political sectors in Pakistan, from far-right Islamist factions to thesocialist left. While Pentagon and CIA officials claim that civilian deaths are “regrettable,” an unintended consequence of America’s global imperial project, facts on the ground tell a different tale.

Last year, investigative journalist Amir Mir reported in Lahore’s English-language newspaper, The News, that of 60 “cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.”

According to Mir, the “drone attacks went wrong due to faulty intelligence information, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children.” The Pentagon and CIA dispute these figures.

In February however, Mir disclosed that Afghanistan-based Predator drones “carried out a record number of 12 deadly missile strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan in January 2010, of which 10 went wrong and failed to hit their targets, killing 123 innocent Pakistanis. The remaining two successful drone strikes killed three al-Qaeda leaders, wanted by the Americans.”

According to the journalist, the spike in drone assaults indicated that “revenge is the major motive for these attacks,” and can be “attributed to December 30, 2009 suicide bombing in the Khost area of Afghanistan bordering North Waziristan, which killed seven CIA agents. US officials later identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national linked to both al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

In other words, the slaughter of 123 civilians was viewed by the CIA and Pentagon as a splendid means “to avenge the loss of the seven CIA agents and to raise morale of its forces in Afghanistan.”

Sensitive as always to the suffering of others, The Washington Post reported April 26, that “CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimize civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan.”

According to the Post, “technological improvements” in recent months “have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage,” the unnamed officials said.

Stung by the growing furor over civilian deaths, the Agency defensively claims their assassination program delivers “precision unsurpassed in the history of warfare.”

Chief among the “improvements” cited by the Post, CIA Predators are now fielding a Lockheed Martin-designed “Small Smart Weapon” called the Scorpion. Clocking-in at 21 inches, weighing 35 pounds and having the diameter of a “small coffee cup,” the Postreports that it causes far less damage than a Hellfire “and it can be fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person, in complete darkness.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the Scorpion “provides the warfighter with low cost lethality against a broad target set” and “ensures accuracy to less than one meter and dramatically reduces the possibility of collateral damage.”

I’m sure this comes as a comforting reassurance of America’s pure intentions, especially for “Afpak” women and children who’ve been turned into smoldering body parts scattered across the landscape of our latest “good war.”

An Evolving Marketplace…for High-Tech Death

As the United States continues its drive to dominate resource-rich, but politically unstable regions of the world, the Pentagon, in a throw-back to the “Camelot” era of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ have embraced the counterinsurgency doctrine of fighting multiple “brushfire” wars in inhospitable global hot-spots.

Increasingly, as the “battlespace” morphs from fighting in jungles, deserts or that former Cold War set-piece, the European plain, directly into large urban areas, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) takes center stage. While “situational awareness” of the hot zone has always been a preoccupation of Pentagon planners, the nature of urban combat places a premium on complex technological systems that gather intelligence–from low earth orbit to right outside your door.

Such preoccupations have been a boon for America’s defense and security grifters.

During 2010’s first quarter, Washington Technology reported, that “contracts announced during January, February and March had values that ranged from $266 million to $2.8 billion.”

According to reporter Nick Wakeman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., “secured” a $266 million contract from the Air Force for “program and technical support for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems.”

Work will include “program and configuration management, logistics, technical services, flight and operations, software maintenance and data collection.”

As investigative journalist Nick Turse reported for TomDispatch in January, the Pentagon “cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010.” In addition to the General Atomics deal, Turse reported that the Air Force inked a “$38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones.”

As combat operations across the “Afpak theatre” escalate, the use of drones by both the CIA and Air Force have sharply increased; indeed, the Pentagon is on a veritable shopping spree.

This is borne-out by the flight hours logged by unmanned systems. “In 2004″ Turse writes, “Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours.”

According to Air Force estimates Turse avers, “the combined flight hours of all its drones–Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks–will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.”

Such estimates can only be music to the ears of General Atomics’ shareholders.

While these systems are powerful reminders that being an Empire means never having to say you’re sorry to the victims, it seems they’re not quite good enough.

Air Force Times reported last May that the Air Force “is already looking at a third generation of armed remote-control planes even as it continues to build up its fleet of MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.”

Although General Atomics has the lock on providing the CIA and Pentagon with MQ-1 and MQ-9s, the “service has started an analysis” for a next gen killer drone, the MQ-X, “with the goal of choosing a plane in 2012, Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford told reporters.”

According to Air Force Times, “General Atomics has already unveiled a jet-powered UAV called the Avenger, able to fly at 460 mph–about twice as fast as the Reaper–and carry 3,000 pounds of weapons and sensors.”

Last week, Defense Systems reported that the Defense Department “is reassessing its view of unmanned aerial vehicles–a key component of modern combat operations–and deciding what the military needs from UAVs beyond their traditional use as a platform to gather intelligence and fire weapons.”

Defense Systems’ reporter Amber Corrin wrote that “next-generation UAVs will need to take on additional duties including cargo transport, refueling and possible medical applications, and they will need to be interoperable with different platforms, users and military services.”

One wag, Col. Dale Fridley, the Director of the Air Force Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force, said that the Air Force is looking for a “plug-and-play” approach and that “interoperable command and control, multi-access controls and enhanced human-system interfaces are among the most important short-term enablers in developing next-generation UAVs.”

Fridley described the proposed MQ-X as the “embodiment of the flight plan.”

According to General Atomics, the firm’s next-gen, jet-powered Predator C drone, the Avenger, can attain air speeds far greater than the lumbering systems currently operating. With a 41-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, the system can “can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B,” the MQ-9 Reaper. The company envisages the manufacture of both armed and unarmed reconnaissance models for the Defense Department and other willing customers.

And with Predators clocking more than 30,000 hours of flight time per month, and with more than 40 UAVs aloft “every second of every day,” as GA boosters put it, and with the Air Force and the CIA seeking the capability to fly anywhere from 50-75 daily “missions” above Afghanistan, Pakistan and who knows where else, the always-open wallet’s of the American people will continue feeding, and accelerating, the imperialist “kill chain.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident VoiceThe Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK PressRead other articles by Tom, or visit Tom’s website.

This article was posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010 at 9:00am and is filed underAfghanistanAnti-warAssassinationsCapitalismCivil LibertiesImperialism,Legal/ConstitutionalMilitary/MilitarismObamaPakistanWar Crimes. // ShareThis

9 comments on this article so far …

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  1. mary said on May 3rd, 2010 at 9:25am #

This is Obomber’s idea of a joke when he was addressing the press.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7114565.ece

‘Hollywood figures including Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg were joined in the Washington Hilton on Saturday night by a new generation of entertainers, including the 16-year-old Canadian singer Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers. “Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere,” Mr Obama said. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but boys, don’t get any ideas. *Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming*.”

Is he as psychopathic as Bush and Blair? Is killing by remote control as nothing to him?

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 3rd, 2010 at 11:03am #

mary, he is, I think,far worse. Obummer is, in my opinion, a plausible,charming psychopath,by far the most dangerous type. A sort of political Ted Bundy, completely programmed and controlled by the Zionists, as they boasted after his election became certain.The murder of innocents is bi-partisan policy in Washington, because it reflects Zionist genocidal plans for the Islamic untermenschen and because killing is the highest good in Yankee psychology. That pathopsychology itself is based on Old Testament (ie Torah) injunctions to genocide, which were expressly appealed to by Yankee killers from the days of New England, through the various Indian Wars, always genocidal and continuing across much of the world up to the present day.
For the Yankee killing is religiously sanctified and redemptive. It gives the killer the delusion of control and mastery over death, that ultimate, terrifying, reality that the Yankee fears so viscerally. Apart from denying death and pretending it doesn’t exist, the act of murder produces a great psychic release and a sense of mastery over life and death.How else do you explain the relentless cruelty of the extermination of the Indians, the viciousness of slavery,the group ecstasies of lynching, the hideous massacres in the Philippines, the devastation of Korea and Indochina, the absolutely unnecessary obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Madeleine Albright’s insouciant observation that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were a price that was ‘worth it’.
It is plain that the US, under Zionist control and influence, has committed itself to a policy of state destruction and mass murder, without restraint or pity, in order to shore up the global empire of the Zioamerican Reich. That this slaughter is planned to be implemented by amoral and pitiless robopaths, sitting at computer consoles thousands of miles from their victims, simply reflects the growth amongst the US elite and their hired murderers of a pathopsychology of intense hatred and pitiless indifference to the fate of others seen as untermenschen. This psychology is absolutely congruent with that of the Nazi mass murderers, although they often suffered dreadful psychic angst at the loathsome duties expected of them. The US seems to have perfected the production of pitiless killers, trained in violent computer games, brainwashed by relentless Zionist agit-prop to hate their Islamic victims pitilessly and incapable of seeing their ‘targets’ as fellow human beings.Unless something opposes US/Israeli malevolence and death worship and lust for absolute global control, in perpetuity, then the horrors of the 20th century will soon pale into insignificance before the massacres to come. The whole planet will become a vast Auschwitz,and death will descend, in an instant, from the heavens sparing no-one.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 3:42am #

mm

like u say,
its in their culture
http://tinyurl.com/d6r2qf

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:18am #

Agree with you both Mulga and Denk.

I also see that Hatoyama isn’t able to get rid of the Yanks on Okinawa. Why is that I wonder? Boot on his neck?

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:19am #

Link – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8658901.stm

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 4th, 2010 at 8:09am #

Talk about synchronicity, mary. Just heard ‘jelly-back’ Hatoyama letting the Okinawans know that,in fact, he is not the Prime Minister of Japan.He is,in truth, a serf, tolerated by his Yankee masters only so long as he obeys orders. In Okinawa it’s Uncle Sam who calls the shots, not some jumped-up ‘Nips’ with ideas above their station. And they wonder why the world loathes them and looks forward to their coming collapse with eager anticipation.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 7:53pm #

mary and mm,

here’s my cut n paste contribution…
**okinawa is a true crime story written and directed by the governments of both the United States and Japan.**

http://tinyurl.com/ccmhhp

  1. mary said on May 5th, 2010 at 1:03am #

The subject of the war on Afghanistan has been completely omitted from the UK election campaigns of the main parties.

Johann Hari’s article on the STWC website –

The shameful, bloody silence at the heart of the election

Johann Hari says we are sending young people to kill and die in order to prop up a President who (like his people) opposes almost all our actions and is threatening to defect to The Enemy. You might think that is worth discussing. Yet when Afghanistan comes up in this election, the sole subject of complaint is that our helicopters don’t work as well as they should…..

http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1839/268/

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 5th, 2010 at 3:47am #

mary,I swear I read that Cameron, a phony up there with Obama (the laugh of ‘Red Toryism’ had me adjusting my surgical appliance) but, sadly, with a charisma by-pass, had stated that a Tory priority was to wage the bloodbath in Afghanistan with renewed vigour. I suppose that is evidence either of the innate bloodlust of the Right, a desire to ingratiate himself further with the ever generous Zionist Lobby, whose ‘Zionist Plan for the MiddleEast’ is going so well in terms of dead ‘two-legged animals’ amongst the Islamic populations or a desire for revenge over the unfortunate events in the 1840s, or all of the above. Either way,it is a real insight, amongst many others, of just what the true nature of a Cameron ascendancy would involve. I’d say that enthusiastic endorsement of the ‘obliteration’ of Iran can also be relied on.

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http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/05/high-tech-death-from-above-u-s-drone-wars-fuel-war-crimes/

Kucinich:

Policy of drone strikes helping stoke

‘fanaticism,’ ‘radicalism’

By Bridget Johnson – 04/24/10 12:20 PM ET

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told an India-based news agency that the Obama administration’s policy of unmanned drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda positions in Pakistan is leading the U.S. “into an area of unaccountability that leads to blowback, where we actually lose friends, where we help inspire anti-American sentiments and fanaticism and radicalism.”

Kucinich, speaking to Asian News International, stressed his opposition to the strikes, which began under the Bush administration, and branded them as counterproductive.

“Just as an occupation fuels an insurgency, these drones build feelings and resistance against the United States and help gain support for those elements who wish to do America harm,” Kucinich said, adding that Obama needs to “be careful not to inadvertently create the circumstances that push Pakistan into becoming a failed state.”

In 2008, Kucinich denounced the Bush policy — which has continued unabated under Obama — as “playing with fire” and “violating international law by invading yet another nation which has not attacked the United States.”

Pakistan has protested the drone strikes, saying that it supports the fight against terrorists but wants control over the U.S. drone technology.

Source:
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/94127-kucinich-obama-policy-of-drone-strikes-helping-inspire-fanatacism-and-radicalism

The contents of this site are © 2010 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a subsisiary of News Communications, Inc.

Comments (22)

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does anyone ever listen to this mental case anymore? If Kucinich were any more nuts, they would haul him away in a coat with sleeves that tie in the back.BY Mad Mike on 04/24/2010 at 12:38

Kucinich has a point. Action, reaction, isn’t that how the inner city gang wars escalated to the point of being out of control? 5 people working for the CIA died in Afghanistan, was that a reaction? Just playing the devil’s advocate here. What is the exit strategy?BY Mark on 04/24/2010 at 12:51

No Dennis, you’re wrong. There is no way for Obama to stoke anti-America sentiment. Only Bush could do that. The election of Obama means there is no more terrorism. C’mon man. Get with the program.BY LIAMD2 on 04/24/2010 at 15:04

Dennis might be right. Military analysts attribute half our Iraq casualties to the illegal Bush invasion of that country and the torture he committed. Why aren’t Bush and Cheney locked up in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes? http://thinkprogress.org/why-enhanced-interrogation-failed/BY allen on 04/24/2010 at 16:43

I’m tired about Obama running around the world telling nations who have no use for us besides aid and technology that we were “bad boys’ and we promise to do better next time. I’d rather be respected than liked. If drones can save even one American life and perform the function it was constructed to do, then use them and keep on using them until we develope something better.BY Don Sampietro on 04/24/2010 at 18:04

Kucinich is a noise maker, nothing more. He receives attention only because the media bows respectively to whatever the far left says. The same foolishness was said before WWII and Hitler not only marched across Europe, pounding Britain in the process, but was stopped only after hundreds of thousands soldiers died BECAUSE the rest of the rest of the world couldn’t/wouldn’t stop him. Ignore Kucinich. He’s not worth time.BY Jim Bradley on 04/24/2010 at 18:11

Hey Allen, did you just try to pass off some left wing blog as “impartial”? hahahahahahahah ahaThe rest of us have google, too, you know.DK is just angling for another plane ride! Yippee!!!!!!!BY Rick H. on 04/24/2010 at 18:49

sure, Kucinich must be some kinda lefty wacko, because he talks about innocent people being killedBY sammy on 04/24/2010 at 18:56

I think we should make some “sweet bombs” out of all that sugar-like tobacco product Congress wants to get off the shelves. Drop them all over Afghanistan, that will build some good will toward our mission.BY BC on 04/24/2010 at 18:59

Americans are now respected and feared, but these drones are sickening me. If they were killing only bad guys, that would have been another story. Find another means of protecting civilians. Respect human blood, and yes, Kucinich has a point. Terrorism is evil, take them down.BY Kingstone on 04/24/2010 at 20:33

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Drone Pilots Could Be Tried for ‘War Crimes,’

Law Prof Says

The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

Harold Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, outlined the administration’s legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh’s argument.

It’s part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military’s lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.

In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn’t seem likely. But that’s just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

The drones themselves are a lawful tool of war; “In fact, the ability of the drones to engage in a higher level of precision and to discriminate more carefully between military and civilian targets than has existed in the past actually suggests that they’re preferable to many older weapons,” Glazier added. But employing CIA personnel to carry out those armed attacks, he concluded, “clearly fall outside the scope of permissible conduct and ought to be reconsidered, particularly as the United States seeks to prosecute members of its adversaries for generally similar conduct.”

Drone attacks haven’t just become the primary weapon in the American bid to wipe out Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks. “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” CIA director Leon Panetta said.

But that “embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radical new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently observed. Before 9/11, the American government regularly condemned Israel for taking out individual terrorists. “Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.”

The U.S. government has since defended the strikes as legitimate self-defense — without going into details about the operations. Kenneth Anderson, an American University law professor, said the government’s reluctance to talk about the missions — as well as its reliance on an intelligence agency to carry out military action — raises some serious questions.

In his prepared statement (.pdf), Anderson said Koh “nowhere mentions the CIA by name in his defense of drone operations. It is, of course, what is plainly intended when speaking of self-defense separate from armed conflict. One understands the hesitation of senior lawyers to name the CIA’s use of drones as lawful when the official position of the U.S. government, despite everything, is still not to confirm or deny the CIA’s operations.”

What’s more, Anderson argued, Congress has been reluctant to talk about the bigger policy issue: Why this is a CIA mission in the first place. “Why should the CIA, or any other civilian agency, ever use force (leaving aside conventional law enforcement)?” he said. “Even granting the existence of self-defense as a legal category, why ever have force used by anyone other than the uniformed military?”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, was much more blunt in her statement. “Combat drones are battlefield weapons,” she told the panel. “They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

“Restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use, O’Connell continued. “Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.”

Not all of the law professors testifying today agreed. Syracuse University’s William Banks, for one, said that “the intelligence laws permit the president broad discretion to utilize the nation’s intelligence agencies to carry out national security operations, implicitly including targeted killing.” Current U.S. laws “supply adequate – albeit not well articulated or understood – legal authority for these drone strikes.”

But American laws may not be on the only ones applicable to drone strikes, critics contend. As Anderson argued, the United States may face legal challenges from what he called the “international-law community” – nongovernmental organizations, international bodies, U.N. agencies and others who view this as a program of targeted killing that falls outside the bounds of armed conflict.

Either way, this hearing will not end the controversy. As we’ve noted here before, the government has been less than forthcoming about who, exactly, authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are chosen and how many civilians may have been inadvertently killed.

– Nathan Hodge and Noah Shachtman

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense
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President Obama’s

Joke About Predator Drones Draws Fire

May 03, 2010 8:45 PM

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A famous British actor once observed that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

A corollary might be that comedy can be especially hard when it comes from commanders-in-chief joking about the deaths they’re responsible for at times of war.

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, President Obama noted that in the audience were the Jonas brothers.

“Sasha and Malia are huge fans,” he said, “but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

The audience laughed approvingly but in the following days the joke has been met with a rising chorus of criticism — mainly from the Left.

After all, unmanned predator drone strikes have killed innocent civilians in Pakistan.

How many civilians? Unclear. Since the CIA’s predator drone program is top secret, little is known about it.

But writing in Foreign Policy, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann have estimated that their data shows that from 2008 until December 2009, drone strikes have killed between 384 and 578 individuals, with most of them militants but between 35 and 40 percent of them innocent civilians. Senior administration officials contend that the number of civilian casualties is far fewer than that.

As the New Yorker reported last year, “the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the C.I.A. program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

So given all that, should President Obama have made a joke about this program?

“Let’s be honest, fellow progressives,” the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch tweeted, “we’d be all over Bush if he made the same ‘predator drone’ joke Obama told last night.”

President George W. Bush did, of course, make a joke about war at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. In 2004, infamously, he joked about his inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, showing slides of himself searching for WMD under Oval Office furniture.

“It’s inappropriate to the thousands of people obviously who have been wounded over there,” Terry McAuliffe, then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Good Morning America. “This is a very serious issue. We’ve lost hundreds of troops, as you know, over there. Let’s not be laughing about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction. … We certainly should not be making light of the situation.” Then-RNC chair Ed Gillespie responded that “the people in the room obviously saw the humor in it at that moment. And to play it back now in a different context is unfair, frankly, I have to say.”

So far the criticism against President Obama seems to have been confined to the internet.

