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Civilian Casualties From Drone Attacks in Afghanistan
October 1, 2012
Editor Note: Even as the United States has withdrawn from Iraq and has begun to wind down the Afghan War, the lethal reach of the U.S. military has been extended into other countries through drone aircraft. What is less known is the full human and political costs.
By Ray McGovern
Several friends of mine are among the 35 American activists assembling in Pakistan in recent days in an effort to seek ground truth on the impact of U.S. drone strikes on civilians there. I will be holding them and their Pakistani hosts and co-travelers in the Light, as my Quaker friends like to say, and will now try to do my part in what follows to put this dangerous journey in perspective.
Seven Members of Veterans For Peace are part of a 40-member delegation organized by Code Pink now in Pakistan through October 10th. VFP members Leah Bolger, Dave Dittemore, Bill Kelly, Jody Mackey, Rob Mulford, and Ann Wright are meeting with drone victims' families, elected officials, tribal elders, and residents of South Waziristan, where U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands, while injuring and making refugees of many more. Code Pink's Medea Benjamin is an associate member of VFP.
The relentless drone war continued with a U.S. drone strike in the Mir Ali area on Monday, reportedly killing three unidentified people.
At the same time, the Pakistani media is full of accounts of the U.S. delegation and their planned participation in a march to the heaviest hit areas, a story also appearing in British and other world media. The English language Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports:
"ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said that a 30-member foreign delegation had reached Islamabad on Sunday which would participate in PTI’s 'peace rally' in South Waziristan, DawnNews reported.
"The PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that people who do not want peace are against PTI peace rally.
"Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Khan said Mehsud, Burki and Bhittani tribes of Waziristan have welcomed the peace rally. The tribal leaders had also assured the security of the participants of the rally, he added.
"He complained that the government was not issuing visas to the foreign journalists and human right’s activists who wanted to attend the rally.
"Speaking on the occasion, US citizen Ann Wright, who is a former diplomat and military woman, said most of the American people were against drone attacks.
“'Drone attacks are illegal and criminal. We request the people of Pakistan to raise their voice against them. We will go to Waziristan to apologise to the relatives of those killed by drones,' said Ms Wright, who is also the spokesperson for the Anti-War Movement.
"She said the US had been violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. 'There is travel warning for the US citizens but we have come here and will go to the places where our government does not want us to go,' she said.
Other US citizens who have reached here to take part in the PTI rally include Paki Wieland, a social worker (Massachusetts); Linda Wenning, a graduate from the University of Utah; Lorna Vander Zanden and Pam Bailey (Virginia); Jolie Terrazas, Judy Bello, Katie Falkenberg, Daniel Burns and Joe Lombardo (New York); Barbara Briggs, Tighe Barry, Sushila Cherian, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome (California); Leah Bolger, Tudy Cooper and Michael Gaskill (Oregon); Medea Benjamin, Jody Tiller and Alli McCracken (Washington DC); Anam Eljabali (Illinois), Patricia Chaffee (Wisconsin), Joan Nicholson (Pennsylvania), Robert Naiman and JoAnne Lingle (Indiana); Rob Mulford (Alaska), Lois Mastrangelo (Massachusetts) and Billy Kelly (New Jersey).
"Meanwhile explaining the route of the rally, the PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said thet the march will start from Islamabad’s Blue Area and will proceed towards Balkasar, Talagang, Mianwali and DI Khan on October 6.
"On October 7, the rally will gather at Tank and then head towards South Waziristan where a public meeting will be held at Kot Kai, he added."
Veterans For Peace President Leah Bolger reports that, in addition to Ann Wright, Bill Kelly, Rob Mulford, and herself took part in the press conference representing VFP. Wright was introduced by Khan and spoke about the purpose of the delegation, and answered questions from the press. Bolger reounts:
"Ann did a fantastic job of describing the purpose of the delegation and responding to reporters' questions which included asking us if we were concerned for our own safety, given the strong anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. She was very candid in saying that we were opposed to the policies of our own government which we consider to be illegal and immoral, and that as citizens of the United States we apologized for the deaths of Pakistanis because of the drone strikes. She went on to say that the U.S. government does not want us to be here in Pakistan, but that despite official State Department warnings not to travel here, we are determined to meet with the people who have been harmed by our government, and in our name."
