DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: Failing To Learn ~ US Resumes Drone Attacks In Pakistan

(courtesy of DTNnews via flickr.com)

The International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law released a report in December entitled: Living Under Drones.  The UK charity Reprieve apparently requested the study in order to better serve the Pakistani people; researchers spent nine months doing interviews with locals on the ground, and examining reams of documents.  These are the lead sentence headings of their basic findings; recommendations are included, plus much, much more.

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.

Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.

Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.

Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents.

In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits.

From the ‘daily life under-accounted-for harm’ section is this unsurprising but horrific paragraph:

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.

There are days that mothers keep their children keep their beloved children home from school when the drones sound closer….or there is fear of some retribution that gets passed from person to person, village to village.  Children are said to wet their beds in fear at night; small wonder.  I’d guess they might during the day as well.

The report’s Voices from Below: Accounts of Three Drone Strikes gives eyewitness reports of three strikes as well as evidence conflicting ‘official’ reports.  The sections on the practice of ‘double taps’ making rescue fraught is stunningly hideous, and are the interviews in the ‘Mental Health’ section.  One paragraph:

Ahmed Jan summarized the impact: “Before the drone attacks, it was as if everyone was young. After the drone attacks, it is as if everyone is ill. Every person is afraid of the drones.” One mother who spoke with us stated that, although she had herself never seen a strike, when she heard a drone fly overhead, she became terrified. “Because of the terror, we shut our eyes, hide under our scarves, put our hands over our ears.”  When asked why, she said, “Why would we not be scared?”[snip]

In addition to feeling fear, those who live under drones–and particularly interviewees who survived or witnessed strikes–described common symptoms of anticipatory anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Interviewees described emotional breakdowns, running indoors or hiding when drones appear above, fainting, nightmares and other intrusive thoughts, hyper startled reactions to loud noises, outbursts of anger or irritability, and loss of appetite and other physical symptoms. Interviewees also reported suffering from insomnia and other sleep disturbances, which medical health professionals in Pakistan stated were prevalent. A father of three said, “drones are always on my mind. It makes it difficult to sleep. They are like a mosquito. Even when you don’t see them, you can hear them, you know they are there.” According to a strike survivor, “When the drone is moving, people cannot sleep properly or can’t rest properly. They are always scared of the drones.”

In related news, the Washington Post reported on January 19 that the official counterterrorism ‘playbook’ that is under development by the Obomba administration is nearing completion.  It will establish ‘clear rules’ for targeted killings, and iis a year-long effort to ‘codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama’s second term’.

‘The adoption of a formal guide to targeted killing marks a significant — and to some uncomfortable — milestone: the institutionalization of a practice that would have seemed anathema to many before the Sept. 11 , 2001, terrorist attacks.

Jim Lobe at IPS News quotes former to CIA analyst for the Middle East and SE Asia Paul Pillar, who questions the value of the ‘playbook’ on his blog, which I read rather as ‘the pragmatism of the ‘playbook’:

“Having a playbook on assassinations sounds like it is apt to be a useful guide for making the quick decision whether to pull the trigger on a Hellfire missile when a suspected terrorist is in the sights of a drone. But it probably will not, as far as we know, be of any help in weighing larger important issues such as whether such a killing is likely to generate more future anti-U.S. terrorism because of the anger over collateral casualties than it will prevent taking a bad guy out of commission.”

“By routinizing and institutionalizing a case-by-case set of criteria, there is even the hazard that officials will devote less deliberation than they otherwise would have to such larger considerations because they have the comfort and reassurance of following a manual,” he wrote.

Ya think?  Jeremy Scahill in Yemen gets it in spades: he sees it on the ground! The Washington Post is starting to get it.  Even the New York Times gets it; the authors mentioned it in their May 29 puff-piece that ‘normalized’ Terror Tuesday.  Noting that he couldn’t be bothered with making a legislative deal to close Guantanamo, but is dogged in turning his lawyerly skills toward assassinating ‘al Qaeda’, comes this:

Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.

But the strikes that have eviscerated Al Qaeda — just since April, there have been 14 in Yemen, and 6 in Pakistan — have also tested both men’s commitment to the principles they have repeatedly said are necessary to defeat the enemy in the long term. Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants; in his 2010 guilty plea, Faisal Shahzad, who had tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.”

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.”

There do seem to be some tensions that have developed over Obomba’s drone policy, but more concerning who adds names to the Kill Lists, ‘legal principles that govern assassinating US citzens overseas, transparency, efficacy, which agencies should run the program, i.e. the CIA’s virtual autonomy on the Predator strikes in Yemen and Somalia, etc., rather than questions of Constitutionality, international law, and so forth.  The CIA drone program operates totally in the dark, and is allowed to by Congressional statute.

Incoming Director of the CIA John Brennan is allegedly a proponent of transparency and ‘rigorous review’ of the strikes (God save us all), and yet has overseen a significant expansion of them.  As the ‘playbook’ seems to be his baby, so to speak, Obomba obviously wants him running the CIA Show and Dark Army of JSOC and in all likelihood, private contractors.

Zo.  What is a poor President to do about this…’tension’ among the State Dept., the Pentagon, and the CIA?

