A new documentary by Madiha Tahir
The drone war is obscure by design. Operated by armchair pilots from clandestine bases across the American west, the Predators and Reapers fly over Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan’s Tribal Areas at invisible heights, where they are on orders from the CIA to kill “high value” targets with laser-guided “surgical” precision thousands of feet below. But because of where the Hellfire missiles land, and because the program is operated in secret, verifying their precision and their lasting effects isn’t easy.
For years, US officials have downplayed the number of civilian deaths in particular, even as a chorus of independent reports have offered their own grim estimates. The latest, according to new research by the United Nations and Amnesty International: 58 civilians killed in Yemen, and up to nine hundred in Pakistan. In a speech in May, President Obama finally broke his silence on drones, acknowledging that civilians had been killed—he didn’t say how many—and promising more transparency for the program. “Those deaths,” added the President, ”will haunt us for as long as we live.”
For journalist Madiha Tahir, the numbers are important, but they’re not the whole story. Her documentary “Wounds of Waziristan,” which premieres above, features interviews with the people who live in the southern part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bordering Afghanistan, under the eyes of the drones, and in the wake of their destruction. The film switches up the typical calculus that drives the drone debate at home. Tahir, who grew up between Pakistan and the U.S., points out that drone strikes aren’t just about the numbers of casualties, or the kinds of ethical arguments that arise around “just war” concepts like proportionality. The effects of the drone war have as much to do with the way those casualties rip apart communities and haunt the living, in distant places that exist on the fringes of law and order.
“Because drones are at a certain remove, there is a sense of uncertainty, a sense that you can’t control this,” Tahir says, describing the attitude among the people who live in Waziristan. Already haunted by the legacy of British colonialism and the laws it left behind, this part of the Tribal Areas is now ruled with a brutal fist by the Pakistani military and various insurgent groups. But the buzz of the drones, sometimes seven or eight overhead a day, signals another kind of indeterminate power. “Whether its true or not, people feel that with militants there is some degree of control. You can negotiate. There is some cause and effect. But there is no cause and effect with drones. It’s an acute kind of trauma that is not limited to the actual attack.”
For the operators of the drone program, who have launched more than 300 missile attacks in Pakistan since 2008, the political vacuum of the Tribal Areas have encouraged a special kind of war-on-terror calculus. As the New York Times reported last year, the American government has been counting all military-age males in a strike zone as “militants,” which leads to skewed figures about who exactly has been killed. The Obama administration has executed “signature strikes,” drone attacks based on a so-called “pattern of life” analysis in which simply suspicious behavior is enough to qualify for an attack. And in a so-called “double tap” maneuver, a second attack follows an initial strike, killing those who have come to recover bodies from the scene.
“When an attack happens, the media claims to know how many militants were killed,” says Noor Behram, a journalist in the Tribal Areas who has been photographing the casualties of drone strikes for years. “Actually, you only find body parts on the scene, so people can’t tell how many have died.”
In one interview, Tahir speaks with a man from South Waziristan named Karim Khan, whose brother and son were killed in a drone strike. ”What is the definition of terrorism?” he asks her, and she returns the question to him. His tired eyes light up.
“I think there is no bigger terrorist than Obama or Bush,” he says. ”Those who have weaponry like drones, who drop bombs on us while we are in our own homes, there are no greater terrorists than them.” …
The US has some of the world’s most boring looking money—it’s all green. So we have terms like “greenbacks” for dollars, and “long green”, meaning lots of money.
I offer this as context for what I found when I got to wondering what had happened to the United Nations “Green Climate Fund”. You may recall that the Green Climate Fund was set up by the UN as the only result of the most recent Rio de Janeiro conference on climate idiocy. When the Fund is going full throttle, it is supposed to disburse no less than $200 billion ($200,000,000,000) dollars each and every year to the developing countries.
It turns out that, unlike those of us skeptics who are falsely accused of receiving big bucks from big oil, the “Green Climate Fund” has already raked in millions of dollars to spend on fighting the evil forces of carbon. They have a catchy slogan, viz: “The urgency and seriousness of climate change call for ambition in financing adaptation and mitigation”. Ambition in financing? What’s not to like?
Now, I’ve worked for development organizations before. The rule of thumb is that no more than 15% of the funds should go for administration, the rest needs to go to the eventual intended recipients of the largesse.
So … how many of the millions of dollars that have been “donated” by taxpayers in a variety of countries has gone to the actual poor, to aid them in their battle against the dread CO2?
Let’s start how much money we’re talking about.
Here’s a list of the countries who are both rich and improvident enough to squander their taxpayers’ money on the Green Climate Fund. It’s the usual suspects, my condolences to their citizens who are paying for this:
South Korea, $2,099,000
The Koreans put in two megabucks … but then, they also negotiated a deal where the Green Climate Fund is headquartered in Seoul. So no tears for them, they’ll make out like bandits. Landing a UN drone hive is like landing a money machine, the local landlords will be overjoyed.
Now, of course, $7.5 million, that’s a long ways from their goal of dispersing $200 billion per year. In fact, it’s about this far from their goal:
Anyhow, I started all of this out with a simple question. How much of the $7.5 million went to help the people it’s supposed to help?
