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Risk-Free And Above The Law: U.S. Globalizes Drone Warfare
Risk-Free And Above The Law: U.S. Globalizes Drone Warfare

by Rick Rozoff

Last week the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major American newspapers reported that the U.S. launched its first unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) missile attack inside Somalia.

The strike was the first acknowledged Pentagon military attack inside the Horn of Africa nation since a helicopter raid staged by commandos in 2009 and the first use of an American drone to conduct a missile strike there. Drones had earlier been used in the country in their original capacity, for surveillance, including identifying targets for bomb and missile attacks, one being shot down in October of 2009. But as Britain's The Guardian reported on July 30, the strike in Somalia marked "the expansion of the pilotless war campaign to a sixth country," as the remote-controlled aircraft have already been employed to deadly effect in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and most recently Libya.

The lethal Somali mission was reportedly carried out by the U.S. Special Operations Command, in charge of executing special forces operations of the respective units of the four main branches of the American military: The Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy. On July 4 the U.S. armed forces publication Stars and Stripes reported that there are currently 7,000 American special forces in Afghanistan and another 3,000 in Iraq, with the bulk of the latter to be transferred to the first country in what was described as a "mini-surge" of special operations troops to compensate for the withdrawal of 10,000 other troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Last week BBC News reported on the proposed transfer of drone aircraft by the U.S. to its military client states Uganda and Burundi for the war in Somalia. Citing American defense officials, BBC disclosed that four drones will be supplied to the two nations who have 9,000 troops engaged in combat operations against anti-government insurgents in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

According to a New York Times feature of July 1: "[T]he United States has largely been relying on proxy forces in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, to support Somalia's fragile government. The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military supplies, including night-vision equipment and four small unarmed drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising terror threat in Somalia. During the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, clandestine operatives from the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command initiated missions into Somalia from an airstrip in Ethiopia."

On June 15 a major newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, The National, reported on the escalation of deadly U.S. drone attacks in Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. It cited an official with the Yemeni Ministry of Defense claiming that the U.S. had launched over 15 drone strikes in the country in the first two weeks of June. The newspaper also quoted the deputy governor of Abyan province, Abdullah Luqman, decrying the attacks and stating: "These are the lives of innocent people being killed. At least 130 people have been killed in the last two weeks by US drones."

The leader of an observation committee created to evacuate local residents added that "more than 40,000 people have left Abyan province because they feared drone strikes."

The same defense official mentioned above warned that the "United States is turning Yemen into another Pakistan." [1]

Recent reports in the American press reveal that the Pentagon will establish a new air base in the Persian Gulf from which to intensify drone strikes in Yemen. According to a Russian source, "The location is kept secret but some say this might be Bahrain as it already has a US base [the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet] and provides the safest route to Yemen for US drones through American ally Saudi Arabia." [2]

The drone missile assaults in Pakistan, which caused a record number of deaths over 1,000 last year, are carried out by the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose last director is the new secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, a transfer that presages a yet greater intensification of the deadly attacks inside the South Asian nation.

On June 5 the 40th drone strike of the year killed at least six people in South Waziristan in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bringing the death toll this year to at least 350.

Late last month the Pakistani government ordered the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi Air Base in the province of Balochistan which had been used for drone strikes inside the nation. Washington has in the interim shifted those operations to upgraded air bases in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 3 percent of Pakistanis support the drone attacks in the country's tribal belt.

At the end of June, 28 people were reported killed by drone strikes in the South Waziristan Agency, with a local resident quoted by Pajhwok Afghan News as stating "that 20 civilians were killed and several others injured in the second attack." [3]

Some 2,100 of the 2,500 people killed in the strikes since they began in 2004 have lost their lives since 2009, when Barack Obama became the president of the U.S. and Leon Panetta director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

On July 5 a British Reaper drone killed at least four Afghan civilians and wounded two more in a missile attack in Helmand province. The use of the Reaper, rightly referred to as the world's deadliest drone, marks the crossing of an ominous threshold. It is the first of what is described as a hunter-killer long-endurance, high-altitude remote-piloted aircraft that can be equipped with fifteen times the amount of weaponry and fly at three times the speed of the Predator used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. (The U.S. has used Reapers in Iraq since 2008 and in Afghanistan starting the following year. Toward the end of 2009 the Pentagon deployed Reapers to the East African island nation of Seychelles along with over 100 military personnel.)