Well, again according to the Washington Post, (ha!) the CIA will get a free pass on the rules and protocols the ‘playbook’ will allegedly require (and boy, I hope we get to see that puppy one day soon) for a year or two, they’ll decide later…  Citing the dangers of the purported pullout from Afghanistan, it’s been deemed wise to ‘put the pedal to the metal’ and blow the hell out of Taliban (good and bad), those engaging in suspicious ‘signature-strike’ movements.  Those strikes were deemed supremely successful by Brennan; 2011 was replete with them.  There has been a new ‘flurry of them in Pakistan, and intent to do far more in the near future.  ‘The enemy is no longer just al Qaeda, either.  And as far as transparency, it’s hard to imagine.  As usual, the recent dozens of assassinations in Afghanistan as per PressTV notes the different versions of the ‘are they militants’ or ‘were they civilians?’ differential.

Karzai’s curliqued statements on drone attacks make sense given that some are for Afghan consumption, others just to save his own skin. Mentioning Imran Khan’s objections seemed worthy, as the former soccer star is the most popular politician in Pakistan, and might even become the next Prime Minister.  I couldn’t remember where I’d read that, so my keyboard went a-googling, only to discover that he’s being harassed and detained, and was again as recently as October 28.  According to Glenn Greenwald:

“On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was “interrogated on [his] views on drones” and then added: “My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop.” He then defiantly noted: “Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance.” [snip]

There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan – the potential next Prime Minister – to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur.

But the most important point here is that Khan’s detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, “this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics.”

How is that you spell fuck the Obama administration again?  Cuius regio, eius religio, or: Whose realm, his religion. Staggering.

Over six in ten Americans support drone strikes in a recent Pew Poll; I’ve read numbers as high as 68%.  Not a rare breed, it seems, the assholus extraordinarus.

* James Bridle has created a new drone expose website called Dronestagram.

** You can read some human rights groups’ objections to ‘the playbook’ here.

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It was recently brought to my attention that the President spoke to the nation after the students and teachers were murdered at Sandyhook Elementary.  It seem that he read the first names of the twenty children aloud one…by one…and then announced that “God has called them all home.” He then finished by saying, “May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.”

In his op-ed “God” Who? at Counterpunch, the Reverend William Alberts crossly asks:

What about the children in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, who are victims of U. S. drone strikes? These nameless Other are not “called home by God,” but blasted into eternity by the Obama administration’s immoral, sovereignty-violating drone policy. In outraged Pakistan alone, a reported 2,562-3,325 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes from 2004 to late 2012, “of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children . . . [with the] injured an additional 1.228-1,362 individuals, according to the Stanford/NYU study.” [snip]

Little Shepard Boy

(courtesy of lauras_eye via flickr.com)

The nameless Other and their children are actually victims of an American “God.” A “God who will show up at the end of President Obama’s speeches in his words, “God bless the United States of America”– tried and true codes words for American exceptionalism. And “God” will bless America; for America’s unchallenged military power now even fills the skies, allowing it to live in a parallel universe, determining right and wrong, with a “kill list” of who lives and who dies. Subtly, in this ethnocentric mindset, with much verbal and silent Christocentric blessing and acquiescence, there is little distinction between “God” and America. They become one and the same in the for-power- and-profit global “war on terror.”

Yes; again: Cuius regio, eius religio, or: Whose realm, his religion.

Unchallenged ethnocentric mindset: American Exceptionalism authored by ‘God’; thank you Reverend Alberts.  And thank you as well for pushing me to find a list of the children who have been murdered by drones in Pakistan and Yemen.  I haven’t been able to locate one for the many who’ve been killed in Afghanistan, so please allow this favorite photo of mine stand for all the children who’ve been murdered by Hellfire Missile in Afghanistan.  (He hasn’t been, as far as I know.)

 

PAKISTAN

Name | Age | Gender
Noor Aziz | 8 | male
Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
Noor Syed | 8 | male
Wajid Noor | 9 | male
Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
Ayeesha | 3 | female
Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
Shoaib | 8 | male
Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
Maezol Khan | 8 | female
Nasir Khan | male
Naeem Khan | male
Naeemullah | male
Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
Ziauddin | 16 | male
Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
Ilyas | 13 | male
Sohail | 7 | male
Asadullah | 9 | male
khalilullah | 9 | male
Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
Khalid | 12 | male
Saifullah | 9 | male
Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
Nawab | 17 | male
Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
Abdullah | 18 | male
Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
Shahbuddin | 15 | male
Yahya Khan | 16 |male
Rahatullah |17 | male
Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
Shahjehan | 15 | male
Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
Numair | 14 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Taseel Khan | 18 | male
Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
Alam Nabi | 11 | male
Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
Rahmatullah | 14 | male
Abdus Samad | 17 | male
Siraj | 16 | male
Saeedullah | 17 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Salman | 12 | male
Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
Iftikhar | 17 | male
Inayatullah | 15 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Adnan | 16 | male
Najibullah | 13 | male
Naeemullah | 17 | male
Hizbullah | 10 | male
Kitab Gul | 12 | male
Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
Zabihullah | 16 | male
Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
Shabir | 15 | male
Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
Shafiullah | 16 | male
Nimatullah | 14 | male
Shakirullah | 16 | male
Talha | 8 | male

YEMEN
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male
Nasser Salim | 19

I wonder if you might think of them, acknowledge that they once lived, had names, and families who loved them while you listen to Yusuf Islam’s children’s choir.