U.S. drone strikes continue to pound Pakistan & Yemen
White House sanctioned drone strikes in the Middle East continued this week with two separate attacks in Yemen and Pakistan. While world leaders meet this week at the United Nations to discuss the betterment of international foreign relations, President Obama deftly authorized the killing of suspected terrorists from his notorious “kill list.”
The covert assassination program has slowly garnered attention from a few dedicated journalists (this writer included), leading anti-war politicians as well as the ACLU. Leading the way is the British news agency’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has compiled all the known U.S. drone strike statistics, including terrorist and civilian causalities.
According to the Institute of Journalism, the latest drone strike killed 5-8 people and injured at least two others. “The evening strikes on a house south of Mir Ali in Pakistan’s tribal areas. A single CIA drone reportedly fired two missiles at a mud compound, said to be ‘known as a bastion of the Taliban and al Qaeda. The strike killed Abu Kasha al-Iraqi, a high-ranking al Qaeda planner and facilitator.” The report also stated another al Qaeda operative may have been killed, but the missiles burned the structure and bodies leaving the positive identification impossible. Tribal leaders in the area said they saw four drones flying shortly before the attack and indicated the other victims were most likely foreigners.
The second U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed two suspected al Qaeda militants according to China’s Xinhua International news.
While the local Yemeni news website implicated the U.S. and said, “The strike was carried out by a U.S. drone.” If the reports were true, this would be the first strike after the U.S. consulate was attacked in Libya on 9/11 and set in motion a series of violent protests throughout the region.
Few U.S. politicos challenge the assassination program
Recently, staunch war-critic, Ralph Nader, a Democratic gadfly, told Politico.com how he really felt about the Obama Administration’s covert ‘war on terror.’ “He’s (Obama) gone beyond George W. Bush in (conducting) drone attacks. For example, he thinks the world is his plate, that national sovereignties mean nothing, and drones can go anywhere. They can kill anybody that he suspects and every Tuesday he makes the call on who lives and who dies.” Nader also pointed out that the President is launching drone strikes in places like Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and that these overt attacks should be considered “war crimes” and he (Obama) ought to be held to account.”
“I don’t know whether George W. Bush ever read the Constitution,” Nader pontificated, but “This man taught the Constitution and this is what we got.” The feisty leftwing politician didn’t pull any punches when he expressed his disapproval for the new remote control war. Nader said in his opinion that Obama is “the more effective evil because he brings credibility, he brings the democratic heritage to it, he has legitimized the lawless war-mongering and militarism abroad of George W. Bush.”
Perhaps more importantly, Americans of all stripes should be asking how a name lands on the kill list and what justifies adding U.S. citizens to a terrorist assassination list? What is the QUALIFYING criteria and is due process and equal protection being followed at the highest levels of the US government?
It is no secret that President Obama has placed American’s on the kill list and has no moral quandary with killing suspected terrorists’ who happen to be American or under-aged relatives (previous article here).
ACLU to the rescue – hopefully?
The recent spat of CIA drone strikes haven’t escaped the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 2010, the civil liberties group represented family members of Anwar al-Awlaki, and his minor son, both U.S. citizens targeted and killed in Yemen.
Leading world news organizations, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have estimated the U.S. drone program has killed more than 4,000 people including a large number of civilian women and children since President Obama’s election.
Not helping matters any is the White House bragging about “Terror Tuesdays” and the delight President Obama takes when he orders the death of an alleged al Qaeda operative, even if it’s an American citizen. The Constitutional scholar, Nobel Peace Laureate, and purveyor of “fairness” have become the sole judge, jury, and executioner. No Miranda rights, no judge and no jury –the presumption of innocence have effectively been tossed in the wastebasket of yesteryear under the guise of national security.
“Something that is being debated in UN hallways and committee rooms cannot apparently be talked about in U.S. courtrooms, according to the government,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project. “Whether the CIA is involved in targeted lethal operation is now classified. It’s an absurd fiction.”
This policy doesn’t bode well with Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Zamir Akram, who called for international legal intervention to cease the “totally counterproductive attacks” by the U.S.
A new Pew Research Center poll confirms how counterproductive the drone strikes really are, 74 percent of Pakistanis think America is the enemy, a sentiment that has increased the last few years from 69 and 64 percent respectively. This shocking poll reverberates throughout the Middle East region as American’s watching the wall-to-wall anti-American protests the last few weeks.