Wrote Salon’s Alex Pareene: “It’s funny because predator drone strikes in Pakistan have killed literally hundreds of completely innocent civilians, and now the president is evincing a casual disregard for those lives he is responsible for ending by making a lighthearted joke about killing famous young celebrities for the crime of attempting to sleep with his young daughters.”

The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer, noted that the “Obama administration has spent a great deal of time on outreach to Muslims worldwide, and on dialing down the volume and rhetoric of the prior administration in order to defuse al-Qaeda’s narrative of a clash of civilizations between Muslims and non-Muslims. So you have to wonder why in the world the president’s speech writers would think it was a good idea to throw a joke about predator drones into the president’s speech during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, given that an estimated one-third of drone casualties, or between 289 and 378, have been civilians. It evinces a callous disregard for human life that is really inappropriate for a world leader, especially a president who is waging war against an enemy that deliberately targets civilians. It also helps undermine that outreach by making it look insincere.”

Serwer assessed that the relative lack of outrage, compared to the response to Bush’s joke, might have “to do with whose lives were the butt of the joke — we recognize the names and faces of the American service members who died because of Bush’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction as friends, relatives, and family members. The people who die in drone strikes are anonymous — they have no faces or names — except for the suspected terrorist targets the administration celebrates as being neutralized.”

The Atlantic’s Max Fisher has a round-up of some response HERE.

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Future police: Meet the UK’s armed robot drones

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By David Hambling |10 February 2010 |Categories: PoliticsTechnology

Police forces all over the UK will soon be able to draw on unmanned aircraft from a national fleet, according to Home Office plans. Last month it was revealed that modified military aircraft drones will carry out surveillance on everyone from protesters and antisocial motorists to fly-tippers, and will be in place in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Surveillance is only the start, however. Military drones quickly moved from reconnaissance to strike, and if the British police follow suit, their drones could be armed — but with non-lethal weapons rather than Hellfire missiles.

The flying robot fleet will range from miniature tactical craft such as the miniature AirRobot being tested by Essex police, to BAE System’s new HERTI drone as flown in Afghanistan. The drones are cheaper than police helicopters — some of which will be retired — and are as wide as 12m in the case of HERTI.

Watching events on the ground without being able to act is frustrating. Targets often got away before an unarmed drone could summon assistance. In fact, in 2000 it was reported that an airborne drone spotted Osama bin Laden but could do nothing but watch him escape. So the RAF has been carrying out missions in Afghanistan with missile-armed Reapers since 2007. From the ground these just look like regular aircraft.

The police have already had a similar experience with CCTV. As well as observing, some of these are now equipped with speakers. Pioneered in Middleborough, the talking CCTV allows an operator to tell off anyone engaging in vandalism, graffiti or littering.

Unmanned aircraft can also be fitted with speakers, such as the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which could not only warn fly tippers that they were breaking the law but also be loud enough to drive them away.

The LRAD is a highly directional speaker made of a flat array of piezoelectric transducers, producing intense beam of sound in a 30-degree cone. It can be used as a loudhailer, or deafen the target with a jarring, discordant noise. Some ships now carry LRAD as an anti-pirate measure: It was used to drive off an attack on the Seabourn Spirit off Somalia in 2005.

LRAD makers American Technology prefer to call its product a device rather than a weapon, and use terms such as “deterrent tones” and “influencing behaviour.” Police in the US have already adopted a vehicle-mounted LRAD for crowd control, breaking up protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last year, although there have been warnings about the risk of hearing damage.

The LRAD has been tested on the Austrian S-100 unmanned helicopter, and the technology is ready if there is a police requirement.

But rather than just driving them away, a police drone should be able to stop fleeing criminals in their tracks. Helicopters already mount powerful searchlights, and strobe lighting capabilities can turn such systems into effective nonlethal weapons. High-intensity strobes can cause dizziness, disorientation and loss of balance making it virtually impossible to run away.

This effect was first harnessed in the “Photic Driver” made by British company Allen International in 1973. However, it has taken improvement in lighting technology (such as fast-switching Xenon lights) and an understanding of the physiology involved to make such weapons practical.

A “light based personnel immobilisation device” developed by Peak Beam Systems Inc has been successfully tested by the US military, and work to mount it on an unmanned helicopter in the States is under way.

This sort of light would be too dangerous for a manned aircraft because of the crew being affected. But an unmanned “strober” could be a literal crime stopper, and something we could see deployed within the next couple of years.

Even the smallest drones could be used for tactical police operations. As far back as 1972 the Home Office looked at model aircraft as an alternative to rubber bullets, literally flying them into rioters to knock them off their feet.

French company Tecknisolar Seni has demonstrated a portable drone armed with a double-barrelled 44mm Flash-Ball gun. Used by French special police units, the one-kilo Flash-Ball resembles a large calibre handgun and fires non-lethal rounds, including tear gas and rubber impact rounds to bring down a suspect without permanent damage — “the same effect as the punch of a champion boxer,” claim makers Verney-Carron.

However, last year there were questions over the use of Flash-Ball rounds by French police. Like other impact rounds, the Flash-Ball is meant to be aimed at the body — firing from a remote, flying platform is likely to increase the risk of head injury.

Another option is the taser. Taser stun guns are now so light (about 150 grams) that they could be mounted on the smaller drones. Antoine di Zazzo, head of SMP Technologies, which distributes tasers in France, says the company is fitting one to a small quad-rotor iDrone (another quad-rotor toy helicopter), which some have called a “flying saucer”.

Robots are already the preferred way of approaching possible bombs without putting officers lives at risk. In the future, police may prefer to deal with potentially dangerous suspects the same way, tackling them remotely using a taser if the situation requires it.

But tasers are controversial. In 2008 the Met rejected government plans for a wider issue of tasers to non-specialist officers because of the fear they could cause, and there have been numerous complaints of abuse. For some, the arrival of a hovering law-enforcement drone with a video eyes and a 50,000-volt taser at the ready might be a police technology too far.

Which leads Wired to ask you for your thoughts: Are tasers and armed robot drones the ideal next step for British law enforcement, or will it just make our police officers less capable of dealing with serious problems when they’re forced to intervene in person? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Flickr CC bixentro / Nate Lanxon (edited version)

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Online Editor: Nate Lanxon

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Americas Wars Provoking attacks and radicalism like blasphemous cartoons Provoking

How Iraq Afghanistan injustices create radical Muslim responses seen as legitimate defense

America’s Wars Provoke Attacks Like the One in NY

Still Fighting Them Here

Posted on May 11th, 2010 by Jack Hunter

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked my radio audience, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists. Given Shahzad’s current place of residence and following Lieberman’s logic, perhaps we should now start bombing Connecticut? If that terrorist-harboring state could be magically transplanted to a more oil-rich, defense contractor-benefitting and Israel-approximate location, no doubt Lieberman might consider it.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.” Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia. (Most of our victims are suspected terrorists, but we sometimes kill innocent civilians by mistake). Whether he was acting alone or in cahoots with Pakistani extremists, his abortive attack was probably a response to our efforts to eradicate terrorist groups in Pakistan via drone strikes and other special operations. In short, he decided to enlist in the ‘war on terror,’ but not on America’s side.” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quresh, who seems to be plagued by the same sort of pesky logic as Yemen’s president, told CBS News of the Pakistan-born Shahzad, “This is retaliation. And you could expect that … let’s not be naïve… They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you (to) sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

Shahzad’s alleged attempt was only one of many in Times Square since 9/11, and such incidents have not-so-coincidentally correlated with the further entrenchment of the United States in the Middle East, a phenomenon the CIA calls “blowback.” Mainstream media discussions that attempt to address Islamic terrorism while pretending “blowback” doesn’t exist, are about as useful as Obama officials who try to address the national deficit while pretending their own, expensive agenda doesn’t exist. Those who still naively contend that such terrorism has nothing to do with our foreign interventionism, but is exclusively due to some Islamic plan to dominate the world or “Caliphate,” should remember that New Yorkers attending the Broadway premiere of “My Fair Lady” in 1956 never had to worry about any car bombs bringing down the house, much less Times Square. Since Islam isn’t exactly a brand new religion, has the Koran been rewritten to be more intolerant of “freedom” than it was during Broadway’s golden age? Or could it possibly be something else?

With Shahzad, some military analysts are inclined to think it might be something else, or as The American Conservative’s Chase Madar writes: “David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, respectively a former adviser to General Petraeus and a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are both leading theorists of counterinsurgency warfare at the Center for a New American Security. They have testified before Congress that drone strikes are perceived to be wildly inaccurate—killing, they say, 700 people in attacks on 14 targets—and are undermining the ‘hearts and minds’ offensive that is central to the campaign. They recommend scrapping drone attacks. And then there is the American Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who happens to be a retired Army general. In leaked cables to the president, Eikenberry severely questioned the wisdom of the counterinsurgency campaign and the escalation… Is anyone listening to these well-informed skeptics?”

Obviously they’re not being listened to and worse, no one seems to be having similar conversations that actually address the root problem of why Islamic terrorists do what they do. In the minds of many Democrats, Obama’s Bush-style foreign policy is anything but, and too many Republicans believe we would be fighting even more terrorists on American soil if it were not for our wars overseas, with Shahzad only making it as far as he did because Obama is somehow wimpier than Dubya. It’s hard to imagine a more insane view of foreign policy. They fight us over here precisely because we are over there—and they will continue to do so until Americans find the will or the wisdom to finally question what their country is doing over there in the first place.

Filed under: war

13 Responses to “Still Fighting Them Here”

  1. Andy, on May 11th, 2010 at 8:03 am Said:

I agree they are fighting us here and there because we are over there, however it seems true to me that much of Islam today has been hijacked by radical elements that are seeking to dominate the world. Why are Islamists supporting terror in Europe when Europeans are not killing Muslims in Central Asia or the Middle East? When My Fair Lady opened in Times Square the world was much different. Radicals within Islam had neither the network or the funding they have today. In addition no Al Jazirah ,internet etc to easily radicalize the masses of Muslims with lies and staged propaganda when the inconvenient truths are much more complex

  1. Liam Register, on May 11th, 2010 at 10:30 am Said:

As a start how about some education for Americans. While Republicrats dream of blowing up Iran, little do they know, nor want to, that a few years before the Broadway opening of My Fair Lady of March 15, 1956, relations between the two countries were about as good as one could expect between any countries. In fact the prome minister, duly elected, was a fan of the US , especially its form of government which he held as a model in his hopes for Iran.

Then exactly 2 years 7 months before the Broadway opening, on August 15, 1953, following the withering campaign of Britain begging America to do so, the US executed a coup attempt against their ‘friend, the PM of Iran. The plot failed; US authorities wired instructions to their operative in charge of the overthrow to cease, but he (of an interesting American family) ignored the communique and proceeded with a second attempt, which succeeded, The PM, unmurdered, was thrown in prison for a few years, then to lifetime house arrest, The leader favored by America was installed; a handful of US companies got exclusive rights to oceans of Iranian oil. Gssoline was available @ 18cents/gallon, as ‘gas wars’ , price wars, were routine in America. The party lasted for a generation, whilst the Iranian secret police, installed as a ‘bonus’ of the coup, proceeded to do to Iranians what secret police forces usually do.

Then it ended with the sevevties. Was in all the papers.

Exactly a decade later our friend and ally in Vietnam was similarly dealt with. Unlike the Iranian PM he received the lead pellets in the rear of his skull. His brother too.

Those were the days.

But for heavens sake don’t tell the Americans.

  1. Jackie, on May 11th, 2010 at 5:12 pm Said:

Liam R.
I recognize the story of Mossadegh. Truman was against the Brits plan, but then Eisenhower was elected and Kermit Roosevelt carried off the whole thing.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am Said:

Hi Adam,
Actually, if you recall, there were Spanish troops in Iraq. What happened? The horrible train bombing in Madrid. There were Austrialin troops in Iraq. What happened? A deadly bombing in a Bali dance club, well-known as an Austrialian vacation destination. There were British troops in Iraq. What happened? The London train bombings.
One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm Said:

“One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.”

Agreed, but in point of fact the al-Qaeda types are trying to establish a caliphate although not one that encompasses the world–a task far beyond their powers or inclinations. They are mostly concerned with overthrowing what they perceive as corrupt, apostate regimes in the Islamic world. As Michael Schueur has asserted, all of their terrorism is no more than the manifestation of an insurrection within Islam in which America is unfortunately meddling. This unavoidable contest between the Muslim states and insurrectionists would be quickly decided were America to withdraw considering that the regimes that have been labeled apostate would swiftly quash the jihadists before full-blown fitna could erupt. America remaining mired in the Middle East is Bin Laden’s most treasured hope.

Another point for consideration: assuming that the US does withdraw and adopts non-interventionism, what would be our policy concerning another jihadist grievance–namely, our support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants?

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 6:56 pm Said:

Hi Pons,
Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement. Muslims, (both in and outside of Al Qaeda) have beefs with their local governments, and as such, they must determine how best to deal with them. By the United States avoiding taking sides on what are often internal matters, we avoid being caught in the collateral damage.
In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 8:41 pm Said:

“Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement…In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.”

No, there is no disagreement. All I am doing by bringing up these other jihadist grievances is to make more thorough the non-interventionist arguments. In this case, as you say, it is essential to ensure that those struggles remain local affairs with the US lending its moral support (surely al-Qaeda could not justify their attacks for merely offering moral support) and refuting any jihadist agitprop. Interference would be justified only if those resistance movements were being assisted by internationalist Islamists like al-Qaeda. Localist Muslim militants are no threat to America but it is imperative that internationalist Muslim militants
be prevented from linking with the natives as they did in Bosnia. This might be a surprisingly easy task, however, as localists like Hamas, for instance, loathe al-Qaeda and their fellow salafists. “We have no common enemy,” said a Hamas spokesman, “as long as they [al-Qaeda] wage a global struggle and we wage a local one.” Any additional thoughts?

  1. Erik Meyer, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:31 am Said:

Right, this is all quite obvious. It’s really rather remarkable that there aren’t more of these kinds of attacks, given how easy they are. They don’t seem to have much trouble setting off car bombs in Baghdad.

Of course, back in 1956, not only were we not bombing Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan ourselves, there were no Iraqis, Pakistanis, or Afghans (Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik, or whatever) in New York City to retaliate. (Old American Realism: Do nothing to provoke people, keep them far away…)

Nobody had to worry about the Viet Cong blowing up a bus in Times Square 1968 either (back then, at least we had the second part down, the part that really matters).

We could, in fact, bomb Pakistan until the end of time if that were our goal. If there weren’t any Pakistanis or other Muslims running around this country, what could they do about it? They’d have to blow something up in their own country… burn a big puppet, stone a rape victim, whatever it is they do when they’re upset… it wouldn’t be our problem.

Better still:
If we weren’t over there and they weren’t over here, we wouldn’t have to fight them at all.

  1. P Jerome, on May 13th, 2010 at 9:59 am Said:

This is all very interesting, and diverting. On what basis do we “know for a fact” that something called Al Queda (1) exists, and (2) wants to establish a medieval caliphate in all or part of the world? The short answer is we “know” no such thing because these are simply the fevered fantasies of war-related industrialists, being constructed and sold to the Western public by government intelligence agencies.

What we do know is that the US and its allies created the so-called “Muslim insurgency” in Afghanistan, and unleashed the fury of religious obscurantism throughout Central Asia. This continues to be the case as the CIA/DIA/MI6 continues to fund and mobilizes so-called fundamentalists in Chechnya, Turkey, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, of course, all the “–stans.” But we are to believe these same agencies are NOT funding the same strains of fundamentalism in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And even if they are not on the US/British payroll (which they almost certainly are), is it even conceivable that we need trillion dollar annual war budgets to fight these alleged rag-tag bands of angry Middle Easterners, more than were needed when we faced more than 10,000 Russian nukes? Please people, do not remain as ignorant, and stupid, as these tsars think we are.

  1. dickerson3870, on May 13th, 2010 at 11:46 am Said:

We are fighting “them” “over there”, so that we will not have to fight our innermost demons “over here” where it would make quite a bloody mess!
There Will Be Blood – Daniel’s Baptism [03:38] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwkP7Gnp7ek

  1. masmanz, on May 13th, 2010 at 12:18 pm Said:

Andy, it is only the war-mongers among the think tanks and news media who make us think that much of Islam has been hijacked by radical elements. If you leave aside the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and now the tribal area of Pakistan, the remaining 99.999% of Muslims don’t support any sort of terrorism. If they did we would have many many terrorist incidence. We need to get out of these senseless wars, not because of the fear of blowback but just because it would be the right thing to do.

If Muslims of the world wanted to establish a caliphate they can do it tomorrow, by just holding an OIC conference and choosing a caliph. But, even if they did that it should not be of any concern to us. Would they be foolish enough to attack the US?

  1. King of Holetown, on May 13th, 2010 at 6:15 pm Said:

You are over there because they have something that you want (oil, gold, water, lithium etc.)
Is there any one country that america is meddling in that has no resources that they want? NO!
The wars are driven by pure greed, nothing less.
There is NO al Qaeda and NO Osama bin Laden.
Anyone who believes otherwise is either plain naieve or totally brainwashed.
How can one man with a band of 200 followers at most, holed up in a cave in Pakistan elude, evade and resist the force of the greatest army on earth throwing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars a year at it?
What would happen if a real army were to face down the US then?
Give it a rest and get out of the peoples’ countries and leave them alone.
What they do is not your business.

  1. To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.? « Moral Outrage, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:00 pm Said:

[…] Full article […]

http://www.amconmag.com/tactv/2010/05/11/still-fighting-them-here/

http://www.amconmag.com/tactv/2010/05/11/still-fighting-them-here/

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Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.?

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.”

Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia … via drone strikes and other special operations.”

http://moraloutrage.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/to-what-extent-do-u-s-wars-in-the-middle-east-inspire-attacks-on-the-u-s/

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Is the War Coming Home?

by Patrick J. Buchanan, May 11, 2010

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Faisal Shahzad sought to massacre scores of fellow Americans in Times Square with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive fertilizer, gasoline, and alarm clocks.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 29.

Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of American corpses?

Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.

The New York Times ties all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.

Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.

What do the four have in common?

All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring the war in the Af-Pak here to America.

But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?

Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, “We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make … this country so great.”

This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who love freedom and stand for women’s rights.

And that is why they hate us – and why they come to kill us.

In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens advances a parallel view. We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.

We are loathed in the Islamic world, Stephens writes, because of “Lady Gaga – or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker, or any other American woman who has … personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called ‘the American Temptress.’”

This hatred is at least 60 years old, says Stephens, for Qutb wrote even before “Elvis,Playboy, the pill, women’s lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey Shore, and … Lady Gaga.”

Qutb’s revulsion at American degeneracy is why his legion of Islamic followers hate us.

Again, a comforting thought. For, if Lady Gaga is the problem, there is nothing we Americans can do about it.

Yet, this is as self-delusional as saying the FLN set off bombs in movie theaters and cafes in Algiers to kill the French because of what Brigitte Bardot was doing on screen in And God Created Woman.

American’s toxic culture may be a reason devout Muslims detest us. It is not why they come here to kill us. Mohammed Atta’s friends did not target Hollywood, but centers and symbols of U.S. military and political power.

U.S. Marines were not attacked by Hezbollah until we inserted those Marines into Lebanon’s civil war. No Iraqi committed an act of terror against us before we invaded Iraq. And if the Sept. 11 killers were motivated by hatred of the immorality of our society, what were they doing getting lap dances in Delray Beach?

Osama bin Laden declared war on us, first and foremost, to end the massive U.S. presence on sacred Saudi soil that is home to Mecca and Medina.

Some may insist this was not his real motive. But, apparently, the Saudis believed him, for they quickly kicked us out of Prince Sultan Air Base.

