Friday, October 17, 2014

And the Lies Drone On

While President Obama ponders appointing appointed a Wall Street-connected political fixer Ebola Czar and considers imposing travel restrictions in a theatrical attempt to Keep Ebola Out, there will of course be no such travel restrictions on his bombs and drones. They will continue to fly with impunity, creating endless and widespread death, destruction and panic in places that the Ebolaphobes can't even identify on a map.

And since the majority of Americans don't care about drone casualties, the Obama administration can both fly with impunity and lie with impunity. So what if a plague of Predator missiles is causing the same kind of panic in middle Eastern countries that a virus is causing in west African countries? The only panic that counts is Homeland panic. Because, despite existing within a de facto oligarchy, Homelandians are still allowed to go to the polls every two or four years to cast votes for the least-evil apparatchiks, who vie within a closed system to keep the voters fearing and the missions creeping and the profits flowing to those wealthy few at the pinnacle of the real power.

So thank goodness for the indispensable UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has exposed another Big Lie and state-sponsored crime worthy of global condemnation at least and Hague prosecutions at most. Unfortunately, this journalistic blockbuster will be greeted with a huge "Meh" from people too busy working at crap jobs or fretting over the mid-terms and the Ebola cruise ship of death to care. But here it is anyway.... cross-posted in its entirety: 

Only 4% of drone victims in Pakistan identified as al Qaeda members

By Jack Serle

As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as members of al Qaeda. This calls in to question US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, the details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004. On October 11 an attack brought the total number of drone strikes in Pakistan up to 400.

The names of the dead have been collected over a year of research in and outside Pakistan, using a multitude of sources. These include both Pakistani government records leaked to the Bureau, and hundreds of open source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu.

Naming the Dead has also drawn on field investigations conducted by the Bureau’s researchers in Pakistan and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict.

Only 704 of the 2,379 dead have been identified, and only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group. Few corroborating details were available for those who were just described as militants. More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group. Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.

These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding US drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International.

Pakistan drone strike deaths in numbers
Total killed 2,379
Total identified as militants 295
Total identified as al Qaeda 84
Total named 704
When asked for a comment on the Bureau’s investigation, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that strikes were only carried out when there was “near-certainty” that no civilians would be killed.

“The death of innocent civilians is something that the U.S. Government seeks to avoid if at all possible. In those rare instances in which it appears non-combatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise such risk to non-combatants in the future,” said Hayden.

“Associated forces”

The Obama administration’s stated legal justification for such strikes is based partly on the right to self-defence in response to an imminent threat. This has proved controversial as leaked documents show the US believes determining if a terrorist is an imminent threat “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

The legal basis for the strikes also stems from the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (Aumf) – a law signed by Congress three days after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. It gives the president the right to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind the attacks on the US, wherever they are.The text of Aumf does not name any particular group. But the president, in a major foreign policy speech in May 2013, said this includes “al Qaeda, the Taliban and its associated forces”.

Nek Mohammed speaks at a Jirga three weeks before he died in a CIA drone strike (Reuters/Kamran Wazir)
Nek Mohammed speaks at a Jirga three weeks before he died in a CIA drone strike (Reuters/Kamran Wazir)
It is not clear who is deemed to be “associated” with the Taliban. Hayden told the Bureau that “an associated force is an organised armed group that has entered the fight alongside al Qaeda and is a co-belligerent with al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

The CIA itself does not seem to know the affiliation of everyone they kill. Secret CIA documents recording the identity, rank and affiliation of people targeted and killed in strikes between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011 were leaked to the McClatchy news agency in April 2013. They identified hundreds of those killed as simply Afghan or Pakistani fighters, or as “unknown”.

Determining the affiliation even of those deemed to be “Taliban” is problematic. The movement has two branches: one, the Afghan Taliban, is fighting US and allied forces, and trying to re-establish the ousted Taliban government of Mullah Omar in Kabul. The other, the Pakistani Taliban or the TTP, is mainly focused on toppling the Pakistani state, putting an end to democracy and establishing a theocracy based on extreme ideology. Although the US did not designate the TTP as a foreign terrorist organisation until September 2010, the group and its precursors are known to have worked with the Afghan Taliban.

