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Greenwald Drone Film Opens In Pakistan



Last month, protesters in Multan, Pakistan, expressed their anger about U.S. drone strikes.


Greenwald Drone Film Opens In Pakistan

Oct 23, 2013

Inline image 2

In a unique film premiere for victims of drone strikes, Pakistani leader Imran Khan will host a screening of Robert Greenwald‘s new documentary “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” in Islamabad this Friday (25 Oct). Khan is the most popular political leader in Pakistan, and the elected leader of the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where drone strikes are clustered. His former wife, the London-based, Jemima Khan, is co-executive producer. One of the deaths examined in the film is that of an innocent 16 year old Pakistani, Tariq Aziz, on October 31, 2011


. The victim had testified one week earlier at a public hearing, or jirga, in Islamabad where hundreds of people rallied and listened to eyewitness accounts of drone attacks in the tribal areas of Waziristan. 


Aziz was targeted by an informant at the hearing, says Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based Reprieve


, a leading monitor of the strikes and their human rights impacts. The US relies on paid informants for gathering intelligence used in targeting in the remote tribal highlands region. Featured in the documentary is a former US drone technician, Brandon Bryant, who was told by his superiors that, “we kill people and break things.” Bryant was captivated by becoming a James Bond-style operative. 


The US drones policy comes under severe attack this week with reports from the United Nations rapporteur, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International all being released in the same period. Both the film and the new reports strike heavy blows at the credibility of United States’ claims that the drone strikes are mistake-proof and aimed solely at known terrorist threats. The CIA has stretched the legal definition of “imminent threat” to include young males “associated” with jihadist groups, however vaguely, in virtually any theater of the Long War against terrorism. 

Pressure against the US drones policy has caused the strike rate to be “dropped drastically in recent months”, according to the New York Times


. In addition, President Barack Obama and Congress have grappled over how to “rein in” the drift towards an imperial presidency. 


The relative success of the anti-drone campaign suggests that US military policies can be opposed effectively even where massive costs and ground troop numbers are not in question. The anti-drone phenomenon consists of an unusual spectrum of anti-war groups like Code Pink, independent journalists and film-makers, civil liberties and human rights lawyers, and many professional counter-insurgency advocates who oppose using air strikes as a substitute for intervention on the ground.

The documentary will screen in Washington D.C. on October 28 and in New York City on October 30. For information screenings email: [email protected], or request


 a free copy.


Robert Greenwald


Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/robertgreenwald







Posted by Linsey Pecikonis


 – February 12 | Add your reaction



For a war-weary American public, President Barack Obama’s inaugural address last month sounded perfect. “ A decade of war is now ending,” the president said. “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”




Posted by Jaide Garcia – December 04 | Add your reaction


The U.S. House drone caucus


 is becoming an increasingly popular topic as the U.S. government looks to unmanned aerial vehicles for solutions to its problems at home and abroad. The technological advancements displayed by UAVs are undeniably impressive, but the motives behind them are questioned, mostly by privacy advocates for now. Continual pressure on the federal government from drone manufacturers and their defenders in Congress to open U.S. airways to drones helped push the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was signed earlier this year.





Posted by William Melton


 – November 27 | Add your reaction



The Obama administration maintains that drone strikes are precise, yet hundreds of innocent people have died in drone attacks.


 This is a clear disconnect between what we’re being told and what we’re finding. It’s time for a deeper investigation; the evidence doesn’t match the claims. 






Posted by Robert Greenwald


 – November 19 | 1 reaction


“I want to make sure that people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties…. For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al- Qaeda and their affiliates. And we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied.”

– President Obama


, January 2012


I have interviewed many people over the years of doing documentaries.  Currently in Pakistan filming with victims of drone attacks (ahead of the film, follow my trip at warcosts.com




 and Twitter


), I have never had a more haunting and harrowing experience than looking into the eyes of person after person, children and adults, and hearing them talk about their homes, villages and families destroyed by drone attacks. The pain is palpable, their fear still radiates. And even a question about the CIA sets off terror alerts in peoples’ eyes.