As for the Taliban, they would surely make short work of Lady Gaga. But their stated grievance is the same as Gen. Washington’s in our war with the British: If you want this war to end, get out of our country.

By Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Looking at America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Maj. Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and Shahzad decided that what we call the war on terror was in reality a war on Islam.

All decided to use their access to exact retribution for our killing of their fellow Muslims.

We are being attacked over here because we are over there.

Nor is it a good sign that U.S. intelligence is reporting that rising numbers of U.S. Muslims are making Internet inquiries about how and where to get training to bring the war home to America.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

Read more by Patrick J. Buchanan

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Afghan prosecutor issues arrest warrant for US army officer over police killing

• Kabul prosecutor seeks ‘outlaw militia’ for killings
• Hamid Karzai’s brother denies link to accused group

Afghan soldiers patrol a Taliban stronghold in Kandahar. An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for a US special forces officer over the murder of a police chief by US-trained militia. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for an American special forces commander over allegations that a police chief was murdered by a US-trained militia.

Brigadier General Ghulam Ranjbar, the chief military prosecutor in Kabul, has accused the US of creating an outlaw militia which allegedly shot dead Matiullah Qateh, the chief of police in the city of Kandahar.

The militia, which Ranjbar claimed is armed and trained by US special forces, also allegedly killed Kandahar’s head of criminal investigations and two other officers, when they attempted to free one of their members from a courthouse.

“We lost one this country’s best law enforcement officers for the [attempted] release of a mercenary,” said Ranjbar, interviewed for a film to be shown on Channel 4 News tomorrow.

He accused American officials of refusing to hand over evidence or to permit his investigators to interview the special forces commander, known to Afghans only as “John or Johnny”, who he alleges sanctioned the raid.

The arrest warrant, which has been circulated to border posts and airports, is an embarrassment for the US military, which is facing growing criticism for links to militias controlled by warlords. In Kandahar, the militias have been accused of murder, rape and extortion.

Ranjbar said an investigation found that the force that killed Qateh operated from Camp Gecko, in the hills outside Kandahar, a base for both US special forces and the CIA.

Officials in Kandahar said the militia supplies guards and is trained to work alongside special forces and intelligence officials in raids against Taliban targets.

“If you go to Kandahar, people say these guys pretend to be interpreters but they carry out night raids and assassinations,” said Ranjbar. “We hear lots of strange and shocking stories.”

He claimed that suspects arrested for the courthouse raid had confessed to being part of a 300-strong militia unit run by “Johnny”. They said they “could not move a muscle and could not leave their base without Johnny’s orders” Ranjbar said. “He was the head of the group and they [the Americans] were the ones paying them.”

Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the US military, denied that any US or other coalition forces were involved in the attack, and said those involved “were not acting on behalf of US or international forces”.

But, according to the Afghan account, the militia known locally as the “Kandahar Strike Force”, or the “Kandahar Special Group”, arrived at the courthouse last June with US-supplied uniforms, vehicles and weapons. They demanded the release of a comrade held for a traffic offence. When police were called to the scene by terrified court officials, the militia opened fire, killing Qateh, and three other policemen.

“The police chief took two steps forward and that’s when they fired,” claimed a witness, who showed Channel 4 the crime scene, pockmarked with bullet holes. “Within a couple of seconds the chief was sprayed with bullets. Then the head of CID came over. He pulled out his pistol and prepared to fire, but he was shot from behind.”

The involvement of the Camp Gecko militia is politically sensitive because of its alleged close ties to Ahmed WaliKarzai, brother of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Militia members claim to have been recruited by associates of Ahmed Wali, who press reports have claimed is on the CIA payroll.

Interviewed by telephone, Ahmed Wali called for an amnesty for the 41 men convicted of Qateh’s murder, but denied he had any militia connections.

Local militias have also been linked to a raid on 10 November last year when US and Afghan troops allegedly burst into the home of Janan Abdullah, 23, riddled him with bullets, and left his wife paralysed and the rest of his family traumatised.

“Nothing was left undamaged, they shot at everything,” said one of Janan’s uncles. “He was just lying in bed. I’d say they fired 200 bullets at him.”

The family claimed it was Afghans who did the shooting and stole thousands of pounds in cash. “We were surprised,” said the uncle. “It was our own people – Pashtuns – doing this to us.”

A US military spokesman said they had “no record” of the raid. However, the family were given medical treatment at Camp Gecko, leading to suspicions that it was the same Afghan militia that allegedly killed the police chief.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/16/afghan-prosecutor-arrest-warrant-us-officer

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Iraq Soldiers joked about killing women and

Iraq: Soldiers ‘joked about killing women and children’

Gavin Dahl

Raw Story, May 13, 2010An Iraq War veteran who served with the company shown in the “Collateral Murder” videoreleased by whistleblower web site Wikileaks says the military trained him to dehumanize Iraqis.In a videotaped interviewreleased Wednesday, Josh Stieber told The Real News Network things that troops did on a regular basis in basic training, including chanting during marches, were the start of his loss of faith in the US military.Josh Stieber enlisted in the army after graduating high school. He was deployed to Baghdad from February 2007 to April 2008 with the military company shown on the ground in the Collateral Murder video. He was granted conscientious objector status upon his return home from Baghdad.In an interview with Real News Network senior editor Paul Jay, Steiber said he was alarmed in basic training when the chants “even joked about killing women and children.”STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”JAY: That’s as you’re marching.STIEBER: Right.JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.The common mindset was that Iraqis were always referred to as “Hajis” in a pattern he said dehumanized people, making it more difficult for soldiers to empathize with civilians.”So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you,” he said.”You know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.”US military personnel apparently mistook the cameras slung over the backs of two Reuters journalists for weapons when they opened fire on them and a group of people in a Baghdad suburb in 2007, according to video footage released in April by whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.As RAWSTORY reportedat the time, the video showed the deaths of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22 and Saeed Chmagh, 40, along with six other people on a street corner. It also shows US forces firing on a minivan in which two injured children were found.Training that makes killing civilians acceptable Josh Stieber: In boot camp we trained with songs that joked about killing women and children TranscriptJosh Steiber Interview (Part 1 of 4)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. A few weeks ago, some video of a shooting that took place in 2007 in Iraq—Apache helicopter shooting a group of men on the ground. And here’s some of that footage. I’m sure most people have seen it already.VIDEO, WIKILEAKS TRANSCRIPT: 01:09 Yeah roger. I just estimate there’s probably about twenty of them.01:13 There’s one, yeah.01:15 Oh yeah.01:18 I don’t know if that’s a…01:19 Hey Bushmaster element [ground forces control], copy on the one-six.01:21 That’s a weapon.01:22 Yeah.01:23 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight [second Apache helicopter].01:41 Yup. He’s got a weapon too.01:43 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight. Have five to six individuals with AK47s [automatic rifles]. Request permission to engage [shoot].02:43 You’re clear.02:44 All right, firing.02:47 Let me know when you’ve got them.02:49 Lets shoot.02:50 Light ’em all up.02:52 Come on, fire!02:57 Keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n.02:59 keep shoot’n.03:02 keep shoot’n.03:05 Hotel Bushmaster Two-Six, Bushmaster Two-Six, we need to move, time now!JAY: Now joining us to explain what we’re seeing and why this took place is Josh Stieber. He joined the armed forces in 2006, was in Iraq in 2007, and after 14 months applied for conscientious objector status, which he finally got. And here he is. Thanks for joining us, Josh.JOSH STIEBER: Sure. Thanks for having me.JAY: So you grew up in Maryland.STIEBER: Right. Not too far from here.

JAY: And so before we get into your story, just tell us—let’s go back and look at some of the footage. And first of all, as—we’re going to start playing the footage now. So, as we’re seeing it, tell us, first of all, how atypical is this? Or is this happening all the time, this kind of instance?

STIEBER: Incidents similar to this, I would say, are not altogether infrequent. I’m not as familiar with incidents with helicopters, because I was in an infantry unit, but that common mindset to shoot first and ask questions later is one that stems back as far as the very first days of training, and, yeah, that mindset and the things built on top of that throughout training have these results in combat.

JAY: Now, you’re in the company that was on the ground that day. You weren’t there yourself that day. But when the guys came home that day, was there something remarkable for them that they talked about it? Or was it kind of just another day out in Baghdad?

STIEBER: It was treated with a little more, you know, maybe, emotion than usual that—yeah, they came back and were talking about what had happened and that there was—what they said was an attack against them, and just, I guess, the number of people that were killed was maybe a little larger than usual. So a little bit more, but, you know, not something extremely irregular.

JAY: Was there any sense that the guys in the Apache helicopters had done anything wrong? Or this was par for the course?

STIEBER: The people in the video, you know, as you can see, weren’t actually on the scene as they saw what happened from the helicopter. So you just kind of trust what you’re told. If someone tells you, you know, this is what I saw and this is what I did, then you kind of take them at face value, ’cause there’s really no way to prove or to examine otherwise. So perspective from the helicopter, without this video or without other eyewitnesses, really couldn’t be verified.

JAY: Now, it’s hard to tell from the video whether there were actually weapons in the guys’ hands or not. Apparently they found some later. I mean, when you watch the video, can you see weapons in the hands of some of the guys on the—people on the ground?

STIEBER: I can see things that look like weapons enough that, based on the training that I went through, I know I would have been commanded to fire if I was in a position where I observed that. And then, also, in the 40 minute Wikileaks version of the video, the full video, the soldiers actually—you can hear them coming on the radio, saying they found weapons on the scene.

JAY: So let’s go back to you. I don’t know whether this incident or incidents like this helped to form who you were or who you became, but start from the beginning. Why did you join? And you told me off-camera you joined knowing—hoping to be sent to Iraq. Why?

STIEBER: I grew up very religiously and very patriotic, in a selective sense that, you know, I only wanted to hear things that I wanted to hear and only things that I thought would make my country look better and make my beliefs look better, and I wasn’t very interested in understanding other perspectives. And the vision I had of my country was that, you know, we were going all throughout the world doing, you know, all this great stuff and helping people in need. And, you know, after 9/11 I was obviously affected by that and wanted to protect the people that I cared about, and, from everyone I trusted, was told that the military would be a good way to do that, and then was also told, you know, there’s this country Iraq that’s getting oppressed by this horrible dictator who’s also a threat to us, and if we can get rid of him, not only will we be keeping ourselves safe, but we’ll also be helping this other country in the process.

JAY: How interwoven were your beliefs in America and what America stands for and your religious beliefs?

STIEBER: They were pretty closely intertwined. I went to a religious high school. And one example is, in a government class that I was in at this religious high school, we read a book called The Faith of George W. Bush. And people like that were held up as, you know, these—these are people that are fighting for God’s will here on Earth. So religion was very interwoven with a sense of nationalism.

JAY: But by 2006, when you join, it’s already really clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Bush and Cheney had essentially lied to start a war. Like, that was—by 2006 that’s fairly acknowledged. Had that penetrated in to you, to your school?

STIEBER: There, and just the—kind of the people I was listening to. And, again, I wasn’t making any kind of effort to really challenge my thinking. People were saying, you know, whoever it is, the media or other countries are out to make us look bad, and, you know, we did the right thing, and we’re doing the right thing. And I might have had a few doubts in my mind, but even I comforted the doubts by saying, you know, even if the reasons that we’re there weren’t completely justified, we’re there and we’re still in this position, since we’re there, that we can’t just pull out, and we need to help these people.

JAY: So even if there were no weapons and even if the argument for weapons wasn’t legitimate, it’s still good versus evil, and they’re evil and we’re good, and we’ve got to fight it?

STIEBER: Yeah. I bought into that lingo a lot.

JAY: So you go to Iraq. You join, you go through boot camp, and you’re sent to Iraq, and you’re still more or less the same mindset. Tell us a little bit about boot camp and the kind of training that takes place to prepare you for war. I mean, your religious training is supposed to be about love thy neighbor, and then you’re sent to war. So how do they get you ready for that?

STIEBER: Yeah, I guess that’s where I started to see, maybe, some of these contradictions, just by the kinds of things that we did on a regular basis in basic training, whether it was the cadences that we sang as we were marching around, some that even joked about killing women and children.

JAY: Like what?

STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”

JAY: That’s as you’re marching.

STIEBER: Right.

JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.

STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.

JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.

STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.

JAY: They would write back and defend a chant like that, that it’s okay to go down where the kids are playing and start to spray? They would defend that?

STIEBER: They would either defend it or say that ends justify the means or say, you know, maybe you personally don’t say chants like that and just march silently, but you still go along with the whole system. And so I adopted that mindset that even if there were particular things that troubled me, which there definitely were, then you can calm that discomfort by saying, well, you know, even if I’m uncomfortable with these certain practices, in the long run we’re still getting rid of the bad guys, and we’re still keeping our country safe, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world, so you shouldn’t focus on the smaller things.

JAY: So at this point, to what extent do you start to question your faith? ‘Cause it’s all about faith, and faith is about not questioning. So once you start to question, it leads you to places you haven’t been before. So does that—and does it begin in boot camp?

STIEBER: Yeah, I would say that it definitely did. And kind of the more I saw the things that seemed like they were in contradiction, I would kind of have less and less faith in my faith and just start doing things less—that—I guess that idealism or that religious motivation started to fall away, and it became more about doing things to either fit in with the crowd or to take on this nationalism that, yeah, we’re still a good country, you know, even if I don’t like these particular things, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

JAY: Now, I’ve been told by—I have never been in the military, but I’ve been told to get people ready to kill it’s quite an intense psychological process. Humans actually, apparently, don’t like killing each other. How did that—what was that for you, and what was the impact on you?

STIEBER: I would say it’s very calculated. It starts with bayonet training, even though bayonets haven’t been used in any war since, I believe, the Korean War. But, you know, they first start out by getting you used to stabbing a dummy with a bayonet, yelling “kill, kill, kill” as you do it. And if you can get comfortable with that, then it’s slightly more comfortable to shoot at a target from further away. And just the nature of the training, as the military’s gone on, as I’ve gone back and studied it, that has changed. Before, targets just used to be circles, and now the targets look like actual people. They just get you just to thinking in those dehumanizing terms that this is a target, and people that look like this are targets, rather than this is what a human looks like.

JAY: And to what extent was the actual politics of Iraq talked about, or what to make of Iraqis, what to think about Arabs? To be able to go and kill people, do they have to dehumanize all the people you’re about to meet?

STIEBER: The common mindset that I would say was coming towards Iraqis were, one, just kind of, you know, how they were referred to. They were always referred to “Hajis”, you know, similar to “Gooks” in Vietnam or other phrases and other words. So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you, or, you know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about you as you get to Iraq and how that helps to shape you. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Josh Stieber on The Real News Network.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy

http://www.uruknet.de/?p=65961

Gen. McChrystal Questioned About Secret Assassination Teams Jeremy Scahill

May 13, 2010Midway through Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s press conference at the Pentagon Thursday, the man referred to as “The Pope”was asked–in a rather innocuous way–about the role US special forces assassination teams are playing in Afghanistan ahead of the planned summer Kandahar offensive. A reporter raised the issue of “the role of your Special Mission Units in targeting Taliban hard-core insurgents:  Are they being used in Kandahar City to go after some of these assassination teams?”SMUs are direct action teams composed of all-star special forces teams, the elite of the elite drawn from the Navy SEALs, Delta Force and other “Tier One” special forces, working with the Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9-11, these teams have been the premiere force in capturing or killing “high-value targets” around the world.Before becoming commander of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal served as the head of JSOC, from 2003-2008. During his tenure, JSOC’s operations, once largely focused on discreetly assisting “friendly” foreign military forces or US-backed proxy forces, were greatly expanded. While JSOC has historically worked sensitive counter-terrorism operations, since 9-11, JSOC has run a parallel rendition program, secret prisons and drones. JSOC forces haveoperated in Pakistan and other “denied areas.” Its forces maintain classified “hit lists”and are at the center of US assassination operations. SMUs are used for the most sensitive of these operations.McChrystal would never wax on about SMUs at a press conference, but the mere mention of them in his presence is fascinating nonetheless. “All of our special operating forces are doing a lot of things right now,” McChrystal answered.  “What we’re trying to do is maintain pressure on the insurgency, on their networks and on their leaderships, while we do what is typically thought of as more traditional counterinsurgency.”McChrystal added: “It’s interesting. Some people think that it’s either/or, that in counterinsurgency you’re either handing out volleyballs or you’re doing conventional war with tanks. And that’s actually not the case. Counterinsurgency is a wide effort that’s as much civilian as it is military. In some cases, it’s targeted operations against enemy leaderships. In other cases, it’s protecting Afghan civilians in the street. And so we do have an ongoing effective effort.”In other words, “Yeah, we’re bumping people off in Kandahr.””How successful has that ongoing effort been?” McChrystal was asked.”I’m satisfied with it so far,” he responded.Jeremy Scahill

:: Article nr. 65958 sent on 14-may-2010 01:22 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=65958

Link: www.thenation.com/blog/gen-mcchrystal-questioned-about-secret-assassination-team
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Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid

in Afghanistan that killed five

(including two pregnant women)

Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid in Afghanistan that killed five (including two pregnant women) Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Bibi Shirin and her daughter Tamana. The woman’s face has been blurred at the request of her familesMarch 12, 2010A night raid carried out by US and Afghan gunmen led to the deaths of two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials in an atrocity which Nato then tried to cover up, survivors have told The Times.The operation on Friday, February 12, was a botched pre-dawn assault on a policeman’s home a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, eastern Afghanistan. In a statement after the raid titled “Joint force operating in Gardez makes gruesome discovery”, Nato claimed that the force had found the women’s bodies “tied up, gagged and killed” in a room.A Times investigation suggests that Nato’s claims are either wilfully false or, at best, misleading. More than a dozen survivors, officials, police chiefs and a religious leader interviewed at and around the scene of the attack maintain that the perpetrators were US and Afghan gunmen. The identity and status of the soldiers is unknown.The raid came more than a fortnight after the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan issued new guidelines designed to limit the use of night raids. Special forces and Western intelligence agencies that run covert operations in Afghanistan have been criticised for night raids based on dubious or false intelligence leading to civilian casualties.The first person to die in the assault was Commander Dawood, 43, a long-serving, popular and highly-trained policeman who had recently been promoted to head of intelligence in one of Paktia’s most volatile districts. His brother, Saranwal Zahir, was a prosecutor in Ahmadabad district. He was killed while he stood in a doorway trying to protest their innocence.Three women crouching in a hallway behind him were hit by the same volley of fire. Bibi Shirin, 22, had four children under the age of 5. Bibi Saleha, 37, had 11 children. Both of them, according to their relatives, were pregnant. They were killed instantly.The men’s mother, Bibi Sabsparie, said that Shirin was four months pregnant and Saleha was five months. The other victim, Gulalai, 18, was engaged. She was wounded and later died. “We had already bought everything for the wedding,” her soon-to-be father-in-law, Sayed Mohammed Mal, the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University, said.On the night of the attack about 25 male friends and relatives had gathered at Commander Dawood’s compound in Khataba, a small village, to celebrate the naming of a newborn boy. Sitting together along the walls of a guest room, the men had taken turns dancing while musicians played. Mohammed Sediq Mahmoudi, 24, the singer, said that at some time after 3am one of the musicians, Dur Mohammed, went outside to go to the toilet. “Someone shone a light on his face and he ran back inside and said the Taleban were outside,” Mr Sediq said.Lieutenant-Colonel Zamarud Zazai, the Gardez head of police intelligence, said: “Both sides thought the other group was Taleban.” Commander Dawood ran towards the family quarters with his son Sediqullah, 15. Halfway across the courtyard they were shot by a gunman on the roof. Commander Dawood was killed. Sediqullah, his uncles said, was hit twice but survived.The shooting stopped and the soldiers shouted in Pashto for everyone to come outside. Waheedullah, an ambulance driver, said that their accents sounded Kandahari.Nato said that the troops were part of a joint “Afghan-international” force but, despite new rules requiring them to leave leaflets identifying their unit, the family said they left nothing. US troops denied any involvement.In the hallway on the other side of the compound, women poured in to tend to the casualties. Commander Dawood’s mother said: “Zahir shouted, ‘don’t fire, we work for the Government’. But while he was talking they fired again. I saw him fall down. I turned around and saw my daughter-in-law and the other women were dead.”Mohammed Sabir, 26, the youngest brother of Commander Dawood and Zahir, was one of eight men arrested and flown to a base in neighbouring Paktika province. They were held for four days and interrogated by an American in civilian clothes who showed them pictures of their suspect. “I said, ‘Yes, it’s Shamsuddin. He was at the party. Why didn’t you arrest him?’ ” Sabir said. After they were released without charge Shamsuddin — who had spent five months fixing generators at the local American base — turned himself in for questioning. He, too, was released without charge.Nato’s original statement said: “Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a firefight and were killed.” The family maintain that no one threw so much as a stone. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Nato’s director of communications in Kabul, denied that there had been any attempt at a cover-up.He said that both the men who were killed were armed and showing “hostile intent” but admitted “they were not the targets of this particular raid”.”I don’t know if they fired any rounds,” he said. “If you have got an individual stepping out of a compound, and if your assault force is there, that is often the trigger to neutralise the individual. You don’t have to be fired upon to fire back.”He admitted that the original statement had been “poorly worded” but said “to people who see a lot of dead bodies” the women had appeared at the time to have been dead for several hours.The family were offered, through local elders, American compensation — $2,000 (£1,300) for each of the victims.”There’s no value on human life,” Bibi Sabsparie said. “They killed our family, then they came and brought us money. Money won’t bring our family back.”

