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Pakistanis Protest Drone Murders in New York, But They Do So Nonviolently So Your Television Doesn't Tell You
Thanks to Medea Benjamin, Code Pink, Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the attention and energy of 400 who gathered this past Saturday at Georgetown Law School, we were able to consider Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation & Resistance. It was a very worthwhile weekend which will impact how people act on and respond to U.S. use of drones.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Dear Mr. President:
We strongly urge you to compose a letter of remorse, including an offer of compensation, to 9-year-old Nibila ur Rehman. She is a surviving grandchild of the 68-year old Pakistani grandmother who was reduced to a grisly corpse by a drone strike you ordered last year. No claim or evidence has surfaced indicating the slain grandmother was mistaken for a jihadist or circulating among them.
The details of the apparent murder were related by the 9-year-old child recently in a congressional hearing hosted by Representative Alan Grayson (D. Fl.): “It was the day before Eid. My grandmother asked me to come help her outside. We were collecting okra, the vegetables. Then I saw in the sky the drone and I heard a ‘dum dum’ noise. Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream. I don’t know if it was my grandmother, but I couldn’t see her. I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running but I felt something in my hand. And I looked at my hand. There was blood. I tried to bandage my hand, but the blood kept coming.”
Speaking as American citizens, we are ashamed of what was done to that grandmother and granddaughter and what continues to be done to innocents. Silence would make us morally complicit in the cruelty that found expression in the grandmother’s killing. It would be no defense to echo the inelegant remark of a former Secretary of Defense: “[S]tuff happens.”
Playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in secret to destroy individuals abroad on your say-so alone is fueling enmity against the United States that endangers us all—another example of blowback reminiscent of the birth of Al Qaeda from our participation in the disintegration of Afghanistan. Malala Yousafzei, a 16-year-old Pakistani heroine and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, recently informed you at the White House that “drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”
Your chief of staff in 2011, William M. Daley, has related his internal doubts about the effectiveness of drone killings in defeating international terrorism:
“One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20? At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?”
We also urge you to cease all use of predator drones except during times of legal wars in areas of actual hostilities against the United States. International law, justice, and the safety of American citizens all militate in favor of such an enlightened policy.
Coupled with a contrite letter and commensurate compensation from the United States to 9-year-old Nibila and her family, these measures would be a commendable mark of simple moral decency in the presidency.
Member of Congress
Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013
On November 25-26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-emptive peace response”
direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing
white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace.
www.TheBlueScarf.org “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has
become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in
Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to
express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6
at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a
security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora,
a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night.
After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of
the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different
people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests. These past 3 years, many more people in
our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in
other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily
used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland
gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with
messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some
of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare. The large NO DRONES light brigade
signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical
confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone
quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk,
though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to
deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through). Not all of us were able to risk arrest,
thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our
deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that
maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved.
Four of us, Shirley, Flora, Michael and MacGregor then walked about ½ mile down the road to the
waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she
had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn
the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent
civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the
four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were
processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold
morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing
and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we
hope you will join us the next time.
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome
And people wonder what drones in U.S. skies will be used for!
Pakistan Deploys First Domestic Drones
The Pakistani military deployed its first fleet of domestically developed drones Monday, as police cracked down on a protest by demonstrators angry at the U.S. for using similar aircraft to attack Islamic militants in the country.
The new Burraq and Shahpar drones will be used by the Pakistani army and air force, the military said in a statement. It was unclear whether the aircraft are armed or unarmed, and military officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The announcement coincided with a move by Pakistani police to prevent activists protesting U.S. drone strikes from blocking trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to and from neighboring Afghanistan.
The intervention was the latest chapter in a saga that began Saturday, when thousands of protesters led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan blocked a road in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is used to ship goods to and from Afghanistan.
Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said it would block NATO shipments until the U.S. ended drone attacks.
from Caneyhead Pictures
In June of 2013 a group of peace activists set out for a walk across Iowa to protest the Predator drone control center planned for the Iowa National Guard Air Base in Des Moines. Beginning at the arms depot at Rock Island Illinois and ending at the National Guard Air Base in Des Moines, the intimate journey of 25 peace pilgrims is documented in the film Walking the Walk: a March Against Drone Warfare. For two weeks and one hundred ninety-five miles, the walkers discuss their mission, their hopes, fears and outrage. Among the walkers are a man just released from prison for attempting to deliver a letter to the commander of a drone base, a businessman who has left a lucrative career to walk and witness for peace, veterans who have witnessed war first hand and a lawyer and former government official deeply concerned with the legality of the United States' drone strike program. In discussions with locals they meet and public presentations in libraries, parks and colleges we hear the issue of armed drone strikes and assassinations discussed in all their ethical complexity. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the world-wide peace action organization Code Pink called the film "Wonderful... Fantastic... Brilliant, it gets out so much info in such a humanizing way. And so beautifully filmed."
Daddy Warbucks: May I have the first word?
Brother Pax: If I may have the last one.
DW: I'm sure you will, and you had the first one too. Before the drones came on the scene, you called them forth. You said "War costs too much money." You said "War kills too many soldiers." Well, here you go. War costs less money. And war kills nobody. And yet you aren't satisfied.
BP: Now, this will be a very short debate if my position is to protest the murdering of people with drones, and your position is that drones kill nobody. There must be more overlap in our worldviews than that if we are even to talk.
DW: You know perfectly well what I meant.
BP: It might be clearer if you tell me.
DW: Drones don't kill pilots or soldiers. They only kill the people who need to be killed.
BP: Let me grant you part of that. We've had pilots and soldiers killed by suicide, by accident, by friendly fire, and by suicide bombings at drone bases. But let's suppose they've been fewer than they might have been in some other form of war.
DW: There's no question.
BP: There is always a question. Sometimes it's a different question than the one being so insistently answered.
BP: If the question is whether to have this kind of war or that kind of war, then we must choose the better kind of war (if we can make out what it is). But if the question is whether to have peace or to have war, then a different answer is available.
DW: Well, of course. We all want peace. But that comes after.
BP: Does it? Let's go back to the "people who need to be killed."
BP: Who are they?
DW: Criminals, terrorists, threats to -- in fact -- kill a lot more people. Stopping them is the whole point.
BP: May I ask you a few questions that might seem unrelated?
DW: Go ahead.
BP: If the government doubled your taxes, would you trust it to do the right things with that money?
BP: Do you trust government officials' campaign promises?
BP: Are you confident that the inspectors who allowed the flooding of the Gulf of Mexico with oil are doing a good job now?
BP: Do you believe politicians tell you a straight story about their new healthcare reforms?
DW: Not exactly.
BP: When people in various cultures established public procedures, such as courts of law, to try to arrive at the truth in criminal cases, rather than just allowing a king or a magician to declare guilt or innocence, why do you think they did that?
DW: To be sure of being right.
BP: Now, why is it that you trust the government to kill thousands of people with missiles from drones, even though the government won't tell you who they are or why they are killed, nobody is indicted, nobody is prosecuted, nobody's extradition is sought, many cases have been established in which the person could quite easily have been arrested, the government's memos redefine "imminent threat" to mean nothing of the sort, the government's memos redefine "combatant" to mean dead male human being between 16 and 65, people are targeted without knowing their name, many of the victims are known to have been innocent, many have been children, many women, many elderly, many those attempting to rescue survivors of a previous strike, and the people in the places where the missiles land say peace negotiations are ruined, criminals are turned into heroes, hatred is created for the United States, and terrorist organizations are strengthened dramatically, in fact the counterproductive nature of these operations on their own terms is so stark that many speculate that creating enemies is the secret purpose or at least that Washington doesn't mind if new enemies are created considering how profitable war is for certain people, and . . .
