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.
In a pair of reports released yesterday, the two respected human rights organizations blasted the US for its use of missile-firing drone aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen to kill alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, saying that both campaigns were causing extensive civilian deaths. Both reports -- Human Right’s Watch’s report on the Yemen drone campaign, and Amnesty International’s report on the much larger Pakistani drone campaign, assert that the heavy civilian casualties from the strikes may constitute war crimes. The Amnesty report goes further, suggesting that even leaving aside the civilian killings, the extra-judicial killing of Taliban and Qaeda leaders themselves constitute war crimes under the Geneva codes.
While drone strikes date back to the presidency of Bill Clinton, and were employed to a significant extent in Afghanistan and Pakistan under President George W. Bush, since President Obama took office in January 2009, the frequency of drone-fired missile attacks, particularly in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, has soared. One analysis by the New America Foundation suggests that there have been 365 such strikes there--313 of them on Obama’s watch as commandeer in chief. These attacks are said to have killed between 1,611 and 2767 militants,along with with between 258 and 307 civilians. Other estimates of civilian casualties are higher, with the organization Drones Watch, which investigates drone strikes by the US in Pakistan, reporting that as of last January over 3000 people had been killed, “the vast majority of them civilians.” That report gave the names and ages of 172 of the dead in those attacks who were all children.
One reason for the discrepancy in the numbers is that the CIA and the Pentagon do not reveal the details of drone strikes, and in fact for the most part do not report them at all. When there are reports, almost all those killed are identified as “enemy combatants,” as the US considers all males over the age of 12 to be enemy fighters -- itself a violation of Geneva Conventions signed by the US, which require all those under the age of 16 to be classified as “protected civilians.” This means military forces much make “special efforts” to protect them from harm...
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