:: Article nr. 64126 sent on 13-mar-2010 12:50 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=64126

Link: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7060395.ece

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

http://www.uruknet.de/?p=64126

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Special Report:

How the White House learned to love the drone

Adam Entous

WASHINGTON Tue May 18, 2010 5:03pm EDT Tue, May 4 2010

A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing is refueled during operations on the flight line of an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia, January 10, 2010.  Credit: REUTERS/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol-US Air Force/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – By all appearances, the Obama administration wanted him alive, not dead. It posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the “location, arrest, and/or conviction” of Baitullah Mehsud, the fierce leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a March 25, 2009 notice.

But delivering Mehsud alive for prosecution was never a serious option for the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military Special Operations teams that track such “high-value” targets. He was killed less than five months later in a CIA-directed drone strike.

In the rugged mountains of western Pakistan, missiles launched by unmanned Predator or Reaper drones have become so commonplace that some U.S. officials liken them to modern-day “cannon fire.” And they are no longer aimed solely at “high-value” targets like Mehsud, according to U.S. counterterrorism and defense officials.

Under a secret directive first issued by former President George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama, the CIA has broadly expanded the “target set” for drone strikes. As a result, what is still officially classified as a covert campaign on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan has in many ways morphed into a parallel conventional war, several experts say.

Killing wanted militants is simply “easier” than capturing them, said an official, who like most interviewed for this story support the stepped-up program and asked not to be identified. Another official added: “It is increasingly the preferred option.”

An analysis of data provided to Reuters by U.S. government sources shows that the CIA has killed around 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the drone strikes intensified in the summer of 2008.

Reuters has also learned that Pakistan, though officially opposed to the strikes, is providing more behind-the-scenes assistance than in the past.

Beyond the human intelligence that the CIA relies on to identify targets, Pakistani agents are sometimes present at U.S. bases, and are increasingly involved in target selection and strike coordination, current and former U.S. officials said.

Back in Washington, the technology is considered such a success that the U.S. military has been positioning Reaper drones at a base in the Horn of Africa.

The aircraft can be used against militants in Yemen and Somalia, and even potentially against pirates who attack commercial ships traversing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, officials said.

“Everyone has fallen in love with them,” a former U.S. intelligence official said of the drone strikes.

NOWHERE TO PUT THEM

By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad in the wake of Bush-era allegations of torture and secret detentions.

Besides putting an end to harsh interrogation methods, the president issued executive orders to ban secret CIA detention centers and close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: “There is nowhere to put them.”

A former U.S. intelligence official, who was involved in the process until recently, said: “I got the sense: ‘What the hell do we do with this guy if we get him?’ It’s not the primary consideration but it has to be a consideration.”

There are other reasons behind the expansion of the drone program, including improvements in drone technology.

“Many of the highest priority terrorists are in some of the remotest, most inaccessible, parts of our planet,” one U.S. official said of why targeted killing has gained favor. “Since they’re actively plotting against us and our allies, you’ve got two choices — kill or capture. When these people are where they are, and are doing what they’re doing, it’s just not a tough decision.”

The Obama White House chaffs at suggestions its policies could make it harder to capture wanted militants.

“Any comment along the lines of ‘there is nowhere to put captured militants’ would be flat wrong. Over the past 16 months, the U.S. has worked closely with its counterterrorism partners in South Asia and around the world to capture, detain, and interrogate hundreds of militants and terrorists,” a senior U.S. official said.

As the CIA program in Pakistan expands, the Pentagon’s own targeted killing programs, run by secretive Special Ops and intelligence units, have also been ramped up under Obama.

“There is little to no pushback” from the White House, according to one defense official who supports the policy. He said that when it came to adding wanted militants to top secret target lists, the Pentagon was getting “all the support it could want,” though some insiders think the military isn’t updating the lists fast enough.

For their part, U.S. officials say the targeted killing programs have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda and the Taliban, probably saving American lives in the process.

But as one former intelligence official, quoting Newton’s law of motion that every action has a reaction, said: there’s no way to know the consequences “upfront.”

There are signs that the drone strikes may have become a rallying cry for many militants and their supporters, including Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted car-bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1. U.S. investigators believe Shahzad received assistance from the Pakistani Taliban, which had vowed to avenge the killing of Mehsud.

Likewise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said its plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day was payback for what it called U.S. attacks on the group in Yemen.

COMMONPLACE KILLINGS

In a June 2007 debate with his Democratic rivals, then-candidate Obama spelled out why he believed it would be legal to use a Hellfire missile to take out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan even if some innocent civilians would be killed in the process.

“I don’t believe in assassinations, but Osama bin Laden has declared war on us, killed 3,000 people, and under existing law, including international law, when you’ve got a military target like bin Laden, you take him out. And if you have 20 minutes, you do it swiftly and surely,” Obama said.

Obama’s saber-rattling about using force in Pakistan was a way to “demonstrate his national security bona fides” in the middle of a tough campaign, said Richard Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who served as foreign policy adviser to Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 election.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, said the Obama administration ran with the drone program because, when it came to office, “it found itself with a real al Qaeda threat and one tool to work with.”

“I don’t think he (Obama) had really any alternatives. He seized the tool that was in front of him,” said Riedel, who chaired Obama’s strategic review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy that was completed in March 2009.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the strategy was “politically foolproof” because the mainstream candidates on both sides of the political spectrum “campaigned on who can kill more of these guys.”

Under Obama, the program has grown to such an extent that, according to a Reuters tally, the nearly 60 missiles fired from the CIA’s drones in Pakistan in the first four months of this year roughly matched the number fired by all of the drones piloted by the U.S. military in neighboring Afghanistan — the recognized war zone — during the same time period.

In Pakistan, the pace has jumped to two or three strikes a week, up roughly fourfold from the Bush years.

Of the 500 militants the agency believes the drones have killed since the summer of 2008, about 14 are widely considered to be top tier militant targets, while another 25 are considered mid-to-high-level organizers.

Independent tallies based on news accounts from the region put the deathtoll from drones since mid-2008 much higher — at anywhere from nearly 700 to around 1,200.

In addition to authorizing the CIA to strike fighters and leaders linked to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, Obama’s National Security Council recently took the program in a new direction by adding an American citizen to the CIA’s hit list — Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki of Yemen’s al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Obama administration says it has safeguards in place for identifying what it calls “lawful targets.” A U.S. counterterrorism official said: “Targets are chosen with extreme care… There’s no such thing as a random strike.”

But some human rights groups question how robust those safeguards could be if the CIA is killing hundreds of militants whose identities are largely unknown. They also worry about civilians.

A Pakistani intelligence official dealing with South Waziristan said the vast majority of the deaths were just foot soldiers. “They hit whoever they get,” another intelligence official in North Waziristan said.

A former U.S. intelligence official said it was unclear what protocols the CIA was following for targeting foot-soldiers: “If it becomes a more generalized ‘kill anybody’ (approach), it degrades the notion we’re going after serious threats to the United States. It’s a slippery slope.”

According to U.S. intelligence estimates, no more than 30 non-combatants were killed alongside the 500 militants — the equivalent of a little more than 5 percent, or about one out of every 20. These mainly included family members who live and travel with the CIA’s targets.

The CIA won’t disclose how it verifies who’s who among the casualties, but former officials say drones will linger overhead, in some cases for hours after each strike so the CIA can literally count the bodies.

To determine who is a civilian, the CIA looks at a number of indicators, including gender. As a general rule, a woman is counted as a non-combatant, former officials said.

The Pakistani intelligence officer in North Waziristan said 20 percent of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants, or one in five.

But others put the figure much higher. “The ratio is getting better but based on my military experience, there’s simply no way” so few civilians have been killed, Jeffrey Addicott, who served as the senior legal adviser to the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, said of the U.S. tally.

“For one bad guy you kill, you’d expect 1.5 civilian deaths” because no matter how good the technology, “killing from that high above, there’s always the ‘oops’ factor,” he said.

‘KILL THEM WHEN THEY’RE EATING’

To justify its extensive use of drones in targeted killings, Obama administration lawyers poured over reams of legal opinions and findings. They pointed to precedents as far back as World War Two, when a squadron of U.S. fighter planes tracked and shot down the airplane carrying the architect of Japan‘s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

“In a different time and place, that action might have been seen as unchivalrous or unsportsmanlike,” Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, said of the 1943 targeted killing.

Like technology, battlefield norms “change by year, change by culture,” Crane said. “But taking out enemy leaders is an important part of warfare and has been going on for millennia.”

In a recent speech outlining the Obama administration’s position publicly, Harold Hongju Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, said: “The United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law.”

Scholars say Obama’s targeted killing doctrine appears to be little different from Bush’s: Once someone has been deemed a lawful target, the CIA has no obligation to warn or seek to detain that person before attacking, said Kenneth Anderson, professor of law at American University.

Other human rights lawyers argue that even in an armed conflict zone, individuals may be targeted only if they take a direct part in fighting. Outside armed conflict zones, they say, international law permits lethal force to be used only as a last resort, and only to prevent imminent attacks.

The United States officially bans “assassination” under Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, but Koh said “the use of lawful weapons systems … for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.'”

Mary Ellen O’Connell of the University of Notre Dame Law School said: “We just don’t have the right to bomb people where there’s no armed conflict,” drawing a contrast between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are waging a nearly nine-year-old war.

Even if militants use Pakistan as a staging ground for Afghan attacks, O’Connell said the sovereign boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan must be respected.

“The United States is not fighting in self-defense against Pakistan. We do not hold Pakistan responsible for cross-border incursions into Afghanistan and may not, lawfully, use military force in Pakistan in response to those incursions,” she said.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Forces, disagrees: “The battlefield in the ‘war on terror’ is global and not restricted to a particular nation. As in World War Two, there are no national limitations or boundaries. This is war and we are entitled to kill them anywhere we find them.”

“We can kill them when they’re eating, we can kill them when they’re sleeping. They are enemy combatants, and as long as they’re not surrendering, we can kill them.”

WEIGHING PROS-AND-CONS

Killing senior militants has its drawbacks. Chief among them is the loss of intelligence that could be gleaned by capturing and questioning them.

In secret documents from 2007 that were recently made public, then-CIA director Michael Hayden highlighted the value of capturing al Qaeda leaders. In an agency document, Hayden details how al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah became “one of our most important sources of intelligence on al Qaeda” after his March 2002 capture.

Among other things, he helped U.S. authorities identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, whose interrogation, in turn, led U.S. authorities to other high-value targets plotting attacks on U.S. soil.

“It is a balance, a difficult balance,” a U.S. military official said. “There’s no doubt about it, (targeted killing) impacts your ability to gather first person intelligence. But it has other beneficial effects like removing (leadership) capabilities.”

Riedel, the former CIA analyst now with the Brookings Institution, said drone strikes were effective at killing but “the real homerun is taking a senior leader prisoner who, in the course of debriefing, leads you to other senior people and opens the door to a greater insight into the enemy you’re facing.”

“It’s a Catch-22. What do you do with these guys? It’s a real policy dilemma which the Obama administration has yet to address,” a senior U.S. government official said.

In addition to the closing of Guantanamo, Obama has committed to transferring responsibility for detention facilities to the Afghan government.

Another senior U.S. government official cited the arrest in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as an example of the constraints on the CIA now that its secret “black site” prisons have been closed.

Though Baradar was nabbed in a joint operation with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, giving the CIA custody was never an option. Baradar has started talking but the U.S. government official said the information flow would be greater were he held in CIA custody.

U.S. military officials also cite an attack in September 2009 by helicopter-borne Special Operations Forces on a car in which one of east Africa’s most wanted al Qaeda militants, Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, was a passenger.

“We may have been able to capture the guy but the decision was made to kill him,” a U.S. defense official said of the Somali operation. A factor in the decision, the official said, was uncertainty about “what would we do with him” if he was captured alive.

In many instances, operations never get off the ground because of the risks.

A former U.S. intelligence official said there were discussions late in the Bush administration about the possibility of using armed drones to help Mexican fight narco-traffickers. But the idea of “shooting missiles on the outskirts of Mexico City” ran into opposition, he said.

The Pentagon also considered taking military action in Somalia as intelligence poured in early last year about pirates establishing large camps from which they could launch attacks on commercial ships, counterterrorism and defense officials told Reuters.

The Navy had gone so far as to draw up plans for “lethal strikes” on the camps but the idea was nixed in part because of concerns about civilian casualties and what the U.S. military would do with those who are injured or captured given the country’s lawless state. Some of the beachfront camps were set up in densely populated areas.

“The rhetorical question was: Should we go after the base camps,” one official said. “We didn’t go to their camps because of concerns about civilian casualties and about there not being a government there to turn them over to or to deal with the aftermath.”

NATO’s top commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, told Reuters there were “active discussions” now about “taking actions ashore,” from promoting development to discourage pirating to “burning skiffs, taking out camps.” He said drones were “part of our operational footprint wherever we go.”

PAKISTAN’S DEEPENING ROLE

An American diplomat tells a story about a meeting he had with Pakistani parliamentarians that offers a window into the tough position that nation is in when it comes to the drone attacks.

The message from each lawmaker seemed straightforward: CIA drone strikes against militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan cause terrible damage and must stop.

Then, in the middle of the session, according to an account provided to Reuters, one of the parliamentarians slipped the American guest, who specializes in the region, a handwritten note: “The people in the tribal areas support the drones. They cause very little collateral damage. But we cannot say so publicly for reasons you understand.”

U.S. officials say they go along with this “game” understanding that public acknowledgment of any Pakistani role in the U.S. targeted killings could have major implications for the government in Islamabad, already struggling in the face of militant accusations it is an American puppet.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the CIA was conducting the drone strikes instead of the U.S. military because the covert nature of the program gives Islamabad the “fig leaf of deniability.”

“They can’t stand up to their own people and say they’re in league with the U.S.,” the official said.

Anecdotal evidence cited by U.S. officials suggests that opposition to the drone strikes is stronger in major population centers, where the Taliban have less of a presence, than in the tribal areas, where the Taliban hold sway and the missiles rain down.

Significantly, U.S. and Pakistani officials say, there have been no major public protests against them, not even among the tribes being targeted.

Most of these attacks have targeted militant hideouts in remote mountainous areas, where there are few if any civilians. A tribal elder from North Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters: “People have chosen silence. They want to get rid of the Taliban and if the (Pakistani) army cannot do it now, then it (drone attacks) is fine with them.”

“As long as things are moving forward, people’s minds are changing. There is no anger against the strikes as long as civilians are safe. There have been civilian deaths but not in big numbers,” the elder told Reuters.

Another tribesman, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said: “We prefer drone strikes than army operations because in such operations, we also suffer. But drones hit militants and it is good for us.”

Brigadier Asad Munir, a retired ISI officer, said the drone attacks have become “routine” in the tribal areas. “If they find 10 targets a day, they will do it. It will not spark any fresh anger,” Munir said. “People have gotten used to it.”

BEHIND THE FACADE

The truth is the CIA would not be able to find the militants in many cases without the help of Pakistan’s spies and informants, officials say.

“You need guys on the ground to tell you who they (the targets) are and that isn’t coming from some white guy running around the FATA. That’s coming from the Pakistanis,” a U.S. official said, referring to the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border.

A Pakistan security expert, Ikram Sehgal, agreed. He said the intelligence underpinning the drone strikes has improved precisely because of increased Pakistani cooperation.

“The drone attacks after May last year have been very targeted and they have done a lot of good in terms of taking out the bad guys. And I think that has been possible because of the fact of Pakistan Army officers being in American camps in Afghanistan giving that actionable intelligence which is required,” he said.

As the raw intelligence from the drones pours in, Pakistani intelligence liaisons work directly with CIA and military teams in Pakistan and Afghanistan to avoid miscommunication with agents and informants in the field. “We have Pakistanis around to help with coordination,” a U.S. military official said.

But tension remains beneath the surface. While their leaders cooperate, many in the Pakistani military deeply resent the drone strikes, complicating efforts to bring Pakistan wholeheartedly on board in the battle against Islamist militants.

“This is a proud military and many hate the drone program because it is a constant reminder that they’re not in control,” a former U.S. intelligence official said.

CAN DRONES WIN THE WAR?

U.S. intelligence officials proudly tout the drone campaign as the most precise and possibly humane targeted killing program in the “history of warfare.”

The target selection process is a secret but, according to the former intelligence official, individuals who are nominated to be “high-value targets” must be vetted by CIA lawyers to determine if they pose “a continuing and imminent threat.”

The agency often uses specially designed missiles that have a small blast field with minimal shrapnel to limit “collateral damage”, as unwanted casualties are known in military circles. Targets are often killed by the concussion created by the explosion.

Recent advances in drone technology also help to reduce civilian casualties. A U.S. official said: “Weapons can be steered away at the last moment if there’s any possibility whatsoever that a non-combatant may be at risk. That speaks to the extreme precision of this system.”

An official who has watched several drone strikes recalled the precision with which a CIA operator focused one of the drone’s cameras on its target, identifying the wanted man by his missing left arm. A lawyer is always present, he said.

A senior U.S. government official said the strikes themselves may be more precise than ever, but target selection was only as good as the underlying intelligence.

While improved, U.S. officials acknowledge their limited ability to get first-hand intelligence. They rely heavily on satellite and drone imagery, and cell phone intercepts.

Even the Pakistanis have had difficulties in the past ensuring a reliable supply of intelligence in a region where people are often executed as spies.

One intelligence official estimated that as many as 70 Pakistani agents had been killed in the tribal areas and, at one point, areas around Miranshah in North Waziristan, the main Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the area, had become a black hole in terms of intelligence collection.

For some, however, it’s not the technology or intelligence as much as the strategy that is flawed.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Operations Forces, asks: “Are we creating more enemies than we’re killing or capturing by our activities? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. These families have 10 sons each. You kill one son and you create 9 more enemies. You’re not winning over the population.”