Posted by Robert Greenwald


 – November 16 | 33 reactions



So, yes, a candidate for president talks about drones in detail, with great awareness about how they are counterproductive to United States security concerns. Problem is, the candidate is running for president of Pakistan.




Posted by Robert Greenwald


 – November 14 | Add your reaction


In March 2009, I went to Kabul as part of my work on Brave New Foundation’s documentaryRethink Afghanistan


. My trip was an effort to understand the realities of life in an unrelenting warzone, and to find voices that weren’t yet heard eight years after U.S. forces invaded the country. In the same spirit, I am going to Pakistan to investigate what life is like for those living under drones.





Posted by John Amick


 – November 13 | Add your reaction


It’s moments like this that underscore the near, if not complete, evaporation between the interests of the war industry and the public entity that’s supposed to have oversight over it, the U.S. Congress. Read this post from Colorlines’ Seth Freed Wessler


 and try to describe where the drone lobby and industry end and where the House of Represenatives Unmanned Systems (or Drone) Caucus begins: 






Posted by John Amick


 – November 13 | Add your reaction


Brave New Foundation has the honor of releasing a video to accompany a seminal report by human rights law experts at Stanford and New York University law schools. The report, entitled “Living Under Drones


” presents chilling first-hand testimony from Pakistani civilians on the humanitarian and security costs of escalating drone attacks by the United States. The report uncovers civilian deaths, and shocking psychological and social damage to whole families and communities – where people are literally scared to leave their homes because of drones flying overhead 24 hours a day.





Posted by Nathan Gammill


 – November 13 | Add your reaction



Living Under Drones


, a new report by human rights law experts at Stanford and New York University, counters the common rhetoric that the use of drone stikes is a precise and effective tool for making the U.S. a safer place. The report, along with a video produced by Brave New Foundation


, aims to open up public discussion on the incendiary U.S. drone policy in Pakistan incorporating the devastating, virtually hidden side effects. Above, John Amick discussed with RT America


 the importance of Living Under Drones in a media climate more or less dry of any critical reporting on the issue.





Posted by John Amick


 – November 13 | Add your reaction


If the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – and a member of Congress – claims unfamiliarity with possibly the major plank of U.S. drone policy, as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did last week


 when asked about President Obama’s “kill list” of those open for assassination based on U.S. intelligence, then what makes anyone believe the average American voter has a grasp on the killing done in their name in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen?





Posted by Jaide Timm-Garcia – November 13 | Add your reaction


Law & Order: SVU recently ran an episode


 that was likely inspired by the Stanford and NYU report, Living Under Drones


, about U.S. drone attacks currently taking place in Pakistan. In the episode, a character plotting a terrorist attack in the U.S. reveals that her father was killed by a “double-tap” strike in North Waziristan.


Robert Greenwald


Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and the Brave New Films + Brave New Foundation founder and president. He is currently focused on the WAR COSTS (WarCosts.com) investigative campaign to challenge runaway, wasteful war spending – particularly in relation to job creation; KOCH BROTHERS EXPOSED (KochBrothersExposed.com) to illustrate the Kochs’ effort to buy democracy and control public policy from every direction; and CUENTAME (MyCuentame.org), which is at the forefront of investigating corruption at private prisons. He has also produced and distributed short viral videos and campaigns like RETHINK AFHANISTAN (2009, RethinkAfghanistan.com), SICK FOR PROFIT (SickForProfit.com), FOX ATTACKS (FoxAttacks.com) and THE REAL MCCAIN (TheRealMcCain.com), which were seen by almost a million people in a matter of days.


Greenwald is also the director/producer of IRAQ FOR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS (2006), a documentary that exposes what happens when corporations go to war and WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE (2005), a documentary that uncovers the retail giant’s assault on families and American values and OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH’S WAR ON JOURNALISM (2004). He also executive produced a trilogy of political documentaries: UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 ELECTION; UNCOVERED: THE WAR ON IRAQ (2003), which Greenwald also directed; and UNCONSTITUTIONAL (2004).