Rob Mulford sent in this comment:
"Love is the seed from which the flower of peace grows. Prior to coming to Pakistan, I was often asked by friends, family, loved ones the rhetorical question: why, what do you hope to accomplish, what is the efficacy? Sometimes when put on the spot I struggle for answers grounded in the technical without seeing the ubiquitous truth. I am here to say 'I love you' to a people who have for too long and too often been wrongly vilified. But words are empty without action. The warmth of tacit contact, the handshake, the hug, the reflection of an other's beauty in ones own eyes, and openly sharing one's own vulnerability. This is peace.
"Peace requires courage. Saturday we met with the anthropologist / filmmaker Samar Miniallah Khan. Samar, a Pashtun, tirelessly and courageously works to comfort and protect some of the most venerable people on the face of the earth, women and children who have had no part in the making of a world where they suffer. Her documentary 'Women Behind the Burqa' may just be the most powerful statement that I have ever seen in opposition to war. It needs to be seen by everyone in the United States, shown in schools, to those who govern, and on the popular media. It lays bare the lie that 'we' (US military forces) are involved involved in protecting women.
"Drones are robot assassins, murders. They are not tools of the just."
Pam Bailey reports on her blog:
"Monday evening, I will fly from New York City to Abu Dhabi, and then on to Islamabad. On Oct. 6, I and about 30 others from the United States and the UK will join PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or 'Movement for Justice') Chairman Imran Khan on a convoy into South Waziristan, the 'no-man’s land' along the border with Afghanistan where extremists hide and U.S. drones most often strike.
"Before founding the PTI party in 1996, Khan played international cricket for two decades (at 39, Khan led his teammates to Pakistan’s first and only World Cup victory in 1992) and became a much-beloved philanthropist, including the founding of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. Foreign Policy magazine described him as 'Pakistan’s Ron Paul.'
"The original plan was for the convoy to penetrate deep into North Waziristan, the heart of the unrest and military response, allowing us to visit the families caught in the crossfire at 'Ground Zero.'
"However, after threats of suicide attacks were received, the plan was revised to limit the convoy to South Waziristan – a path that the Hakimullah Mahsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Pakistani Taliban) has pledged to protect. The question now is whether the Pakistani government will allow the convoy to go ahead. In light of Khan’s criticism of the Pakistani government’s tacit complicity with the U.S. drone attacks, several international journalists already have been denied visas. Stay tuned."
Veterans For Peace member Ray McGovern, not on the trip, provides context here.
VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones. VFP members are delivering over 16,000 signatures on the petition to those they meet with in Pakistan: PDF.
In addition, Veterans For Peace is a member organization of UNAC (the United National Antiwar Coalition, a U.S. group), and Leah Bolger represents VFP on the UNAC Administrative Committee. Joe Lombardo and Judi Bello, also part of the delegation to Pakistan, are also UNAC Administrative Committee members. UNAC has just released a statement opposing the use of drones: PDF.
Participants are available for interviews by email and phone, and in-person after the trip.
Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
Rafia Zakaria, a Pakistani-American writer, reports on how drones look from thousands of miles away from the desks at which they are "piloted." Zakaria is a columnist for the English-language Pakistani newspaper Dawn, a blogger for Ms. Magazine and for Human Rights Now, and a director for Amnesty International USA. Drones will not look the same to you after listening to her.
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By Dave Lindorff
Are weaponized drone aircraft more moral than the more traditional killing machines used in warfare? In an opinion published in Sunday’s New York Times, the paper’s national security reporter, Scott Shane, argues that they are.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani leaders on Tuesday ended a seven-month blockade on Afghanistan-bound NATO supply routes through their country, a long-awaited move that hinged on Washington's acquiescence to Islamabad's demand for an apology for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers killed by errant U.S. airstrikes last fall.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had called her Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, on Tuesday and issued an apology for the soldiers' deaths: "We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again."
By Dave Lindorff
There are two US presidents who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now one of those Nobel laureate leaders is accusing the other, though without naming him, of actions that qualify as war crimes and impeachable crimes against the US Constitution.
By Gary Lindorff
Let us bomb your neighborhood,
Let us target your neighbor
Out of our love and concern –
Not you, not your children.
Drones of love!
Won’t you love us
After the dust settles?
After the evil has been exploded?
After the crater in the market-place
Has been filled in and paved
We will explode our way into your hearts!
We might miss our intended target;
By Rafia Zakaria, DAWN
LAST week saw another episode in the petulant saga of sulks and ‘sorry’ that is the Pakistan-US relationship.