“Drones don’t impress them,” Addicott added. “In the mind of the radicals we’re cowards, we won’t fight face-to-face. This is what they teach in the madrassas.”

He is referring to the pro-Taliban religious schools which help produce many of the movement’s anti-American foot-soldiers.

According to Sehgal, who is chairman of Pathfinder G4S, Pakistan’s largest private security firm, these madrassas turn out between 7,000 and 15,000 “hard-core” students each year, eclipsing the number being killed by CIA drones and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Within the intelligence community, the verdict is still out on whether the CIA’s targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud degraded the Pakistani Taliban’s capabilities — one of the main objectives in any targeted killing.

Since his death last August, there have been fewer attacks against civilians in Pakistan — 1,019 between August 6, 2009 and April 30, 2010, compared to 1,875 attacks between October 1, 2008 and August 5, 2009, according to a review of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s database.

But a U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the data said the change was likely the result of Pakistani military offensives against militants in the tribal areas, rather than Mehsud’s death, noting a downward trend in attacks prior to the August drone strike that killed him.

Baitullah’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, may be even more ruthless.

“Although the number of attacks is down compared to before his death, the lethality is higher resulting in more deaths than normal for that level of attacks. That might indicate the militants are trying to maximize causalities or have changed tactics,” the counterterrorism official said.

What is clear is that the issue of whether this military strategy is succeeding or not is not receiving very much attention in policy circles in Washington.

John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s top lawyer during the Bush administration, said he found it odd that while Bush-era interrogation methods like waterboarding came under sharp scrutiny, “all the while, of course, there were lethal operations going on, and think about it, there was never, as far as I could discern, ever, any debate, discussion, questioning … the United States targeting and killing terrorists.”

American University’s Anderson said that could change if human rights group seize on the issue. “It could be the whole interrogation and detention thing all over again,” he said.

Because of the sensitivities involved, the president himself has not brought up the drone controversy in public, with the exception of a joke at a black-tie dinner on May 1 attended by Washington journalists, politicians and celebrities.

Calling his two young daughters Sasha and Malia “huge fans” of the Jonas Brothers band, Obama cautioned the young pop stars: “Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you — Predator drones,” the president said to laughter.

“You will never see it coming.”

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Kamran Haider in Islamabad, Myra MacDonald in London and Phil Stewart and Caren Bohan in Washington; editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64H5SL20100518

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Pakistan’s drone dilemma

By Tayyab Siddiqui

Sunday, 18 Jul, 2010

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The US must recognise that no matter what the volume of economic assistance given to Pakistan, it will never inspire any feelings of friendliness and partnership until the recurring drone attacks are stopped in accordance with the national milieu. — Photo by AFP

Strategic dialogue at the ministerial level between Islamabad and Washington, initiated during President Bush’s visit to Islamabad in 2006, has been revived with vigour. The last session was held in Washington in March and the next is due in July in Islamabad.

The dialogue is aimed at providing a wider and durable base and inter alia has focused on priority areas like the economy, energy, education, science and technology and agriculture.

The optimism associated with this process, however, has fallen short of the efforts. Official circles in Pakistan are wary of the assurances and commitments of the US administration. Several rounds of discussions in the two capitals over the last four years have failed to accomplish or craft the vision of a broad-based long-term and enduring partnership.

The reasons include not only time and resource constraints but also lack of mutual understanding and divergent interests. India is yet another factor that has frayed the mutual relationship. The US’s obvious tilt towards India in preference over Pakistan’s interest has denied strong public support, the bedrock for any sustainable and durable relationship.

Lack of meaningful action on the proposals and promises made for economic measures, such as establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and Free Trade Area Agreement (FTA), have frustrated Pakistan.

Similarly, bracketing Pakistan with Afghanistan has hurt the sensitivities of public opinion, entirely unhelpful for developing a strong foundation of a mutually supportive relationship. Long-lasting friendships can last only if the emotional and psychological make-up of the nation is reckoned with and policies designed in conformity with its ethos, culture and history.

The great sacrifices made by Pakistan and enormous suffering that the nation has endured over the last eight years of the war against terror have remained unappreciated and non-recompensed. To add insult to injury, the CIA based in Afghanistan has been conducting drone attacks in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and in total disregard of the government’s protests.

US media reports have, however, repeatedly alleged that the drone attacks have tacit understanding and approval of military authorities in Pakistan. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US indirectly confirmed this, in a press briefing on July 2: “Pakistan has never said that we do not like the elimination of terrorists through predator drones.” This duplicity primarily stems from the public reaction to Islamabad’s acquiescence to the drone attacks.

The drone attacks have been disproportionate to their objectives, causing avoidable loss of human life and resources. The drone strikes are counter to any move to bring the two partners together. They have remained a sad reminder of US’s lack of concern by a friend also claiming to be a strategic partner.

The US’s refusal to stop these attacks or to provide drone technology to Pakistan to meet its security interests and also to carry out attacks with moderation and where absolutely unavoidable, do not meet the spirit of President Obama’s assurance that “America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity, long after the guns have fallen silent.”

The US must recognise that no matter what the volume of economic assistance given to Pakistan, it will never inspire any feelings of friendliness and partnership until the recurring drone attacks are stopped in accordance with the national milieu.

Drone attacks are reprehensible not only in their violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty but also for the civilian deaths they cause and which are becoming increasingly frequent. So far, 144 drone strikes have been carried out in the tribal areas with 1,366 civilian casualties, according to the US National Counterterrorism Center.

These attacks are causing deep hatred of the US and their military value is also questionable. In May 2009, in a testimony to US Congress, US Advisor to Gen. David Kilmulllen, asked the Obama Administration to call off the drone attacks stating, “We have been able to kill only 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders since 2006 and in the same period, killed over 700 Pakistani civilians.” The unkindest cut of all was delivered by President Obama who dismissed Pakistan’s protests against drone attacks: “We cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.”

These attacks have proved counterproductive, both in military and emotional terms. A US think tank has assessed the impact stating, “Predator strikes have inflamed anti-American rage among Afghans and Pakistanis, including first and second generation immigrants in the West as well as elite members of the security services.”

Drone attacks are now broadening the area of concerns. Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council’s investigator, in a report to the UNGA has warned that “drone strikes employed to attack target executions may violate international law.

The onus is really on the government of the US to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions and extrajudicial executions are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons.”

The legal and juridical aspects of the drone strikes are not only becoming a subject of scrutiny and denunciation internationally, but domestically too the debate is extending to legal forums.

Tehrik-i-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan has moved the Supreme Court to declare the predator drone attacks a war crime and violation of sovereignty of Pakistan. The Lahore High Court, in another case, has asked the government to adopt measures to stop them.

Public resentment against these attacks, it is argued, is being exploited by rightist elements to maintain that the US does not wish to see any strong Muslim state and that the US and its strategic partner India are bent on destabilising Pakistan.

Whatever the impact of such feelings, there is no doubt that drone attacks have become a rallying cry for militants feeding the flow of volunteers as is evident from the terror strikes and suicide attacks in Pakistani cities.

Pakistan must raise the issue of drone attacks in the forthcoming round of the strategic dialogue and firmly state that Pakistan’s role in the war against terror would be in proportion to US compliance with Pakistan’s security interests. The drone issue will determine the future of relations with the US. The sooner the two sides comprehend, better for them.

The writer is a former ambassador.
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Tags: US drones drone attacks Pakistan US relations North Waziristan South Waziristan

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Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents August 14, 2010

By SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI and ROBERT F. WORTH

This article is by Scott ShaneMark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth.

WASHINGTON — At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French and Mauritanian strike near the border between Mauritania and Mali. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.

Instead of “the hammer,” in the words of John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, America will rely on the “scalpel.” In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a “multigenerational” campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.

Yet such wars come with many risks: the potential for botched operations that fuel anti-American rage; a blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies that could put troops at risk of being denied Geneva Convention protections; a weakening of the Congressional oversight system put in place to prevent abuses by America’s secret operatives; and a reliance on authoritarian foreign leaders and surrogates with sometimes murky loyalties.

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

A Proving Ground

Yemen is a testing ground for the “scalpel” approach Mr. Brennan endorses. Administration officials warn of the growing strength of Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, citing as evidence its attempt on Dec. 25 to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner using a young Nigerian operative. Some American officials believe that militants in Yemen could now pose an even greater threat than Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.

The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

“Where we want to get is to much more small scale, preferably locally driven operations,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, who serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

“For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. “And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”

Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Still, it has astonished some old hands of the military and intelligence establishment. Jack Devine, a former top C.I.A. clandestine officer who helped run the covert war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said his record showed that he was “not exactly a cream puff” when it came to advocating secret operations.

But he warned that the safeguards introduced after Congressional investigations into clandestine wars of the past — from C.I.A. assassination attempts to the Iran-contra affair, in which money from secret arms dealings with Iran was funneled to right-wing rebels in Nicaragua known as the contras — were beginning to be weakened. “We got the covert action programs under well-defined rules after we had made mistakes and learned from them,” he said. “Now, we’re coming up with a new model, and I’m concerned there are not clear rules.”

Cooperation and Control

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

The accounts of the American strikes in Yemen, which include many details that have not previously been reported, are based on interviews with American and Yemeni officials who requested anonymity because the military campaign in Yemen is classified, as well as documents from Yemeni investigators.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

“Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you,” the Qaeda operative, standing amid angry Yemenis, declared. “There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!”

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded withcluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

American officials cited strained resources for decisions about some of the Yemen strikes. With the C.I.A.’s armed drones tied up with the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the officials said, cruise missiles were all that was available at the time. Drones are favored by the White House for clandestine strikes because they can linger over targets for hours or days before unleashing Hellfire missiles, reducing the risk that women, children or other noncombatants will fall victim.

The Yemen operation has raised a broader question: who should be running the shadow war? White House officials are debating whether the C.I.A. should take over the Yemen campaign as a “covert action,” which would allow the United States to carry out operations even without the approval of Yemen’s government. By law, covert action programs require presidential authorization and formal notification to the Congressional intelligence committees. No such requirements apply to the military’s so-called Special Access Programs, like the Yemen strikes.

Obama administration officials defend their efforts in Yemen. The strikes have been “conducted very methodically,” and claims of innocent civilians being killed are “very much exaggerated,” said a senior counterterrorism official. He added that comparing the nascent Yemen campaign with American drone strikes in Pakistan was unfair, since the United States has had a decade to build an intelligence network in Pakistan that feeds the drone program.

In Yemen, officials said, there is a dearth of solid intelligence about Qaeda operations. “It will take time to develop and grow that capability,” the senior official said.

On Dec. 24, another cruise missile struck in a remote valley called Rafadh, about 400 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital and two hours from the nearest paved road. The Yemeni authorities said the strike killed dozens of Qaeda operatives, including the leader of the Qaeda branch in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his Saudi deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri. But officials later acknowledged that neither man was hit, and local witnesses say the missile killed five low-level Qaeda members.

The next known American strike, on March 14, was more successful, killing a Qaeda operative named Jamil al-Anbari and possibly another militant. Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch acknowledged Mr. Anbari’s death. On June 19, the group retaliated with a lethal attack on a government security compound in Aden that left 11 people dead and said the “brigade of the martyr Jamil al-Anbari” carried it out.

In part, the spotty record of the Yemen airstrikes may derive from another unavoidable risk of the new shadow war: the need to depend on local proxies who may be unreliable or corrupt, or whose agendas differ from that of the United States.

American officials have a troubled history with Mr. Saleh, a wily political survivor who cultivates radical clerics at election time and has a history of making deals with jihadists. Until recently, taking on Al Qaeda had not been a priority for his government, which has been fighting an intermittent armed rebellion since 2004.

And for all Mr. Saleh’s power — his portraits hang everywhere in the Yemeni capital — his government is deeply unpopular in the remote provinces where the militants have sought sanctuary. The tribes there tend to regularly switch sides, making it difficult to depend on them for information about Al Qaeda. “My state is anyone who fills my pocket with money,” goes one old tribal motto.

The Yemeni security services are similarly unreliable and have collaborated with jihadists at times. The United States has trained elite counterterrorism teams there in recent years, but the military still suffers from corruption and poor discipline.

It is still not clear why Mr. Shabwani, the Marib deputy governor, was killed. The day he died, he was planning to meet members of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch in Wadi Abeeda, a remote, lawless plain dotted with orange groves east of Yemen’s capital. The most widely accepted explanation is that Yemeni and American officials failed to fully communicate before the attack.

Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said the civilian deaths in the first strike and the killing of the deputy governor in May “had a devastating impact.” The mishaps, he said, “embarrassed the government and gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists,” he said, referring to adherents of the form of Islam embraced by militants.

American officials said President Saleh was angry about the strike in May, but not so angry as to call for a halt to the clandestine American operations. “At the end of the day, it’s not like he said, ‘No more,’ ” said one Obama administration official. “He didn’t kick us out of the country.”

Weighing Success

Despite the airstrike campaign, the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula survives, and there is little sign the group is much weaker.

Attacks by Qaeda militants in Yemen have picked up again, with several deadly assaults on Yemeni army convoys in recent weeks. Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has managed to put out its first English-language online magazine, Inspire, complete with bomb-making instructions. Intelligence officials believe that Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American who arrived from North Carolina last year, played a major role in producing the slick publication.

As a test case, the strikes have raised the classic trade-off of the post-Sept. 11 era: Do the selective hits make the United States safer by eliminating terrorists? Or do they help the terrorist network frame its violence as a heroic religious struggle against American aggression, recruiting new operatives for the enemy?

Al Qaeda has worked tirelessly to exploit the strikes, and in Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, the group has perhaps the most sophisticated ideological opponent the United States has faced since 2001.

“If George W. Bush is remembered by getting America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen,” the cleric said in a March Internet address that was almost gleeful about the American campaign.

Most Yemenis have little sympathy for Al Qaeda and have observed the American strikes with “passive indignation,” Mr. Eryani said. But, he added, “I think the strikes over all have been counterproductive.”

Edmund J. Hull, the United States ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004, cautioned that American policy must not be limited to using force against Al Qaeda.

“I think it’s both understandable and defensible for the Obama administration to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations,” Mr. Hull said. But he added: “I’m concerned that counterterrorism is defined as an intelligence and military program. To be successful in the long run, we have to take a far broader approach that emphasizes political, social and economic forces.”

Obama administration officials say that is exactly what they are doing — sharply increasing the foreign aid budget for Yemen and offering both money and advice to address the country’s crippling problems. They emphasized that the core of the American effort was not the strikes but training for elite Yemeni units, providing equipment and sharing intelligence to support Yemeni sweeps against Al Qaeda.

Still, the historical track record of limited military efforts like the Yemen strikes is not encouraging. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines in a forthcoming book what he has labeled “discrete military operations” from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war in 1991. He found that these operations seldom achieve either their military or political objectives.

But he said that over the years, military force had proved to be a seductive tool that tended to dominate “all the discussions and planning” and push more subtle solutions to the side.

When terrorists threaten Americans, Mr. Zenko said, “there is tremendous pressure from the National Security Council and the Congressional committees to, quote, ‘do something.’ ”

That is apparent to visitors at the American Embassy in Sana, who have noticed that it is increasingly crowded with military personnel and intelligence operatives. For now, the shadow warriors are taking the lead.

Muhammad al-Ahmadi contributed reporting from Yemen.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 22, 2010

An article last Sunday about the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies in roughly a dozen countries gave an outdated affiliation in some editions for Micah Zenko, who in a forthcoming book looks at what he calls “discrete military operations” from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war. Mr. Zenko is a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations; he is no longer a scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 29, 2010

An article on Aug. 15 about the Obama administration’s secret counterterrorism operations overseas described incorrectly a recent strike in northern Africa that was cited as an example of coordination with allies. The strike in question, on July 22, was carried out by French and Mauritanian troops near the border between Mauritania and Mali; it was not a French strike in Algeria.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/world/15shadowwar.html?WT.mc_id=GN-PS-E-OB-PS-TXT-GN-ROS-0810-NA&WT.mc_ev=click&_r=1&pagewanted=print

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View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War

in Afghanistan

Published: July 25, 2010

This article was written and reported by C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Andrew W. Lehren, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, and Eric Schmitt, with contributions from Jacob Harris and Alan McLean.

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A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.

The material comes to light as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.

The archive is a vivid reminder that the Afghan conflict until recently was a second-class war, with money, troops and attention lavished on Iraq while soldiers and Marineslamented that the Afghans they were training were not being paid.

The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

Over all, the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war. But in some cases the documents show that the American military made misleading public statements — attributing the downing of a helicopter to conventional weapons instead of heat-seeking missiles or giving Afghans credit for missions carried out by Special Operations commandos.

White House officials vigorously denied that the Obama administration had presented a misleading portrait of the war in Afghanistan.

“On Dec. 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on Al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” said Gen. James L. Jones, White House national security adviser, in a statement released Sunday.

“We know that serious challenges lie ahead, but if Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like Al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train,” the statement said.

General Jones also decried the decision by WikiLeaks to make the documents public, saying that the United States “strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.””

“WikiLeaks made no effort to contact us about these documents – the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted,” General Jones said.

The archive is clearly an incomplete record of the war. It is missing many references to seminal events and does not include more highly classified information. The documents also do not cover events in 2010, when the influx of more troops into Afghanistan began and a new counterinsurgency strategy took hold.

They suggest that the military’s internal assessments of the prospects for winning over the Afghan public, especially in the early days, were often optimistic, even naïve.

There are fleeting — even taunting — reminders of how the war began in the occasional references to the elusive Osama bin Laden. In some reports he is said to be attending meetings in Quetta, Pakistan. His money man is said to be flying from Iran to North Korea to buy weapons. Mr. bin Laden has supposedly ordered a suicide attack against the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. These reports all seem secondhand at best.

The reports portray a resilient, canny insurgency that has bled American forces through a war of small cuts. The insurgents set the war’s pace, usually fighting on ground of their own choosing and then slipping away.

Sabotage and trickery have been weapons every bit as potent as small arms, mortars or suicide bombers. So has Taliban intimidation of Afghan officials and civilians — applied with pinpoint pressure through threats, charm, violence, money, religious fervor and populist appeals.

FEB. 19, 2008 | ZABUL PROVINCE Intelligence Summary: Officer Threatened

An Afghan National Army brigade commander working in southern Afghanistan received a phone call from a Taliban mullah named Ezat, one brief report said. “Mullah Ezat told the ANA CDR to surrender and offered him $100,000(US) to quit working for the Afghan Army,” the report said. “Ezat also stated that he knows where the ANA CDR is from and knows his family.” Read the Document »

MAY 9, 2009 | KUNAR PROVINCE Intelligence Summary: Taliban Recruiter

A Taliban commander, Mullah Juma Khan, delivered a eulogy at the funeral of a slain insurgent. He played on the crowd’s emotions, according to the report: “Juma cried while telling the people an unnamed woman and her baby were killed while the woman was nursing the baby.” Finally he made his pitch: “Juma then told the people they needed to be angry at CF [Coalition Force] and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] for causing this tragedy” and “invited everyone who wants to fight to join the fighters who traveled with him.” Read the Document »

The insurgents use a network of spies, double agents, collaborators and informers — anything to undercut coalition forces and the effort to build a credible and effective Afghan government capable of delivering security and services.

The reports repeatedly describe instances when the insurgents have been seen wearing government uniforms, and other times when they have roamed the country or appeared for battle in the very Ford Ranger pickup trucks that the United States had provided the Afghan Army and police force.