DW: Now just a minute . . .
BP: Why? Why do you trust that this secretive government is only killing "people who need to be killed"?
DW: Because there are evil people in the world.
BP: Of course there are, but how can you be sure the government has found them? Has it looked everywhere well and hard? Has it created public procedures of verification? Has it looked into any mirrors?
DW: You can't publicly announce who you're going to kill and still be able to kill him.
BP: Have you heard the name Osama Bin Laden?
BP: Didn't they publicly announce they were going to kill him?
DW: Yes, but you can't always.
BP: Can you publicly announce that you're going to try someone in a court of law?
DW: Sure, but not during a war.
BP: Can I ask you another odd question?
BP: Thus far about 80 nations have weaponized drones. Which of those nations are justified in flying them over the United States and murdering people?
DW: No one's doing that.
BP: Let's just think this through, for the sake of argument. Not so many years back, nobody was using these weapons at all. If, next year, a nation flies a drone over the United States and murders someone, will that be justified? And will people in that other country be right to trust that their government did the right thing?
DW: Of course not.
BP: Why not?
DW: It just isn't the same.
BP: I agree.
DW: You do?
BP: Nothing is ever the same. But what are the differences? It's not terribly hard to imagine someone attacking the United States, while an attack on Canada sounds rather comical. But, then, Canada doesn't have troops in 177 other countries and weapons in outerspace and every ocean, doesn't spend as much on its military as every other country combined, doesn't account for 80% of foreign weapons sales to dictatorships and democracies alike, doesn't prop up vicious monarchies to exploit their resources, doesn't view its manhood as entirely dependent on its readiness to bomb anybody who looks at it funny.
DW: And your point?
BP: What if peace doesn't come after war? Is Afghanistan more peaceful now, or before the current war, or before the drawing in of the Soviet Union and the initiation of all of these recent wars? Is Iraq more peaceful now, or before the last war, or before the pair of wars and the sanctions? Is Libya more peaceful now, or before the war? Isn't peace a very hard thing to find during or after a war?
DW: Maybe, sometimes.
BP: But isn't peace right there, right within reach, before you start a war?
DW: We don't start wars.
BP: Is Yemen more peaceful? Is Pakistan more peaceful? Did we replace a ground war with a drone war? Or did we replace peace with a drone war?
DW: It's still a better option!
BP: Better than peace?
DW: No, not better than peace.
BP: Let me ask you one more odd-sounding question. Would you rather have cancer or the flu?
DW: Is this a joke?
BP: Just pick, in all seriousness, and I'll explain.
DW: The flu.
BP: Now, if there were only a few cases of cancer, and doctors were getting close to curing it, but the flu was extremely contagious, it spread rapidly around the globe, it could spring up anywhere with no known cure, and -- strange to say -- sometimes the flu began turning into a new kind of cancer -- Now, in this situation, which is worse, the few cases of cancer or the epidemic of flu?
DW: The epidemic, of course.
BP: You can have the last word.
DW: Let me think about it.
Originally posted at AcronymTV
Representatives from some of the parts of the world where US drones kill descended on Washington DC for the largest ever anti-drone summit. Code Pink, The Nation Magazine and the Georgetown chapter of the National Lawyers Guild served as host for the two-day summit.
As Majore Cohn, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, writes:
WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. Most recently, NCNR has been expressing a grave concern against the use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries. On October 22, five members of NCNR were convicted of trespass at the Central Intelligence Agency on June 29 while seeking a meeting to discuss drone strikes.
WHAT: As part of the CodePink Global Summit on Drones, citizen activists have come to Washington to raise the issue of killer drone strikes. NCNR organized a planning session, and it was decided to write to Senator Chuck Schumer, a noted proponent of the unconstitutional drone strikes, to demand that he speak out against this assassination program. Now NCNR representatives intend to visit his office to seek a meeting.