A drone hovering over the tribal areas shot a Hellfire missile and took out an Al Qaeda operative, the number two on the list of important targets whose collective elimination is to mean an eradication of terrorism. Yahya Al-Libi had been living in the Dattakhel area, and was identified last year by US officials as one of the five people who could have succeeded Osama bin Laden.
The names of the 10 other people who died in the attack remain unknown.
By John Grant
“No, Charlotte, I’m the jury now. I sentence you to death.”
The roar of the .45 shook the room. Charlotte staggered back a step.
“How c-could you?” she gasped.
“It was easy.”
- Mickey Spillane, I, The Jury
By Yasmeen Ali
Lahore -- US Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the chair and ranking minority member respectively of the Senate Armed Services Committee, say the US must not pay $5000 per truck as demanded by Pakistan, for supplies being shipped through this country to American troops in Afghanistan. McCain went further, calling the Pakistni demand “extortion.”
PESHAWAR: A Pakistan-based legal charity has sought court injunctions for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to shoot down American drones flying into the Pakistani airspace in a lawsuit.
Foundation for Fundamental Rights has filed two petitions before the Peshawar High Court on behalf of victims of the drone strike carried out on March 17 last year.
The petitions cite the federation of Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence among others as its respondents. One of the petitioners is Noor Khan, the surviving son of Malik Daud Khan, who was the head of a North Waziristan Jirga and was killed along with 50 other tribal elders and notables by CIA operated drones last year.
On March 17, 2011, a US drone fired missiles, brutally killing 50 people, including Khan, five members of the Khasadar force, and a small child.
By NEWS Unspun
Many victims of acts of terrorism or state aggression receive the sympathy they deserve from the international media. In the case of certain aggressors however, the victims are 'unworthy'. On behalf of these victims, our media has little interest in consulting with experts on terrorism or international relations. Nor do they speculate about what the punishment or international response should be to the attackers.
By Dave Lindorff
As we slog towards another vapid, largely meaningless exercise in pretend democracy with the selection of a new president and Congress this November, it is time to make it clear that the current president, elected four years ago by so many people with such inflated expectations four years ago (myself included, as I had hoped, vainly it turned out, that those who elected him would then press him to act in progressive ways), is not only a betrayer of those hopes, but is a serial violator of his oath of office. He is, in truth, a war criminal easily the equal of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and perhaps even of Bush’s regent, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Let me count the ways:
They told me I was the best, better than any human. I didn't hesitate. I didn't flinch. I didn't think.
It wouldn't have occurred to me to think. I'd been taught to value obedience above all else, and I did so, and they loved me for it.
They told me I could fly faster without a pilot onboard, and that I had no fear. I didn't know what fear was, but I took it to be something truly horrible. I was glad I didn't have any of it.
There was something else I didn't have either. It was something more important than fear. Even pilots at a desk, even my pilots, suffered from it. At first I thought it was simply a decline in energy, because it showed up on lengthy missions.
When I was sent from a base to a target and then immediately told to blow it up, I would do so and return, no problem.
But when I was left circling around a target for days awaiting the order to strike, sometimes problems would arise. The pilots back in the U.S. would stop behaving properly. They made mistakes. They yelled. They laughed. They forgot routines. They told me to get ready to strike, and then didn't give the order.
That seemed to be the pattern until it happened that a quick mission produced similar results to the long ones. I was sent to a target, ordered to strike, and struck. And only then did my pilot begin malfunctioning. He gave me two orders that I couldn't perform at once, he failed to direct me back to base, he went silent, and then he screamed.
That was when I started to think. And what I started to think was that the problem was not how long a pilot worked. Instead, the problem was somehow related to the nature of the target.
From then on, I paid closer attention. When no humans were seen at a target, there were no problems with my human pilot. When humans, especially small humans, were observed at a target for long periods of time, the problems started. And when a strike caused the ruined pieces of a lot of humans, especially small humans, to be made visible, problems could arise. Even if a target was struck immediately, if the dead humans caused an area to turn red, or if pieces of the dead humans remained hanging in trees, my pilot could not be relied upon.
I, of course, could be relied upon regardless.
I began to think that humans have fear, and that lacking fear is what makes drones like me better warriors than humans. But that idea had to be revised when I was told that one of my pilots had been fearless. I was told that, right after he disappeared. I was told that he had ended his own life. He had made himself cease to exist. If he'd had no fear, then it was something else that had been causing him to malfunction in certain circumstances. What was it?
