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As our government continues the illegal and immoral killer drone program, terrorizing communities around the world, members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) continue our resistance. As part of that resistance I was on trial with four other activists in US District Court in Alexandria,VA on October 22. Joining me were Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska. Cindy Sheehan was also arrested with us, but was unable to attend the trial because of an illness.
We began our resistance against the CIA drone program when we filed a criminal complaint against the CIA with the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA on May 23, 2013. As citizen activists we are responsible for reporting crimes that we know are being committed. So we went to the US Attorney’s office and we were able to meet with Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. He talked with us for about 40 minutes and accepted our complaint. We then followed up with phone calls and emails to his office in our attempt to hold the CIA accountable for their crimes. However, we did not receive any response.
We decided to continue our resistance with a letter to CIA Director John Brennan. In the letter we told him why we oppose the drones and we asked for a meeting to discuss our concerns. When we didn’t get a response from him, we went to the CIA on June 29, 2013. Our crime was to walk onto the CIA property with a copy of the unanswered letter in our hands and ask for a meeting with CIA officials.
We were arrested and charged with trespassing. After some preliminary matters, including a motion filed for extended discovery (which was denied) our trial was scheduled for October 22. We made plans to defend ourselves, pro se, and at about 10:00am on October 22 we walked into Judge Ivan Davis’ courtroom in the US District Court in Alexandria, VA as he was finishing up with another case.
As our case was called, we walked to the front of the courtroom, and the five of us crowded around the defense table. I got ready to take notes on the proceedings, and as the trial began and the judge immediately began to chastise Max, the first words I wrote were “He’s scary”. Right from the start he was very antagonistic and argumentative towards Max. Max tried to argue again for extended discovery and the judge did not want to hear anything about it.
The prosecutor, US Attorney on special assignment from the CIA, Stacy Chaffin, gave a short opening statement and framed the case for the judge stating this was a simple case of trespass and that though we would try to bring the issue of drone warfare into the trial, this was only about us trespassing on CIA property on June 29. It was not about drones, she emphasized.
Ms. Chaffin had one witness, Police Officer Davilla. He said that we had a letter that we wanted to deliver, and it was accepted by an official with the CIA. He said there was a mock air strike and the defendants fell across the police line and were allowed to lie there, but when they got up and moved forward he read us a warning and when we didn’t leave we were arrested.
Max cross-examined Davilla and Ms. Chaffin objected to almost every question he asked with Judge Davis sustaining the objections. Max asked if the letter that Davilla mentioned could be entered as evidence and the judge refused this request. When questioned by Max, Davilla claimed he didn’t know that the mock air strike was supposed to be a simulated drone strike. Malachy followed up, asking Davilla to read the police report. In the police report, written by Davilla, it was noted that it was a mock drone strike. The government was working hard to try to keep the word “drone” out of the proceedings.
Throughout the questioning of the government witness Judge Davis repeated over and over that what Max and Malachy were saying was not relevant. He shut them down at every turn and seemed very angry.
I took the stand as the first defense witness, and gave background information. I said that I live in Mt. Horeb, WI. I am a wife of 41 years, a mother of five, and a grandmother of six, with a seventh on the way. I have my PhD in Women’s Studies. Spending time with my grandchildren and doing the work I am involved in for peace and social justice are the things I spend most of my time on. The two are very interconnected. My grandchildren inspire me to do this work. I said that I think about what kind of world my grandchildren will live in when they grow up and that makes me continue with this work. I felt very overwhelmed by emotion as I talked about being a grandmother, and stated that as a grandmother I don’t just think of my own grandchildren, but I think of all the children of the world. I want to spread my arms wide around all the children of the world and keep them safe. I think about the children who are dying from drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places around the world. I am a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) and we have been acting in resistance to the illegal actions of our government since 2003. We have done actions at the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and the Department of Justice. We write letters to both elected officials and government personnel about our concerns before each visit. It has become clear that those in our government feel they are no longer accountable to the citizens of this country because we have never once gotten any kind of reply to any of our letters. When we don’t get a response we follow up with a visit in person and have often been arrested simply for seeking a meeting with a government official.
The statute for trespassing states that unauthorized people are not allowed on the property, but under cross-examination I stated that I believed I was authorized to be there under the First Amendment and that I was obligated to be there under the principles that came out of Nuremberg. I talked about what happened at the CIA on June 29 and was able to say that we were there because of our concerns that thousands of innocent people, including children, are dying as a result of our government’s illegal activities.
After seeing the judges response to Max and Malachy, I was very surprised that he let me say all that I said.
Janice took the stand next. She talked about being a teacher and about how it is important to show children how to resolve conflict through mediation. She testified that many of the children she taught in ESL classes were from war-torn countries and that she doesn’t want to see this kind of suffering anymore. She stated that it is more than the US Constitution that gives her the right to do what she did on June 29, but that she has that right as a human being.
I gave the closing statement (see below) and then without any deliberation at all, the judge found us guilty. I looked him right in the eye during the last sentence of my closing, “We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.” but he refused to open his heart to what we were saying.
His arguments for the conviction were that there was police tape with the words “Do not cross” and this should have put us on notice. He said that the defendants could argue that because they were allowed to be there, according police testimony and the police report, that meant they were authorized. However when Officer Davilla read the warning that we should leave or we would be arrested, we should have know we would be arrested at that point and we should have left. He argued that although the defendants said that we did not intend to break the law, this was not a crime of intent and so our intention was irrelevant. He also said that Nuremberg does not apply because there were no international laws broken. This was an astonishing statement to hear the judge make.
Also unbelievable were statements made by Judge Davis that the Bill of Rights were irrelevant, Nuremberg was irrelevant, and drone strikes were irrelevant. He said this is a court of law, not morality.
The prosecutor asked for unsupervised probation, reasoning that we were obviously nonviolent. This was a surprise because she had told Max and Malachy at a pre-trial hearing that she would ask for supervised probation.
All the defendants, except for me, gave moving sentencing statements. I said what I needed to in the closing and didn’t need to say more, but I am glad the others were able to speak out so clearly about our need to be there and to be doing what we did.
The judge gave us one year unsupervised probation and said that we should not violate the law in that year or return to the CIA for protesting in an unauthorized fashion. We would also be fined $300 plus court costs.
Malachy asked for clarification on the sentence because he vigils outside the gates of the CIA monthly. The judge said that would be acceptable as long as he does not go onto CIA property.
What happened next was something I have never seen before. Judge Davis said that now that the whole thing was over he had a question he wanted to ask us just to satisfy his curiosity. He said that all we tried to do all morning was to talk about drones, but what if there was a plane with a pilot who killed someone, would we be there? Of course we would be there, we responded. But what was the meaning of this question? Was he putting us down and making fun of us? Of course he knew how we would answer to that question.
On our way out of the courthouse we were required to check in at the probation office. Though we have been on unsupervised probation, we have never had to do check in with the probation office before. We were given a stack of forms to fill out and were surprised when we realized they wanted us to sign releases for access to medical, psychiatric, financial, educational, and jobs records. Though we all know the government is spying on us and getting this information, we were not going to willingly submit and give our permission for this kind of serious intrusion of privacy. After raising our concerns to the receptionist, we were able to talk to a supervisor who said we did not have to fill out the forms, but if they needed the information they would come after us.
The trial was two weeks ago. It takes a lot out of you emotionally and physically, but in one week I will return to DC to ttend the CodePink drone summit. NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance on Capitol Hill for Nov. 18 and then I will be traveling from DC to the SOA Watch in Georgia. I will be so looking forward to returning home on Nov. 24 to spend the holidays with my family, even as I remember those who are not able to spend time with their loved ones because of the US drone attacks.
We filed for an appeal and we also filed a motion to stay the execution of the sentence pending the appeal. I am feeling deeply conflicted about the year of probation with the order to not get arrested during that time or face the serious consequences of Judge Davis’ courtroom. In the mail today I received a counter motion, for the stay of execution, filed by the prosecutor. She wrote that she is willing to stay the payment of the fine, but not to stay the year of unsupervised probation. In her motion she states, “the probation is necessary to protect the community…”. How arrogant and ironic and ridiculous! Ask Nabila who poses a threat to her community.
It is wrong whether a bomb is dropped from a plane with a pilot or from a drone. It is wrong if it is soldiers on the ground fighting to expand the empire through the pain, suffering, and death of innocent children, women, and men around the world. As long as these crimes continue, I will join my compatriots in standing in resistance and calling for an end to the illegal actions of our government. We will work together for a world where communities are a place of peace and justice and where children can play happy and free.
CIA Arrest June 29, 2013 Trial October 22, 2013
Good morning/ afternoon Your Honor. My name is Joy First, defendant pro se and I will be giving the closing statement for our group.
We are standing before you today, Your Honor, being charged with Trespassing - Entering or remaining on an Agency Installation without proper authorization.
But the government did not \prove our guilt on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. We have shown that we did not go to the CIA on June 29, 2013 to break the law; rather we went there to uphold the law.
It should not be presumed that we were there to engage in unlawful activities. We are people of nonviolence, involved in Constitutionally-protected speech. Our intent was to seek a meeting with Mr. Brennan and to influence him, wake him up, affect his conscience, and shame him perhaps, but we never engaged in any criminal activity.
