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Posts Tagged Drone Murder Children

Dealing Remote-Control Drone Death, the US Has Lost Its Moral Compass

Published on Saturday, May 4, 2013 by The Guardian/UK

Dealing Remote-Control Drone Death, the US Has Lost Its Moral Compass

Anti-drone protesters hold signs before the start of the Senate intelligence committee hearing on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. (Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA)The armed drone is being heralded as the next generation of American military technology. It can fly overheard with its unblinking eye, almost invisible to its targets below. Without warning, its missiles will strike, bringing certain death and destruction on the ground. All the while, the military pilot, sitting in a cushioned recliner in an air-conditioned room halfway across the world, is immune from the violence wrought from his or her single keystroke.

While the debate about drones in this country swirls around the precision of the weapon, the sometimes faulty intelligence behind its unleashing of a missile, the ability to keep American boots off the ground, or the legality of the strikes, few take into consideration the morality of the weapon and the damaging effects of its use on both the people targeted and the individuals operating it. The ripples of the drone strikes are felt far beyond those killed or wounded in the actual strike.

Americans are just now becoming dimly aware of the problems and dangerous precedents being set for the future.

The drone is destabilizing the small tribal communities of the Pukhtun, Somali, and Yemeni with their ancient codes of honor, making it difficult to implement any long-term peace initiatives in the volatile regions already being pounded by their own militaries. Too many stories have filtered into the media of innocent men, women, and children being killed.

People have fled their families and their homes due to the constant violence and are forced to live as destitute and vulnerable refugees in the slums of larger cities. They are lost without the protection of clan and code. The drone is also feeding into a growing anti-Americanism, becoming a deadly symbol of the United States, and fueling the recruitment of future terrorists.

At one stroke, the drone has destroyed any positive image of the United States in the countries over which it operates. It has contributed to the destruction of the tribal codes of honor, such as Pukhtunwali among the Pukhtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this immorality and destructive nature reflects back on those who use it, harming the warrior ethic of the American military so critical to battlefield bonding among soldiers in combat.

The warrior ethos may be largely a myth but, like most myths, it protects something very important: the psychology of killing in the name of the state. That killing becomes nothing less than murder when the soldier doing it is utterly invulnerable. Most US citizens, so long divorced from any responsibility to take up arms and fight and kill, do not understand this. Soldiers – good ones – do. Such understanding was behind the recent cancellation by Secretary of Defense Hagel of the valor award for drone operators.

Moreover, remote-controlled killing is a dishonorable way of fighting battle, not simply because it often results in the deaths of women and children and removes the combatants from face-to-face combat. It is making war more like a video game and giving technicians the dissociated power of life and death for the figures on the screen before them. It is making war into murder.

After over a decade mired in a seemingly endless war against a methodology as old as time, it is clear that the extension of military force is increasingly counterproductive.

However precise the weapon, this is the reality and the price on the ground, destroying the codes so vital to both parties involved – those who are targets and the people who see them die and the operators at their computer terminals. The use of the drone is creating more problems than it is solving.

Americans are just now becoming dimly aware of the problems and dangerous precedents being set for the future. We have read reports of drones the size of a mosquito, police gaining possession of potentially armed domestic drones, and violations of the laws of privacy in the United States. These are apart from the fact that many foreign powers, many of which are hostile to us, will soon have broad access to drone technology without any mechanisms or international agreements to regulate its use.

Washington has plunged blindly ahead, neglecting law – both domestic and international – protocol, and ethical codes. We find it distressing that the debate on the drone, which has now picked up in the United States, remains so narrow – with none of these points being raised except in esoteric circles. The debate has been enmeshed in the emotional responses to the war on terror: if you like the drone, you are pro-American; if you don’t, you are anti-American. It has, unfortunately, become a definition of patriotism despite its destructive nature on both sides.

After over a decade mired in a seemingly endless war against a methodology as old as time, it is clear that the extension of military force is increasingly counterproductive. The United States needs to pursue political, economic, diplomatic, and law enforcement solutions.

Instead of sending missiles and funding military operations that destroy societies, the US and its allied central governments should be funding education projects and development schemes and promoting honest and just civil administration. In this effort, we all should be guided by the Jewish shibboleth tikkun olam, to go out and “heal a fractured world”.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited
Lawrence Wilkerson

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. Previously, during a 31-year career in the US army, served as chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powel

Akbar Ahmed

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American Univerity in Washington, DC. He has also taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities. Formerly, he was the Pakistan High Commissioner (ambassador) to the UK and Ireland. His most recent book is Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2011).