Here’s the not-so-simple answer. When you do this kind of thing, first you have to hand out the plum jobs. Among those are the Members of the Board. Of course, then you have to pay for their travel, and a place for them to meet, for their meetings. And it turns out that three Board Meetings cost just under a million dollars. Expensive meetings. Very expensive meetings.
Oh, can’t forget the Board Committees, Panels, and Working groups. They cost just under four hundred thousand. Total, a million three …
The next round of plum jobs are the people who make up the “Interim Secretariat”. From the name, I take it that these folks are just placeholders until we get more parasites for the real Secretariat … in any case, there’s two million in the budget to hire fifteen people. My mathematics makes that $133,000 per person per year.
So one thing is clear. The UN Personnel came to do good for the poor … and they’re doing very well indeed. A hundred and thirty grand per person? You can see why the South Koreans will be the big winners in the deal.
It gets worse. They actually hire themselves to do the work, at incredible rates. For example, from the UN FCCC they are hiring one full-time and one part-time person, plus some administrative support … for a cool half million dollars. One and a half people. Half a megabuck.
And from the UN GEF, same deal, one full-time and one 60% time person, cost, another half million.
Now, you and I might be satisfied by that. But the UN folks are realists. They know that even if all those fifteen UN drones could somehow work together, they still couldn’t organize a booze-up in a frat house. For that, they always hire consultants. You know, people who can actually do the stuff the UN employees can only talk about.
So the Green Climate Fund has three-quarters of a million bucks in the budget for consultants, to make sure something gets done.
Oh, and did I mention $200,000 per year for the Executive Director?
Now, you gotta know that you can’t have fifteen pluted bloatocrats, plus 3.1 loan-drones from other UN agencies, and three-quarters of a million dollars worth of consultants, without renting some executive-type hive to house the worker bees. Plus phones and faxes and the like, that’s a million two …
Of course, you can’t do business by email, phone, and Skype. Gotta have a travel budget … three hundred grand.
Add all that up, and the “Interim Secretariat” costs $5.3 million …
Lastly, a Trust Fund needs an Interim Trustee. The Green Climate Fund hires that service from the World Bank for just under three-quarters of a million dollars per year … one trustee … IT costs … I can hardly believe it myself, but by a strange coincidence, what it costs them to run the Green Climate Fund adds up to … well … about seven and a half million dollars.
And that means that of the $7.5 million dollars donated by taxpayers all over the world, the people in the developing countries will get …
Like I said, while I bemoan the waste of resources, I see all this as good news. Any country that takes a serious look at what’s happened to the first seven plus million that was donated to the Green Climate Fund will certainly have second thoughts about giving them money.
And that’s a good thing, because if they are this profligate with the first seven and a half million … can you imagine these same pack of over-fed fools in charge the dispensing of two hundred billion dollars to the developing world? I shudder to think of the waste, corruption, bribery, blackmail, and tribalism that would be involved in that kind of an industrial-scale goat-rope. The only people who’d be happy if that happened would be corrupt developing world leaders … and of course, Swiss bankers …
DATA: I do give the GCF high marks for one thing: transparency. All relevant documents are here.
- Green Climate Fund ‘Can Power Poor’ (ivoter.net)
- Green Climate Fund ‘can power poor’ (eco-business.com)
- Green Climate Fund ‘can power poor’ (climatenewsnetwork.net)
- United Nations “Green Climate Fund” oddly having trouble attracting donors (seeker401.wordpress.com)
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has reportedly described the “unlimited” funds available to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the main obstacle to Middle East peace.
Former member of Israeli regime’s parliament, Einat Wilf, reported on her Facebook page that Straw made the comment during a debate at the British Parliament’s House of Commons last week while he was listing the greatest obstacles on the way of peace in the region.
He said the money, which has been used to control and divert American policy, is a contributing factor to failure to achieve peace in the Middle East.
The British Labour MP also blamed Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel as another factor which blocked the establishment of peace among regional countries.
“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media”, Wilf added on her Facebook status.
According to reports, Palestinian ambassador to London, who was among the attendees, also accused Israel of “cultural genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” during the parliament debate.
Straw served as foreign secretary in Tony Blair’s government in 2001-2006. He said earlier last week that he would want to end his three-decade parliamentary career at the 2015 general election.
The 67-year-old MP has been representing the town of Blackburn in northwest England since 1979.
While there is rightly much media attention on the US drone war in Pakistan and Yemen, there is a very different but over-looked “drone war” taking place in Europe right now. In parliamentary committee rooms, in company boardrooms, and in packed public meetings, arguments rage about whether Europe should embrace or reject the use of armed drones.
Many European armed forces already have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in their armories for reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance purposes. Increasingly, however, European countries are under pressure to follow in the footsteps of the US and embrace the use of armed drones.
The UK has been a long-time partner with the US in using armed drones, with British military forces using US Predator drones in Iraq starting in 2004 before acquiring their own Reaper drones for use in Afghanistan in 2007. Since then, the UK has launched more than 400 missiles and bombs from its drones in Afghanistan and this is likely to increase as the UK doubles its armed drone fleet over the next year while also now directly operating drones from UK as well as US soil.