On June 28 the U.S. lost the third of three drones in Afghanistan in as many days.

A recent Refugees International report stated that over 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their towns and villages during the last two years, over 91,000 so far this year: "Not only have NATO-led troops and Afghan forces failed to protect Afghans, but international airstrikes and night raids by U.S. Special Forces were destroying homes, crops and infrastructure, traumatising civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people." [4]

Last month an RT feature suitably titled "US expands drone war, extremists expect new recruits" stated:
"The US has stepped up its drone attacks against militants in the Middle East, but the growing number of civilian deaths in the strikes has sparked public anger, with concern the action is driving up the number of extremist recruits.

"In Pakistan, CIA drone strikes aim at terrorists but end up killing mostly civilians. Public outrage is growing. Hatred and anger foster more terror.

"Washington now sees Yemen as the most dangerous Al-Qaeda outpost, and is planning to step up drone attacks on the country, establishing a base in the Persian Gulf specifically for that purpose."
The source added:
"Americans are likely to have a freer hand going it alone, with the CIA to take a central role.

"As the agency is not subject to the accountability the US military is legally under, one can expect more bombs to fall on Yemen.

"There is fury in Yemen over the killing of scores of civilians by the drone strikes. In one attack there, the American military presumably aiming at an Al-Qaeda training camp ended up killing dozens of women and children. In another strike a year ago, a drone mistakenly killed a deputy governor in Yemen, his family and aides.

"With the expansion of the drone war it seems the US is seeking only a missile solution to fighting Al-Qaeda. Analysts say that some of the main features of this global chase are not having to take into account the voice of the nation that they are bombing and the lack of accountability when it comes to civilian deaths. These features add more paradox to the US strategy, with many asking whether America is fighting and fostering terror at the same time." [5]
Analyst Denis Fedutinov told Voice of Russia last month:
"The US used drones already in the Balkans campaign, then in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in Libya. The US and Israel are the world drone leaders. Now America has several thousand drones of different classes." [6]
In fact, last year U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Glenn Walters told an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference that ten years ago America had 200 drones in its arsenal, but by 2010 that number had risen to 6,000 and that by next year it would be 8,000. A fortyfold increase.

And in May of 2010 "NATO representatives from around the world" visited the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in the state of Indiana to observe drone flight tests.

By transferring control of the 110-day war against Libya from U.S. Africa Command to NATO on March 31 the Obama administration intended to, among other purposes, evade accountability to Congress (and federal law) under provisions of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The resolution mandates that Congress must authorize military actions initiated by the president within 60 days of their commencement or grant him a 30-day extension. The 60-day limit was reached on May 20.

The White House responded to Congressional opposition to prolonging military action in Libya by releasing a 38-page report that claimed "US military operations are distinct from the kind of hostilities' contemplated by the resolution's 60-day termination provision."

It also maintained that "U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops."

Which is to say, as long as American military personnel are not in harm's way it is not a war. Legal Adviser of the State Department Harold Koh stated: "We are acting lawfully…We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of hostilities' envisioned by the War Powers Resolution."

General Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa Command, last month "said a Republican-sponsored bill that would block American Predator drone strikes in Libya would hurt the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance," and "predicted that NATO would be unable to replace certain key U.S. missions, including the drone strikes and attacks to neutralize Libyan air defenses that threaten allied planes, if proposed funding cuts are made." [7]

The launching of over 200 cruise missiles into Libya in the opening days of the war and the fact that, as the New York Times reported on June 21, "American warplanes have struck at Libyan air defenses about 60 times, and remotely operated drones have fired missiles at Libyan forces about 30 times" since command of the war was transferred from U.S. Africa Command to NATO after which NATO has conducted over 14,000 air missions, more than 5,000 termed strike sorties do not constitute armed hostilities in the mind of Mr. Koh, who stated last year that "U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war." According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top legal adviser, deadly drone attacks are "consistent with its [the U.S.'s] inherent right to self-defense." [8] Koh cagily refers to murdering people on a grand scale by remote activation as targeted killing rather than targeted assassination, as the second is expressly prohibited under international law.

In a rare instance of dissenting from White House war policy, last month the New York Times published the following:
"Jack L. Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration, said the Obama theory would set a precedent expanding future presidents' unauthorized war-making powers, especially given the rise of remote-controlled combat technology."
It further quoted Goldsmith directly:
"The administration's theory implies that the president can wage war with drones and all manner of offshore missiles without having to bother with the War Powers Resolution's time limits."
Neither cruise missiles nor Hellfire missile-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles have pilots on board, so the lives of U.S. service members are safe as Pakistanis, Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis and Somalis are torn to shreds by U.S. strikes.