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JUDY BELLO: Pakistan Pays the Price for Its Defiance

Obama Shows His True Colors

Pakistan Pays the Price for Its Defiance

by JUDY BELLO

Leading up to the NATO Conference in Chicago last Friday, the U.S. was hopeful that President Zardari of Pakistan would announce the reopening of U.S. military supply routes in Pakistan, according to an article published in the Guardian of London on May 21, but their hopes were dashed. Zardari, who was invited at the last minute for a trilateral conference with U.S. President Obama and Afghan President Karzai, said, in a bilateral meeting with Hillary Clinton, that he would open the supply routes, but first the U.S. would have to apologize for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers during an air attack on a military base on the Afghan border last December and commit to ending Drone strikes inside Pakistan. President Obama did not give a private audience to the Pakistani President. In fact, it appears that American officials were not shy about expressing their displeasure with Pakistan at the Conference.

“Obama, at the opening of the second day of the NATO summit Monday morning, demonstrated his displeasure with the Pakistan government by singling out for mention the Central Asia countries and Russia that have stepped in to replace the Pakistan supply route. He made no mention of Pakistan, even though Zardari was in the room at the time. To ram home the point, the US defense secretary, Leon Panetta, also held a meeting at the NATO summit with senior ministers from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Panetta expressed his “deep appreciation” for their support.”

This is a sharp rebuke, given the level of ongoing support that Pakistan has provided to the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 10 years. Mr. Zardari was apparently under some serious pressure to capitulate. According to an Article in the Christian Science Monitor on May 22, there were high hopes for a deal when he attended the NATO meeting. It appears, however, that he offered to reopen the routes, without demanding the cessation of the Drone Strikes, at a price about 20x higher than what the U.S./NATO had been paying before the routes were closed, an offer unlikely to be accepted . Meanwhile, back in Pakistan, according to any number of sources, Prime Minister Gilani has been convicted by the powerful Supreme Court of Pakistan for refusing to reopen an old corruption case against President Zardari. Their government is in a very vulnerable position.

This is not a happy circumstance in a country where the civilian government has frequently been removed by a military coup, and Mr. Zardari’s father in law was actually executed by Zia al Haq, the military dictator, supported by the U.S., who removed him from office. From the viewpoint of the Pakistani government, this is a defeat any way you look at it. If even the reputedly corrupt Asif Zardari cannot bring himself to reopen the supply routes while the drone strikes continue to wreak havoc on the civilian population of North Waziristan, and cause upheaval in the general population of Pakistan, then it might be time to revisit the policy. However, the self proclaimed Masters of the Universe do not see it that way. This is their world and they will have their way. Violence, humiliation and oppression are their tools of choice. The lives of individuals have no meaning for them, and their mantra of freedom and democracy is meant to drown out the cries of the impoverished and brutalized masses of their victims. As you may imagine, an insult to a already debased opponent was hardly an adequate response to the refusal of a chattel to provide the expected services. So, that wasn’t the end of the affair.

images-72Even as the beleaguered President of Pakistan was being shown the good will of the U.S. Government and their NATO allies along with their contempt for his country and the people who live there, a successful Drone Strike that targeted an Egyptian Jihadist named Saeed al-Masri, or Yazid, killed half a dozen men and 3 small children. “The Face of Collateral Damage”, an article by Jefferson Morley onSalon.com provides the details and a photo of one of the children, a small girl named Fatima. Fatima was not a member of Yazid’s family (not that that should matter) but the child of an associate who had already been killed along with his wives and other children in a previous drone strike on his vehicle. Fatima was killed in the compound where she lived in the village of Mohammed Khel in North Waziristan not far from the other villages listed below. Apparently this strike was not counted with the ones listed below because there was an actual ‘militant’ targeted. Despite the deaths of several children, it didn’t play into the global accounting.

Beginning the same day the conference closed, on May 21, 22 and 24, 3 separate U.S. Drone Strikes in North Waziristan killed 20 people and wounded many more. On the Monday the 21st of May, a compound (in our frame of reference, that would be a home) in the town of Mirinshah was hit with 2 Hellfire missiles, resulting in 4 deaths and a number of injuries. On Tuesday, a Mosque in a nearby village was struck by 2 Hellfire missiles during morning prayers, resulting in 10 fatalities and more injuries. On Thursday, a bakery in another village in the region was struck with Hellfire missiles, resulting in 5 fatalities. My Google Drone Alert was flooded with these events for the entire week. Headlines in India, Pakistan, Russia, China, the U.S., U.K. and Canada echoed “Drone Attack Kills 10″, “US Drone Strike ‘Kills 5′ in North Waziristan” , “5 Killed in Pakistan Drone Strike” ,, “Drone Attack in North Waziristan Kills 5″ and on and on. These were so called Signature Strikes so they did not target any identified individual.