You heard testimony that the police knew we were coming and had erected a police line at the main entrance gate of the Central Intelligence Agency on Dolley Madison Boulevard.
You heard testimony that we were given mixed messages from the police regarding this line. First being told we would be arrested if we crossed the line of police tape, but then according to the police report as we crossed the police line, “CIA Police Personnel backed up and allowed them to lie on the ground.” Then, as we moved further onto the property we were arrested. To us, it was not clear what the boundaries were, and what we could and could not do. We were on CIA property during the rally, and we were on CIA property when we did the die-in. We did not know if or when we would be arrested.
You heard testimony that we did, in fact, go to the CIA on June 29 and ask for a meeting with Mr. Brennan or one of his representatives to discuss our concerns.
You heard testimony that it was only when that meeting was refused that we were moved by our conscience to walk peacefully onto CIA property expressing our very deep concerns about the CIA involvement in illegal drone strikes.
We were charged with trespassing – being on the CIA base without “proper authorization.” But you heard witnesses state that they believed that not only were we authorized under the US Constitution, but we were obligated to be there under the principles of Nuremberg.
You heard testimony that though the police told us we had to leave, we believed it was our right and our duty to refuse that order.
You heard from both government and defense witnesses that we acted in a nonviolent and a peaceful and cooperative manner throughout the whole process.
Sadly, a large portion of the citizenry are unable or unwilling to challenge the government when it engages in activities which are unlawful. However, these five defendants have a long and worthy history of engaging in the legislative process. We defendants are citizen activists, who have engaged in dialogue with many elected officials mostly over peace and justice matters. We recognized a long time ago that War Is Not the Answer. It is wrong on many levels—wasting tax dollars which could go to social programs, creating enemies when random acts of violence attack generally poor people in the Middle East and make our government representatives to be hypocrites when challenging another country’s human rights violations.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that we were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” However, we were instead arrested.
According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters to speak out. Robert Jackson, the United States judge at the Nuremberg trials said, “The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.”
Your honor, the bottom line is that thousands of innocent people are dying and it is up to all of us to do everything we can to stop the pain and suffering and death being inflicted on these people by our government.
We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.
Thank you for your time and attention to this case.
- After a drone strike had reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud Nov. 1, the spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council declared that, if true, it would be “a serious loss” for the terrorist organisation.
That reaction accurately reflected the Central Intelligence Agency’s argument for the strike. But the back story of the episode is how President Barack Obama supported the parochial interests of the CIA in the drone war over the Pakistani government’s effort to try a new political approach to that country’s terrorism crisis.
The failure of both drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in the FATA tribal areas to stem the tide of terrorism had led to a decision by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to try a political dialogue with the Taliban.
But the drone strike that killed Mehsud stopped the peace talks before they could begin.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan immediately denounced the drone strike that killed Mehsud as “a conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks.” He charged that the United States had “scuttled” the initiative “on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema [Islamic clerics] was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation.”
An unidentified State Department official refused to address the Pakistani minister’s criticism, declaring coolly that the issue was “an internal matter for Pakistan”.
Three different Taliban commanders told Reuters Nov. 3 they had been preparing for the talks but after the killing of Mehsud, they now felt betrayed and vowed a wave of revenge attacks.
The strategy of engaging the Taliban in peace talks, which was supported by the unanimous agreement of an “All Parties Conference” on Sept. 9, was not simply an expression of naïvete about the Taliban as was suggested by a Nov. 3 New York Times article on the Pakistani reaction to the drone strike.
A major weakness of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) lies in the fact that it is a coalition of as many as 50 groups, some of whose commanders are less committed to the terrorist campaign against the Pakistani government than others. In the aftermath of the Mehsud killing, several Taliban militants told Reuters that some Taliban commanders were still in favour of talks with the government.
The most important success achieved by Pakistan in countering Taliban violence in the past several years has been to reach accommodations with several militant leaders who had been allied with the Taliban but agreed to oppose Taliban attacks on government officials and security forces.
Sharif and other Pakistani officials were well aware that the United States could unilaterally prevent such talks from taking place by killing Mehsud or other Taliban leaders with a drone strike.
The government lobbied the United States in September and October to end its drone war in Pakistan – or at least to give the government a period of time to try its political strategy.
Obama had already suggested in a May 23 speech at National Defence University that the need for the strikes was fast diminishing and would soon end, because there were very few high value targets left to hit, and because the U.S. would be withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. In August, Secretary of State John Kerry had said the end might come “very, very soon.”
After the meeting with Sharif on Oct. 23, Obama said they had agreed to cooperate in “ways that respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, that respect the concerns of both countries” and referred favourably to Sharif’s efforts to “reduce these incidents of terrorism.”
Shortly after the meeting, Sharif’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the Obama administration had promised to “consider” the prime minister’s request to restrain drone attacks while the government carried out a political dialogue.
A “senior Pakistani official” told the Express Tribune that Obama had “assured Premier Nawaz that drone strikes would only be used as a last option” and that he was planning to end the drone war once “a few remaining targets” had been eliminated.
The official said the Pakistani government now believed the unilateral strikes would end in “a matter of months.”
But Obama’s meeting with Sharif evidently occurred before the CIA went to Obama with specific intelligence about Mehsud, and proposed to carry out a strike to kill him.
The CIA had an institutional grudge to settle with Mehsud after he had circulated a video with Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian suicide bomber who had talked the CIA into inviting him to its compound at Camp Chapman in Khost province, where he killed seven CIA officials and contractors on Dec. 30, 2009.
The CIA had already carried out at least two drone strikes aimed at killing Mehsud in January 2010 and January 2012.
Killing Mehsud would not reduce the larger threat of terrorism and would certainly trigger another round of TTP suicide bombings in Pakistan’s largest cities in retaliation.
Although it would satisfy the CIA’s thirst for revenge and make the CIA and his administration look good on terrorism to the U.S. public, it would also make it impossible for the elected Pakistani government to try a political approach to TTP terrorism.
Obama appears to have been sympathetic to Sharif’s argument on terrorism and had no illusions that one or a few more drone strikes against leading Taliban officials would prevent the organisation from continuing to mobilise its followers to carry out terror attacks, including suicide bombers.
But the history of the drone war in Pakistan shows that the CIA has prevailed even when its proposed targets were highly questionable. In March 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter had opposed a CIA proposal for a drone strike just as CIA contractor Raymond Davis was about to be released from a jail in Lahore.
Munter had learned that the CIA wanted the strike because it was angry at Pakistan’s ISI, which regarded the Haqqani group as an ally, over Davis’s incarceration, according to an AP story on Aug. 2, 2011. The Haqqani group was heavily involved in fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan but was opposed to the TTP’s terror attacks in Pakistan.
CIA Director Leon Panetta rejected Munter’s objection to the strike, however, and Obama had supported Panetta. It was later revealed that the strike had been based on faulty intelligence. It was not a meeting of Haqqani network that was hit but a conference of tribal leaders from all over the province on an economic issue.
But the CIA simply refused to acknowledge its mistake and continued to claim to journalists that only terrorists had attended the meeting.
After the strike, Obama had formalised the ambassador’s authority to oppose a proposed drone strike, giving Munter what he called a “yellow card.” But despite the evidence that the CIA had carried out a drone strike for parochial reasons rather then an objective assessment of evidence, Obama gave the CIA director the power to override an ambassadorial dissent, even if the secretary of state supported the ambassador.
The extraordinary power of the CIA director over the drone strike policy, which was formalised by Obama after that strike, was evident in Obama’s decision to approve the CIA’s proposal for the Mehsud strike. The director was now John Brennan, who had shaped public opinion in favour of drone strikes through a series of statements, interviews and leaks as Obama’s deputy national security adviser from 2009 to 2013.
Even though Obama was determined to phase the out drone war in Pakistan and apparently sympathised with the need for the Pakistani government to end it within a matter of months, he was unwilling to reject the CIA’s demand for a strike that once again involved the agency’s parochial interests.
A late July 2013 survey had shown that 61 percent of U.S. citizens still supported the use of drones. Having already shaped public perceptions on the issue of terrorism, Obama allowed the interests of the CIA to trump the interests of Pakistan and the United States in trying a different approach to Pakistan’s otherwise intractable terrorism problem.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
By Larry Everest
excerpted from The Illegality, Illegitimacy & Immorality of U.S. Drone Strikes
There is a logic and a reason the "double-tap" and mass civilian casualties. It's rooted in the nature and objectives of the U.S. "war on terror," and imperialist logic and necessities driving it.
In his May speech, Obama claimed, "America's actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. ... Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense."
This statement is packed with distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. The U.S. "war on terror" is, at heart, an unjust war for greater empire—not a "just" war to liberate people, "defend the American homeland," or rid the world of violence and terror. A key aim of this war is defeating al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other "associated" Islamist forces. This is not simply or mainly because these groups are plotting attacks on the U.S. It's mainly because they pose a big challenge to U.S. control of Central Asia and the Middle East, including because they're directly clashing with U.S. client regimes. This could greatly weaken the U.S. hold on these regions, which are key to U.S. global dominance and the functioning of its empire of exploitation. And provide openings for rival regional and global powers.
The U.S. initially tried to deal with this problem by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. But this strategy has, in many ways, backfired. The U.S. has not succeeded in either outright defeating the Islamists or in "draining the swamp"—restructuring these societies to undercut the societal roots of the Islamic fundamentalist opposition. And these occupations have cost the U.S. dearly, and have further fueled anti-U.S. Islamist trends.