Wars of aggression are now both safe and "legal."


1) The National, June 15, 2011
2) Voice of Russia, June 16, 2011
3) Pajhwok Afghan News, June 28, 2011
4) NATO airstrikes, night raids blamed for Afghan IDP crisis report
AlertNet, June 29, 2011
5) RT, June 22, 2011
6) Voice of Russia, June 16, 2011
7) Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011
8) Inside Justice, March 26, 2011
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"
Campaigners seek arrest of former CIA legal chief over Pakistan drone attacks

UK human rights lawyer leads bid to have John Rizzo arrested over claims he approved attacks that killed hundreds of people.......
Predator Drones and the International Mafia

by Dr. Reza Pankhurst

July 18, 2011

[Image: predatordrone-300x238.jpg]
Arbitrary extrajudicial executions, carried out at the press of a button from CIA locations in California, with no transparency or accountability, are undoubtedly a violation of international law possibly constituting war crimes. And yet in 2009 alone, American predator drone attacks killed a reported 708 people in Pakistan a clear violation of the norms of international sovereignty, especially given the fact that the Pakistani government has spoken out against them (at least in public).
According to the Brooking [COLOR=#009900 !important]Institution more than 90 percent of those killed have been civilians. Noor Behram, who has been documenting the aftermath of drone strikes in Waziristan on-site for the last three years concurs that "for every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant".

With more drone strikes carried out in Pakistan during [COLOR=#009900 !important]the first year of President Barack Obama's term in office than were carried out in the whole second term of his predecessor George W. Bush, the number of attacks in 2010 more than double those in 2009, and continued growth in their use in 2011, extra-judicial killing seems to have become the modus operandi of the[COLOR=#009900 !important]Obama administration[/COLOR]. That he feels at such ease with this policy that he is able to joke about it, is testament to just how ill-advised was the decision to award him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy".