BRAVE NEW FILMS (BraveNewFilms.org), Greenwald’s new media company, uses film to tell stories that build movements and influence debate about the most important issues of the day. Brave New Films released the THE BIG BUY: TOM DELAY’S STOLEN CONGRESS in May 2006 and recently produced two TV series: ACLU FREEDOM FILES and THE SIERRA CLUB CHRONICLES – which can be seen on Link TV, Court TV (ACLU) and via the internet.

In addition to his documentary work, Greenwald has produced and/or directed more than 50 television movies, miniseries and feature films, including: The Book of Ruth (2004), based on the best selling book by Jane Hamilton; The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron (2003); The Burning Bed, starring Farrah Fawcett as an abused housewife; Shattered Spirits, starring Martin Sheen, about alcoholism; and Forgotten Prisoners, about the work of Amnesty International. Greenwald also produced and directed the feature film, Steal This Movie, starring Vincent D’Onofrio as 60’s radical Abbie Hoffman, as well as Breaking Up, starring Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek.

Greenwald’s films have garnered 25 Emmy nominations, four cable ACE Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, the Peabody Award, the Robert Wood Johnson Award, and eight Awards of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board. He was awarded the 2002 Producer of the Year Award by the American Film Institute. Greenwald has been honored for his activism by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California; the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; Physicians for Social Responsibility; New Roads School, Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Office of the Americas. Greenwald has lectured at Harvard University for the Nieman Fellows Foundation for Journalism and speaks frequently across the country about his work.

Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/robertgreenwald


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PAKISTANIS MOURN: Hazara Muslim Community buries the dead amidst tears.O! Allah Grant Jannah To Our Innocent Hazara Muslim Shaheeds

PAKISTANIS MOURN: Hazara Muslim Community buries the dead amidst tears

Our Tears will Mingle With You Our Beloved Hazarawal Muslim Brothers


Posted date: February 20, 2013 1 Hazara Community (1)


QUETTA, Feb 20,2013

Unknown-16Members of the Hazara community and relatives of Kirani road suicide blast victims buried all 90 dead bodies amid tears and sorrows in Hazara Town graveyard Quetta.
Hundreds of people‚ including women and children attended last rituals of the victims.
“All dead bodies have been buried”, Syed Dawood Agha, the President Balochistan Shia Conference said. Emotional movements were witnessed during the burial as the relatives broke into tears while burying their loved ones.
Hazara community staged four days tiresome sit-in in protest over killings in a suicide blast on February 16 in Kirani road area of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. Women and children spent chilly nights in open sky to mourn the killings and force the authorities to launch targeted operation in Quetta.
Earlier‚ the aggrieved protesters at Hazara Town graveyard started aerial firing during the burial process; as a result of stampede two persons were injured.
Angry mob pelted stones and opened fire at the vehicle of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Quetta, Mansoor Kakar.
“The DC narrowly escaped the firing”, Fayyaz Sumbal, the Deputy Inspector General Police Quetta said.
Frontier Corps and police personnel quickly retaliated and their aerial firing dispersed the enraged protesters.
Security forces cordoned off the graveyard and controlled the situation by quickly retaliating and firing aerial shots to disperse the enraged protesters.
Meanwhile, most of the sit-ins staged in major cities of the country in solidarity with the victims were called off.


Hazara killings: CJ says intelligence should be shared with LEAs, not courts







ISLAMABAD: During Thursday’s hearing of the suo motu notice taken of unabated killings of the Hazara community, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked that intelligence was supposed to be shared with law-enforcement agencies and not with the court, DawnNews reported.

A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar was hearing the case.

During the proceedings, the chief justice moreover inquired as to what was the assurance that such incidents would not occur in the future.

Nasir Ali Shah, a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA from Balochistan, told the court that some 1,500 people had been killed between 2002 and 2013.

Shah added that members of the Hazara community had buried their dead but were fearful of more attacks.

The hearing was adjourned to 11:30 am due to the absence of certain officials who had been summoned to appear before the bench.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had claimed before the bench that it had forewarned of the carnage in which over 87 innocent Shia Hazaras lost their lives in Quetta.

“A huge consignment of explosives was being transported,” the ISI had stated in a report submitted to the bench.

