Clive Stafford Smith on the Guantanamo hunger strikes

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Clive Stafford Smith on the outrageous case of Shaker Aamer who has been detained for 12 years without charge and tortured systematically. Guantanamo, he argues, is in many ways worse than death row or Soviet gulags.

Hawking Women’s Rights

November 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

Considering the amount of uninformed commentary that has been proliferating on Pakistan, readers might want to check out Tanqeed, an important new initiative started by a group of progressive Pakistani academics, writers and journalists. The trigger was a typically obtuse ‘debate’ on New York Times about the recent assassination attempt on a school-girl in Swat. In response Tanqeed (which means ‘criticism’) asked 6 Pakistani writers to present a less ideologically skewed take on the same event (and its broader context). You can find the result here. The following is my contribution:

Ten year old Nadia, whose family was incinerated in a drone strike.

For advocacy to be successful, it has to come from a place of empathy rather than superiority. Many of the most vocal advocates of women’s rights in Pakistan today are also known for their sanguine views on the “war on terror.” It is, therefore, doubtful that their new self-image as the deliverers of women from patriarchal tyranny will gain much purchase among the sufferers.

Women have doubtless borne the brunt of the dislocation and insecurity occasioned by the “war on terror.” But, to treat women’s rights in isolation from the general malaise merely serves to put the concern under a pall of suspicion. Women’s rights have been long used as a pretext for imperial aggression. Far from bringing relief, their invocation by the apologists for war merely helps obscurantist criminals, like the TTP, elevate misogyny into an anti-imperial expression.

The situation in Pakistan’s troubled northwest is no doubt ugly. From the indiscriminate violence of the Taliban, the gratuitous butchery of sectarian criminals, the bombing of girls’schools, the targeting of children, to the threats against the media, it is a predicament that is begging for a visionary political solution.

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Drones: the west’s new terror campaign

September 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

by Clive Stafford Smith

Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA’s drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA’s reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).

Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.

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Living Under Drones

September 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

An important new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Follow the conversation #UnderDrones

Don’t miss Glenn Greenwald’s commentary on the report.

America’s Dangerous Game

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

This documentary about US intervention in Yemen is a few months old but still just as relevant.

This film reveals the full scale of Washington’s covert war in Yemen and asks: Is the US creating more enemies than it can capture or kill?

The Drone Morality

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s part three of Alternate Focus’s The Drone Wars trilogy. (Also see Part 1 and Part 2)

Who bears responsibly for lethal action when weapons are fully automated? Can a machine have a code of ethics? While their accuracy might, in theory, minimize innocent deaths, drones also enable illegal political assassinations, and by keeping US troops out of harm’s way they also make war easier. A serious debate on these topics is long overdue.

The Drone Economy

July 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s part two of Alternate Focus’s The Drone Wars trilogy. (Also see Part 1 and Part 3)

The forerunners of drones that are currently targeting people on the ground were once themselves targets. They have since evolved into reconnaissance vehicles, and more recently as weapons platforms. Predator drones are manufactured in Poway, near San Diego, where over 4,000 people are employed at General Atomics at the taxpayers’ expense. We examine the implications of this kind of warfare, and the loop of finance that rewards contractors and the politicians they support.

Bees and Terrorists

June 28, 2012 § 3 Comments

David Anderson QC

David Anderson QC, a barrister who serves as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, claims that bee stings kill as many in the UK as terrorists. This is concerning. I didn’t know that bee stings were such a big problem in the UK. I want the government to invest more in anti-bee measures, fund more academic research into bee psychology, engage the good bees to separate them from the bad ones, and encourage communities across Britain to report any suspicious bee behavior.

In his report, Barrister Anderosn presented these alarming figures: “During the 21st century, terrorism has been an insignificant cause of mortality in the United Kingdom. The annualised average of five deaths caused by terrorism in England and Wales over this period compares with total accidental deaths in 2010 of 17,201, including 123 cyclists killed in traffic accidents, 102 personnel killed in Afghanistan, 29 people drowned in the bathtub and five killed by stings from hornets, wasps and bees.”

Who’s On Second

June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

From the brilliant Mark Fiore.

Thanks to Obama’s Kill List, terrorism is almost all wiped up with another Al Qaeda number two guy killed! With unrestrained drone attacks and assassinations, what could possibly go wrong?

Will Americans challenge Obama’s drone war?

May 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

by Medea Benjamin

Shakira, 4, was disfigured in one of Obama’s drone attacks.

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

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