NOV. 20, 2006 | KABUL Incident Report: Insurgent Subterfuge

After capturing four pickup trucks from the Afghan National Army, the Taliban took them to Kabul to be used in suicide bombings. “They intend to use the pick-up trucks to target ANA compounds, ISAF and GOA convoys, as well as ranking GOA and ISAF officials,” said a report, referring to coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan. “The four trucks were also accompanied by an unknown quantity of ANA uniforms to facilitate carrying out the attacks.” Read the Document »

The Taliban’s use of heat-seeking missiles has not been publicly disclosed — indeed, the military has issued statements that these internal records contradict.

In the form known as a Stinger, such weapons were provided to a previous generation of Afghan insurgents by the United States, and helped drive out the Soviets. The reports suggest that the Taliban’s use of these missiles has been neither common nor especially effective; usually the missiles missed.

MAY 30, 2007 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Downed Helicopter

An American CH-47 transport helicopter was struck by what witnesses described as a portable heat-seeking surface-to-air missile after taking off from a landing zone.

The helicopter, the initial report said, “was engaged and struck with a Missile … shortly after crossing over the Helmand River. The missile struck the aircraft in the left engine. The impact of the missile projected the aft end of the aircraft up as it burst into flames followed immediately by a nose dive into the crash site with no survivors.”

The crash killed seven soldiers: five Americans, a Briton and a Canadian.

Multiple witnesses saw a smoke trail behind the missile as it rushed toward the helicopter. The smoke trail was an important indicator. Rocket-propelled grenades do not leave them. Heat-seeking missiles do. The crew of other helicopters reported the downing as a surface-to-air missile strike. But that was not what a NATO spokesman told Reuters.

“Clearly, there were enemy fighters in the area,” said the spokesman, Maj. John Thomas. “It’s not impossible for small-arms fire to bring down a helicopter.”

The reports paint a disheartening picture of the Afghan police and soldiers at the center of the American exit strategy.

The Pentagon is spending billions to train the Afghan forces to secure the country. But the police have proved to be an especially risky investment and are often described as distrusted, even loathed, by Afghan civilians. The reports recount episodes of police brutality, corruption petty and large, extortion and kidnapping. Some police officers defect to the Taliban. Others are accused of collaborating with insurgents, arms smugglers and highway bandits. Afghan police officers defect with trucks or weapons, items captured during successful ambushes or raids.

MARCH 10, 2008 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Investigation Report: Extortion by the Police

This report captured the circular and frustrating effort by an American investigator to stop Afghan police officers at a checkpoint from extorting payments from motorists. After a line of drivers described how they were pressed to pay bribes, the American investigator and the local police detained the accused checkpoint police officers.

“While waiting,” the investigator wrote, “I asked the seven patrolmen we detained to sit and relax while we sorted through a problem without ever mentioning why they were being detained. Three of the patrolmen responded by saying that they had only taken money from the truck drivers to buy fuel for their generator.”

Two days later when the American followed up, he was told by police officers that the case had been dropped because the witness reports had all been lost. Read the Document »

One report documented the detention of a military base worker trying to leave the base with GPS units hidden under his clothes and taped to his leg. Another described the case of a police chief in Zurmat, in Paktia Province, who was accused of falsely reporting that his officers had been in a firefight so he could receive thousands of rounds of new ammunition, which he sold in a bazaar.

Coalition trainers report that episodes of cruelty by the Afghan police undermine the effort to build a credible security force to take over when the allies leave.

OCT. 11, 2009 | BALKH PROVINCE Incident Report: Brutal Police Chief

This report began with an account of Afghan soldiers and police officers harassing and beating local civilians for refusing to cooperate in a search. It then related the story of a district police commander who forced himself on a 16-year-old girl. When a civilian complained, the report continued, “The district commander ordered his bodyguard to open fire on the AC [Afghan civilian]. The bodyguard refused, at which time the district commander shot [the bodyguard] in front of the AC.”

Rivalries and friction between the largest Afghan security services — the police and the army — are evident in a number of reports. Sometimes the tensions erupted in outright clashes, as was recorded in the following report from last December that was described as an “enemy action.” The “enemy” in this case was the Afghan National Security Force.

DEC. 4, 2009 | ORUZGAN PROVINCE Incident Report: Police and Army Rivalry

A car accident turned deadly when an argument broke out between the police and the Afghan National Army. “The argument escalated and ANA & ANP started to shoot at each other,” a report said.

An Afghan soldier and three Afghan police officers were wounded in the shootout. One civilian was killed and six others were wounded by gunfire. Read the Document »

One sign of the weakness of the police is that in places they have been replaced by tribal warlords who are charged — informally but surely — with providing the security the government cannot. Often the warlords operate above the law.

NOV. 22, 2009 | KANDAHAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Illegal Checkpoint

A private security convoy, ferrying fuel from Kandahar to Oruzgan, was stopped by what was thought to be 100 insurgents armed with assault rifles and PK machine guns, a report said.

It turned out the convoy had been halted by “the local Chief of Police,” who was “demanding $2000-$3000 per truck” as a kind of toll. The chief, said the report, from NATO headquarters in Southern Afghanistan, “states he needs the money to run his operation.”

The chief was not actually a police chief. He was Matiullah Khan, a warlord and an American-backed ally of President Karzai who was arguably Oruzgan’s most powerful man. He had a contract, the Ministry of Interior said, to protect the road so NATO’s supply convoys could drive on it, but he had apparently decided to extort money from the convoys himself.

Late in the day, Mr. Matiullah, after many interventions, changed his mind. The report said that friendly forces “report that the COMPASS convoy is moving again and did not pay the fee required.”

The documents show how the best intentions of Americans to help rebuild Afghanistan through provincial reconstruction teams ran up against a bewildering array of problems — from corruption to cultural misunderstandings — as they tried to win over the public by helping repair dams and bridges, build schools and train local authorities.

A series of reports from 2005 to 2008 chart the frustrations of one of the first such teams, assigned to Gardez, in Paktia Province.

NOV. 28, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Orphanage Opens

An American civil affairs officer could barely contain her enthusiasm as she spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new orphanage, built with money from the American military.

The officer said a friend had given her a leather jacket to present to “someone special,” the report noted. She chose the orphanage’s director. “The commander stated that she could think of no one more deserving then someone who cared for orphans,” it said.

The civil affairs team handed out blankets, coats, scarves and toys. The governor even gave money from his own pocket. “All speeches were very positive,” the report concluded.Read the Document »

DEC. 20, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Not Many Orphans

The team dropped by to check on the orphanage. “We found very few orphans living there and could not find most of the HA [humanitarian assistance] we had given them,” the report noted.

The team raised the issue with the governor of Paktia, who said he was also concerned and suspected that the money he had donated had not reached the children. He visited the orphanage himself. Only 30 children were there; the director had claimed to have 102.Read the Document »

OCT. 16, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: An Empty Orphanage

Nearly a year after the opening of the orphanage, the Americans returned for a visit. “There are currently no orphans at the facility due to the Holiday. (Note: orphans are defined as having no father, but may still have mother and a family structure that will have them home for holidays.)” Read the Document »

FEB. 25, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE District Report: Lack of Resources

As the Taliban insurgency strengthened, the lack of a government presence in the more remote districts — and the government’s inability to provide security or resources even to its own officials — is evident in the reports.

An official from Dand Wa Patan, a small sliver of a district along the border with Pakistan, so urgently wanted to talk to the members of the American team that he traveled three and a half hours by taxi — he had no car — to meet them.

“He explained that the enemy had changed their tactics in the area and were no longer fighting from the mountains, no longer sending rockets toward his compound and other areas,” the report noted. “He stated that the enemy focus was on direct action and that his family was a primary target.”

Ten days earlier the Taliban crept up to the wall of his family compound and blew up one of the security towers, the report said. His son lost his legs in the explosion.

He pleaded for more police officers, weapons and ammunition. He also wanted a car so he could drive around the district he was supposed to oversee.

But the Americans’ situation was not much better. For months the reports show how a third — or even a half — of the team’s vehicles were out of service, awaiting spare parts.

NOV. 15, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Local Corruption

For a while the civil affairs team worked closely with the provincial governor, described as “very charismatic.” Yet both he and the team are hampered by corrupt, negligent and antagonistic officials.

The provincial chief of police is described in one report as “the axel of corruption.”

“He makes every effort to openly and blatantly take money from the ANP troopers and the officers,” one sympathetic officer told the Americans.

Other officers are more clever. One forged rosters, to collect pay for imaginary police officers. A second set up illegal checkpoints to collects tolls around Gardez. Still another stole food and uniforms, leaving his soldiers underfed and ill equipped for the winter.

The governor, meanwhile, was all but trapped. Such animosity developed between him and a senior security official that the governor could not leave his office for weeks at a time, fearing for his life. Finally, the corrupt officials were replaced. But it took months.

SEPT. 24, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: The Cost of Corruption

Their meetings with Afghan district officials gave the American civil affairs officers unique insights into local opinions. Sometimes, the Afghan officials were brutally honest in their assessments.

In one case, provincial council officials visited the Americans at their base in Gardez to report threats — the Taliban had tossed a grenade into their office compound and were prowling the hills. Then the officials began a tirade.

“The people of Afghanistan keep loosing their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials,” the report quoted them as saying. “The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst than the Taliban.”

“The corrupted government officials are a new concept brought to Afghanistan by the AMERICANS,” the oldest member of the group told the civil affairs team.

In conclusion, the civil affairs officer who wrote the report warned, “The people will support the Anti-Coalition forces and the security condition will degenerate.” He recommended a public information program to educate Afghans about democracy. Read the Document »

The reports also evoke the rivalries and tensions that swirl within the presidential palace between President Karzai’s circle and the warlords.

OCT. 16, 2006 | KABUL Intelligence Summary: Political Intrigue

In a short but heated meeting at the presidential palace, the Kabul police chief, Brig. Gen. Mir Amanullah Gozar, angrily refuted accusations made publicly by Jamil Karzai that he was corrupt and lacked professional experience. The report of the meeting identified Jamil Karzai as the president’s brother; he is in fact a cousin.

General Gozar “said that if Jamil were not the president’s Brother he would kidnap, torture, and kill him,” the report said. He added that he was aware of plans by the American-led coalition to remove him from his post.

He threatened the president, saying that if he were replaced he would reveal “allegations about Karzai having been a drug trader and supporter of the Pakistan-led insurgency in Afghanistan,” presumably a reference to Mr. Karzai’s former links with the Taliban.

Incident by incident, the reports resemble a police blotter of the myriad ways Afghan civilians were killed — not just in airstrikes but in ones and twos — in shootings on the roads or in the villages, in misunderstandings or in a cross-fire, or in chaotic moments when Afghan drivers ventured too close to convoys and checkpoints.

The dead, the reports repeatedly indicate, were not suicide bombers or insurgents, and many of the cases were not reported to the public at the time. The toll of the war — reflected in mounting civilian casualties — left the Americans seeking cooperation and support from an Afghan population that grew steadily more exhausted, resentful, fearful and alienated.

From the war’s outset, airstrikes that killed civilians in large numbers seized international attention, including the aerial bombardment of a convoy on its way to attend President Karzai’s inauguration in 2001. An airstrike in Azizabad, in western Afghanistan, killed as many as 92 people in August 2008. In May 2009, another strike killed 147 Afghan civilians.

SEPT. 3, 2009 | KUNDUZ PROVINCE Incident Report: Mistaken Airstrike

This report, filed about the activities of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller team, which is responsible for communication from the ground and guiding pilots during surveillance missions and airstrikes, offers a glimpse into one of the bloodiest mistakes in 2009.

It began with a report from the police command saying that “2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE STOLEN BY UNK NUMBER OF INS” and that the insurgents planned to cross the Kunduz River with their prizes. It was nighttime, and the river crossing was not illuminated. Soon, the report noted, the “JTAC OBSERVED KDZ RIVER AND REPORTED THAT IT DISCOVERED THE TRUCKS AS WELL AS UP TO 70 INS” at “THE FORD ON THE RIVER. THE TRUCKS WERE STUCK IN THE MUD.” How the JTAC team was observing the trucks was not clear, but many aircraft have infrared video cameras that can send a live feed to a computer monitor on the ground.

According to the report, a German commander of the provincial reconstruction team “LINKED UP WITH JTAC AND, AFTER ENSURING THAT NO CIVILIANS WERE IN THE VICINITY,” he “AUTHORIZED AN AIRSTRIKE.” An F-15 then dropped two 500-pound guided bombs. The initial report said that “56X INS KIA [insurgents killed in action] (CONFIRMED) AND 14X INS FLEEING IN NE DIRECTION. THE 2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE ALSO DESTROYED.”

The initial report was wrong. The trucks had been abandoned, and a crowd of civilians milled around them, removing fuel. How the commander and the JTAC had ensured “that no civilians were in the area,” as the report said, was not explained.

The first sign of the mistake documented in the initial report appeared the next day, when another report said that at “0900 hrs International Media reported that US airstrike had killed 60 civilians in Kunduz. The media are reporting that Taliban did steal the trucks and had invited civilians in the area to take fuel.” Read the Document »

The reports show that the smaller incidents were just as insidious and alienating, turning Afghans who had once welcomed Americans as liberators against the war.

MARCH 5, 2007 | GHAZNI PROVINCE Incident Report: Checkpoint Danger

Afghan police officers shot a local driver who tried to speed through their checkpoint on a country road in Ghazni Province south of Kabul. The police had set up a temporary checkpoint on the highway just outside the main town in the district of Ab Band.

“A car approached the check point at a high rate of speed,” the report said. All the police officers fled the checkpoint except one. As the car passed the checkpoint it knocked down the lone policeman. He fired at the vehicle, apparently thinking that it was a suicide car bomber.

“The driver of the vehicle was killed,” the report said. “No IED [improvised explosive device] was found and vehicle was destroyed.”

The police officer was detained in the provincial capital, Ghazni, and questioned. He was then released. The American mentoring the police concluded in his assessment that the policeman’s use of force was appropriate. Rather than acknowledging the public hostility such episodes often engender, the report found a benefit: it suggested that the shooting would make Afghans take greater care at checkpoints in the future.

“Effects on the populace clearly identify the importance of stopping at checkpoints,” the report concluded. Read the Document »

MARCH 21, 2007 | PAKTIKA PROVINCE Incident Report: A Deaf Man Is Shot

Members of a C.I.A. paramilitary unit moved into the village of Malekshay in Paktika Province close to the border with Pakistan when they saw an Afghan running away at the sight of their convoy, one report recounted. Members of the unit shot him in the ankle, and medics treated him at the scene. The unit had followed military procedure — first shouting at the man, then firing warning shots and only after that shooting to wound, the report said.

Yet elders in the village told the unit that the man, Shum Khan, was deaf and mute and that he had fled from the convoy out of nervousness. Mr. Khan was “unable to hear the warnings or warning shots. Ran out of fear and confusion,” the report concludes. The unit handed over supplies in compensation. Read the Document »

The reports reveal several instances of allied forces accidentally firing on one another or on Afghan forces in the fog of war, often with tragic consequences.

APRIL 6, 2006 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Friendly Fire

A British Army convoy driving at night in southern Afghanistan suddenly came under small-arms fire. One of the British trucks rolled over. The British troops split into two groups, pulled back from the clash and called in airstrikes from American A-10 attack planes. After several confusing minutes, commanders realized that the Afghan police had attacked the British troops, mistaking them for Taliban fighters. One Afghan police officer was killed and 12 others were wounded.

The shifting tactics of the Americans can be seen as well in the reports, as the war strategy veered from freely using force to trying to minimize civilian casualties. But as the documents make clear, each approach has its frustrations for the American effort.

Strict new rules of engagement, imposed in 2009, minimized the use of airstrikes after some had killed civilians and turned Afghans against the war. But the rules also prompted anger from American troops and their families. The troops felt that their lives were not sufficiently valued because they had to justify every request for air or artillery support, making it easier for the Taliban to fight.

OCT. 1, 2008 | KUNAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Barrage

In the days when field commanders had a freer hand, an infantry company commander observed an Afghan with a two-way radio who was monitoring the company’s activities. Warning of “IMMINENT THREAT,” the commander said he would “destroy” the man and his equipment — in other words, kill him. A short while later, a 155-millimeter artillery piece at a forward operating base in the nearby Pech Valley began firing high-explosive rounds — 24 in all.

NOV. 13, 2009 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Escalation of Force

As the rules tightened, the reports picked up a tone that at times seemed lawyerly. Many make reference, even in pitched fights, to troops using weapons in accordance with “ROE Card A” — which guides actions of self-defense rather than attacks or offensive acts. This report described an Apache helicopter firing warning shots after coming under fire. Its reaction was described as “an escalation of force.”

The helicopter pilots reported that insurgents “engaged with SAF [surface-to-air fire]”and that “INTEL suggested they were going to be fired upon again during their extraction.”

The helicopters “fired 40x 30mm warning shots to deter any further engagement.”

The report included the information that now is common to incident reports in which Western forces fire. “The terrain was considered rurally open and there were no CIV PID IVO [civilians positively identified in the vicinity of ] the target within reasonable certainty. There was no damage to infrastructure. BDA [battle damage assessment] recording conducted by AH-64 Gun Tape. No follow up required. The next higher command was consulted. The enemy engaged presented, in the opinion of the ground forces, an imminent threat. Engagement is under ROE Card A. Higher HQ have been informed.” Read the Document »

The reports show in previously unknown detail the omnipresence of drones in Afghanistan, the Air Force’s missile-toting Predators and Reapers that hunt militants. The military’s use of drones in Afghanistan has rapidly expanded in the past few years; the United States Air Force now flies about 20 Predator and Reaper aircraft a day — nearly twice as many as a year ago — over vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory. Allies like Britain and Germany fly their own fleets.

The incident reports chronicle the wide variety of missions these aircraft carry out: taking photographs, scooping up electronic transmissions, relaying images of running battles to field headquarters, attacking militants with bombs and missiles. And they also reveal the extent that armed drones are being used to support American Special Operations missions.

Documents in the Afghan archive capture the strange nature of the drone war in Afghanistan: missile-firing robots killing shovel-wielding insurgents, a remote-controlled war against a low-tech but resilient insurgency.

DEC. 9, 2008 | KANDAHAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Predator Attack

Early one winter evening in southern Afghanistan, an Air Force Predator drone spotted a group of insurgents suspected of planting roadside bombs along a roadway less than two miles from Forward Operating Base Hutal, an American outpost.

Unlike the drones the C.I.A. operated covertly across the border in Pakistan, this aircraft was one of nearly a dozen military drones patrolling vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory on any given day.

Within minutes after identifying the militants, the Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile, all but evaporating one of the figures digging in the dark.

When ground troops reached the crater caused by the missile, costing $60,000, all that was left was a shovel and a crowbar. Read the Document »

SEPT. 13, 2009 | BADAKHSHAN PROVINCE Incident Report: A Lost Drone

Flying over southern Afghanistan on a combat mission, one of the Air Force’s premier armed drones, a Reaper, went rogue.

Equipped with advanced radar and sophisticated cameras, as well as Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs, the Reaper had lost its satellite link to a pilot who was remotely steering the drone from a base in the United States.

Again and again, the pilot struggled to regain control of the drone. Again and again, no response. The reports reveal that the military in Afghanistan lost many of the tiny five-pound surveillance drones with names like Raven and Desert Hawk that troops tossed out like model airplanes to peer around the next hill. But they had never before lost one of the Reapers, with its 66-foot wingspan.

As a last resort, commanders ordered an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet to shoot down the $13 million aircraft before it soared unguided into neighboring Tajikistan.