According to media reports, the choice of targets has not always reflected the priorities of the US alone. In April last year the McClatchy news agency reported the US used its drones to kill militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas in exchange for Pakistani help in targeting al Qaeda members.

Three days before the McClatchy report, the New York Times revealed the first known US drone strike in Pakistan, on June 17 2004, was part of a secret deal with Pakistan to gain access to its airspace. The CIA agreed to kill the target, Nek Mohammed, in exchange for permission for its drones to go after the US’s enemies.

The “butcher of Swat”

Senior militants have been killed in the CIA’s 10-year drone campaign in Pakistan. But as the Bureau’s work indicates, it is far from clear that they constitute the only or even the majority of people killed in these strikes.
“Judging by the sheer volume of strikes and the reliable estimates of total casualties, it is very unlikely that the majority of victims are senior commanders,” says Amnesty’s Qadri.

The Bureau has only found 111 of those killed in Pakistan since 2004 described as a senior commander of any armed group – just 5% of the total. Research by the New America Foundation estimated the proportion of senior commanders to be even lower, at just 2%.

Waliur Rehman talks to the Associated Press less than two years before his death (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)
Waliur Rehman talks to the Associated Press less than two years before his death (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)
Among them are men linked to serious crimes. Men such as Ibne Amin, known as the “butcher of Swat” for the barbaric treatment he and his men meted out on the residents of the Swat valley in 2008 and 2009.

Others include Abu Khabab al Masri, an al Qaeda chemical weapons expert. Drones also killed Hakimullah and Baitullah Mehsud, and Wali Ur Rehman – all senior leaders of the TTP.

There are 73 more people recorded in Naming the Dead who are described as mid-ranking members of armed groups. However someone’s rank is not necessarily a reliable guide to their importance in the organisation.

“I think it really depends on what they are,” Rez Jan, a senior Pakistan analyst at the American Enterprise Institute think tank told the Bureau. “You can be a mid-level guy who is involved in [improvised explosive device] production or training in bomb making or planting, or combat techniques and have a fairly lethal impact in that manner.”

Rashid Rauf, a British citizen killed in a November 2008 drone strike in Pakistan, is one al Qaeda member who appears to have had an impact despite not rising to the organisation’s highest echelons.
He acted as a point of contact between the perpetrators of the July 7 2005 attacks on the London Underground and their al Qaeda controllers. He also filled a similar role linking al Qaeda central with the men planning to bring down several airliners flying from London to the US in the 2006 “liquid bomb plot”.

The Bureau has only been able to establish information about the alleged roles of just 21 of those killed. Even this mostly consists of basic descriptions such as “logistician” or “the equivalent of a colonel.

Follow Jack Serle on Twitter. Sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project, subscribe to our podcast, Drone News from the Bureau, and follow Drone Reads on Twitter to see what the team is reading.


Denis Neville said...

UN counter-terrorism expert met victims of drone strikes in Waziristan and received a clear statement from the Government of Pakistan that it considers US drone strikes to be counter-productive, contrary to international law, and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity:

"The position of the Government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. . .Pakistan has called on the US to cease its campaign immediately. . . It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States." - Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights

John Oliver put American drone strikes into perspective:

“Drone strikes are one of those things that it's really convenient not to think about that much. Like the daily life of a circus elephant or that Beck is a Scientologist."

Consider, however, that we've made children fear the sky:

"I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey," a 13-year-old Pakistani boy, whose grandmother was killed by a drone strike, told Congress last year.

As Oliver says, “When children from other countries are telling us that we've made them fear the sky, it might be time to ask some hard questions."

But, hey!!! No need to worry about backlashes at home from dead or maimed troops...let drones do our killing!!!