Read out by Director Legal of the Ministry of Defence Commander Shahbaz, the ISI report had said that despite being in a crude form, the information had been passed on (to the provincial government) about an imminent bomb blast. It said the terrorists had taken advantage of water scarcity in Hazara Town and sent a tanker loaded with 800-1,000 kilograms of explosives.

Operation against Lashkar-i-Jhangvi

On Wednesday, the federal government had announced that the operation launched against the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) would continue until the arrest of its entire leadership.

Briefing reporters after a meting of the federal cabinet, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira had stated that all law-enforcement agencies were participating in the operation which had led to the killing of four LJ members and arrest of 170 people allegedly involved in carrying out attacks on Hazara Shias.

“We assure everybody in the country that the government will take the ongoing operation to its logical conclusion.”



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Asif Zardari allowed US to boost drone strikes.



Only Allah Knows

الرقيب The Watchful One Ar-Raqib


and When Allah’s Revenge Comes. It will come without any warning to perpetrators. So Zardari and Pakistan Army Officers, who collaborated in drone strikes, you will face the Ultimate Judge (Al-Adl) for this War Crime

المنتقم The Avenger Al-Muntaqim is a name of Allah. He avenges crimes against humanity. A genocidal act cannot escape punishment from the Creator, both in this life and for eternity.  But, those who commit such acts, have blinders on. They cannot connect the dots, when Allah’s punishment comes. It comes without warning and is absolute. So nations and people have to act responsibly, otherwise, they will be held accountable by Al-Adl, the Ultimate Judge. 


Asif Zardari can be brought in front of International Court of Justice at Hague for committing crimes against humanity. He has no sovereign immunity against such crimes. He stands guilty and can be tried by a future Pakistani government. Pakistanis will never forget that this butcher sacrificed his own people to keep his hold on to power and ill-gotten wealth. Zardari has committed crimes against humanity and broken International Law. PAKISTAN ARMY officers who have directed drone strikes, have been part of planning, execution, or implementation of drone strikes are culpable under International Law, also. Pakistani Army Officers who were involved in the drone attacks are vulnerable to indictment under International Law. “I was only following orders,” does not absolve any Pakistan Army Officer, who had any thing to do with this genocide.

October 24th, 2012
08:03 AM ET

3 killed, kids hurt as fury grows over U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan- October 24th, 2012-CNN

[Updated 9:56 a.m.] An official with the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not authorized to speak on the record, condemned today’s attack.  Previously, the ministry has said it lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad about drone strikes in Pakistani territory on October 10 and 11.  The ministry called those “a clear violation of international law and Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

[Posted 8:03 a.m.] Missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman – a government official said.

The latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children, military officers said.

Militants lived in the compound, but so did civilians, the officers said.

There’s growing fury over the U.S. pounding of areas known to be home to al Qaeda operatives, mainly in tribal zones along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.  A recent independent study said hundreds of civilians, including 176 children, have been killed in the attacks over the last eight years.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney seem to largely see eye-to-eye on the issue.  CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen notes that most Americans “are comfortable with the muscular use of CIA drones against al Qaeda in Pakistan.”

The United States rarely comments on the strikes.

The New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy group, used Google Maps to pinpoint many of the drone attacks.





Only in recent history has international law evolved to define and punish mass violence against civilians. Now well-established as the legal foundation for civilian protection against mass atrocities, two categories of international law that seek to criminalize genocide and crimes against humanity were developed in response to World War II and the Holocaust.


Below you will find a series of approachable articles and resources, including podcasts and eyewitness testimonies, that describe the evolving international framework for preventing and punishing genocide and crimes against humanity.


 At the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg (1945-1946), legal teams from Allied nations prosecuted Nazi German leaders for attacks on civilians under the rubric of crimes against humanity, a formerly undefined general principle that became codified into enforceable law for the very first time. The IMT limited it in scope, however, to crimes committed in the context of international armed conflict.

Due in large parts to the efforts of Holocaust survivor Raphael Lemkin, the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was unanimously adopted on December 9, 1948. The Convention established genocide as an international crime in times of both war and peace. The Convention’s definition ofgenocide is, however, strictly limited by the perpetrator’s “intent to destroy in whole or in part;” the characterization of the victim group; and the acts committed.