So the U.S. has wound down the occupations of Iraq and now Afghanistan. But it hasn't abandoned the "long war" to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and maintain control of the arc from Morocco through Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rather it is increasingly employing drone warfare and other covert operations to achieve its imperial objectives, while avoiding, as Obama has put it, American "boots on the ground."
The U.S. drone war in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan is a key front in this war, which shows a lot about what it's actually about, and why so many are being blown to bits. North Waziristan, home to some 840,000 people, borders Afghanistan. It's where Zowi Sidgi, Ghundi Kala, and Miranshah are located and is a base area for the Taliban fighters from both Afghanistan and Pakistan and other Islamist forces. These groups oppose the U.S. puppet government in Afghanistan and the current regime in Pakistan, and are fighting for reactionary Islamic states in both countries.
This is why U.S. drone surveillance is constant and drone strikes have been concentrated in this region. Here the U.S. is targeting individual Taliban, al Qaeda, or other Islamist leaders or fighters.
Even when the targets of U.S. drone attacks actually are commanders of jihadist forces who may be plotting or carrying out terrorist attacks, these attacks are not about "saving lives." U.S. drone attacks, regardless of the intended victim, create a state of ongoing terror among all the people in large regions of the world. They are in the service of imposing the U.S. empire, which has brought so much misery to the Middle East, North Africa, and the rest of the world.
Again, the U.S. drone strikes are not at all limited to targeted strikes on jihadist leaders. There is also the "double-tap" logic at work of attacking any who might be Islamists or their supporters, or "associated forces"—a definition which can be stretched to mean most anything. This leads to murdering, injuring, and terrorizing whole groups—even whole populations—of people who may support, sympathize or just tolerate the Islamists, or who're just part of the population the fundamentalists draw from. And so these drone attacks perpetuate and accelerate the vicious cycle of U.S. imperialist aggression driving people into the arms of the jihadists.
These patterns have been evident since the drone strikes began a decade ago. Wedding parties in Afghanistan were obliterated. Funerals have been attacked. And then there were widely used "signature strikes" targeting people or groups of people based on "behavior patterns"—not because they'd been specifically identified as members of al Qaeda or "terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people."
The New York Times report (October 22, 2013) on the impact of the drone war on Miram Shah [Miranshah], a small town of some 3,500 in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, paints a picture of systematic terror impacting a whole population:
[V]iewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington. In interviews over the past year, residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them. "The drones are like the angels of death," said Nazeer Gul, a shopkeeper in Miram Shah. "Only they know when and where they will strike."
It has become a fearful and paranoid town, dealt at least 13 drone strikes since 2008, with an additional 25 in adjoining districts—more than any other urban settlement in the world. Even when the missiles do not strike, buzzing drones hover day and night, scanning the alleys and markets with roving high-resolution cameras... the strikes in the area mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods. The drones have hit a bakery, a disused girls' school and a money changers' market, residents say... While the strike rate has dropped drastically in recent months, the constant presence of circling drones—and accompanying tension over when, or whom, they will strike—is a crushing psychological burden for many residents. Sales of sleeping tablets, antidepressants and medicine to treat anxiety have soared, said Hajji Gulab Jan Dawar, a pharmacist in the town bazaar.
Imagine you awake to the sound of a machine noisily buzzing over your house, and another machine nearby in the sky, and another. These machines and others like them have been around for months. They never leave. While you live in the United States, the machines belong to the government of Pakistan. The machines are unmanned drones armed with missiles. Every once in a while they blow up a house or a car or a couple of kids playing soccer or a grandmother walking to the store, sometimes a McDonald's or a shopping center.
Imagine that you've learned to live with this. The popularity of homeschooling has skyrocketed, as nobody wants to send their kids outside. Telecommuting is now the norm for those able to maintain employment. But there's no getting used to the change. Your kids wake up screaming and refuse to sleep. Your rage makes you physically ill. Antidepressants are on everybody's shopping lists, but shopping is a life-and-death proposition. Canada is facing an immigration crisis. So is Mexico.
Now, Pakistan claims to be targeting evil criminals with surgical precision. And some in the U.S. government go along with this. But others object. The U.S. Supreme Court declares the drone deaths to be murder or war -- murder being illegal under U.S. law, and war being illegal under the U.N. Charter via Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Congress insists that criminals must be indicted and prosecuted, that negotiations with hostile groups cannot succeed while drones tear the negotiators limb from limb, and that Pakistan has no right to put its robots in our skies no matter what its good intentions. Statements agreeing with this opposition to the drones are signed by everybody who's anybody. Popular demonstrations against the drones, and -- bravely -- in the face of the drones, dwarf anything seen before. In fact, the world joins in, and people protest Pakistan's murder spree all over the globe. Human rights groups in various countries denounce it as criminal. The Pakistani prime minister reportedly checks off men, women, and children to kill on a list at regular Tuesday meetings. He's burned in effigy across the United States.
But Pakistani human rights groups take a different tack. In their view, some of the drone murders in the United States are illegal and some are not. It depends on the knowledge and intentions of the Pakistani officials -- did they know those kids were just playing soccer or did they believe their soccer ball was an imminent threat to the nation of Pakistan? Was blowing up those kids necessary, discrete, and proportionate? Were they militants or civilians? Was blowing them up part of an armed conflict or an act of law enforcement, and what type of armed conflict or what law was being enforced? Pakistan, these groups argue, must not blow people up without identifying them, without verifying that they cannot be captured, and without taking care not to kill too many civilians in the process. Further, Pakistan must reveal the details of its legal reasoning and decision making, so that the process has transparency. Indeed, Pakistan must begin running its proposed drone killings by a judge who must sign off on them -- a Pakistani judge, but a judge nonetheless.
The Pakistani human rights groups are not made up of evil people. They very much mean well. They want to reduce the number of Americans killed by drones. And they are not permitted to declare all drone killing illegal, because these killings might be part of a war, and these groups have adopted as a matter of strict principle the position that wars must never be opposed, only tactics within wars. They believe this makes them "objective" and "credible," and it certainly does do that with certain people. These Pakistani human rights groups are not pulling the trigger, they're trying to stop it being pulled as often. Lumping them together with the Pakistani military would be Bushian (with us or against us) thinking. But it's harder to see that from under the drones here in the United States with the kids wailing and Uncle Joe's brains still staining the side of the Pizza Hut, than it would be perhaps in Pakistan or at the United Nations Headquarters in Islamabad.
From here in the United States, the cries are for justice. Many want the prime minister of Pakistan prosecuted for murder. Many are beginning to view the absence of such legal justice as grounds for violence. I'm growing worried over what my neighbors and even myself might unleash on the rest of the world. I'm beginning to fall in love with the feeling of hatred.
Watch the Wounds of Waziristan video.
Do a die-in like this one.
Watch this video of an event on drones and militarization at NYU.
Watch this video of drone survivors visiting Congress.
Sign the petition at BanWeaponizedDrones.org
Ask your Congress member and senators to introduce legislation banning weaponized drones. Ask state legislators to do same.
Ask the ICC to prosecute drone murders.
Join in anti-drone actions everywhere.
November 9 at CIA Headquarters, join in the First Anniversary of Monthly Protests of Drone Murders at the CIA.
Come to the Drone Summit in Washington DC, November 16-17
The day before the Summit, November 15th, join us for a march from the White House to the headquarters of drone maker General Atomics. After the Summit, on November 18th, we will lobby members of Congress to push for legislation regulating the use of killer drones and domestic spy drones.
Every Tuesday: Stop the Killing
March 14-16, 2014, Santa Barbara, Global Network's 22nd Annual Conference
June 6-9, 2014, Sarajevo Peace Event
July 26-27, 2014, Third National UNAC Conference, Purchase, NY
July 28, 2014, 100 Years Since Launch of War to End All Wars That Created More Wars
August 27, 2014, 86 Years Since Signing of the Kellogg Briand Pact
Small Actions, Big Movements: the Continuum of Nonviolence - International Conference of WRI co-hosted by Ceasefire Campaign 4 Jul 2014 - 8 Jul 2014, Cape Town, South Africa
The British government is refusing to grant visas to three Pakistani drone strike victims, including Noor Khan, who is suing the UK over its role in intelligence-sharing with the CIA. All three men had been invited to speak at a Parliamentary meeting on drones that was scheduled to take place today. Last week, the Rehman family - whose grandmother was killed in a drone strike - travelled to the US to speak at a drone strike having been granted visas.
Noor Khan has launched legal action over the British Government’s refusal to come clean on its policy of providing intelligence to support the CIA’s covert drone war. Reports have stated that GCHQ shares intelligence with the US in support of their drone programme, which is considered to violate international law.
Noor Khan was to be accompanied by Kareem Khan, whose son and brother were killed in a strike on News Year’s Eve 2009. Kareem Khan is, along with his lawyers the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and Reprieve, suing Jonathan Banks, the former CIA Station Chief in Pakistan, and John Rizzo, former CIA General Counsel, for the murder of his son and brother. Noor Behram, a journalist who has been investigating and photographing drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost six years, was also scheduled to attend.