Already used extensively in Pakistan, the Washington Post reported last month how the American government intends to significantly extend the use of Predator drones in Yemen as well. That the country is undergoing a revolution that is likely to end with the overthrow of its current incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh is of no concern. As we now know courtesy of Wikileaks that this was a man whose government told the Americans to kill whomever they pleased in Yemen with their drones, and that they would tell the people in Parliament that they were the ones who did so.
You would think that the loss of such a servile client might force a change in American policy. It has. The drone program in Yemen will be shifted to CIA control, since as mentioned by the Post "The CIA operates under different legal restrictions, giving the administration a freer hand to carry out strikes even if Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, now receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, reverses his past approval of military strikes or cedes power to a government opposed to them." What the Post fails to [COLOR=#009900 !important]mention[/COLOR], typical of most of the media's shameful silence with respect to many of the transgressions in the so-called "war on terror", is that even if the Yemeni President has given approval for military strikes within the country the use of predator drones is still effectively murder (irrespective of the target).
The fact that a particular government accedes to the US's criminality is perhaps a clue as to why so many of the region's dictators are either overthrown or on the way out. The US has also extended the attacks to Somalia, a country without a fully functioning government, removing the necessity of any façade of seeking approval.
The large number of innocent civilians killed by remote control is surely indisputably criminal along with being morally repugnant, even cowardly. The report in the Guardian that the [COLOR=#009900 !important]US government[/COLOR] has teams of appointed lawyers who decide when the Pentagon has the legal right to murder someone is as ludicrous as it sounds. The last administration has form on this the previous Attorney General legalized torture; doctors work alongside interrogators while the torture was being administered, and so on. This mirage of civilized behavior groups of lawyers lending legitimacy to what is by any standard a straightforward murder, doctors giving aid and health-checks to the enemy while they are being to various forms of torture indicates further moral decline, and again highlights the dirty reality that is normally kept under wraps: that the US government is willing to operate in exactly the same manner as any of the oppressive Arab dictatorships that are currently being overthrown across the Middle East.
The Western public has consistently been informed by media and politicians that the difference between "us" (the civilized West) and "them" (the barbaric terrorists) is adherence to the rule of law. What is clear from practice is that the rule of law is to be applied amongst peers ("us") while others are left to the arbitrary justice of the powerful. Such organized hypocrisy is not limited to politicians, with polling in the United States taken after the news that information from so-called "harsh interrogation" may have yielded information leading to [COLOR=#009900 !important]Bin Laden[/COLOR] confirming steady support for torture of terrorist suspects between approximately 50% to 60% over the last [COLOR=#009900 !important]year[/COLOR], with another previous survey indicating that about a quarter of Americans believe that intentionally killing civilians can at least sometimes be justifiable. Thus, the leadership of the US government has been responsible for encouraging further moral ambivalence amongst its own citizens. By trying to legitimize murder, torture, and other forms of illegal behavior through the use of teams of lawyers and judges, they have shown that their actions are driven solely by the logic of consequences, while they dress their discourse and words according to the logic of appropriateness.
In this respect, an interview in February to Newsweek by John Rizzo, one of the CIA's former lawyers tasked with approving Predator drone strikes back as early as 2001, makes for uncomfortable reading. After CIA lists of targets that were sought to be "neutralized" (a bland word for assassinated), Rizzo was one of those who would sign off on the mission. If it sounds similar to the kind of activity you would expect from organized criminal gangs, Rizzo himself described it as "basically a hit list". Just as any small-time organized crime network has a few paid lawyers to help defend the indefensible, the American administration is acting like an international mafia outfit [COLOR=#009900 !important]complete with[/COLOR]requisite legal team. But being [COLOR=#009900 !important]the most[/COLOR] militarized government in the World by far, they have access to Predator Drones, rather than being compelled to use a paid contract killer. Like Rizzo himself stated "The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head".
On the back of such admissions and Rizzo's proud claim when he asked "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?" a group of Human Rights lawyers in the UK and Pakistan are now seeking an arrest warrant for him. The fact that the US government is largely oblivious, or simply lack any sense of care or responsibility, to the illegal nature of their activities highlights the most vile kind of exceptionalism that which claims exception from the rule of law to act criminally. It is partly this that has driven the action to seek Rizzo's arrest, with British Human Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith stating that one of the symbolic purposes is to highlight the illegality of the action since "there is no sense in the United States of how catastrophic this whole process is."
The irony is that through its actions America has shown itself in front of the World to be a reflection of everything that it claimed was evil about those they are against, from the lack of respect for innocent life and the lack of adherence to the rule of law to the use of terror as a political weapon. In reality the war of terror' is a more apt description of their response since 9/11 than the coined war on terror', with the use of Predator drones just another example therein. That it is dressed up as legal by willing accomplices such as Rizzo may appease those few in the domestic audience that care, but strikes many in the rest of the watching World as further evidence of American cynicism, something the United States can ill afford while in its current state of decline.
This is an abridged and updated version of a guest editorial in the academic journal Political Theology entitled "Osama and Obama: Between Predator Drones and the Arab Spring".
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has busted the Obama regime's Predator lies wide open.

The full report, with photos and details, to be read in sadness and horror, is here.

Please see the introduction to that report below.

Quote:Get the data: Twenty-five deadly strikes

July 18th, 2011 | by Chris Woods and Rahimullah Yusufzai |

A team of journalists led by Chris Woods has scrutinised reports and data relating to 116 US drone strikes on Pakistan, as part of an ongoing Bureau investigation into the US covert war on terror. These attacks occurred between August 23 2010 and June 29 2011.

Why these dates?
Anonymous US intelligence sources have been claiming for some time that no civilians have been killed in any Pakistan drone strike since last August. On June 29 President Obama's senior adviser on counter-terrorism, John Brennan, stated that no civilians had been killed for nearly a year. He was the first senior official to go on the record with the claim.

The CIA attacks take place in Waziristan and other semi-autonomous tribal areas of western Pakistan, regions that are notoriously hard to report from. Nevertheless, attacks are covered by local and sometimes international media. Villagers, Pakistani intelligence officers, medical, military and militant sources all provide valuable if sometimes contradictory information.

As well as reviewing all available media reports, the Bureau has worked with lawyers and researchers representing civilians reportedly killed in attacks. And we have employed our own researchers in Waziristan to corroborate evidence relating to particular strikes.

From our investigation we believe that while hundreds of militants and Taliban have been killed in the drone attacks, there are 25 strikes where civilians deaths have or are highly likely to have happened.