Unknown-10Local people said that those killed in these strikes were ‘villagers’. Across the international press, the victims were referred to variously, as ‘militants’, ‘suspected militants’ and ‘people’. Some of the U.S. press presented them as ‘suspected’ militants and ‘supporters’ of terrorists. Even after looking at all those articles, I don’t know their names. I don’t believe the people who called the strikes know who they were. ABC News referred to the victims as militants in every case, and helpfully provided a Google terrain map with a single marker designated ‘Pakistan’. At least I can name the towns, and provide maps showing the locations of the strikes. The town struck on Monday was Mirinshah, a significant town in the region. The Mosque struck on Tuesday was in the village of Mir Ali, about 15 miles East of Mirinshah, and on Thursday the Bakery was struck on Thursday in the village of Khassokhel, not far from Mir Ali.

The Western press coverage of these events provides the big picture. The Global Post, an internet news source has “Back to Back U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Test Diplomatic Standoff Over Supply Lines”, and then “Drone Strikes Continue to Pound Pakistan’s Northwest”. Yes, I’ll say that’s a test of the diplomatic standoff. An ‘official’ is quoted in the article as saying the victims were Uzbeks and other foreigners. They give no evidence of how he would know. Speaking of officials, the day of the first strike, the Christian Science Monitor ran “Pakistani Official: Position to Soften on NATO Supply Line”, where they cite a Pakistani official and a prominent Pakistani journalist saying that Pakistan is going to have to bite the bullet because they can’t win this one. They indicate that the negotiations were derailed by Zardari’s request for higher transit fees. But the bottom line is that there is nothing to negotiate because the Pakistani people will no longer tolerate U.S. Drone attacks and the U.S. has no intention of discontinuing them. The next day, the headline was “US Drone Strike in Pakistan Highlights Divergent Interests if US, Pakistan”. I would say, the strike[s] highlight the near infinite disparity in power between the US and Pakistan; at least that is what the U.S. seems to be asserting.

images-188The article elaborates the inconvenience that Pakistan has cause to the U.S. and NATO by closing the supply lines, and says that inviting President Zardari to the NATO Conference was a goodwill gesture. So, Zardari spent 17 hours or so on an airplane twice, so he could spend a few hours schmoozing with the folks who matter because they thought he was finally going to give in and violate the wishes of his domestic constituency by offering them what they want, but he spoiled the gesture by refusing to do so.

Two later pieces of news summarize the U.S. perspective on this situation. On Friday, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran “Drone Strikes Continue in Pakistan as Tensions Increase and Senate Panel Cuts Aid”. Punishment is being piled on punishment, insult added to injury, in an attempt to bring the Pakistani government to it’s knees. All that is left is Regime Change. Interestingly, if you look at the first few paragraphs of this article, it seems like that is where they are heading. And then, today in the New York Times, “Secret Kill List Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will”, 8 pages of arrogant, bluster, wherein we read such gems as:

“When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

and

“Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks. “

following a reference to “the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.”

Then we have:

“Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

and

“Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counter-terrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy. ” [You could have fooled me]

and yet

“In Pakistan, Mr. Obama had approved not only “personality” strikes aimed at named, high-value terrorists, but “Signature” strikes that targeted training camps and suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants.” [What principle guides this decision?]

The Republicans ‘get it’:

“Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. “They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing.”

images-54Mr. President, I have to ask, “What Principles are reflected here? It would appear that Mr. Obama is playing God. Seduced by the power of the Presidency, and at the same time barred from constructive domestic action, President Obama has turned to the minute details of day to day issues of life and death for strangers on the far side of the planet who do not have it in their power to protect themselves from his personally structured version of state terrorism. And last week, his eminence apparently decided to teach the Pakistanis a lesson about defying the mighty powers of the American Olympians. Perhaps, Mr. Obama, you would deign to look down from your lofty post and say a few words of comfort to little Fatima and the dozens of others like her.

Judy Bello is currently a full time activist thanks to the harsh and unforgiving work environment in the Software Development Industry. Finally free to focus on her own interests in her home office, she is active with The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and with Fellowship of Reconciliation Middle East Task Force and often posts on their blog at http://forusa.org. She has been to Iran twice with FOR Peace Delegations, and spent a month in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya in 2009. Her personal blog, Towards a Global Perspective, is at http://blog.papillonweb.net and she is administers the Upstate anti-Drone Coalition website athttp://upstatedroneaction.org.