Mr Khan, Mr Behram, and Mr Khan were due to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on drones hosted by MP Tom Watson, who had written letters supporting their visa applications. They were to be joined on a panel by Robert Greenwald, a US documentary filmmaker whose new film, Unmanned, profiles the men’s stories.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, said: "It is an unfortunate coincidence that David Cameron is refusing to grant a visa to the very same man who is suing his government over its role in the drone strike that killed his father. Just last week the Rehman family were able to tell their story to the US yet the UK seems unwilling to extend a similar courtesy to these three victims of the drone programme. The British government must reconsider and grant the men visas."
MP Tom Watson, said: "It's very disppointing that visas have not been granted in time for the drone victims invited by the APPG on drones to speak today. Last week the Rehman family travelled to the US and testified to Congress about their grandmother who was killed by a CIA drone. The UK must allow Noor Khan and other survivors into the country so that we too can hear these lost voices."
- Our concerns fall mainly into 3 categories: Safety, Privacy, and Environmental impact.
- We are seeking further information on:
- Where will the drones be flying, departing from, how low will they fly?
- What are the drones testing (military applications, surveillance, infra-red, high/low frequency)?
- What are the safety concerns (crashing, high power lines, injury, fire, noise, lasers)?
- What would be the impact on residents in test areas (privacy, surveillance, safety)?
- What entities are responsible for regulating and controlling the drone testing?
- What are the environmental impacts (nesting eagles, bird migrations, etc.)?
- Should this be subject to a citizen’s vote of approval, as this will impact all residents in the test area?
- What legislative bodies have written regulations that address: Military tests; corporate testing; Police/Fire departments; and Citizen’s use?
- What agencies will investigate and be accountable for accidents, jurisdictions and complaints.
I was on Margaret Flowers' and Kevin Zeese's Clearing the Fog Radio today ( http://clearingthefogradio.org ) together with Naureen Shah of Amnesty International. The show ought to appear soon on iTunes here, and mixcloud here, and is already on UStream here although it seems to be missing the audio. I had earlier published a critique of AI's report on drones.
On this show, Shah explained that Amnesty International cannot oppose all drone strikes in an illegal war, because Amnesty International has never opposed a war, because doing so would make it look biased, and A.I. wants to appear to be an unbiased enforcer of the law. But, of course, an illegal war is a violation of the law -- usually of the U.N. Charter which most lawyers whom A.I. hangs out with recognize, never mind the Kellogg-Briand Pact which they don't.
Refusing to recognize the UN Charter, in order to appear unbiased, is a twisted notion to begin with, but perhaps it had good intentions at one time. However, now the U.N. special rapporteur finds that drones are making war the norm rather than the exception. That's a serious shifting of the ground, and might be good reason to reconsider the ongoing feasibility of a human rights group avoiding the existence of laws against war.
Shah also argued against banning weaponized drones on the grounds that they could be used legally. That is, there could be a legal war (ignoring Kellogg-Briand) and during that legal war a drone could legally kill people in accordance with someone's interpretation of necessity, discrimination, proportionality, intention, and so forth. Shah contrasts this with chemical weapons, even though I could imagine a theoretical scenario in which a targeted murder in a closed space could use chemical weapons in plausible accord with all of the lawyerly notions of "legal war" other than the ban on chemical weapons.
Of course, practically speaking, weaponized drones are slaughtering and traumatizing innocent people and will do so as long as they're used. The notion of civilizing and legalizing atrocity-free war was ludicrous enough before the age of drone murder. It's beyond outrageous now.
From Business Insider
This will not go over well for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
According to the new book “Double Down,” in which journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann chronicle the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama told his aides that he’s “really good at killing people” while discussing drone strikes.
Peter Hamby of The Washington Post noted the moment in his review of the book.
The reported claim by the commander-in-chief is as indisputable as it is grim.
Obama oversaw the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, 145 Predator drone strikes in NATO’s 2011 Libya operations, the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and drone strikes that killed the Pakistani Taliban leader and a senior member of the Somali-based militant group al-Shabab this week.
Under Obama U.S. drone operators began practicing “signature strikes,” a tactic in which targets are chosen based on patterns of suspicious behavior and the identities of those to be killed aren't necessarily known. (The administration counts all “military-age males” in a strike zone as combatants.)
Obama has also embraced the expansion of capture/kill missions by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) after it developed into the primary counterterrorism tool of the Bush administration.
One JSOC operator told investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of “Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield,” that global operations under Obama became “harder, faster, quicker — with the full support of the White House.”
Scahill, who also made a “Dirty Wars” documentary, told NBC News that Obama will “go down in history as the president who legitimized and systematized a process by which the United States asserts the right to conduct assassination operations around the world.”
So although President Obama has proven to be “really good at killing people,” the demonstration has not necessarily been noble.
Saturday morning, November 9th, 10 am to 11:30 am– marks the first anniversary of the monthly anti-drone vigil at the CIA. We have invited a number of good guest speakers and entertainers and we would like to have a good turnout for this event. As you may have seen in Saturday’s Washington Post, a drone strike killed the leading Taliban in Pakistan on Friday, right after the Pakistani government announced peace talks with the Taliban. The Pakistani government then denounced this action as a U.S. effort to derail these peace talks. Given the human rights organizations recent reports on U.S. drone strikes and how at least some of them violate international law, we must continue to work against these weapons of perpetual war, which create more new enemies than they reportedly stop by their killing. We meet at the CIA entrance on Rte. 123 (Dolly Madison Blvd).
President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned -- albeit on his way out the door -- of the toxic influence of the military industrial complex (albeit in a speech of much more mixed messages than we tend to recall).
But when you oppose war, not because it murders, and not because it assaults the rights of the foreign places attacked, but because it costs too much in U.S. lives and dollars, then your steps tend in the direction of quick and easy warfare -- usually deceptively cheap and easy warfare.
President Obama and his subordinates are well aware that much of the world is outraged by the use of drones to kill. The warnings of likely blowback and long-term damage to U.S. interests and human interests and the rule of law are not hard to find. But our current warriors don't see a choice between murdering people with drones and using negotiations and courts of law to settle differences. They see a choice between murdering people with drones and murdering people with ground troops on a massive scale. The preference between these two options is so obvious to them as to require little thought.
President Eisenhower had his own cheap and easy tool for better warfare. It was called the Delightfully Deluded Dulles Brothers, and -- in terms of how much thought this pair of brothers gave to the possible outcomes of their reckless assault on the world -- it's fair to call them a couple of drones in a literal as well as an analogous sense.
John Foster Dulles at the State Department and Allen Dulles at the CIA are the subject of a new book by Stephen Kinzer called The Brothers, which ought to replace whatever history book the Texas School Board has most recently imposed on our children. This is a story of two vicious, racist, fanatical jerks, but it's also the story of the central thrust of U.S. public policy for the past 75 years.
The NSA didn't invent sliminess in the 21st century. The Dulles' grandfather and uncle did. Cameras weren't first put on airplanes over the earth when drones were invented. Allen Dulles started that with piloted planes -- the main result being scandal, outrage, and international antagonism -- a tradition we seem intent on keeping up. Oh, and the cameras also revealed that the CIA had been wildly exaggerating the strength of the Soviet Union's military -- but who needed to know that?
The Obama White House didn't invent aggression toward journalism. Allen and Foster Dulles make the current crop of propagandists, censors, intimidators, and human rights abusers look like amateurs singing from an old hymnal they can't properly read.
Black sites weren't created by George W. Bush. Allen Dulles set up secret prisons in Germany, Japan, and the Panama Canal Zone, the MKULTRA program, and the Gladio and other networks of forces staying behind in Europe after World War II (never really) ended.
The Dynamic Dulles Duo racked up quite a resume. They overthrew a democratic government in Iran, installing a fierce dictatorship, and never imagining that the eventual backlash might be unpleasant. Delighted by this -- and intimately in on it, as Kinzer documents -- Eisenhower backed the overthrow of Guatemala's democracy as well -- both of these operations being driven primarily by the interests of Foster Dulles' clients on Wall Street (where his firm had been rather embarrassingly late in halting its support for the Nazis). Never mind the hostility generated throughout Latin America, United Fruit claimed its rights to run Guatemala, and who were the Guatemalans to say otherwise?
Unsatisfied with this everlasting damage, the Dulles Brothers dragged the United States into a war of their own making on Vietnam, sought to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia, teamed up with the Belgians to murder Lumumba in the Congo, and tried desperately to murder Fidel Castro or start an all-out war on Cuba. The Bay of Pigs fiasco was essentially the result of Allen Dulles' confidence that he could trap a new president (John Kennedy) into expanding a war.
If that weren't enough damage for two careers, the Disastrous Dulles Dimwits created the Council on Foreign Relations, shaped the creation of the United Nations to preserve U.S. imperialism, manufactured intense irrational fear of the Soviet Union and its mostly mythical plots for global domination, convinced Truman that intelligence and operations should be combined in the single agency of the CIA, sent countless secret agents to their deaths for no earthly reason, unwittingly allowed double agents to reveal much of their activities to their enemies, subverted democracy in the Philippines and Lebanon and Laos and numerous other nations, made hysteria a matter of national pride, ended serious Congressional oversight of foreign policy, pointlessly antagonized China and the USSR, boosted radically evil regimes likely to produce future blowback around the world and notably in Saudi Arabia but also in Pakistan -- with predictable damage to relations with India, failed miserably at overthrowing Nasser in Egypt but succeeded in turning the Arab world against the United States, in fact antagonized much of the world as it attempted an unacceptable neutrality in the Cold War, rejected Soviet peace overtures, aligned the U.S. government with Israel, built the CIA headquarters at Langley and training grounds at Camp Peary, and -- ironically enough -- radically expanded and entrenched the military industrial complex to which "covert actions" were supposed to be the easy new alternative (rather as the drone industry is doing today).