It is of course very difficult to get a completely accurate picture about anything happening in Waziristan. Drone strikes, Pakistani military activity and militant attacks make this a dangerous region for journalists to operate in.

But while we cannot always be categorical, in at least 10 of the 25 cases we have identified, we understand that civilians were killed. The evidence shows that at least 45 civilians died in these strikes. Six of them were children under 16 years old.

How are we so sure?
As part of our drone investigation we have read thousands of reports relating to over 280 strikes within Pakistan over seven years. Initial reports of suspected militants' killed might later be modified. The Bureau has tried wherever possible to locate credible reports about particular strikes written days, even months after the original event. In doing so, we and others have sometimes identified casualties that were not immediately notified.

Although there are reports of civilian deaths in up to one in five cases, this may actually be a conservative estimate.

Related article: Precision is relative': an interview with Anatol Lieven

Pakistan expert Professor Anatol Lieven told the Bureau: To be honest with you, I'm surprised it's not higher. These people live in compounds with families. Now it may be that precisely because of the drone strikes the commanders are now actually living separately from the women and children, but the whole point of guerrillas is they live among the population.'

We have also been given photographs gathered by human rights lawyers working with Reprieve. These images have been sourced by Pakistani journalist Noor Behram, working in Waziristan. We have included the photos and evidence gathered by him when they back up reports that we had already identified.

However, we have been unable to fully corroborate the photos. Dates and times that are usually attached to digital pictures are not present on some of the images we have received and some were taken on a non-digital camera. We include them because, like the reports themselves, they raise questions about the particular strikes that the US administration claims killed only militants.

The Bureau presented a summary of its findings to the White House and to John Brennan's office on Friday July 15, offering them the opportunity to comment. Both declined.

The data
Below are details of 10 strikes that are likely to have killed at least 45 civilians. There are also details of a further 15 strikes that raise significant questions. In these cases at least 65 civilian deaths have also been reported but are contested, or are reported by a single source only.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

Pakistan drone victims seek CIA arrest
Military, not CIA, should oversee growing use of armed drones
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Drones such as the Predator and the Reaper can loiter, maintaining what one former CIA director described as an "unblinking stare" over a chosen area for up to 18 hours. Thanks to the drone's ability to watch and wait, its "pilot," often thousands of ...:darthvader:
The pilots for the UAVs are located at bases within the US. Fargo, N.Dak. for one. Others are in Calif.
In a recent e-mail from Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space:

"Drones are now being built in the U.S. by these aerospace corporations: General Atomics; Northrop Grumman; Boeing; Aurora Flight Sciences; AAI Corp.; AeroVironment; Honeywell; Raytheon; Communications Systems West; and Lockheed Martin.

In the U.S. drones are being tested and flown from the following bases: Creech AFB, NV; Beale AFB, CA; Cannon AFB, NM; Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ; Ellington Field, TX; Ellsworth AFB, SD; Grand Forks AFB, ND; Hancock Airfield, NY; Hector Int'l Airport, ND; Holloman AFB, NM; Langley AFB, VA; March Joint Air Reserve Base, CA; Springfield ANG Base, OH; and Whiteman AFB, MO."

The e-mail announces the annual campaign of "Keep Space for Peace" during the first week of October.

"I watched a news video recently from Pakistan that claimed the Obama administration had not only fired missiles from drones at civilians, but that the payload on-board the missile included a toxic substance that was causing unusual burns and resulted in quick deaths for children.

Under U.S. leadership, drone technology is now exploding across the planet. USAF Gen. Robert Behler, commenting on U.S. drone developments recently said, "We're going to make more, we're going to make them better, and we're going to employ them more. That's the future."

The future as the Pentagon plans it will be more war, more killing of innocent people, and more wasted money that could have been used for good things back here at home. The military sees drones as "cleaner and cheaper" war making out of sight and out of mind.

On October 1-8 we will once again hold our annual Keep Space for Peace Week. This year our theme will be the use of space technology to "execute" drone warfare. Military satellites, with soldiers sitting at computer terminals at bases back in the U.S., are directing this drone war. We are calling it the "Chair Force". You can find a copy of our poster here:

It's our job to bring this madness to light. We must help the public see that drone warfare is not clean and it is in fact immoral.

We've reached out to the newly created anti-drone networks in the U.S. and the United Kingdom and invited them to join as co-sponsors for our 2011 Keep Space for Peace Week. We are trying hard to ensure that as people begin to think about the morality of drone warfare, they also connect the dots to see how space technology directs the entire program.