 Although mass atrocities occurred in the decades following ratification, the Genocide Convention went unused and therefore untested. Not until the 1990s did the obligations of the Convention gain potency, spurred on by several international developments: the growth of professional human rights organizations with experience utilizing international legal tools to combat human rights abuses; the end of the Cold War, which enabled greater consensus in UN Security Council; and the persistence of extreme violence targeted against entire civilian groups, most notably in the cases of Bosnia-Herzegovinaand Rwanda.

 In response, new mechanisms were created to hold individuals criminally responsible for violations of international laws of war, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1993 and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1994. On July 17, 1998, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was permanently established through treaty, which no longer limited crimes against humanity to the context of armed conflict. And, for the first time, an established forum for disputes between states, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), addressed countries’ obligations to prevent genocide.

Law grows through the setting of precedents. In other words, how judges apply the law helps determine what the law means. Through the judgments of these tribunals and courts, international law on genocide and crimes against humanity evolves, deepening our understanding of the crimes and our capacity to respond.

An Introduction to the Definition of Genocide

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to create the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. But how has the definition of genocide — crafted through diplomatic negotiation — become meaningful against real threats to civilian groups?

An Introduction to the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent judicial body set up to try individuals for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Eyewitness Testimony

Watch testimony from some of the individuals who played significant roles in helping to develop international law on genocide and crimes against humanity. Alongside the testimony, view pieces of related evidence from our Museum’s collection and beyond.

Raphael Lemkin: A Polish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin fled Poland in 1939 and arrived in the U.S. where he introduced the word genocide and worked tirelessly on lobbying for the creation of a convention against genocide at the United Nations.

Senator William Proxmire: Between 1967 and 1986, Senator William Proxmire delivered 3,211 speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate arguing for the U.S. to sign the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Stephen Rapp: Appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp served as prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 2001 to 2006.


Voices on Genocide Prevention Podcast Interviews

Diane Orentlicher, Deputy in the Office of War Crimes Issues in the U.S. Department of State: Orentlicher discusses how the Obama Administration is reengaging with the International Criminal Court.

International law expert William Schabas: Schabas discusses the decision of the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court to request an arrest warrant for President Bashir of Sudan.

Respected historian, author, and politican Michael Ignatieff: Ignatieff describes the history behind Raphael Lemkin’s important work naming the crime of genocide.

What is Genocide? View or download a timeline exploring the concept and law of genocide


The War Criminal Asif Zardari allowed US to boost drone strikes in Pakistan.





The American Viewpoint:

RAWALPINDI: Observing that the CIA does not trust the ISI because it has repeatedly demonstrated its untrustworthiness, The Wall Street Journal in an opinion piece said on Friday that Pakistan needs to be a given an ultimatum of the kind it was given immediately after 9/11.

“In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration famously sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad to explain that the US was going to act forcefully to protect itself, and that Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again,” the newspaper said in an opinion piece entitled ‘The Pakistan Ultimatum.’ Importantly, the piece comes within days of a high-profile meeting between the spy chiefs of the United States and Pakistan.

 “The government of President Asif Ali Zardari allowed the US to increase the number of drone strikes. Yet it has made a point of complaining about them publicly, playing a particularly cheap form of politics to shore up its waning popularity with a domestic constituency smart enough to see through the hypocrisy,” the paper said.


Noting that relations between Washington and Islamabad have historically never been easy, and seem to have reached something of a watershed now, the Journal said Pakistan’s behaviour has not exactly been exemplary.

“So Pakistan now demands that the United States withdraw hundreds of American intelligence operatives and special-ops trainers from its soil and stop the CIA drone strikes on al-Qaeda, Taliban and affiliated terrorists. Maybe the Obama administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the US will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation,” the daily said.

Keeping track: A still of an interactive map at NewAmerica.net shows drone attacks by location and year. For more details see the link to the interactive map below or go to www.newamerica.net. Source: Peter Bergen / Katherine Tiedemann / New America Foundation

With recent news of ISAF helicopters swooping over the border into Pakistan, and as US drones strikes continue unabated, 2010 is becoming known in north-west Pakistan as ‘The Year of the Drone.’