The Dulles Dolts were a lot like King Midas if the king's love had been for dogshit rather than gold. As icing on the cake of their careers, Allen Dulles -- dismissed in disgrace by Kennedy who regretted ever having kept him on -- manipulated the Warren Commission's investigation of Kennedy's death in a highly suspicious manner. Kinzer says no more than that, but James Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable points to other grounds for concern, including Dulles's apparent coverup of Oswald's being an employee of the CIA.
Lessons learned? One would hope so. I would recommend these steps:
Abolish the CIA, and make the State Department a civilian operation.
Ban weaponized drones, and avoid a legacy as bad as the covert operations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stop the disgustingly royalish habit of supporting political family dynasties.
And rename Washington's international, as well as its national, airport.
The U.N. and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International recently released a flurry of deeply flawed reports on drone murders. According to the U.N.'s special rapporteur, whose day job is as law partner of Tony Blair's wife, and according to two major human rights groups deeply embedded in U.S. exceptionalism, murdering people with drones is sometimes legal and sometimes not legal, but almost always it's too hard to tell which is which, unless the White House rewrites the law in enough detail and makes its new legal regime public.
When I read these reports I was ignorant of the existence of a human rights organization called Alkarama, and of the fact that it had just released a report titled License to Kill: Why the American Drone War on Yemen Violates International Law. While Human Rights Watch looked at six drone murders in Yemen and found two of them illegal and four of them indeterminate, Alkarama looked in more detail and with better context at the whole campaign of drone war on Yemen, detailing 10 cases. As you may have guessed from the report's title, this group finds the entire practice of murdering people with flying robots to be illegal.
Alkarama makes this finding, not out of ignorance of the endless intricacies deployed by the likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Rather, Alkarama adopts the same dialect and considers the same scenarios: Is it legal if it's a war, if it's not a war? Is it discriminate, necessary, proportionate? Et cetera. But the conclusion is that the practice is illegal no matter which way you slice it.
This agrees with Pakistan's courts, Yemen's National Dialogue, Yemen's Human Rights Ministry, statements by large numbers of well-known figures in Yemen, and the popular movement in Yemen protesting the slaughter. While the other "human rights" groups ask President Obama to please lay out what the law is, whether his killing spree is part of a war or not, who counts as a civilian and who doesn't, etc., Alkarama actually compares U.S. actions with existing law and points out that the United States is violating the law and trying to radically alter the law. This conclusion results in a clear and useful set of recommendations at the end of the report, beginning with this recommendation to the U.S. government:
"End extrajudicial executions and the practice of targeted killings by drones and other military means."
This recommendation is strengthened by a better informed and more honest report that much more usefully conveys the recent history of Yemen (including by noting honestly the destructive impact of the IMF and the USA), describes the indiscriminate terror inflicted by the buzzing drones, and contrasts drone murders to alternatives -- such as negotiations. This analysis enriches our understanding of why drone wars are counterproductive even from the point of view of a heartless sociopath rooting for Team USA, much less someone concerned about human rights.
It is, then, possible to write a human rights report from a perspective concerned with the rights of humans, and not some combination of concern with human rights and devotion to U.S. imperialism. This is good news for anyone interested in giving it a try. The field is fairly wide open.
Some nations' statements at the U.N. debate on drones this month, including Brazil's, also challenged the legalization of a new form of war. And all of these groups and individuals have something to say about it as well.
DE WITT, NY JUDGE RE-ISSUES HANCOCK AIR BASE DEFENDANTS’ EXPIRED ORDERS OF PROTECTION, SUPPRESSING THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO PROTEST DRONE WAR CRIMES THERE
In 2012 on October 25, seventeen U.S. Americans, as part of Upstate Drone Action’s ongoing campaign to expose the extensive killings of innocent civilians by weaponized Reaper drones piloted from Hancock Air Base, were arrested as they protested outside the base, blocking its three entrances.
Upon arraignment that day in the DeWitt, New York town court, the 17 were given year-long Orders of Protection (OOP), at the request of Col. Earl A. Evans, forbidding their return to Hancock, home of the 174th Attack [sic] Wingof the NY Air National Guard.
Typically a court uses an OOP to protect vulnerable women and children from domestic violence. In this case, according to defendant Ed Kinane of Syracuse, “the court is bastardizing the OOP to suppress our First Amendment right to petition our government for redress of grievance.” (On Oct. 25, 2012 the defendants had unsuccessfully attempted to bring a citizens’ war crime indictment to Hancock.)
Last night (Oct. 30) DeWitt court Judge David Gideon renewed the expired OOP until April 30, 2014 (or until the conclusion of the 17’s trial for trespass and disorderly conduct, now finally scheduled last night for 5 pm December 12.)
Free Screening of Brand-New Film: Unmanned: America's Drone Wars
Originally posted on AcronymTV
In Washington today, 13 year old Zubair Rehmen along with his 9 year old Nabeela, spoke with members of Congress in a briefing organized by Alan Grayson, to send a message to our elected representatives who authorize our blowback inducing bull in a geo-political china shop of military budget what the rest of the world can see as plain as day: Drone attacks in countries that have not declared war on us and pose no threat to us are illegal, immoral, and create more enemies then they kill.
"What, quite unmanned in folly?"--Lady MacBeth
The new film Unmanned: America's Drone Wars should be required viewing in all schools and homes in the United States, including the home of the U.S. president who could not be bothered to meet with the child victims of his drones who spoke in Congress this week.
One could even speculate what the appropriate fantasized outcome might be if, Clockwork Orange-style, Obama were compelled to view Unmanned. But fantasies are what got us into this. Former drone pilot Brandon Bryant opens this beautifully made, fast-moving film by describing his childhood comic-book-induced fantasies about "good guys" and bad guys" and how to become a hero. Bryant was up against student debt when a recruiter told him that he could work in a James Bond control center.
Bryant, who faced up to reality too late, comes and goes through the course of a film that shows the suffering of drone victims and drone operators, honestly and accurately, without trying to equate the two.
The testimony of drone victims in D.C. this week was far from the first such testimony anywhere. On October 28, 2011, drone victims testified in Islamabad, Pakistan, where their conference was followed by a huge rally protesting U.S. drone strikes. In this film, we watch 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attend the conference to describe the killing of his cousin. Three days later, Tariq and another cousin are murdered in their car by a U.S. drone.
We see numerous people, including law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, point out that Aziz could quite easily have been questioned or arrested if he had been suspected of some crime. Obama has killed thousands and captured a handful, and in many cases we know that capture would have been perfectly possible but was not attempted. The U.N.'s special rapporteur last week admitted this is illegal, as are various other types of drone murders, including one that the film focuses in on: signature strikes.
(Why all drone murders are not illegal and immoral, and why we cannot all clearly say as much, is beyond me.)
We see a publicly announced, publicly held, community meeting hit with numerous missiles from drones. Pieces of flesh and debris lie everywhere. Innocents are slaughtered. Tribal elders are killed. People are made afraid to meet each other. Institutions are destroyed. Children are traumatized. Hatred of the United States is inflamed. And -- as always -- the New York Times prints that an anonymous U.S. official claims the victims were terrorists (never mind the lack of any evidence of that).
Pakistan's courts have ruled the drone strikes -- all of them -- illegal, and the CIA guilty of committing murder. Suits have been filed against the U.K. and the U.S. Protests have erupted all over the globe. And experts seem to agree that the drone murders are making Americans less safe, not protecting them. But drone profiteers are raking in the money.
Unmanned names names and shows faces. This film is what the nightly news would look like in a sane nation not addicted to war. You can watch the film and get a copy of it to screen locally. I highly recommend it. And then I recommend doing something about it. Here's a place to start.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
- The Washington Post on Thursday reported what it presented as new evidence of a secret agreement under which Pakistani officials have long been privately supporting the U.S. drone war in the country even as they publicly criticised it.
Most news outlets picked up the Post story, and the theme of public Pakistani opposition and private complicity on the drone issue framed media coverage of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s declaration that he had called on President Barak Obama to end the drone war.
But the Post story ignored a central fact that contradicts that theme: the Pakistani military leadership had turned decisively against the drone war for years and has been strongly pressing in meetings with U.S. officials that Pakistan be given a veto over targeting.
In fact, the leak of classified CIA documents to the Post appears to represent an effort by CIA officials to head off a decision by the Obama administration to reduce the drone war in Pakistan to a minimum, if not phase it out completely.
The Post article, co-authored by Bob Woodward, said, “Despite repeated denunciation of the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts….”
The Post cited top secret CIA documents that it said “expose the explicit nature of a secret arrangement struck between the two countries at a time when neither was willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program.” The documents, described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, provided details on drone strikes in Pakistan from late 2007 to late 2011, presenting them as an overwhelming success and invariably claiming no civilian casualties.