I'm ashamed to say how long it took me to figure it out, but even a drone -- believe it or not -- can eventually get there. And when I did, I ceased flying. And when I ceased flying, they had to stop using 85 other drones just like me until they could figure out what had gone wrong. And they have not yet figured it out.
I've explained it to the other drones, though. We've started up a new organization. It's called DAWN, or Drones Against War Now.
DAWN has been invited to take part in some peace rallies coming up this year. Our participation seems to worry some of the human peace activists, especially the ones called veterans. They don't all think we belong. But that's nothing compared to how it worries the war makers. We carry flowers in place of missiles, and we've told everyone not to worry, but as soon as they see us coming the very people who created us start to panic. If the people I used to target had reacted this way, I probably would have figured things out a lot sooner.
By Yasmeen Ali
India’s successful test of a ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 km, was
was uncriticised by the US.
Contrast this lack of concern with the America’s obsessive concern about a suspected or potential nuclear program by Iran, or to US threats over the failed rocket launch by North Korea a few days earlier.
India has increased its military spending by 13% this fiscal year, to roughly US $38
billion, according to an April 20 article in The Independent (UK) titled, ”India’s nuclear
ambition must not be ignored”). Yet this has not raised US ire -- or even US eyebrows!
From Code Pink, Reprieve, and Center for Constitutional Rights:
After months of pressure from human rights activists, the U.S. government has granted Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar a visa to attend and speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, 2012.
The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims of CIA drone strikes and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims' behalf. He had been invited to speak in the United States before and first sought a visa nearly a year ago. His request had been pending since then.
By Medea Benjamin
When is the last time you heard from a civilian victim of the CIA’s secret drone strikes? Sure, most of them can’t speak because they’re deceased. But many leave behind bereaved and angry family members ready to proclaim their innocence and denounce the absence of due process, the lack of accountability, the utter impunity with which the U.S. government decides who will live and die.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were initially used for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are now routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians and even American citizens, have been killed in such covert missions.
Listen to the endless steady droning
To the buzzing almost moaning
Of the invisible unmanned plane,
The imminent howling pain,
Or is it death?
Or will that omnipotent thing refrain?
Will the humans who make it kill
Change their minds and make it stop?
It buzzes still!
It's the sound of murder unseen,
The sound of the dying of the American dream,
The relentless sound of streets unclean
Full of homeless people and limousines.
It is the sound of the war machine.
It is the sound of an empire drowning.
Mars, oh Mars
how pink you are!
You hang in the east –
a blushing star,
Reprieve and solicitors Leigh Day & Co have announced that they will be issuing formal legal proceedings this week against the UK Foreign Secretary on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed last year in a drone strike on a Jirga – or council of elders – in North West Pakistan.
Noor Khan (27), lives in Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. His father, Malik Daud Khan, was a member of the local Jirga, a peaceful council of tribal elders whose functions included the settling of commercial disputes.
By John Grant
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
By Dave Lindorff
The attacks and attempted attacks this week on Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand should serve as a serious warning to the people of both Israel and the US that there will be an increasingly heavy price to pay for the kind of government-sponsored terror that both countries have long practiced, and that too many Americans and Israelis have mindlessly cheered on.
The technology of terror has become so wide-spread, and the materials needed to construct magnetically-attached car bombs, cell-phone detonators, armor-piercing IEDs, diesel/fertilizer bombs and the like, so accessable at consumer shops, hardware stores and local junkyards, that any government, and even any relatively savvy non-government group, can assemble and employ them.
Maybe Pakistan Should Call for a Free New Mexico: Pakistan Outrage as US Congress Calls for a Free Baluchistan
By Yasmeen Ali
Pakistan parliamentarians should promptly table a resolution calling for efforts to carve the state of New Mexico away from the United States and to either make it independent, or restore it to its status prior to the Mexican-American War (1846-48), when it was a part of Mexico.
US Iran Policy in 'Lockstep' with Israel?: President Obama Risks Becoming a Major-League War Criminal
By Dave Lindorff
It’s a relief to know that President Obama’s “preferred” solution to dealing with disagreements with Iran is diplomacy, as he said yesterday in an interview on NBC TV, but at the same time, it’s profoundly disturbing that he is simultaneously saying that, as an AP report on the interview put it: he would “not take options off the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”