The New America Foundation has used the moniker for a section on their website detailing with “an analysis of US drone strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010.” In fact, more than an analysis, it is a very comprehensive database (not customisable, or easily mined, but still very useful) of every drone attack since 2004. It contains maps, charts and tables with estimates of deaths (civilian and militant) and locations of attacks. The sources for information on each attack are listed.

Everyone is well aware of the huge surge in drone attacks in 2009 and 2010 under the Obama administration, but the cold figures show the shocking rise in civilian deaths too.

For the period 2004-2007, according to the website, the high estimate for non-militant deaths from drone strikes is nine out of 109 people killed, around 8%. For 2009, the high-side estimate for non-militant deaths is 304 out of 709, a maddening 43%. The low estimate is 120 out of 413 killed in drone attacks, or 29%. So far in 2010 there have been reports of as many as 59 non-militants killed (59 out of 654, or 9%; while the low estimate shows 26 non-militants killed out of 387 drone-strike deaths, 7%) as of September 27, 2010).

These numbers show an increase in ‘accuracy’ for US drone strikes for 2010, but of course, this is cold comfort for those who have lost family members. Hundreds of Pakistanis not engaged in any fighting have been killed in targeted strikes. And while these raw numbers are revealing, they only scratch the surface. The real numbers that matter are:

  • How many children will grow up without fathers and mothers because of these attacks?
  • How many families have lost their bread-winner in these attacks?
  • How many people will fall further into poverty because of these attacks?
  • How many militants are born from the death of one innocent civilian?

You can see all the statistics gathered in Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann’s drones database at the New America Foundation here.

View an interactive map of US drone strikes in Pakistan in a large format.


What if Drone Strikes are War Crimes?



DRONE WARS, PERHAPS FUTILE AND CRIMINAL. Drone strikes never became a US campaign issue.

      By William Boardman  When it comes to pilotless drones armed with air-to-ground missiles, the United States acknowledges that its counterterrorism strategy includes using terrorist techniques as part of the “war” on terror.   Some of these attacks on civilians are widely understood to be war crimes, but the Obama administration refuses to reveal White House lawyers’ memosdefending the legality of executive execution.

Currently and controversially, the United States is the only country in the world known to be actively waging drone warfare — the remote aerial killing of people who may or may not be identified, who may or may not be hostile, and who have no way to appeal for a stay of the execution they don’t even know is coming their way.  

Some call the drone war a “moral black box” that reflects badly on American ethics. 

Protests against this form of summary execution are happening with increasing frequency not only in Pakistan, where the U.S. has killed hundreds of non-combatants, but in Britain, Australia, IllinoisNew York, and now Vermont.



Already concerned by the increasingmilitarization of their state and country, Vermont activists are calling for their congressional representatives to oppose further drone use on defenseless countries.   None of the delegation, not Sen. Patrick Leahy, not Sen. Bernie Sanders, not Rep. Peter Welch, has raised much of a fuss about drone killings, not even when the President chose to kill anAmerican citizen

Vermonters with Veterans for Peace, the Peace and Justice Center, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom also oppose basing a drone control center in Vermont, a possibility floated by National Guard Major General Michael Dubie as early as 2011. 

To heighten consciousness of drone attacks on law and the Constitution, activists have arranged to hear directly from Leah Bolger, one of 30 Americans in the Code Pink delegation who went to Pakistan for the mass protest against drones led by political leader Imran Khan in early October.  Ms Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, came directly from Pakistan to hold a press conference at the National Guard base gate and to speak to a college audience at St. Michael’s College. 


While other countries, certainly Israel and perhaps Iran, may be dabbling in drone warfare, only the U.S. is engaged in remote control killing of citizens in at least five theoretically sovereign nations, including Pakistan, AfghanistanYemen, Ethiopia, and Somalia, as well as suspected strikes in Libya, Iraq, Mali, Colombia, Mexico, and others.   Israeli drones havereportedly killed 825 people in Gaza since mid-2006.   

