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Posts Tagged Drone Strikes

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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In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats!


The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”. Barack Obama’s tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones

The Guardian

Connecticut Community Copes With Aftermath Of Elementary School Mass Shooting

A memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut. The children killed by US drones in north-west Pakistan ‘have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and teddy bears’. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty

“Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” Every parent can connect with what President Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.

It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”.

Like George Bush’s government in Iraq, Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom at least 64 were children. These are figures extracted from credible reports: there may be more which have not been fully documented.

The wider effects on the children of the region have been devastating. Many have been withdrawn from school because of fears that large gatherings of any kind are being targeted. There have been several strikes on schools since Bush launched the drone programme that Obama has expanded so enthusiastically: one of Bush’s blunders killed 69 children.

The study reports that children scream in terror when they hear the sound of a drone. A local psychologist says that their fear and the horrors they witness is causing permanent mental scarring. Children wounded in drone attacks told the researchers that they are too traumatised to go back to school and have abandoned hopes of the careers they might have had. Their dreams as well as their bodies have been broken.

Obama does not kill children deliberately. But their deaths are an inevitable outcome of the way his drones are deployed. We don’t know what emotional effect these deaths might have on him, as neither he nor his officials will discuss the matter: almost everything to do with the CIA’s extrajudicial killings in Pakistan is kept secret. But you get the impression that no one in the administration is losing much sleep over it.

Two days before the murders in Newtown, Obama’s press secretary was asked about women and children being killed by drones in Yemen and Pakistan. He refused to answer, on the grounds that such matters are “classified”. Instead, he directed the journalist to a speech by John Brennan, Obama’s counter-terrorism assistant. Brennan insists that “al-Qaida’s killing of innocents, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its appeal and image in the eyes of Muslims”.

He appears unable to see that the drone war has done the same for the US. To Brennan the people of north-west Pakistan are neither insects nor grass: his targets are a “cancerous tumour”, the rest of society “the tissue around it”. Beware of anyone who describes a human being as something other than a human being.

Yes, he conceded, there is occasionally a little “collateral damage”, but the US takes “extraordinary care [to] ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life”. It will act only if there’s “an actual ongoing threat” to American lives. This is cock and bull with bells on.

The “signature strike” doctrine developed under Obama, which has no discernible basis in law, merely looks for patterns. A pattern could consist of a party of unknown men carrying guns (which scarcely distinguishes them from the rest of the male population of north-west Pakistan), or a group of unknown people who look as if they might be plotting something. This is how wedding and funeral parties get wiped out; this is why 40 elders discussing royalties from a chromite mine were blown up in March last year. It is one of the reasons why children continue to be killed.


Obama has scarcely mentioned the drone programme and has said nothing about its killing of children. The only statement I can find is a brief and vague response during a video conference last January. The killings have been left to others to justify. In October the Democratic cheerleader Joe Klein claimed on MSNBC that “the bottom line in the end is whose four-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror”. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, killing four-year-olds is what terrorists do. It doesn’t prevent retaliatory murders, it encourages them, as grief and revenge are often accomplices.

Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are “militants”. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.

“Are we,” Obama asked on Sunday, “prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot


Article ReferenceConnecticut Community Copes With Aftermath Of Elementary School Mass Shooting The Guardian, UK, Dec 17, 2012


1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/17/obama-speech-newtown-school-shooting

2. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-rise-of-the-killer-drones-how-america-goes-to-war-in-secret-20120416

3. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-23/world/35500278_1_drone-campaign-obama-administration-matrix

4. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012. Living Under
Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan.


5. eg http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=4043&Cat=13&dt=11/5/2006

6. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012, as above.

7. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/12/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-12122012

8. John Brennan, 30th April 2012. The Ethics and Efficacy of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorism-strategy

9. John Brennan, as above.

10. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012, as above.

11. http://dawn.com/2011/03/18/rare-condemnation-by-pm-army-chief-40-killed-in-drone-attack/

12. http://dawn.com/2011/03/18/rare-condemnation-by-pm-army-chief-40-killed-in-drone-attack/

13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe

14. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe

15. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/17/obama-speech-newtown-school-shooting

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