Ground controllers picked an unpopulated area over northern Afghanistan and the jet fired a Sidewinder missile, destroying the Reaper’s turbo-prop engine. Suddenly, the satellite link was restored, but it was too late to salvage the flight. At 5:30 a.m., controllers steered it into a remote mountainside for a final fiery landing. Read the Document »

As the Afghanistan war took priority under the Obama administration, more Special Operations forces were shifted from Iraq to conduct secret missions. The C.I.A.’s own paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan grew in tandem — as did the agency’s close collaboration with Afghanistan’s own spy agency.

Usually, such teams conducted night operations aimed at top Taliban commanders and militants on the “capture/kill” list. While individual commandos have displayed great courage, the missions can end in calamity as well as success. The expanding special operations have stoked particular resentment among Afghans — for their lack of coordination with local forces, the civilian casualties they frequently inflicted and the lack of accountability.

JUNE 17, 2007 | PAKTIKA PROVINCE INCIDENT REPORT: Botched Night Raid

Shortly after five American rockets destroyed a compound in Paktika Province, helicopter-borne commandos from Task Force 373 — a classified Special Operations unit of Army Delta Force operatives and members of the Navy Seals — arrived to finish the job.

The mission was to capture or kill Abu Laith al-Libi, a top commander for Al Qaeda, who was believed to be hiding at the scene of the strike.

But Mr. Libi was not there. Instead, the Special Operations troops found a group of men suspected of being militants and their children. Seven of the children had been killed by the rocket attack.

Some of the men tried to flee the Americans, and six were quickly killed by encircling helicopters. After the rest were taken as detainees, the commandos found one child still alive in the rubble, and performed CPR for 20 minutes.

Word of the attack spread a wave of anger across the region, forcing the local governor to meet with village elders to defuse the situation.

American military officials drew up a list of “talking points” for the governor, pointing out that the target had been a senior Qaeda commander, that there had been no indications that women and children would be present and that a nearby mosque had not been damaged.

After the meeting, the governor reported that local residents were in shock, but that he had “pressed the Talking Points.” He even “added a few of his own that followed in line with our current story.”

The attack was caused by the “presence of hoodlums,” the governor told the people. It was a tragedy that children had been killed, he said, but “it could have been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”

He promised that the families would be compensated for their loss.

Mr. Libi was killed the following year by a C.I.A. drone strike. Read the Document »

APRIL 6, 2008 | NURISTAN PROVINCE Incident Report: A Raging Firefight

As they scrambled up the rocks toward a cluster of mud compounds perched high over the remote Shok Valley, a small group of American Green Berets and Afghan troops, known as Task Force Bushmaster, were confronted with a hail of gunfire from inside the insurgent stronghold.

They were there to capture senior members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militant group, part of a mission that the military had dubbed Operation Commando Wrath.

But what they soon discovered on that remote, snowy hilltop was that they were vastly outnumbered by a militant force of hundreds of fighters. Reinforcements were hours away.

A firefight raged for nearly seven hours, with sniper fire pinning down the Green Berets on a 60-foot rock ledge for much of that time.

Casualties mounted. By midmorning, nearly half of the Americans were wounded, but the militants directed their gunfire on the arriving medevac helicopters, preventing them from landing.

“TF Bushmaster reports they are combat ineffective and request reinforcement at this time.”

For a time, radio contact was lost.

Air Force jets arrived at the scene and began pummeling the compounds with 2,000-pound bombs, but the militants continued to advance down the mountain toward the pinned-down group.

The task force reported that there were “ 50-100 insurgents moving to reinforce against Bushmaster elements from the SW.”

Carrying wounded Americans shot in the pelvis, arm and legs — as well as two dead Afghans — the group made its way down toward the valley floor. Eventually, the helicopters were able to arrive to evacuate the dead and wounded.

Ten members of the Green Berets would receive Silver Stars for their actions during the battle, the highest number given to Special Forces soldiers for a single battle since the Vietnam War. By Army estimates, 150 to 200 militants were killed in the battle. Read the Document »

MARCH 8, 2008 | BAGRAM AIR BASE Meeting Report: A Plea for Help

Toward the end of a long meeting with top American military commanders, during which he delivered a briefing about the security situation in eastern Afghanistan, corruption in the government and Pakistan’s fecklessness in hunting down militants, Afghanistan’s top spy laid out his problem.

Amrullah Saleh, then director of the National Directorate of Security, told the Americans that the C.I.A. would no longer be handling his spy service’s budget. For years, the C.I.A. had essentially run the N.D.S. as a subsidiary, but by 2009 the Afghan government was preparing to take charge of the agency’s budget.

Mr. Saleh estimated that with the C.I.A. no longer bankrolling the Afghan spies, he could be facing a budget cut of 30 percent.

So he made a request. With the budget squeeze coming, Mr. Saleh asked the Americans for any AK-47s and ammunition they could spare.

If they had any spare boots, he would also take those, he said. Read the Document »

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Drone revelations

September 26, 2010


Published:

Drone revelations

Published: September 26, 2010

It may not come as a surprise, but as confirmation, that the President of Pakistan himself gave the USA the go-ahead to go on carrying out its drone attacks; but it was still an unpleasant shock for this to be flagged abroad so definitively, as has been done by Bob Woodward in his latest book, Obama’s Wars, in which he quotes President Zardari as telling US CIA Director Michel Hayden, “Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.” The remarks are not confirmed, but, if true, would reflect the President’s lack of concern for the ordinary Pakistanis being killed in the drone attacks. It also shows his belief that the Americans are concerned, even though the phrase ‘collateral damage’ to mean the death of innocents was invented by them. Those killed in the drone attacks include mostly Pakistanis, including women and children, and the Americans do not care about them. However, their own government should, but the President is quoted as more or less egging on the Americans to do as much damage in the tribal areas as possible. If he did say what he is quoted as saying, it would be music to American ears, because their adventures in Vietnam caused the government there to raise protests, and if a government gives them carte blanche to kill as many of its own citizens as they want, the Americans would interpret that permission very broadly.

As thought, it was virtually unthinkable for the USA to make so many drone attacks over such an extended period of time without tacit permission from the Pakistan government. Whatever the involvement of the previous government of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, that of the present has been tied down to President Zardari’s meeting in New York in November 2008 with the then CIA chief. The consequences of killing citizens of Pakistan are horrific, and amount to no less than murder. Is the President willing to face those consequences in addition to the corruption charges that have dogged him for so long, and keep on doing so even though he has become head of his party and now holds the country’s highest office?

If he is not so willing, then the present revelations would prove very embarrassing. However, since the real masters that need to be pleased, going by this new evidence, are the Americans, the people of Pakistan, or their lives, probably do not matter. The only recourse open to the President is to prosecute the book’s author for libel, for to leave him unchallenged would be to admit the truth of what he has written, and thus serve as an admission before the people of Pakistan: those who are still alive so far, that is.

Source

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Editorials/26-Sep-2010/Drone-revelations/

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Help us build on Wikileaks’ drone revelations. Send us your drones news clips and videos!

Rethink Afghanistan skrifaði þann 27. júlí 2010 kl. 13:10

Please share this Note with your friends and invite them to join us athttp://facebook.com/RethinkAfghanistan

Wikileaks’ “War Diaries” release revealed just one more way that the drone war over Afghanistan and Pakistan makes Americans less safe. From The New York Times:

The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

We’re working on new video that will discuss the danger of blowback from the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the horrible effects their use has had on the civilian populations of both countries. We need your help building this video! Please send any news clips or videos you have on this topic to Derrick Crowe.

Stay tuned for more on the progress of this piece.

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CIA drones killed U.S. citizens in Pakistan, book says

CIA drones killed “many Westerners, including some U.S. passport holders” in Pakistan’s tribal area during the George W. Bush administration, the new book by Bob Woodward says.

Woodward,a longtime Washington Post journalist, writes in “Obama’s Wars” that then-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden disclosed the killings to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in New York on Nov. 12, 2008. Hayden was succeeded by Leon J. Panetta in 2009.

Hayden and his deputy, Stephen Kappes, had gone to meet with Zardari, elected only two months earlier, to gauge his reaction to the drone strikes, which were generating widespread protests in Pakistan.

According to Woodward’s unattributed account of the meeting, Zardari said, “Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”

Hayden had told Zardari that “many Westerners, including some U.S. passport holders, had been killed five days earlier on the Kam Sham training camp in the tribal area of North Warziristan,” Woodward writes. “But the CIA would not reveal the particulars due to the implications under American law.”

“A top secret CIA map detailing the attacks had been given to the Pakistanis,” Woodward continues. “Missing from it was the alarming fact about the American deaths … The CIA was not going to elaborate.”

The CIA declined to comment for the record or make Kappes, who resigned in April, available for comment. Hayden did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday the Justice Department faces a deadline to respond to a suit by two human rights groups challenging the Obama administration’s right to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical proselytizer based in Yemen.

correction: Deadline to respond was first erroneously reported as Thursday.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/09/cia_drones_killed_us_citizens.html

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No-Name Terrorists Now C.I.A. Drone Targets as U.S. Set to Expand Airstrikes

Posted: 6 May 2010 by Editors in Af-Pak WarPolitical Science
Tags: ,,

Noah Shachtman on the Obama Administration expansion to list of targets for extrajudicial assassinations—that routinely kills exponentially morecivilians than militant leaders. The man behind the recently attempted Times Square bombing and Pakistan have both directly associated U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan with the attempted attack and the Administration is responding by granting approval to the C.I.A. to escalate the strikes.

by Noah Shachtman

6 May 2010 | Wired

Once upon a time, the C.I.A. had to know a militant’s name before putting him up for a robotic targeted killing. Now, if the guy acts like a guerrilla, it’s enough to call in a drone strike.

It’s another sign of that a once-limited, once-covert program to off senior terrorist leaders has morphed into a full-scale—if undeclared—war in Pakistan. And in a war, you don’t need to know the name of someone on the other side before you take a shot.

Across the border, in Afghanistan, the rules for launching an airstrike have become tighter than a balled fist. Dropping a bomb from above is now a tactic of last resort; even when U.S. troops are under fire, commanders are reluctant to authorize airstrikes. In Pakistan, however, the opposite has happened. Starting in the latter days of the Bush administration, and accelerating under the Obama presidency, drone pilots have become more and more free to launch their weapons.

You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes—precise and effective—have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN.

This official—like many other officials—insists that the drone strikes have torn up the ranks of militants.

“The enemy has lost not just operational leaders and facilitators—people whose names we know—but formations of fighters and other terrorists,” the official tells the Los Angeles Times. “We might not always have their names, but… these are people whose actions over time have made it obvious that they are a threat.”

National security law experts, inside the government and out, are in the middle of an intense debate over whether the remotely-piloted attacks are legal. One leading law professor told Congress last week that the drone operators could be tried for “war crimes,” under certain circumstances. The State Department’s top lawyer counters that the drone attacks are a legitimate act of self-defense.

The connection between the robotic strikes over there and our safety here appears to be growing, The Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed credit for the botched Times Square bombing, say the car bomb was in retaliation for drone strikes. But the robotic aircraft are only one component in the war in Pakistan. American troops are on the ground there, and getting into firefights. American contractors are operating a fleet of helicopters above. Higher in the sky are the American drones, flown by the U.S. Air Force and the C.I.A.

Noah Shachtman is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, and the editor of the “Danger Room” blog. He’s written for The New York TimesSlateSalon, and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others.

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Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.

BY ROBERT A. PAPE | OCTOBER 18, 2010

Although no one wants to talk about it, 9/11 is still hurting America. That terrible day inflicted a wound of public fear that easily reopens with the smallest provocation, and it continues to bleed the United States of money, lives, and goodwill around the world. Indeed, America’s response to its fear has, in turn, made Americans less safe and has inspired more threats and attacks.

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist sanctuary (Pakistan), deployed thousands of Special Forces troops to numerous Muslim countries (Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), imprisoned hundreds of Muslims without recourse, and waged a massive war of ideas involving Muslim clerics to denounce violence and new institutions to bring Western norms to Muslim countries. Yet Americans still seem strangely mystified as to why some Muslims might be angry about this situation.

In a narrow sense, America is safer today than on 9/11. There has not been another attack on the same scale. U.S. defenses regarding immigration controls, airport security, and the disruption of potentially devastating domestic plots have all improved.

But in a broader sense, America has become perilously unsafe. Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined. From 1980 to 2003, there were 343 suicide attacks around the world, and at most 10 percent were anti-American inspired. Since 2004, there have been more than 2,000, over 91 percent against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.

Yes, these attacks are overseas and mostly focused on military and diplomatic targets. So too, however, were the anti-American suicide attacks before 2001. It is important to remember that the 1995 and 1996 bombings of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen were the crucial dots that showed the threat was rising prior to 9/11. Today, such dots are occurring by the dozens every month. So why is nobody connecting them?

U.S. military policies have not stopped the rising wave of extremism in the Muslim world. The reason has not been lack of effort, or lack of bipartisan support for aggressive military policies, or lack of funding, or lack of genuine patriotism.

No. Something else is creating the mismatch between America’s effort and the results.

For nearly a decade, Americans have been waging a long war against terrorism without much serious public debate about what is truly motivating terrorists to kill them. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this was perfectly explicable — the need to destroy al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan was too urgent to await sober analyses of root causes.

But, the absence of public debate did not stop the great need to know or, perhaps better to say, to “understand” the events of that terrible day. In the years before 9/11, few Americans gave much thought to what drives terrorism — a subject long relegated to the fringes of the media, government, and universities. And few were willing to wait for new studies, the collection of facts, and the dispassionate assessment of alternative causes. Terrorism produces fear and anger, and these emotions are not patient.

A simple narrative was readily available, and a powerful conventional wisdom began to exert its grip. Because the 9/11 hijackers were all Muslims, it was easy to presume that Islamic fundamentalism was the central motivating force driving the 19 hijackers to kill themselves in order to kill Americans. Within weeks after the 9/11 attacks, surveys of American attitudes show that this presumption was fast congealing into a hard reality in the public mind. Americans immediately wondered, “Why do they hate us?” and almost as immediately came to the conclusion that it was because of “who we are, not what we do.” As President George W. Bush said in his first address to Congress after the 9/11 attacks: “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

Thus was unleashed the “war on terror.”

The narrative of Islamic fundamentalism did more than explain why America was attacked and encourage war against Iraq. It also pointed toward a simple, grand solution. If Islamic fundamentalism was driving the threat and if its roots grew from the culture of the Arab world, then America had a clear mission: To transform Arab societies — with Western political institutions and social norms as the ultimate antidote to the virus of Islamic extremism.

This narrative had a powerful effect on support for the invasion of Iraq. Opinion polls show that for years before the invasion, more than 90 percent of the U.S. public believed that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But this belief alone was not enough to push significant numbers to support war.

What really changed after 9/11 was the fear that anti-American Muslims desperately wanted to kill Americans and so any risk that such extremists would get weapons of mass destruction suddenly seemed too great. Although few Americans feared Islam before 9/11, by the spring of 2003, a near majority — 49 percent — strongly perceived that half or more of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims were deeply anti-American, and a similar fraction also believed that Islam itself promoted violence. No wonder there was little demand by congressional committees or the public at large for a detailed review of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD prior to the invasion.

The goal of transforming Arab societies into true Western democracies had powerful effects on U.S. commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Constitutions had to be written; elections held; national armies built; entire economies restructured. Traditional barriers against women had to be torn down. Most important, all these changes also required domestic security, which meant maintaining approximately 150,000 U.S. and coalition ground troops in Iraq for many years and increasing the number of U.S. and Western troops in Afghanistan each year from 2003 on.

Put differently, adopting the goal of transforming Muslim countries is what created the long-term military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the United States would almost surely have sought to create a stable order after toppling the regimes in these countries in any case. However, in both, America’s plans quickly went far beyond merely changing leaders or ruling parties; only by creating Western-style democracies in the Muslim world could Americans defeat terrorism once and for all.

There’s just one problem: We now know that this narrative is not true.

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.

Some have disputed the causal link between foreign occupation and suicide terrorism, pointing out that some occupations by foreign powers have not resulted in suicide bombings — for example, critics often cite post-World War II Japan and Germany. Our research provides sufficient evidence to address these criticisms by outlining the two factors that determine the likelihood of suicide terrorism being employed against an occupying force.

The first factor is social distance between the occupier and occupied. The wider the social distance, the more the occupied community may fear losing its way of life. Although other differences may matter, research shows that resistance to occupations is especially likely to escalate to suicide terrorism when there is a difference between the predominant religion of the occupier and the predominant religion of the occupied.

Religious difference matters not because some religions are predisposed to suicide attacks. Indeed, there are religious differences even in purely secular suicide attack campaigns, such as the LTTE (Hindu) against the Sinhalese (Buddhists).

Rather, religious difference matters because it enables terrorist leaders to claim that the occupier is motivated by a religious agenda that can scare both secular and religious members of a local community — this is why Osama bin Laden never misses an opportunity to describe U.S. occupiers as “crusaders” motivated by a Christian agenda to convert Muslims, steal their resources, and change the local population’s way of life.

The second factor is prior rebellion. Suicide terrorism is typically a strategy of last resort, often used by weak actors when other, non-suicidal methods of resistance to occupation fail. This is why we see suicide attack campaigns so often evolve from ordinary terrorist or guerrilla campaigns, as in the cases of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey, or the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

One of the most important findings from our research is that empowering local groups can reduce suicide terrorism. In Iraq, the surge’s success was not the result of increased U.S. military control of Anbar province, but the empowerment of Sunni tribes, commonly called the Anbar Awakening, which enabled Iraqis to provide for their own security. On the other hand, taking power away from local groups can escalate suicide terrorism. In Afghanistan, U.S. and Western forces began to exert more control over the country’s Pashtun regions starting in early 2006, and suicide attacks dramatically escalated from this point on.

The research suggests that U.S. interests would be better served through a policy of offshore balancing. Some scholars have taken issue with this approach, arguing that keeping boots on the ground in South Asia is essential for U.S. national security. Proponents of this strategy fail to realize how U.S. ground forces often inadvertently produce more anti-American terrorists than they kill. In 2000, before the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there were 20 suicide attacks around the world, and only one (against the USS Cole) was directed against Americans. In the last 12 months, by comparison, 300 suicide attacks have occurred, and over 270 were anti-American. We simply must face the reality that, no matter how well-intentioned, the current war on terror is not serving U.S. interests.

The United States has been great in large part because it respects understanding and discussion of important ideas and concepts, and because it is free to change course. Intelligent decisions require putting all the facts before us and considering new approaches. The first step is recognizing that occupations in the Muslim world don’t make Americans any safer — in fact, they are at the heart of the problem.

Eric J. Tilford/U.S. Navy/Getty Images

Robert A. Pape teaches at the University of Chicago and is co-author, with James K. Feldman, of Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.

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Op-Ed Contributors

Death From Above, Outrage Down Below

By DAVID KILCULLEN and ANDREW McDONALD EXUM
Published: May 16, 2009

IN recent days, the Pentagon has made two major changes in its strategy to defeat the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. First came the announcement that Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal would take over as the top United States commander in Afghanistan. Next, Pentagon officials said that the United States was giving Pakistan more information on its drone attacks on terrorist targets, while news reports indicated that Pakistani officers would have significant future control over drone routes, targets and decisions to fire weapons (though the military has denied that).

While we agree with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that “fresh eyes were needed” to review our military strategy in the region, we feel that expanding or even just continuing the drone war is a mistake. In fact, it would be in our best interests, and those of the Pakistani people, to declare a moratorium on drone strikes into Pakistan.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, and following much internal debate, President George W. Bush authorized a broad expansion of drone strikes against a wide array of targets within Pakistan: Qaeda operatives, Pakistan-based members of the Afghan Taliban insurgency and — in some cases — other militants bent on destabilizing Pakistan.