WHEN: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM
WHERE: 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington D.C. 20510
WHY: On August 7, 2013 HADAS GOLD reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer promoted the drone war: “’On terrorism, the president has been tougher than anybody else,’” ‘the New York Democrat said on CNN’s “New Day.’” “’Remember, George Bush wouldn’t let the drones go into Pakistan, and Al Qaeda flourished. The president did, and terrorism is way down. He’s pursuing the tactic in Yemen, and I think it’s working.’”
The NCNR citizen activists disagree. No declaration of war has been declared against Yemen, and civilian casualties are rampant. And it can be argued that drone strikes are just breeding more terrorists. In fact, Malala Yousafzai, when meeting with the Obama family, raised concerns about the administration’s use of drones, saying they are “fueling terrorism.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a recent report speculating that U.S. drone strikes may be war crimes.
The activists will try to convince Se. Schumer to support the termination of the assassination program. This would be an opportunity to instead use f reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes. A U.S. policy of endless wars must be placed in the dustbin of history.
Saw this movie last night and highly recommend it. You'll learn more about U.S. foreign policy than you could gather from a mile-high stack of the New York Times, and you'll imagine you're just being entertained. Pick up some popcorn and pull up a chair:
Germany had planned to buy a fleet of "Euro Hawk" killer drones -- perhaps in an effort to bring the European Union up to speed with certain other Nobel Peace laureates.
But something happened on the way to the celestial colosseum.
Of course, Captain Drone Man himself undoubtedly learned the news first, unless the NSA misplaced some of Frau Merkel's emails under a pile of exchanges among nonviolent activists planning the upcoming drone summit in DC.
What happened was public pressure within a nation dedicated to peace and -- at the moment -- more resistant than Japan to being turned back toward war. Germany has now said nein, nein, and hell nein to killer flying robots. And not just to the use of weaponized drones within what Americans might call Der Homeland, but to Germany's use of remote control murder planes against human beings anywhere on earth.
Earlier this month at the United Nations, several nations, including most prominently Brazil, denounced the criminality of murdering people around the globe with drones. Now Germany has taken a serious step in the direction of condemning armed drones to the status of land mines, poison gas, and nuclear weapons. If Germany can do it, we can all do it. And the scene in this video can go global:
What Localities and States Can Do About Drones
Note: Actions taken by cities apart from resolutions, as in Lincoln, NE, and Seattle, WA, are not listed here. While Iowa City, Iowa, is listed in various places as having passed a resolution, we have not seen confirmation of final passage.
UPDATE: Berkeley (no. 10?) did this.
UPDATE: Woodstock, NY, is number 8.
UPDATE: Amherst, MA, is number 7, and they passed two!
UPDATE: Leverett, MA, is number 6.
UPDATE: Syracuse, NY, is number 5.
Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with "anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being," and pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."
St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.
Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.
Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."
See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution." The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones. By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support. By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections. Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself. Less can be more.
Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known." Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.
How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues. Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences. To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials. Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people. Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm. If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare. You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.
STATES: See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.
Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.
Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.
This article as a double-sided, single-page handout: PDF.
WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
We are at a critical crossroads in this new era of robotic warfare. In the global war on terror, remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones, make it possible to strike almost anywhere from the comfort of a base close to home. The use of drones has been escalating under the Obama Administration and now includes attacks in countries with which the United States is not officially at war. Drones are expected to be used widely in the United States beginning as early as 2015.
There is great secrecy surrounding the use of drones. The public has not had access to documents that provide legal justification for drone killings or outline the guidelines for decisions on who is targeted. Strikes are largely coordinated covertly by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, an arm of the military that carries out high-security activities. Nor has the government provided information on the number of killings, how many are civilian deaths and where they occur. Instead, tracking groups try to fill that void with estimates - as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism does in their Naming the Dead project.