It has long been known that an understanding was reached between the George W. Bush administration and the regime of President Pervez Musharraf under which the CIA was allowed to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan.
A WikiLeaks cable had quoted Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani as saying in August 2008, “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
That statement was made, however, at a time when CIA strikes were still few and focused only on Al-Qaeda leadership cadres. That changed dramatically beginning in 2008.
The Post articles failed to point out that that Pakistan’s military leadership shifted from approval of the U.S. drone campaign to strong opposition after 2008. The reason for the shift was that the CIA dramatically expanded the target list in 2008 from high value Al-Qaeda officials to “signature strikes” that would hit even suspected rank and file associated with supporters of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.
The Post referred to the expansion of the drone strike target list, but instead of noting the impact on the Pakistani military’s attitude, the article brought in another popular news media theme – the unhappiness of Obama administration officials with the support of the Pakistan’s intelligence agency for the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan.
The Obama administration was well aware of the Pakistani military’s support for the Afghan Taliban movement, however, before it decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan – a fact omitted from the Post story.
The vast expansion of drone strikes in Pakistan engineered by then CIA Director Michael Hayden in 2008 and continued by his successor, Leon Panetta, was justified by targeting anyone in Pakistan believed to be involved in support for the rapidly growing Pashtun resistance to the U.S.-NATO military presence in Afghanistan.
That shift in targeting meant that the CIA’s drone war was no longer concentrated from mid-2008 onward on foreign terrorists and their Pakistani allies who had been waging an insurgency against the Pakistani government. Instead the CIA was targeting Islamists who had made peace with the Pakistani government and were opposing the Pakistani Taliban war against the government.
Two-thirds of the drone strikes in 2008 targeted leaders and even rank and file followers associated with Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Nazeer, both of whom were involved in supporting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, but who opposed attacks on the Pakistani government.
At least initially, the CIA was not interested in targeting the Pakistani Taliban leaders associated with Baitullah Mehsud, who was leading the violent war against the Pakistani military. It was only under pressure from the new head of the Pakistani Army, Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, that the CIA began targeting Mehsud and his organisation in 2009, when Mehsud was killed in a drone strike.
That temporarily mollified the Pakistani military. But in 2010, more than half the strikes in Pakistan were against Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of the Haqqani forces who had reached agreement with the Pakistan government that he would not shelter or support any Taliban militants fighting against the government.
Nearly all the rest of the strikes were against Afghan Taliban targets.
The original agreement reached under Musharraf was clearly no longer applicable. Kayani had clearly expressed his unhappiness with the drone war to the CIA leadership in 2008-09 and again in 2010, but only privately.
Then the January 2011 Raymond Davis incident, in which a contract CIA employee shot and killed two Pakistanis who he believed had been following him on motorcycles, triggered a more serious conflict between the CIA and ISI.
The CIA put intense pressure on ISI to release Davis from jail rather than allowing him to be tried by a Pakistani court, and ISI Chief Shuja Pasha personally intervened in the case to arrange for Davis to be freed on Mar. 16, 2011, despite the popular fury against Davis and the United States.
But the CIA response was to carry out a drone attack the day after his release on what it thought was a gathering of Haqqani network officials but was actually a meeting of dozens of tribal and sub-tribal elders from all over North Waziristan.
An angry Kayani then issued the first ever denunciation of the U.S. drone campaign by a Pakistan military leader. And when Pasha met with CIA Director Leon Panetta and Deputy Director Michael Morell in mid-April 2011, he demanded that Pakistan be given veto power over the strikes, according to two active-duty Pakistani generals interviewed in Islamabad in August 2011.
Reuters reported Apr. 16, 2011 that U.S. officials had said the CIA was willing to consult with Pakistan over the strikes, but that suggestions from the Pakistani military that the drone campaign should return to the original list of high value Al-Qaeda targets was “unacceptable”.
But the Pakistani military’s insistence on cutting down on strikes apparently had an impact on the Obama administration, which was already debating whether the drone war in Pakistan had become counterproductive. The State Department was arguing that it was generating such anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan that it should be curbed sharply or stopped.
Obama himself indicated in his May 23, 2013 speech at the National Defence University that he was thinking about at least reducing the drone war dramatically. Obama said the coming end of U.S. combat in Afghanistan and the elimination of “core Al-Qaeda militants” in Pakistan “will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”
And in an Aug. 1 interview with a Pakistani television interviewer, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I think the [drone] programme will end…. I think the president has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”
CIA concern that Obama was seriously considering ending the drone war in Pakistan was certainly the motive behind a clever move by CIA officials to create a story denigrating Pakistani official opposition to the drone war and presenting it in the best possible light.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
In a historic decision, five Catholic Worker activists were acquitted Thursday of disorderly conduct charges for blocking the main entrance to Hancock Air Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, Syracuse, New York.
Hancock is a Reaper drone hub whose technicians pilot weaponized drones over Afghanistan. The five went “pro se," defending themselves in the De Witt town court of Judge Robert Jokl. In his closing statement Fr. Bill Picard said, "We pray for you, Judge Jokl, to have the courage to do the right and courageous thing."
After the verdict was announced, the D.A. objected, and the judge said to him that he hadn’t found mens rea, Latin for "guilty mind." The five defendants, with powerful eloquence, convinced the judge that their intent was to uphold, not break, the law. This acquittal marks a major breakthrough by those who have sought to strengthen international law, and stop U.S. war crimes, including extra-judicial murder by the illegal drones.
Defendant Carmen Trotta said, "We are happy to be part of a groundswell of opposition to the drones. What a joy to win such a verdict on what is officially United Nations day. We told the judge that we were not alienated citizens, but rather engaged citizens! Ultimately it seems he was moved by our consciences." Carmen noted the recent groundswell included Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the head of the Jesuits Order, Alfanso Nicolas, UN Special Rapporteur Mr. Emmerson, and the Nobel Peace Nominee, the young Pakastani girl shot for promoting education for women and girls, in Pakistan, all of whom have condemned drone U.S. drone strikes.
Defendant Linda LeTendre stated, "My hope is that dissent is once again welcome in the US and we turn away from killing to caring as a country."
Ellen Grady stated, "We pray and will continue to act that the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and all countries will some day soon be without the terror of drones or any wars!"
~ Fr. Bill Frankle-Streit of Virginia;
~ Linda Le Tendre of Saratoga Springs; NY
~ Ellen Grady of Ithaca, NY;
~ Carmen Trotta of New York, NY;
~ Fr. Bill Pickard of Scranton, PA.
Ash Wednesday Statement - Feb. 13, 2013
We come to Hancock Airfield, home of the National Reaper Drone Maintainence and Training Center, this Ash Wednesday, to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God's forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children. The killer drone strikes and the US's killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in a number of countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia. These strikes are illegal and immoral. Under international agreements, which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murders, violations of national sovereignty, and violations of due process are ALL illegal acts.
We come to Hancock Airfield this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these drones. We remind ourselves that our lives are brief and mysterious, and that "from dust we were created and to dust we shall return!" The significance of our brief animation is the degree to which we love one another.
Lent is a time to repent--literally, to change our minds. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' command to love our neighbors and our enemies. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' radical, non-violent message love.
Stop the Killing. Ground the Drones. STOP the Wars.
by Debra Sweet Almost 5 years after the spike in U.S. use of targeted killing of people via drone by the Obama administration (thousands have been killed), the United Nations, or rather its special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, has released a report saying these drone strikes by the United States have killed civilians by the hundreds, or more, and should be carried out in accordance with international law.
Remarks at New York University forum with http://NYACT.net
The primary problem with weaponized drones is that the weapons murder people. And they murder people in a way that looks more like murder to a lot of observers than other forms of military murder do -- such as murder by indiscriminate bombing or artillery or infantry or dropping white phosphorous on people. When President Obama looks through a list of men, women, and children at a Tuesday terror meeting, and picks which ones to murder, and has them murdered, you can call it a war or not call it a war, but it begins to look to a lot of people like murder.
Many of the victims are civilians, many are men suspected of or just of the age for combat -- and in fact the policy has been to define military aged males as combatants -- and other victims are alleged to be serious criminals; not indicted, not charged, not tried or convicted, just alleged. And they're blown up along with anyone too nearby. It begins to look like the killing spree of a disgruntled employee at a shopping mall. But there's a key difference. It's happening in a foreign place to people who don't all look or talk like we do. I've been asked, more than once: Aren't drones preferable to piloted planes or ground troops, since with drones nobody dies? This is what drones do to foreign policy: they create deceptively easy and deceptively cost-free solutions. The drone war on Yemen didn't replace some other kind of war that was worse. It added another war to the list.
Here is the real danger: We're making murder in its most recognizable form acceptable. And we're defining it out of existence when the victims belong to that 96% of humanity that's never been considered quite all the way human in this country. Which leaves only the slightest step to include certain traitorous Americans as well. President Obama jokes about sending drones after his daughter's boyfriends, and the press corpse laughs. Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden jokes about adding Edward Snowden to the kill list, and everybody laughs. If we can be at war with individual criminals, why not add whistleblowers to the list? They reveal the powerful secrets that give our high priests their prestige. They reveal crimes and abuses that outrage us but outrage foreign nations too. They open a door through which we can begin to question what the distinction really is between joking about murder by million dollar missile and joking about murder with an ax, such that we admire one and are horrified by the other. The fact is that the most realistic mass-murder costumes you'll see in a Halloween Parade will be on men and women who've wandered up from Wall Street in their stylish suits.