Killing anyone acting like an enemy of the Empire by drone is an alternative to capturing them and eliminates the need to have evidence that the target actually did anything illegal.

One of Obama's first acts as president was to issue an executive order barring the CIA from detaining and torturing people. The CIA and the Pentagon were then authorized by Obama to summarily kill people in complete secrecy. A "lesser evil" to kidnapping and torture?

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” “Kill them all. Let Allah sort them out."

annenigma said...

Even the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai told President Peace Prize that his drone campaign was making matters worse, something his office conveniently forgot to mention in the WH press release about their meeting together.

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

Read more here:

voice-in-wilderness said...

I had a recent reminder as to how little people care about drone casualties. I regard this person as a lefty-liberal on almost all issues. He still loves Obama as the Lesser Evil. But he is utterly indifferent to drone casualties. Absolutely cares no more than if swatting flies. I'm not sure I'll every understand how he reconciles all that. But he may be the kind of supporter that Obama can hang onto, no matter what.

Denis Neville said...

Reflecting on the unintended consequences (aka collateral damage) of targeted killings via drone attacks, I recall Camus' timely and relevant “Reflections on the Guillotine,”

“Governments charged with too many crimes are preparing to drown their guilt in still greater massacres. We kill for a nation or for a deified social class. We kill for a future society, likewise deified …

“Punishment, penalizing rather than preventing, is a form of revenge: society's semiarithmetical answer to violation of its primordial law. This answer is as old as man himself, and usually goes by the name of retaliation. He who hurts me must be hurt; who blinds me in one eye must himself lose an eye; who takes a life must die. It is a feeling, and a particularly violent one, which is involved here, not a principle. Retaliation belongs to the order of nature, of instinct, not to the order of law. The law by definition cannot abide by the same rules as nature. If murder is part of man's nature, the law is not made to imitate or reproduce such nature. We have all known the impulse to retaliate, often to our shame, and we know its power: the power of the primeval forests. In this regard, we live—as Frenchmen who grow justifiably indignant at seeing the oil king of Saudi Arabia preach international democracy while entrusting his butcher with the task of cutting off a thief's hand—in a kind of middle ages ourselves, without even the consolations of faith. Yet if we still define our justice according to the calculations of a crude arithmetic, can we at least affirm that this arithmetic is correct, and that even such elementary justice, limited as it is to a form of legal revenge, is safeguarded by the death penalty? The answer must again be: No.” – Albert Camus, “Reflections on the Guillotine”

Albert Camus' Nobel Prize in Literature 1957 speech:

“Remaining aloof has always been possible in history. When people did not approve, they could always keep silent or talk of something else. Today even silence has dangerous implications…the silence of an unknown prisoner, abandoned to humiliations at the other end of the world, is enough to draw the writer out of his exile, at least whenever, in the midst of the privileges of freedom, he manages not to forget that silence, and to transmit it in order to make it resound by means of his art…

“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death. In a world threatened by disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors run the risk of establishing forever the kingdom of death, it knows that it should, in an insane race against the clock, restore among the nations a peace that is not servitude, reconcile anew labour and culture, and remake with all men the Ark of the Covenant. It is not certain that this generation will ever be able to accomplish this immense task, but already it is rising everywhere in the world to the double challenge of truth and liberty and, if necessary, knows how to die for it without hate. Wherever it is found, it deserves to be saluted and encouraged, particularly where it is sacrificing itself. In any event, certain of your complete approval, it is to this generation that I should like to pass on the honour that you have just given me.”

Pearl said...

Denis: Thank you for including part of the Speech of Albert Camus upon receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature in l957.
I have forwarded it to my youngest granddaughter who is asking all the right questions at the University of Toronto. Perhaps we can share its importance.
His words ring more true than ever 67 years later.

Pearl said...

She cured Ebola — using garbage bags and raincoats via @torontostar

An amazing story. This is what courage and compassion is all about. A lesson for the world.