Christof Heyns, a UN expert in targeted killings and arbitrary executions, said U.S. drone strikes are dangerously close to “war crimes,” something of which former President George W. Bush was accused and something that now hinders his foreign travel.
Heyns addressed the UN conference and explained the pros and cons of unmanned vehicles: “(Countries) may find targeted killings immensely attractive. Others may do so in (the) future … Current targeting practices weaken the rule of law. Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict [such as Afghanistan] but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognized as being an armed conflict.”
He further derided the use of unmanned vehicle attacks outside the war theater as unacceptable. “It’s difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to (9/11 attacks) in 2001. Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.” To date there are no specific international protocols governing the use of drones, armed or otherwise, in missions crossing international boundary.
Last week, three judges in the DC Court of Appeals heard a case brought by the ACLU seeking transparency from the CIA’s deadly drone program. However reporters in the courtroom said, the judges didn’t seem swayed by the ACLU’s argument that under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) citizens were entitled to details regarding the CIA’s highly classified assassination program. While a decision has yet to be issued, according to a New American story, the ACLU’s request will be denied under “national security” purview.
The ACLU brief asked “In response to a question about drone strikes at a public forum in 2009, then-Director Panetta called such strikes ‘the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaeda leadership.’ (The statement is even published on the CIA’s own website.) More recently, Panetta revealed to 60 Minutes that, as CIA director, he made recommendations to the president regarding the lethal targeting of U.S. citizens. President Obama has also repeatedly discussed the drone program, including by taking credit for the drone strike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year.”
Pro Publica adds: “The ACLU collected nearly two hundred on- and off-the-record statements made to the media by current and former U.S. officials about the CIA’s use of drones for targeted killing. The statements cover most of Obama’s first term in office. Taken together, they show the extent to which the government keeps disclosures about the CIA’s drone war mostly on its own terms.”
Iran reverse engineers U.S. drone technology
At this week’s United Nations meeting, Iran’s notorious President Mohmoud Ahmadinejad lectured the West about their evil ways, reiterated his wish to annihilate Israel and spoke of a new world order.
Ahmadinejad has previously criticized the U.S. and UN unilateral approach to Iranian submission to IAEA inspections but no such demand or sanctions have been levied against Israel for compliance with the same criteria. According to the Jerusalem Post, “The Israelis did not join the NPT and they do not recognize the IAEA. They are doing what they want; producing atomic bombs, and no one questions it. But countries that observe its regulations face a lot of pressure.”
Ahmadinejad attributed the “current world order, founded on materialism, that aims to monopolize power, wealth, science and technology for a limited group. There is no doubt that the world is in need of a new order and fresh thinking.”
Meanwhile the militant Iranians are ebbing closer to a nuclear weapon and just unveiled its first long-range drone, Shahed 129. The reconnaissance drone seen on state television is reported to travel 1,240 miles and is capable of carrying bombs or missiles.
The technological advance from Iran came at the expense of an American drone that miraculously fell from the sky over the Islamic country in December of last year. The RQ-170 Sentinel, the CIA’s most revered drone has the ability to evade radar detection and can collect imagery and electronic data from high in the sky.
The downed drone is even more perilous for the U.S., as Iran most likely shared the high-tech drone with the Russian and Chinese who will simply reverse engineer the unmanned vehicle to gain an edge in the race to sole superpower.
Since the “war on terror” has yet to be thoroughly defined, the Senate has yet to exercise its Constitutional duty to approve expanded wars against unnamed countries, then isn’t it reasonable to question, “kill lists?” As America was founded under the “rule of law” and as such citizens are guaranteed their 4th (unlawful arrest), 5th (due process), 6th (right to counsel) and 8th (cruel and unusual punishment) Amendment rights these questions deserve explanations.
Surely Aristotle wasn’t wrong when he famously said, “The Law is reason free from passion.” Taking the emotion from this secretive CIA drone program should be cause for concern. Just as America lacks a real “war on terror” strategy, employing a “kill list” that falls under the exclusive discretion of the president screams for regulation and oversight. Questions like; what’s the criteria for being on the list; what’s this program do to our world standing; why is the CIA held unaccountable for Abu Graib atrocities that sent US soldiers to Ft. Leavenworth; and, what are the parameters of defining imminent danger? Aristotle had an answer… “All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”
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