The legal problems created by drone warfare are similar to the problems the U.S. created for itself by deciding to torture prisoners without legal restraint.  As explained by Richard Falk, international lawyer and retired Princeton professor, “The U.S. reliance on attack drones to engage in targeted killing, especially in third countries (Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan) has raised controversial international law issues of sovereign rights in interaction with lethal acts of war, especially those far removed from the zone of live combat.”

More bluntly, the U.S. is committing acts of war, killing the citizens of other countries in their own countries, without a shred of due process of law, whether international, American, or local, and the acts are not confronted even by international authorities such as the United Nations or the International Criminal Court (which the U.S. refuses to recognize). 


In June 2012, Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council calling attention to the dubious legality of drone warfare.  The South African Jurist said that: “Reference should be made to a study earlier this year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism” If civilian “rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.” 

The impact and effectiveness of drone strikes is intensely debated and the Obama administration does what it can to keep relevant information secret.  But Pakistan counts more than 1,000 innocent civilian killed, and other observers, both military and civilian, say the drone strikes create far more angry people bent on revenge than it kills terrorist plotters. 

The numbing effect of killing people by remote control is another cost of this kind of war, made vivid in the video of a former British drone operator who found it “too easy to kill” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

America’s drone warfare began in earnest in 2004 under President Bush, but President Obamahas increased the rate of drone attacks six-fold since he took office in 2009. 


Thomas Powers, who has written extensively about the CIA and other secret agencies, describes the problem this way:  “Drones are an unreliable and conspicuous way of killing individuals.  With drones we have no way to tell who we are killing. It’s abrogating a right to ourselves that no organization should have. It’s arbitrary and driven by politics. What seems inevitable today is going to cause you trouble tomorrow. Ask yourself if the United States would accept the right of another country to decide who among Americans they would kill. There are probably people in Arizona allied with drug cartels. Would we allow Mexican forces to use drones against them? Hell, no.”

In April, the first international Drone Summit held in Washington, D.C., raised issues of legality, constitutionality, efficacy, cost, justice, and security.  But Drone warfare had not been a significant issue in any presidential campaign.  Meanwhile the international drone market is booming.     



Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, “The Panther Program” —

In his second term, it was expected that the U.S. President Barack Obama would reassess America’s controversial foreign policy, especially by ceasing CIA-operated drone attacks on Pakistan. But these aerial strikes continue on Pak tribal areas.

It is worth mentioning that Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, who visited America in August, 2012, emphatically told the then-CIA Director David Petraeus that predator strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty that must be stopped. He pointed out that these strikes are proving counterproductive, giving a greater incentive to fundamentalist and extremist elements in Pakistan and are increasing anti-U.S. sentiments among the people.

While addressing the UN General Assembly on September 25, President Asif Ali Zardari said, “Drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle” against terrorism.

Besides, after her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on September 21 in Washington, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that they had discussions on drones, saying, “These are illegal and counterproductive.” She explained that when “a U.S. drone carries out a strike, Pakistani officials have to hear remarks that this is a U.S. war.” Khar elaborated that in 352 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, many of those killed were Pakistanis as opposed to foreigners.

While justifying these air strikes by spy planes, the counterterrorism advisor to Obama, John Brennan, and Defense Minister Leon Panetta have defended these attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas under the pretext of North Waziristan-based Haqqani militants whom they have blamed for several assaults on American and NATO bases in Afghanistan. On the other hand, U.S.-led coalition forces have failed in stopping incursions of heavily-armed insurgents in Pakistan from thye Afghan side who have killed more than 100 personnel of Pakistan’s security forces in the last two years while targeting the infrastructure of the area. In fact, the U.S. seeks to make North Waziristan a scapegoat for NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan by continuing the illegal mass murder of innocent people through Predator strikes.

However, setting aside parliamentary resolutions, rallies and processions of Pakistan’s political and religious parties against drone attacks, and ignoring the new rapprochement between Islamabad and Washington, without bothering about any internal backlash, these strikes keep on going on in the FATA.

