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How an Inventive, Imperialist (Evil) System Uses Drones


By War Criminals Watch - Posted on 01 December 2013

 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.

Most movingly, we heard from three people who traveled from Yemen to speak of U.S. drone strikes. Kevin Gosztola on Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s calm, deliberate description of the attack that killed his brother and nephew, just after his own son’s wedding:

Five men were gathering behind a local mosque in their village of Khashamir in southeast Yemen when a US drone launched Hellfire missiles at them. Four of the men were instantly killed, their bodies blown into pieces. The fifth man was killed as he tried to crawl away.

The attack took place on August 29, 2012. Yemen’s Defense Ministry initially claimed that three members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had been killed. Two of the individuals killed, according to a Human Rights Watch report, turned out to be Salim bin Ali Jaber, “a cleric and father of seven,” who “had long preached against AQAP’s violent methods.” Another man killed was Walid bin Ali Jaber, “one of the village’s few police officers.” They had been participating in a meeting because “three alleged AQAP members” wanted to meet with him about a recent “strong denunciation of AQAP at the local mosque.”

Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, presented on the claim that the U.S. drone programs violate international law.  She recounts in Voices from the Drone Summit:

Baraa Shaiban, a human rights activist who works with REPRIEVE, revealed that 2012 was a year that saw “drones like never before” in Yemen. He described the death of a mother and daughter from a drone strike. “The daughter was holding the mother so tight, they could not be separated. They had to be buried together.”

Two members of Al Qaeda were in Entesar al Qadhi’s village, one of the most oil rich areas of Yemen. Villagers were negotiating with the two men. A drone killed the chief negotiator, scuttling the negotiations and leaving the village vulnerable to Al Qaeda. “The drones are for Al Qaeda, not against Al Qaeda,” al Qadhi said.

Former military intelligence Analyst Daniel Hale told us that he was 14 on 9/11/01.  When he reported to work in 2012, he passed constant photos of 9/11, aimed at directing his “mission” to kill terrorists.  He related an incident in 2012 where the military’s qualification for a drone strike was whether the target was “of military age.”  “This struck me as ridiculous” he said, that children were considered targets.  My tweeted note: “Hale had thought he was defending US interests, told terrorists were cowards, but began to think US military shooting drones are cowards.”

Pardiss Kebriaei and Mary Ellen O’Connell joined Cohn in speaking about the legal challenge to drone strikes, exposing the Obama/Bush administration’s legal justification as very basically counter to the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter (which themselves are effectively U.S. law).

Very interesting to me was a presentation by Dalit Baum (@dalitbaum) on the use of autonomous weapons by Israel.  Baum described unmanned bulldozers knocking down homes.  Why? The Israeli military needed to remove human operators because 1) they might talk afterward, and 2) they might lose their nerve.  Baum also showed a chilling video clip of a drone killing of several Bedouin youth near the Wall in Gaza by Israeli drones.  We learned that the major drone producing countries are the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, with Israel producing 41% of the world’s drones.

There’s more.  We worked hard on Sunday on how to spread opposition to drones way beyond the existing too tiny movement.  Monday night, The Illuminator and Granny Peace Brigade lit up midtown:

November 18, 2013: Midtown message against US drone war: Did You Make a Killing Tonight?  Drones Kill

November 18, 2013: Midtown message against US drone war: Did You Make a Killing Tonight? Drones Kill

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