 

 

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Brig(Retd)Shaukat Qadir, Pak Army: Drone attacks no longer a matter of a ‘nod and a wink’

Drone attacks no longer a matter of a ‘nod and a wink’

images-72Shaukat Qadir

Feb 17, 2013 

Speaking to journalists on February 5 at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, gave the most unequivocal statement opposing the use of US drones that has been made during the tenure of the current Pakistan government.

She said drone strikes were “counterproductive”; that they “created more terrorists [and] extremists, and fanned anti-American feelings”. The attacks violated Pakistan’s sovereignty, were illegal, and there was no off-the-record “wink or nod” by the government to sanction them.

Previous statements had always left room for some doubt, but not this one. So, what prompted this? Let’s take a look at the historical perspective.

The first thing we do know is that former president Pervez Musharraf not only permitted drone strikes, he also gave the US the exclusive use of a couple of airbases for drone operation, probably in 2003. Any doubts on that score should have been put to rest by the revelations made by Lt Gen Shahid Aziz, a former Chief of General Staff to Mr Musharraf, in his recently published autobiography.

The first known strike by a drone in Pakistan was in 2004, targeting Taliban leader Nek Mohammed Wazir. In all probability, this “hit” was requested by Mr Musharraf.

The next thing we know is that the first resistance to US drone strikes came from the Pakistan military, after Mr Musharraf relinquished the office of the Chief of Army Staff in late 2007. A US drone turned back after it was threatened by a Pakistani aircraft, but the government told the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to back off.

At that stage, the military’s resistance to drone strikes was evident. So much so that Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, in an unusual public statement in November 2008, stated that the PAF had the wherewithal to down drones “but it is up to the political leadership to decide”. There was no response from the political leadership.

However, in the period from late 2008 to late 2010, the drones’ “kill ratio” improved dramatically. It might have been due to inpuy from field operatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), since this was during the short period when intelligence cooperation between the ISI and the CIA was at its best.

Whatever the reason, the militant to “collateral damage” ratio turned upside down. From 2:10 it turned to 8:2. Perhaps the Pakistan military was also (unofficially) happy with that, since protests were muted and far between – until immediately after the release from jail in March last year of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistani men he accused of trying to rob him. It was also in March that US defence secretary US Leon Panetta ordered a strike targeting a jirga (peace council) in south Waziristan, killing about 40 civilians.

This attack was followed by the first ever unequivocal protest by the Pakistan military – but still not by the government.

Since then, Pakistan has protested at regular intervals; it has raised the issue of sovereignty and the illegality of these strikes, but only mildly.

As I have previously explained on these pages, despite the drones’ vast technology, they can still be inaccurate – because they rely on human intelligence (“humint”), which the CIA lacks.

There is little doubt that drone attacks have become increasingly inaccurate since early 2011, and that they are indeed counterproductive. They are a factor in swelling the ranks of terrorists as well as multiplying the numbers of anti-US Pakistanis. These facts have been substantiated in an independent report compiled jointly by the Stanford Law School and New York University’s Global Justice Clinic, titled Living under drones.

So, we are back to the million-dollar-question: what prompted Ms Rehman’s unequivocal statement this month?

Could it be the Stanford/NYU report, or could it be a consequence of having “tried all other options with the US”? Or could it have been prompted by the fact that the White House has decided to place Pakistan in a specially privileged position as a recipient of drone attacks? Or, is it merely because domestic elections are around the corner and the ruling party’s chances don’t look too bright?

There is little doubt that the coming elections played a role in the decision to adopt this stance; but, to be fair to the ruling party, all of the above reasons must have contributed to this decision. Certainly, the growing awareness within the US and among its allies that drone attacks are murdering innocent civilians indiscriminately will help Pakistan’s cause.

But the bigger question is: how far is the Pakistan government prepared to go with this? Ms Rehman’s pleas to journalists will not deter the US. Will Pakistan raise the issue with the toothless United Nations? Is the government prepared to back this statement up by ordering the PAF to take down intruding drones?

It is doubtful that this government will go that far. And, if it isn’t prepared to go that far, Pakistan will continue to be “living under drones” for at least another four years under Barack Obama.

 

Brig Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/drone-attacks-no-longer-a-matter-of-a-nod-and-a-wink#ixzz2LPWHZ8xE 
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