We also want to make sure that people are thinking about the growing cost of these wars that are spreading like cancer. Space is becoming the "base" for NATO expansion as their wars in Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya rely on these expensive military "eyes in the sky" for surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting.

The Pentagon boasts about its "Full Spectrum Dominance". As we look ahead to October 1-8 we are encouraging local peace groups to help us organize a week of "Full Spectrum Resistance." We want to see actions in local communities all over the world, and especially where there are military production facilities and military bases." (blog)
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"
Some sort of geopolitical game being played here:

Quote:Former Intel Chief: Call Off The Drone War (And Maybe the Whole War on Terror)

* By Noah Shachtman Email Author
* July 28, 2011 |
* 9:48 pm |
* Categories: Tactics, Strategy and Logistics

ASPEN, Colorado Drop the unilateral U.S. drone war in Pakistan. Rethink the idea of spending billions of dollars to pursue al-Qaida. Forget chasing terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, unless the local governments are willing to join in the hunt.

Those aren't the words of some human rights activist, or some far-left Congressman. They're from retired admiral and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair the man who was, until recently, nominally in charge of the entire American effort to find, track, and take out terrorists. Now, he's calling for that campaign to be reconsidered, and possibly even junked.

Starting with the drone attacks. Yes, they take out some mid-level terrorists, Blair said. But they're not strategically effective. If the drones stopped flying tomorrow, Blair told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum, "it's not going to lower the threat to the U.S." Al-Qaida and its allies have proven "it can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign," he said.

It's one of many reasons why it's a mistake to "have that campaign dominate our overall relations" with countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. "Because we're alienating the countries concerned, because we're treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us, we are threatening the prospects of long-term reform," Blair said.

The "unilateral" strikes in Pakistan have to come to an end, he added, and be replaced with operations that had the full cooperation of the government in Islamabad. The effort needed "two hands on the trigger," Blair said. And strikes should be launched only when "we agree with them on what drone attacks" should target.

The statements won't exactly win Blair new friends in the Obama administration, which forced him out of the top intelligence job about a year after he was nominated. Not only has Obama drastically escalated the drone war there've been 50 strikes in the first seven months of this year, almost as many as in all of 2009. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the remotely-piloted attacks the "only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al-Qaida leadership."

Plus, American relations with the Pakistani government are at their lowest point in years. And every time Washington tries to tip off Islamabad to a raid, it seems, the targets of the raid seem to conveniently skip town. No wonder the U.S. kept the mother of all unilateral strikes the mission to kill Osama bin Laden a secret from their erstwhile allies in Pakistan.

But Blair believes the cooperation not only with Pakistan, but also with the government in Yemen and with whatever authorities can be found in Somalia is the only way to bring some measure of peace to the world's ungoverned spaces. "We have to change in those three countries," he told the Forum (Full disclosure: I'm a moderator on one of the panels here.)

The reconsideration of our relationship with these countries is only the start of the overhaul Blair has in mind, however. He noted that the U.S. intelligence and homeland security communities are spending about $80 billion a year, outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet al-Qaida and its affiliates only have about 4,000 members worldwide.

"You think woah, $20 million. Is that proportionate?" he asked. "So I think we need to relook at the strategy to get the money in the right places."

Blair mentioned that 17 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists since 9/11 14 of them in the Ft. Hood massacre. Meanwhile, auto accidents, murders and rapes combine have killed an estimated 1.5 million people in the past decade. "What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?" he asked.

Blair purposely let his own question go unanswered.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

Drone War Exposed the complete picture of CIA strikes in Pakistan

August 10th, 2011 | by Chris Woods | Published in All Stories, Covert Drone War, Drones carousel
CIA drone strikes have led to far more deaths in Pakistan than previously understood, according to extensive new research published by the Bureau. More than 160 children are among at least 2,292 people reported killed in US attacks since 2004. There are credible reports of at least 385 civilians among the dead.
In a surprise move, a counter-terrorism official has also released US government estimates of the numbers killed. These state that an estimated 2,050 people have been killed in drone strikes of whom all but an estimated 50 are combatants.
The Bureau's fundamental reassessment of the covert US campaign involved a complete re-examination of all that is known about each US drone strike.

