by Medea Benjamin
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?
By Medea Benjamin
Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC on April 30 to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was the first time a high level member of the Obama Administration spoke at length about the U.S. drone strikes that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command have been carrying out in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
“President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts,” Brennan explained.
I had just co-organized a Drone Summit over the weekend, where Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar told us heart-wrenching stories about the hundreds of innocent victims of our drone attacks. We saw horrific photos of people whose bodies were blown apart by Hellfire missiles, with only a hand or a slab of flesh remaining. We saw poor children on the receiving end of our attacks—maimed for life, with no legs, no eyes, no future. And for all these innocents, there was no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.
ONN’s First Responders panel debates drones.
The First Responders debate the U.S. military’s use of drone planes to rain fiery death upon Afghanistan from above. (Aired 10/11/11)
by Medea Benjamin
When is the last time you heard from a civilian victim of the CIA’s secret drone strikes? Sure, most of them can’t speak because they’re deceased. But many leave behind bereaved and angry family members ready to proclaim their innocence and denounce the absence of due process, the lack of accountability, the utter impunity with which the U.S. government decides who will live and die.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were initially used for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are now routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians and even American citizens, have been killed in such covert missions.
The U.S. government will not even acknowledge the existence of the covert drone program, much less account for those who are killed and maimed. And you don’t hear their stories on FOX News, or even MSNBC. The U.S. media has little interest in airing the stories of dirt poor people in faraway lands who contradict the convenient narrative that drone strikes only kill “militants.”
From the great, Pulitzer-Prize winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore.
Learn all about the US drone program in Pakistan and other lucky countries across the globe! See how fortunate one young villager is to have the US looking out for him and fighting extremism. Never mind the attacks on funerals and rescuers. A Mark Fiore political animation.
In a series of articles for Al Jazeera I had questioned the improbably low casualty figures being cited by the US and Pakistani authorities and endorsed in the bogus statistics produced by the New America Foundation. Gen. Petraeus’s former counterinsurgency advisors David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum had already suggested that up to 98 percent of those killed in the drone strikes may be civilians. Recently, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had conclusively debunked the CIA’s claims about success of its policy. Today none other than the former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair has called for an end to the drone strikes because he believes the tactic is dangerous and a complete failure which only kills some mid-level militants [in other words it kills a whole lot of civilians since over 2,500 Pakistanis have been killed so far].
Naseema Noor of IPS reports on the recent Bureau of Investigative Journalism study:
Led by British investigative journalist Chris Woods and Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, the study found that at least 45 civilians, including six children, have been killed in 10 drone strikes since August 2010 alone, while another 15 attacks between then and June 2011 likely killed many more.
According to the study, civilians die in one out of every five Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-operated drone attacks in the tribal region, located on the border with Afghanistan, a statistic that the Bureau says can no longer be denied by the U.S. government.
Continue reading “Romancing the Drone: The Unravelling”