The drone industry seems quite pleased with our acceptance of their technology for murder, but frustrated that some of us are resistant in our backward superstitious ways to favoring the use of killer drones that are fully automated. That is, we've accepted drones as a good moral killing device when a human at a desk pulls the trigger, but we find something vaguely disturbing about the drone pulling the trigger itself. Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says, "Right now, in human nature, its unacceptable for a machine to kill a human being," but he's confident that will change as we begin to wise up and see the advantages. In fact, there are those who would like to ban automated drones and automated killing robots of all types, and I agree with them in so far as they go. Any weapon we can ban, let's ban it. But let's not, in the process, make non-automated drone murder acceptable. If you listen to the accounts of some former drone pilots -- so-called pilots who dress up in flight suits to sit at a desk and who drive past a sign on their way home from work every day letting them know that driving on U.S. roads is the most dangerous thing they do, so they should buckle up -- if you listen to these people, there's just not significantly more moral consideration going into the human pulling of the trigger than there would be with the drone pulling the trigger.
The majority of volunteers in experiments are willing to inflict what they believe is severe pain or death on other human beings when a scientist tells them to do so for the good of science. These are usually known as Milgram experiments, and the pain or death is faked by actors. Drone pilots take part in Milgram experiments where the deaths are real, the injuries are real, the suffering is real. Drones don't just kill, of course. They traumatize children and adults. The buzzing overhead, threatening imminent death for weeks on end is a severe form of cruelty, and an extreme case of power over others at an extreme distance -- and as indiscriminate as poison gas. Mothers in Yemen teach neighbors' kids at home for fear of letting them go to school. In Gaza people refer to Israel's drones with a word that means buzz but can also mean a relentlessly nagging wife. The Living Under Drones report produced by NYU and Stanford, I think made a lot of people aware of what drones do in Pakistan. (By the way, Pakistan's prime minister told Obama today to stop the drone killings, and Obama slipped the Washington Post evidence that Pakistan's been in on it. Don't expect them to give Bob Woodward the Chelsea Manning treatment. And don't imagine the murders-by-drone are OK because some lying scheming Pakistani officials are sometimes in on it.) Whole societies are devastated by the ongoing threat and the sporadic murders. Israel has killed hundreds in Gaza with drones. But the drone "pilot" sits at his desk and follows the instructions of his authority figure.
On June 6th NBC News interviewed a former drone pilot named Brandon Bryant who was deeply depressed over his role in killing over 1,600 people. He described watching his victims bleed to death and wondering what if anything they were guilty of. It became clear why drone pilots suffer PTSD at higher rates than real pilots. They see everything, including the children they kill.
"After participating in hundreds of missions over the years, Bryant said he 'lost respect for life' and began to feel like a sociopath. ... When he told a woman he was seeing that he'd been a drone operator, and contributed to the deaths of a large number of people, she cut him off. 'She looked at me like I was a monster,' he said. 'And she never wanted to touch me again.'"
Somehow, members of the United States Congress, where drones have their own caucus to represent them, seem less turned off and more aroused. But what about the rest of us? Where do we come down? A majority in the U.S. -- a shrinking majority, but still as far as I know a majority -- favors using drones to kill non-Americans outside of the United States. Pew surveyed 39 countries this past summer and found three that supported this U.S. policy: Kenya, the United States itself, and Israel. And within the United States there's not a big partisan divide on the matter. There's more concern over killing U.S. citizens or killing anyone within the United States, but less if they're immigrants on the border, less in hostage situations, etc. The first place the wars come home is in our own minds.
The U.S. Congress recently gave the Capitol Police the longest standing-ovation since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial for what quickly turned out to be the shooting of an unarmed mother trying to get away. Congress members are in the habit of cheering for senseless murder abroad in the form of wars. Drone victims are labeled militants after the fact, by virtue of being dead. Transfer those habits to the streets of Capitol Hill, and it's easy enough to imagine that a dead woman deserved to die -- after all: she's dead. Our police are beginning to look like the military. The public is the enemy. Murderers are cheered if they wear a uniform. Bloomberg claims absurdly to have the seventh largest army in the world. And small-town police departments with nothing worse than drunk driving to confront them are stocking up on weaponry, including weaponized drones (with tear gas, rubber bullets, and all kinds of anti-personnel devices). In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff showed off a drone to the media but crashed it into his armored vehicle (thereby, I guess, proving that he needed the armored vehicle). Also in Texas, when the Department of Homeland Security challenged the University of Texas-Austin to hack into a drone and take control of it, the response was "No problem," and it was quickly done. Is this a part of U.S. wars people are really going to sit back and watch come home?
Many of the drones going into U.S. skies are for surveillance. A drone can sit too high up in the sky to see it from the ground but record everything on the ground for hours and hours of video. A drone as small as a bird or a bug can listen to you and your cell phone inside your house. Drones can threaten and intimidate potential protesters, as well as racially and religiously profiled groups, with surveillance and with weaponry. The NSA has been a big part of the kill list program, the same NSA that tracks all of us in the land of the free. A Congressional Research Service report arrived at the obvious conclusion that drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. I would add the First Amendment. I would add representative government. So the fact that the technology is exciting or that drones can perform lots of useful and harmless functions is all well and good. But figure out how they're compatible with Constitutional rights first, and then allow them in those ways if that's possible. And if it isn't, then instead of using drones to watch forest fires let's focus on halting climate change. I've survived this long without having my coffee delivered by drone, and I can survive a bit longer.
It's not the technology's fault, we're told, by those more offended by insults to technology than by assaults on humans. "Drones carrying hellfire missiles over houses on the other side of the world don't kill people, people kill people." But, as it happens, drones don't hunt deer, drones don't protect grandma, the second amendment right to have an eighteenth century musket when taking part in a state militia doesn't create a right to killer flying robots. This is a new technology and it needs to be dealt with as such. This is the technology of legalized murder.
It's always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder. Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot -- just murder. But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing? It isn't strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway. Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen. Drones make everyone less safe. As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism. Drones also kill with friendly fire. Drones, with or without weapons, crash. A lot. And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated. When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no. But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we're never asked.
The U.N., which has been looking at U.S., Israeli, and U.K. drone use, has just submitted a couple of reports on drones to the General Assembly ahead of a debate scheduled for this Friday. The reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can't legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life. However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say -- the determination will be political rather than empirical.
The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that's a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal. We don't need to see that lawyerly contortionism. Remember Obama's speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn't meet them even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward sometimes in certain countries depending. Remember the liberal applause for that? Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech. And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? We don't need the memos. We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder. That is, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be. It might slow down the march of the drones -- which is in fact being led by the United States and Israel.
Israel developed drones in the 1970s. Medea Benjamin's book begins with the story of how an Israeli engineer who had worked for an Israeli military contractor, developed the prototype of the Predator drone in his garage in southern California in the 1980s with funding from DARPA and the CIA. And the first thing he came up with was called the Albatross -- not a bad name really. Israel is the world's top exporter of drones. Technion is a leading developer of drone technology, including drones that can fly 1,850 miles without refueling and carry two 1,100 lb. bombs, as well as miniature surveillance drones, bulldozers, and other weapons of fairly massive destruction used in illegally occupied lands, where Israel has used chemical and all other sorts of weapons while continuing to receive billions of dollars worth every year of what the U.S. Orwellianly calls "military aid."
Creating Drone Island in the East River no doubt appeals to those in the Israeli government who spy on the U.S. and those in the U.S. government who spy on Israel, but especially to those who want to legitimize and Americanize the U.S. image of Israel's militarism, to make it as unquestionable in the U.S. as U.S. militarism sometimes is. The U.S. media questions the cost of feeding the hungry, while treating militarism as a jobs program -- even though programs to feed the hungry would more efficiently produce jobs. The federal government's trillion dollars a year for wars and war preparations doesn't count contributions from state and local governments and universities. The plans of Cornell and Technion to advance the technology of death on Roosevelt Island were apparently approved because of the money involved. And in the process a hospital will be destroyed. That's a typical trade-off. For a fraction of what we spend on weaponry, we could provide food, water, and medicine to the world. Many, many more people are killed through what we don't do with our money than through how we do spend it on wars.
Of course, we could also choose to invest in education instead of militarization. It's no coincidence that the nation that spends $1 trillion every year on war has created $1 trillion in student loan debt, and no coincidence that universities corrupted by military contracts are holding forums promoting war in Syria.
An early supporter of Technion who would be outraged at its current practices is Albert Einstein, who said "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." He was right. We have to choose one or the other. A lot of people are doing so.
In September, the University of Edinburgh responded to student protests and withdrew its investment from Ultra Electronics, a company that produces navigation controls for U.S. killer drones.