The use of drones in military operations has steadily grown — we know from public documents that from last September to this March alone, C.I.A. operatives launched more than three dozen strikes.

The appeal of drone attacks for policy makers is clear. For one thing, their effects are measurable. Military commanders and intelligence officials point out that drone attacks have disrupted terrorist networks in Pakistan, killing key leaders and hampering operations. Drone attacks create a sense of insecurity among militants and constrain their interactions with suspected informers. And, because they kill remotely, drone strikes avoid American casualties.

But on balance, the costs outweigh these benefits for three reasons.

First, the drone war has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians. This is similar to what happened in Somalia in 2005 and 2006, when similar strikes were employed against the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts. While the strikes did kill individual militants who were the targets, public anger over the American show of force solidified the power of extremists. The Islamists’ popularity rose and the group became more extreme, leading eventually to a messy Ethiopian military intervention, the rise of a new regional insurgency and an increase in offshore piracy.

While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants.

Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly “precision.” American officials vehemently dispute these figures, and it is likely that more militants and fewer civilians have been killed than is reported by the press in Pakistan. Nevertheless, every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

Second, public outrage at the strikes is hardly limited to the region in which they take place — areas of northwestern Pakistan where ethnic Pashtuns predominate. Rather, the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. Covered extensively by the news media, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually the case. The persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government, and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.

David Kilcullen, the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla,” was a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008. Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.

More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on May 17, 2009, on page WK13 of the New York edition.

Death From Above, Outrage Down Below

Published: May 16, 2009

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Third, the use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic — or, more accurately, a piece of technology — substituting for a strategy. These attacks are now being carried out without a concerted information campaign directed at the Pakistani public or a real effort to understand the tribal dynamics of the local population, efforts that might make such attacks more effective.

To be sure, simply ending the drone strikes is no more a strategy than continuing them. Stabilizing Pakistan will require a focus on securing areas, principally in Punjab and Sindh, that are still under government control, while building up police and civil authorities and refocusing aid on economic development, security and governance. Suspending drone strikes won’t fix Pakistan’s problems — but continuing them makes these problems much harder to address.

Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do.

Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.

The drone strategy is similar to French aerial bombardment in rural Algeria in the 1950s, and to the “air control” methods employed by the British in what are now the Pakistani tribal areas in the 1920s. The historical resonance of the British effort encourages people in the tribal areas to see the drone attacks as a continuation of colonial-era policies.

The drone campaign is in fact part of a larger strategic error — our insistence on personalizing this conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Devoting time and resources toward killing or capturing “high-value” targets — not to mention the bounties placed on their heads — distracts us from larger problems, while turning figures like Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group, into Robin Hoods. Our experience in Iraq suggests that the capture or killing of high-value targets — Saddam Hussein or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — has only a slight and fleeting effect on levels of violence. Killing Mr. Zarqawi bought only 18 days of quiet before Al Qaeda returned to operations under new leadership.

This is not to suggest that killing terrorists is a bad thing — on the contrary. But it’s not the only thing that matters, and over-emphasizing it wastes resources. The operation that killed Mr. Zarqawi, for example, was not a one-day event. Thousands of hours of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were devoted to the elimination of one man, when units on the ground could have used this time to protect the people from the insurgency that was tearing Iraq apart.

Having Osama bin Laden in one’s sights is one thing. Devoting precious resources to his capture or death, rather than focusing on protecting the Afghan and Pakistani populations, is another. The goal should be to isolate extremists from the communities in which they live. The best way to do this is to adopt policies that build local partnerships. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies must be defeated by indigenous forces — not from the United States, and not even from Punjab, but from the parts of Pakistan in which they now hide. Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.

David Kilcullen, the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla,” was a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008. Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17exum.html?pagewanted=2v

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The Tortured Logic of Obama’s Drone War

Hillel Ofek

During the 2008 presidential campaign season, Barack Obama accused the Bush administration of not having “acted aggressively enough” in pursuing the leadership of the al Qaeda terrorist network. An Obama administration, he said, would more vigorously pursue top al Qaeda figures, even while “restoring the adherence to rule of law that helps us win the battle for hearts and minds.”

Restoring the rule of law, for President Obama, has meant reversing many of his predecessor’s most prominent domestic anti-terrorism policies. To be sure, there are exceptions — the president has quietly embraced the continuation of the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and military tribunals. But on the whole, the Obama administration has sought to scrap traditional domestic war powers, instead adopting a law-enforcement approach to dealing with America’s enemies. From promising to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities to threatening to prosecute Bush administration lawyers to seeking a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to granting terrorists Miranda protections, the Obama administration has largely rejected the Bush administration’s war on terror in favor of a law-enforcement paradigm.

Yet overseas, President Obama has expanded the CIA’s drone program, making it the centerpiece of his administration’s counterterrorism policy. The program is generally effective and, even with its costs, an important element of U.S. efforts against Islamic terrorism. But the CIA’s drone program runs counter to nearly every argument that President Obama has made against his predecessor’s anti-terrorism policies. President Obama and his allies claim that Bush-era policies like waterboarding and Gitmo undermined our security, were illegal, and were immoral — but the same criticisms can and have been leveled against Obama’s expanded drone program. In implementing his vision to “restor[e] the adherence to rule of law,” President Obama has, judged by his own standards, compensated abroad — strategically, legally, and morally.

What the Program Entails

The CIA’s drone program is distinct from the use of remotely-piloted aircraft (also called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) by the United States military. In military settings, small robotic planes are controlled by troops on the ground, and larger ones, like the Predators, are controlled by so-called “combat commuters” who go to work every day at an Air Force base in Nevada. The use of these UAVs by the military is overt, is governed by the laws of war and the official rules of engagement, and is relatively uncontroversial.

The CIA’s drone program, meanwhile, is controversial indeed. Using Predators equipped with video cameras and armed with Hellfire missiles, the program targets al Qaeda and Taliban commanders outside of combat zones, usually in the mountainous and lawless region of northwestern Pakistan, but also occasionally in Yemen and Somalia. This covert drone program, which the Bush administration used sporadically, has been expanded into a major policy under Obama. The first strike under the new administration occurred just three days after President Obama’s inauguration. Fifty-three drone attacks have been reported just in Pakistan in 2009 — more than during the entirety of the Bush presidency. And 2010 is likely to see a still greater number.

Although these targeted killings are part of a major Obama policy program with huge implications for American security and foreign relations, the administration has refused to talk about the program’s key aspects, including the CIA’s rules of engagement. We do know from press reports — including two illuminating National Journal reports and a widely cited article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker — that the unmanned planes usually depart from a secret base in Pakistan but are controlled by civilian officers at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Pakistani security agencies often aid in finding targets. The number of Predators operated by the CIA isn’t publicly known, and it is not even clear whether the agency owns its own Predators or whether it uses Predators owned by the U.S. Air Force. But we do know that the Air Force’s Predator fleet has grown from about fifty in 2001 to nearly two hundred today — and many more Predators (and their bigger cousins, the Reapers) are on the way.

There is no denying that the CIA program is achieving its central goal. Drones have killed scores of low-level al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and commanders, and many of the CIA’s twenty most-wanted “high-value targets.” During the last year of the Bush presidency, the program reportedly killed a major al Qaeda spokesman (Abu Laith al-Libi) and the suspected planners of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in East Africa (Osama al-Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan). During the Obama administration, the program has killed the eldest son of Osama bin Laden (Saad bin Laden); a notorious Taliban terrorist (Baitullah Mehsud) responsible for attacks in Pakistani cities, kidnapping soldiers, and (it is suspected) masterminding the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; and the al Qaeda trainer (Sadam Hussein Al Hussami) who helped oversee a suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan.

In November 2008, then-CIA director Michael Hayden testified that through Predator drone strikes, “We force [al Qaeda] to spend more time and resources on self-preservation, and that distracts them, at least partially and at least for a time, from laying the groundwork for the next attack.” Six months later, Hayden’s successor, Leon Panetta, went one step further, noting: “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.”

Strategic Concerns

The Obama administration has not been blind to the effectiveness of these targeted killings. And perhaps the administration’s opposition to Guantánamo and to enhanced interrogation has led it to see even more clearly the convenience of taking the fight to the enemies’ homes and hideouts and killing them before they come within the purview of the U.S. justice system. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that an al Qaeda-linked suspect named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed by a September 2009 helicopter attack in Somalia, rather than captured, because “officials had debated trying to take him alive but decided against doing so in part because of uncertainty over where to hold him.”

Targeted killing may be expedient for a president who disdains detention and interrogation, but as a matter of strategy, it is not costless. First, a dead terrorist isn’t always as good as a detained terrorist. As Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, put it in 2002: “If they’re dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs.” When possible, argues Daniel Byman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, “It’s almost always better to arrest terrorists than to kill them. You get intelligence then. Dead men tell no tales.”

Second, while U.S. drones have impressive surveillance and targeting capabilities, the intelligence they rely on is never infallible; many Predator strikes are planned in response to tips from local informants who have their own agendas. This can result in the deaths of innocent civilians. As Jane Mayer put it in The New Yorker, “The history of targeted killing is marked by errors.” According to a New America Foundation report assessing reliable press accounts of the strikes, the 123 reported drone attacks in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to March 29, 2010 have killed between 871 and 1,285 individuals, about a third of whom were civilians. The Long War Journal, a blog that tracks terrorist groups, calculates a much lower civilian casualty rate, with 1,114 militants and 94 civilians killed in Pakistan since 2006. (Of course, it should go without saying that the real blame for innocent deaths will, at bottom, always lie with terrorists, who refuse to follow the laws of war that require combatants to separate themselves from civilians.)

As David Kilcullen, the retired Australian soldier and author of The Accidental Guerrilla, and Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, have argued, when innocents are inadvertently killed, drone strikes can foment public anger and increase the popularity of militants. “Every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased,” they wrote in theNew York Times in May 2009. At the same time, the benefits of killing the terrorist leaders are not always cut-and-dry, they argue, especially given the retiform structure of today’s terrorist groups. Killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, for instance, “bought only eighteen days of quiet before al Qaeda returned to operations under new leadership.”

Third, there is evidence that the Taliban and al Qaeda are quick to capitalize on drone strikes by highlighting the practice in their propaganda. Al Qaeda, for example, has called its December 2009 suicide bombing of the CIA base in Khost an act of “revenge” for the deaths of militants in drone attacks in Pakistan. Shortly after the al Qaeda trainer responsible for the Khost attack was killed in March 2010, his “martyrdom” was boasted on jihadist websites, according to Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution. Other propaganda sometimes claims that the victims of drone attacks were all innocent civilians.

For all these reasons, the CIA’s drone program has incited anger and anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani public. A July 2009 poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the drone strikes and 67 percent opposed them. And despite its private assistance in carrying out Predator attacks, the Pakistani government has publicly protested them. In January 2010, for instance, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told his country’s parliament that drone attacks could “undermine the war on terror.”

Of course, every tactic in combat operations — whether it involves infantry, special forces, fighter jets, or UAVs — has some strategic cost. And drones have obvious benefits over other tactics, especially in reducing the risk to American personnel. However, the strategic costs of the drone program are almost identical to the ones that President Obama has attributed to the Bush anti-terrorism policies that he has now countermanded. President Obama’s argument that Gitmo has “become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda” can also be said of his own CIA’s Predator operations. The same goes for his contention that waterboarding (in words he approvingly repeated from Senator John McCain) “serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.” President Obama and his allies criticized the Bush administration for policies that hurt America in “the battle for hearts and minds,” but the Obama drone war is itself such a policy.

Considerations of International Law

President Obama and officials in his administration have also criticized the legal rationales for some Bush administration anti-terrorism policies. For example, the president has stated that waterboarding is torture and therefore a violation of international law. But the CIA drone program violates international law too, at least according to a growing group of critics. Even as the Obama administration searched for a legal rationale for the policy, activists, lawyers, and U.N. officials began paving the way for a campaign to brand the CIA’s strikes as war crimes. On March 16, 2010, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the government to release details on the legal basis for the CIA’s operations. But it is not just activists who have opposed targeted killing. Before 9/11, the United States routinely denounced Israel’s use of targeted killing against Palestinian terrorists. In July 2001, Martin Indyk, then the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said, “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations…. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

American proponents of the drone program contend that it is lawful. In 2001, Congress authorized the use of force “against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States,” thus classifying terrorists as enemies, rather than criminals, and creating a domestic legal basis for targeting them. As for international law, proponents of the program argue that killing al Qaeda-linked terrorists is a legitimate response in an armed conflict that was initiated by the 9/11 attacks.

The reality is more complicated. According to customary international law and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a threshold of “armed conflict” must be met before killing in a war with non-state actors can be considered legal. But as Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., has argued, this threshold is only met through “sustained, persistent fighting occurring in a theater of conflict.” International law experts dispute whether the “war on terror” — a phrase that has, at any rate, been stripped from the Obama administration lexicon — meets that threshold in a way that justifies targeting militants in countries like Pakistan, which we are not at war with. Many international lawyers, particularly on the left, argue that absent sustained fighting on an active, recognizable battlefield, drone killings are illegal — especially when executed by CIA operatives, who are not members of the armed forces and who are not trained in the law of armed conflict.

Perhaps beginning to feel the heat, the Obama administration has attempted to respond to such objections. On March 25, 2010, U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh delivered a speech in which he stated that targeted killings “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Koh said that his review of the program led him to conclude that the CIA’s counterterrorism operations strictly adhere to the just war principles of distinction and proportionality, “to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.” Koh’s legal justification makes explicit what was implicit within the Bush administration: that using lethal force against, and denying legal process to, al Qaeda and the Taliban is lawful because we are in what international law would recognize as an armed conflict with them. Indeed, Koh arguably even went beyond the Bush administration and its “armed conflict” justification for the use of lethal force: his added “self-defense” justification is broader in that it does not require a threshold of sustained battlefield combat.

In embracing the war model for fighting terrorists, Koh now finds himself in unlikely company with defenders of the Bush administration’s constitutional war powers. These include John Yoo, the lawyer perhaps best known as the author of the so-called “torture memos.” In his new book Crisis and Command, Yoo notes that targeted killing would be illegal if the United States were not at war. Drone strikes, after all, are “a far greater deprivation of civil liberties than detention, interrogation, and trial by military” — precisely those legal policies Koh inveighed against during the Bush years.

Harold Koh’s stature in the human rights community will no doubt protect him from being pilloried as Yoo was, and it might even help allay some apprehension on the left about the drone program. But his words will not settle the legal debate. After Koh’s speech, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, said she remains unconvinced. “A global war on terror by any other name would smell as bad,” National Public Radio quoted her as saying. Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, saidKoh’s statement was “evasive.”

Here again it is worth revisiting the conflict between the Obama administration’s rhetoric and its action. President Obama has justified his reversal of the Bush policies of enhanced interrogation and Guantánamo detention as a restoration of the rule of law. But just as there is no consensus about the legality of those policies, the legality of targeted killing outside of combat zones is unsettled. In fact, as O’Connell has argued, “The same rules that govern the prohibition of coercive interrogation also prohibit killing by persons who are not members of the regular armed forces. These are rules of international humanitarian law found in the Geneva Conventions and other international law sources.” And as Matthew Waxman, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, has noted, “Drone attacks generally rest on similar legal premises as military detention, but detention has attracted much more legal controversy.”

Questions of Morality

Even if the CIA’s drone program violates international law, that does not necessarily mean that it is morally wrong — for while the structure of international law is informed by longstanding traditions and theories of morality, its practice and application are a much messier affair. Is the drone program more deserving of moral approbation than anti-terrorism policies like detainment and waterboarding?

Michael Walzer, author of the classic Just and Unjust Wars (1977), has said that the U.S. government’s refusal to divulge how many innocent people are dying in proportion to the legitimate targets is “a moral mistake.” Walzer argues that the government should release its list of targets and publicly defend it: “You’re using the coercive power of the state in a lethal way, and in a democracy — in a country committed to the rule of law — actions of that sort should be subject to some kind of public scrutiny.” Amos Guiora, a University of Utah law professor who was personally involved in targeted-killing decisions during service in the Israel Defense Forces, argues that “there is a fundamental difference between drone attacks as presently conducted and targeted killing, for the latter is person-specific whereas the former seems to result in not insignificant collateral damage” — a factor of immense moral import.

Meanwhile, some scholars have expressed concern about the facelessness of “virtual” warfare. Writing in these pages last year, Brookings Institution senior fellow P. W. Singer noted that, while every new military technology moves combatants “farther and farther from their foes,” unmanned systems like the CIA’s drones “have a more profound effect on ‛the impersonalization of battle,’ as military historian John Keegan has called it.” The great virtue of remote-controlled warfare — the physical distance between us and our enemies — is also a vice, in that it also creates “psychological distance and disconnection,” Singer argued. The literal distance of drone warfare can create in the minds of the operators, the policymakers who approve operations, and the public at large a psychological distance from the bloody reality and moral burden of dealing death.

Seen or unseen, those grim realities still exist. As Mayer noted in The New Yorker, it “appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes, and fourteen months, before the CIA succeeded” in killing Taliban terrorist Baitullah Mehsud. “During this hunt, between 207 and 321 additional people were killed” — many of whom were innocent, according to Pakistani and international news stories. Death by Hellfire missile, which can burn its victims alive, is no gentle way to leave this world.

The moral complexity of counterterrorism operations abroad and of anti-terrorism policies at home must not be minimized, and this sketch of the questions of morality and justice raised by the CIA’s drone program is necessarily incomplete. But on strictly moral grounds, it is difficult to see how the policies that President Obama and his supporters have rejected — subjecting known terrorists to indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay, for example, or simulating drowning under the supervision of a physician and psychologist — are more repugnant than the policy he has endorsed: incinerating suspected terrorists and knowing, as a matter of course, that innocents will be killed.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

All of the major justifications that President Obama has offered for terminating the anti-terrorism policies of his predecessor can be applied to the CIA drone program that he has made the centerpiece of his own policy against global terrorism. But the Obama administration insists that, in contrast to the Bush policies, its own approach is strategically sound, legally justified, and morally licit — and that we can, in the president’s words, “reject the false choice between our security and our ideals.”

In a sense, the drone program fits into the broader trend of pushing ugly and uncomfortable national security measures out of sight only to unleash even uglier unintended consequences. Consider interrogation: President Obama signed an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques, but his administration reaffirmed the U.S. extraordinary rendition program, which sends suspects to countries with dubious human rights records for interrogation. As a sop to his supporters, the president threw in a morsel of “monitoring mechanisms,” but many observers continue to consider the CIA’s rendition program, which was first approved by the Clinton administration, to be little more than a tacit torture policy. “Extremely disappointing,” was how the ACLU greeted the news of Obama’s rendition policy. With U.S. personnel disallowed from conducting enhanced interrogations, who can doubt that future suspects will undergo treatment more brutal at the hands of, say, Egypt’s interrogators?

Something similar has happened with detention policy. “A little-noticed consequence of elevating standards at Guantánamo is that the government has sent very few terrorist suspects there in recent years,” wrote Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, in a May 2009 Washington Post op-ed. “Instead, it holds more terrorists — without charge or trial, without habeas rights, and with less public scrutiny — at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Or it renders them to countries where interrogation and incarceration standards are often even lower.” There are about eight hundred prisoners at Bagram, and the Obama administration is apparently now considering whether to expand the detention facility, which exists outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts — a proposal that would seem to conflict with President Obama’s stated desire to reform American anti-terrorism institutions “with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability.” As the Los Angeles Times has reported, the proposal is meeting resistance from Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who worries that detaining more suspects in the facility would compromise military efforts in the country by serving the propaganda purposes of militants.

It is difficult to look at the results of the CIA drone program without concluding that, in terms of U.S. national security interests, its benefits outweigh its co