A Yemeni man who lost two members of his family to a US drone strike one year ago has asked President Obama to meet with him when he visits Washington DC this week.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber lost his brother in law, a preacher who publicly opposed al Qaeda, and nephew, a local policeman, in a strike that took place in the Hadhramout region on August 29, 2012.
Just days before he was killed, Salim bin Ali Jaber had preached at the local mosque against al Qaeda. He was killed, along with police officer Waleed bin Ali Jaber, in a strike which may have been targeted at three strangers who visited the village demanding to speak to Salem following his sermon.
Mr Jaber is visiting Washington DC from Thursday November 14 to Wednesday November 20 in order to hold meetings with members of Congress and address conferences of academics and activists regarding his experiences. His visa has been sponsored by peace group Code Pink, at whose conference he is speaking on Saturday.
Writing to President Obama on behalf of Mr Jaber, his legal representative, Cori Crider, an attorney at human rights charity Reprieve said:
“As well as killing innocent Yemenis, Faisal believes the drone strikes are counter-productive. His village is peaceful. They bore the US no ill-will, quite the contrary as can be seen from Salim’s brave stand five days before he died. Yet today the villagers associate the US with the brutal murder of two of their own.
“Faisal is visiting the US as a representative of the victims’ families to bring attention to the true cost of the drone war, not only in terms of Yemeni lives and but in terms of America’s reputation in the region. I know that you are very busy, but I hope that you might make time to meet him, in order to understand the cost of the US’ drone programme for those on the ground in Yemen.”
Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni man whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike, is traveling to the United States this week to tell his story to Congress and human rights activists at this weekend’s Drone Summit (which I’m covering for Truthout, FYI).
Jaber’s brother-in-law, 49-year-old Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, was killed in a covert drone strike on Hadhramout in August 2012. Salem was a Yemeni cleric and father of seven who preached loudly against the extremism exhibited by Al Qaeda, which his family feared would invite violent retribution from Al Qaeda linked militants. But in the end, it was US violence that ended Salem’s life as well as that of Waleed bin ali Jaber, a local policeman who was with Salem at the time of strike.
Happy 96th Armistice Day!
How Europeans Are Opposing Drone and Robot Warfare: An Overview of the Anti-Drone Movement in Europe
So far only three countries are known to have used armed combat drones to carry out attacks: Israel, the US, and the UK. But this could soon change.
Analysts see demand for military UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones) quadrupling over the next decade. Global spending on drone technology is expected to jump from an estimated $6.6 billion this year to $11.4 billion in 2022. Israeli weapons manufacturers have long been actively marketing military drones to other countries, and in the fall of 2012, the US announced that as many as 66 countries would be eligible to buy US drones under new Defense Department guidelines. However, the US Congress and State Department have final approval of drone exports on a case-by- case basis and have denied the request of NATO-partner Turkey to purchase Predator drones because of ongoing tensions between Turkey and Israel. Soon, however, countries that cannot obtain US or Israeli drones may be able to purchase them from weapons manufacturers in other countries such as China and South Africa.
European weapons manufacturers also seek a share of the drone market, not only for European military use, but also for export to other countries. Though it will likely be many years before a European-made combat drone will be operable, defense departments of several European countries are seeking to acquire for their arsenals US or Israeli combat drones capable of carrying weapons for targeted killing.
Italy requested US permission to weaponize the Italian fleet of six US Reaper two years ago. In May 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would soon notify the US Congress of plans to sell Italy "weaponization" kits, a move that, according to the Wall Street Journal, "could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies." But so far there have been no reports that approval to Italy has yet been granted.
In May 2013, France announced the purchase two unarmed US Reaper drones for the intervention in Mali, and the drones could later be armed. Holland is already using drones extensively for domestic police surveillance and is reportedly considering purchase of US Reaper drones for military purposes. And the German Bundeswehr, which some years ago leased three Israeli Heron drones for surveillance in Afghanistan, is now negotiating with the US and Israel to acquire armed combat drones.
Read the rest at Truthout.
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.