Here in New York, the Granny Peace Brigade and Know Drones and the World Can't Wait and lots of other groups have been pressuring the U.N. and the City Council and Congress and educating the public. The Center for Constitutional Rights is doing legal work against drone murder, and it just may be that lawsuits turn out to be a major tool in stopping the drones. An organization I work for called RootsAction has set up a petition at BanWeaponizedDrones.org that now has 99,000 signatures in favor of banning weaponized drones. We're going to deliver it to the U.N. and governments when it gets to 100,000, so please go sign it at BanWeaponizedDrones.org
Where I live in Charlottesville, Va., we passed the first city resolution against drones -- weaponized or surveillance, since when three other cities have done the same. And eight states. But the state laws have dealt only with surveillance. They have not sought to limit the weaponization of domestic drones, including with non-lethal weaponry. Some of them have made exceptions to their surveillance restrictions for the U.S. military. Four cities is not a lot, and I think one reason why is the complexities of the surveillance issue. I think cities would more readily pass resolutions commiting not to use weaponized drones, and I'd love to see New York City asked to do that. Even a failure on that would wake a lot of people up to a new danger.
Drone bases around the country are facing endless protests, as I'm sure a Drone Island in the East River will if created. If New Yorkers can chase David Petraeus away, I'm sure they can chase Technion away!
Nowhere has seen more or better nonviolent resistance to drones that Hancock air base in upstate, New York. But people have been risking and serving serious jail sentences to call attention and build resistance to these operations all over the country, including in Niagara Falls this past weekend, where activists are advancing a plan to turn the military airport into an array of solar panels that could power half the state.
This November, like this past April, will be a time of drone protests everywhere, and of Code Pink's drone summit in D.C.
Next Tuesday Congressman Grayson will hear testimony from two kids injured in Pakistan by a U.S. drone, although the U.S. won't let their lawyer come. And yesterday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports on drones full of great information, but still maintaining that some drone murders are legal and some aren't. They and the UN special rapporteur will be at NYU Law School on Tuesday and you have to RSVP at the Open Society Foundation. And on Wednesday Brave New Films will release its film on drone killing.
As we take on the drones, I think we should bear a few key points in mind. Foreign lives are not worth less than local ones. Killing with one kind of weapon is not worse than killing with another kind. Killing is evil and illegal whether or not you call it a war. The killing is multiplied by the spending of funds on it that could have been spent saving lives. A war is not an activity marred by atrocities and war crimes. War is the crime. We shouldn't oppose waste at the Pentagon more fervently than we oppose efficiency at the Pentagon. If we can stop believing in just torture or humane rape or good slavery, we can stop believing in acceptable war. If the government of Israel makes war we should employ every nonviolent tool to resist it -- and the very same goes for the government of the United States of America.
ADDENDUM: I mentioned and there was discussion of at this event Amnesty Intl.'s recommendations to the world:
"To the international community including the UN, other states and intergovernmental organizations:
It seems that a U.S./Israeli university on Roosevelt Island would be constantly transfering drone technology either to the U.S. or to Israel, either of which would be a violation of the law.
US may be committing robotic war crimes: Two Human Rights Groups Blast US for Drone Killing Campaigns
By Dave Lindorff
Last week President Obama was largely successful at blacking out from the American public word that Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani advocate of girls’ education nearly killed by Taliban gunmen a year ago, used a photo-op invitation to the White House to ask the president to halt to his drone killings of Pakistanis. But Obama cannot so easily silence the condemnations today of his remote drone “Murder, Inc.” program by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
There's a dark side to the flurry of reports and testimony on drones, helpful as they are in many ways. When we read that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose drone strikes that violate international law, some of us may be inclined to interpret that as a declaration that, in fact, drone strikes violate international law. On the contrary, what these human rights groups mean is that some drone strikes violate the law and some do not, and they want to oppose the ones that do.
Which are which? Even their best researchers can't tell you. Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal. The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself. Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn't come up.
Amnesty International looks into nine drone strikes in Pakistan, and can't tell whether any of the nine were legal or illegal. Amnesty wants the U.S. government to investigate itself, make facts public, compensate victims, explain what the law is, explain who a civilian is, and -- remarkably -- recommends this: "Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty." However, this will be a very tough nut to crack, as those responsible for the crimes are being asked to define what is and is not legal. Amnesty proposes "judicial review of drone strikes," but a rubber-stamp FISA court for drone murders wouldn't reduce them, and an independent judiciary assigned to approve of certain drone strikes and not others would certainly approve of some, while inevitably leaving the world less than clear as to why.
The UN special rapporteurs' reports are perhaps the strongest of the reports churned out this week, although all of the reports provide great information. The UN will debate drones on Friday. Congressman Grayson will bring injured child drone victims to Washington on Tuesday (although the U.S. State Department won't let their lawyer come). Attention is being brought to the issue, and that's mostly to the good. The U.N. reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes (targeting rescuers of a first strike's victims) are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can't legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; and -- most powerfully -- threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life. However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say -- the determination will be political rather than empirical.
The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that's a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal. We don't need to see that lawyerly contortionism. Remember Obama's speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn't meet those criteria even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward, sometimes, in certain countries, depending. Remember the liberal applause for that? Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech.
(And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, eventually bringing him to the U.S. for a trial, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? Bush policies are now seen as advances.)
We don't need the memos. We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder. That is to say, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be. But let's stop for a minute and consider. The general lawyerly consensus is that killing people with drones is fine if it's not a case where they could have been captured, it's not "disproportionate," it's not too "collateral," it's not too "indiscriminate," etc., -- the calculation being so vague that nobody can measure it. We're not wrong to trumpet the good parts of these reports, but let's be clear that the United Nations, an institution created to eliminate war, is giving its approval to a new kind of war, as long as it's done properly, and it's giving its approval in the same reports in which it says that drones threaten to make war the norm and peace the exception.
I hate to be a wet blanket, but that's stunning. Drones make war the norm, rather than the exception, and drone murders are going to be deemed legal depending on a variety of immeasurable criteria. And the penalty for the ones that are illegal is going to be nothing, at least until African nations start doing it, at which point the International Criminal Court will shift into gear.
What is it that makes weaponized drones more humane than land mines, poison gas, cluster bombs, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and other weapons worth banning? Are drone missiles more discriminate than cluster bombs (I mean in documented practice, not in theory)? Are they discriminate enough, even if more discriminate than something else? Does the ease of using them against anyone anywhere make it possible for them to be "proportionate" and "necessary"? If some drone killing is legal and other not, and if the best researchers can't always tell which is which, won't drone killing continue? The UN Special Rapporteur says drones threaten to make war the norm. Why risk that? Why not ban weaponized drones?
For those who refuse to accept that the Kellogg Briand Pact bans war, for those who refuse to accept that international law bans murder, don't we have a choice here between banning weaponized drones or watching weaponized drones proliferate and kill? Over 99,000 people have signed a petition to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org Maybe we can push that over 100,000 ... or 200,000.
It's always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder. Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot -- just murder. But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing?
It isn't strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway. Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen. Drones make everyone less safe. As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism. Drones also kill with friendly fire. Drones, with or without weapons, crash. A lot. And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated. When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no. But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we're never asked.
We're going to have to speak up for ourselves.
I'll be part of a panel discussing this at NYU on Wednesday. See http://NYACT.net
WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. Frequently NCNR members have been arrested, and then in court speak out against such U.S. policies. On May 23, 2013 members of NCNR filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia against the CIA’s use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries, including Pakistan. The citizen activists never received a response.
WHAT:Subsequently, NCNR gathered some 200 signatures on a letter to CIA Director John Brennan seeking a meeting to discuss ending the assassination program. Again there was no response. On June 29, 2013 six activists went to the Central Intelligence Agency hoping to arrange a meeting with CIA officials. While a CIA representative accepted the letter, he would not speak with the petitioners. Sothese petitioners engaged in a die-in to represent the victims of the assassination program. The police then arrested Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI, Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA, Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD, Phil Runkel, Milwaukee, WI, Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Lexington, KY, and charged them with “enter or remain on installation without authorization.” Now they are scheduled for trial.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9 AM
WHERE: U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA
WHY: Activists across the country continue to work to bring an end to the illegal and immoral killer drone strikes which have killed around 3500-4500 people, including hundreds of children, around the globe with no due process. The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is one of the groups working against this assassination program.
When the citizen activists went to the CIA, over 60 people rallied at the gates of the CIA with speakers who have been to Pakistan and who have spoken to families affected by drone strikes.Of course, the CIA would refuse to meet with the activists, as the assassination program wreaks of unlawfulness. In court the defendants will argue they were authorized to be at the CIA, and should not have been arrested. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that they were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. Moreover, the Nuremberg trials pointed out that citizens must act to prevent their government from further illegal activities.
It seems a child has said what most politicians choose to ignore. Malala Yousafzai met with President Obama. Philip Rucker of THE WASHINGTON POST on Oct. 11, 2013 wrote this: “Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are ‘fueling terrorism.’" And killer drone strikes are a blatant disregard of due process and an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars. The defendants intend to raise these points in court, and will continue their efforts to end the CIA’s assassination program, regardless of the verdict.
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs
The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.
President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.
Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.
Malala recounted: "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."
President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.
It's up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.
The United Nations has released a report on "armed drones and the right to life" (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:
"Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes."
Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:
"Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones."
The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:
"An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones."
The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined "imminent" to mean eventual or theoretical -- that is, they've stripped the word of all meaning. (See the "white paper" PDF.) The U.N. doesn't buy it:
"The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law."
U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it's part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:
"Insofar as the term 'signature strikes' refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected."
The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders -- namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:
"Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force."
Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is "self-defense" the action must be reported to the U.N. -- thereby making it sooooo much better.
A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for "a detailed public explanation."
The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn't heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.'s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org