The Obama administration must explain the legal basis for drone strikes in Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with impunity. The Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate killing, in violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan,'
Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International
The study is based on close analysis of credible materials: some 2,000 media reports; witness testimonies; field reports of NGOs and lawyers; secret US government cables; leaked intelligence documents, and relevant accounts by journalists, politicians and former intelligence officers.
The Bureau's findings are published in a 22,000-word database which covers each individual strike in Pakistan in detail. A powerful search engine, an extensive timeline and searchable maps accompany the data.
The result is the clearest public understanding so far of the CIA's covert drone war against the militants. Yet US intelligence officials are understood to be briefing against the Bureau's work, claiming significant problems with its numbers and methodologies.'
Iain Overton, the Bureau's editor said: It comes as no surprise that the US intelligence services would attack our findings in this way. But to claim our methodology is problematic before we had even published reveals how they really operate. A revelation that is reinforced by the fact that they cannot bring themselves to refer to non-combatants as what they really are: civilians and, all too often, children'.
Many more strikes
The Bureau's data reveals many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets than previously reported. At least 291 US drone strikes are now known to have taken place since 2004.
The intended targets militants in the tribal areas appear to make up the majority of those killed. There are 126 named militants among the dead since 2004, though hundreds are unknown, low-ranking fighters. But as many as 168 children have also been reported killed among at least 385 civilians.
More than 1,100 people are also revealed to have been injured in the US drone attacks the first time this number has been collated.
In the wake of the Bureau's findings Amnesty International has called for more CIA transparency. The Obama administration must explain the legal basis for drone strikes in Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with impunity. The Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate killing, in violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan,' said Amnesty's Director of Asia Pacific Sam Zarifi.

The Bureau's key findings
  • 291 CIA attacks have taken place in Pakistan 8% more than previously reported. Under President Obama alone there have been 236 strikes one every four days.
  • Between 2,292 and 2,863 people are reported to have died in the attacks most of them militants
  • The minimum number of reported deaths is far higher than previously believed with 40% more recorded casualties. Most of those killed are likely to be low-ranking militants.
  • 126 named militants have so far been killed.
  • The Bureau has collated credible news reports of 385-775 civilians being killed in the attacks.
  • The Bureau has identified credible reports of 164 children killed in the drone strikes. Under President Bush, one in three of all attacks is reported to have killed a child.
  • For the first time the Bureau has compiled accurate details of recorded injuries in drone strikes, revealing that at least 1,114 people have been wounded.
Civilian deaths
With the US military unable to operate overtly inside Pakistan, the Obama administration has come to rely heavily on CIA drone strikes to attack alleged militants in the country's western tribal areas. To date, at least 236 drone attacks have been ordered in Obama's name, the Bureau's research shows.
At least 1,842 people have been reported killed in the Obama strikes, most of them militants.
Recently, Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan stated that the president has insisted' that Pakistan drone strikes do not put… innocent men, women and children in danger'. Yet at least 218 of those killed in drone attacks in Obama's time in office may have been civilians.

More than 160 children are among at least 2,292 people reported killed in US attacks since 2004. There are credible reports of at least 385 civilians among the dead.
Civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year. Yet the Bureau still found credible evidence of at least 45 civilians killed in some ten strikes in this time. The US continues to insist that it can't confirm any noncombatant casualties' in the past year.
The most recently reported civilian fatality was on July 12. Abdul Jalil, a migrant worker home on leave from Dubai, was collateral damage' when the CIA attacked a car carrying eight alleged militants, the Bureau's researchers in Waziristan report.
Internal US figures
The US government's own internal estimates of those killed in the drone strikes total about 2,050, the Bureau has learnt. All but 50 of these are militants, and that no non-combatants' have died in the past year, a US counter-terrorism official noted. The Bureau's own minimum suggested casualty figure is 2,292.
Yet a US counter-terrorism official told the Bureau that its numbers were way off the mark'. The Washington-based official said: These actions target militants planning actively to kill Afghans, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans among others, and most often the operations occur when they're training or on the move, getting ready to attack. Over 4,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by terrorists since 2009the threat is clear and real.'
Reprieve, the legal action charity which campaigns on human rights issues said: 'With the Bureau's findings, at last we have a hard and comprehensive look at the facts. It is a great start. From now on, Reprieve hopes people will read official propaganda about drone warfare with a grain of saltand ask themselves whether drones are radicalizing as many young men as Guantánamo did.'
The most relevant literature regarding what happened since September 11, 2001 is George Orwell's "1984".

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