In fact, such American duplicity contains a number of covert designs. The fresh wave of strikes by pilotless aircraft has thwarted the offer of militants and the Pakistani government for peace talks. And the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has as a result accelerated subversive activities in the country. Now, the U.S. seeks to incite the Haqqani network as over the past 14 months, as most of these strikes have targeted North Waziristan. So, these aerial attacks are provoking the tribal people against Pakistan’s security forces and increasing the recruitment of insurgents. Another aim of these strikes is to create a rift between Pakistan’s armed forces on one side and the political and religious parties including the general masses on the other. Besides, Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. Hence, the U.S., India and Israel are determined to weaken it. The drone campaign is also part of this game.

The strikes by the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which have continued in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004 have intensified during the Obama era. In one of the major drone attacks more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed on March 18, 2011 in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. In the past few months, these unmanned aircraft killed more than 100 people in North Waziristan.

As regards civilian casualties, on August 11, 2011 a report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said, “The Guardian published some of the pictures, we have obtained…as many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years.” While rejecting the CIA’s false claim, the report disclosed, “It is a bleak view: more people killed than previously thought.”

Besides, a report of the New America Foundation revealed that President Obama has “authorised 193 drone strikes in Pakistan, more than four times the number of attacks that President Bush authorised during his two terms.” The report explained, “When the U.S. drones attack Pakistan’s tribal areas, it is not just the 10, or 50, innocent civilians they kill, these killings provide reason to youth for joining terrorist groups waging war against the U.S. and of course Pakistan…while killing 10 militants, the U.S. has murdered more than 1,400 Pakistanis not involved in any terrorist activities. Could it not be inferred that it gave birth to another 1,400 militants?”

The latest report, “Living Under Drones,” prepared by experts from the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law, disclosed that the U.S. campaign of drone “strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt is terrorising civilians 24 hours a day and breeding bitter anti-American sentiment. [They] have killed thousands of people…even stopping their children going to school for fear of being targeted.” Based on research, the report urged Washington to rethink its drone strategy, arguing it was counterproductive and undermined international law.

Nevertheless, details collected by Pakistani journalists show that civilian casualties through drone strikes are higher as indicated [even] by U.S. officials. In the last four years, more than 800 innocent civilians and only 22 Al-Qaeda commanders have been killed by these aerial attacks.

Particularly during his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to reverse the excesses of the Bush era in relation to terrorism. He also promised to reformulate a counterterrorism policy in accordance with the legal and moral values of the U.S. Contrary to his assertions, Obama followed Bush’s approach to counterterrorism in its worst form by expanding and accelerating the Predator strikes.

In this respect, The New York Time on May 26, 2011, in an article which was written with the assistance of several counterterrorism advisers of the administration, revealed, “President Obama has become personally involved in the process” and “has normalised extrajudicial killings from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorising murder on a weekly basis.”

Notably, the American constitution explicitly grants the right to declare war to the Congress so as to restrain the president from chasing enemies around the world, based solely on his authority as commander-in-chief, by waging a secret war.

Instead of capturing militants alive and to avoid giving the right of due process of law to them in a court, President Obama has openly been acting upon a ruthless policy of targeted killings by supervising the CIA-controlled drone warfare.

Notably, President Obama has broken all the records for human rights violations by extrajudicial killings of innocent people through CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, which are part of his so-called counterterrorism operations in Somalia, Yemen, etc. in general and Pakistan in particular, while the U.S. claims to be the protector of human rights not only inside the country but all over the world.

On the one hand, top U.S. officials, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan’s help not only for the peace process with the militants, but also for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario; but on the other, U.S. spy planes in Pakistan’s tribal regions are undermining international efforts for stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a peace dialogue with the Afghan militants.

Meanwhile, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said on August 16 of this year that it was time for “the U.S. to open itself up to scrutiny as to the legality of such attacks…each strike is visually recorded and videos could be passed to independent assessors.” Recently, former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have also opposed Obama’s faulty strategy of drone strikes.

Nonetheless, these strikes are illegal, unethical and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as the UN Charter. But U.S. warrior President Obama remains intransigent in continuing his secret war through drone attacks.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: [email protected]


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