So far no other European country has used armed drones. French forces have used unarmed Harfang drones (based on Israel’s Heron) in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali; German forces in Afghanistan have been using unarmed Luna and Israeli Heron drones, and Italy has been operating unarmed drones alongside the US in Libya and Afghanistan from a joint Italian-US ground control station at Amendola airbase in southeast Italy.
But despite widespread public opposition, growing pressure from the pro-drone lobby and military companies is pushing European countries to acquire armed drone capability. After much debate, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian suddenly announced in the summer that France would be acquiring armed US drones. Very rapidly French pilots have begun training on Reaper UAVs in the US and it looks likely that France will put armed drones over Mali by the end of the year. In Germany,despite huge opposition, the German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière declared, “We cannot keep the stagecoach while others are developing the railway.”
Across Europe, the acquisition of armed drones is highly controversial. Many political parties are divided on the issue – or flatly oppose it – and there is much public hostility. A Pew Research Poll conducted in 2012 showed widespread opposition to drone strikes, including 59% of people in Germany, 63% in France, 76% in Spain, 55% in Italy, and a whopping 90% in Greece. Only the UK did not have a majority of its public against the use of armed drones but even so, only 44% were in favor.
In the US, opposition to the drone wars is focused on the use of drones for targeted killing. In Europe however, the focus is much more on whether the so-called “risk free” nature of drone warfare – at least to your own forces – will simply lead to more armed conflict, as well as an expansion of targeted killing and a lowering of global security in general. Across Europe protests, parliamentary hearings and public meetings on the use of armed drones are increasing.
But the pro-drone lobby is not running up the white flag just yet. Behind the scenes, the drone lobby is trying to persuade European governments to ignore the public anxiety and commit to armed unmanned systems. Their strategically placed Op-Eds extol the economic virtue of developing armed drones and of not being “left behind”. At the same time, NATO and European Union officials are urging European countries to increase spending on drones. US military companies are actively trying to amend international treaties in order to export armed drone technology to Europe. And senior arms company executives are directly lobbying European governments to commit to developing and building a future European armed drone. Already European military companies are devoting much effort and resources towards future combat drones, with known programs under development including BAE System’s Taranis and Mantis drones, Dassault’s Neuron and EADS’ Talarion. There are also on-going covert programs that are not as yet public.
As US and European combat forces withdraw from Afghanistan over the next 12 months, the war over drones in Europe is likely to get more intense. The drone lobby will try to clinch deals citing that a war-weary public is unlikely to support putting ‘boots on the ground’ anytime soon and will therefore support remotely controlled warfare. Skeptics will be demanding more transparency and information about exactly how drones have been used in Afghanistan – including proper casualty data – in order to assess the professed “pin point” accuracy of armed drone strikes and make informed decisions about future use. And opponents will ramp up their protests. For the moment at least, there will be no ceasefire in Europe’s drone war.
Chris Cole is a renowned expert on European drones and the director of Drone Wars UK.
Christian Zionists are apparently planning to bring “enlightenment” to the poor, benighted indigenous inhabitants of Occupied Palestine. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, with help and assistance from John Haggee of Christians United for Israel, has struck a deal whereby Texas A&M University will open a branch campus in Israel.
The campus is to be located in Nazareth—populated largely by Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. In fact, the area contains one of the largest concentrations of Palestinians inside Israel’s 1967 borders.
Nazareth presently has an institution of higher learning—called the Nazareth Academic Institute or NAI. It was founded in 2010 by local academics, and while it has applied for funding from the Israeli government, it has never received any. What is more, the NAI is the only college of higher education in Israel that receives no state funding. This means it has been financially strapped from day one. Texas A&M plans to take it over with a cash infusion of $70 million and rename it “Peace University.” Once the deal goes into effect, classes will be taught in English only—and there are concerns that the school’s Arab culture and character will diminish as a result.
The takeover has been written about by Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein and by Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth. Both are deeply cynical about the motives behind the scheme. Writes Silverstein:
Who participated in this consortium? Pride of place goes to John Hagee, the international Christian Zionist apocalyptic firebrand who blamed the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own martyrdom. Hagee, an avid proselytizer of the heathen, also is known as an avowed Islamophobe. Presumably he’s delighted to plop a U.S. Christian Zionist university in the middle of tens of thousands of Israeli Palestinian Muslims. One wonders whether Hagee and his followers would play some role in the institution and use it as a base for preaching to the “heathen.”
Another participant was former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a Christian Zionist perennial presidential candidate. He used a recent political pilgrimage to Israel to announce the deal with a flourish together with Israel’s nonagenarian president, Shimon Peres. It’s no accident that Texas A&M’s chancellor was a college roommate of Rick Perry. Though not an evangelical (he’s Catholic), he uses the Christian Zionist lingo when he boasts of his “kinship” with Israel…
The new campus for this mongrel educational institution will sit on land donated by the Israeli Lands Authority. No one mysteriously has identified where the site is located (if anyone in Nazareth knows, please contact me). The ILA is the same institution that is working to expel Israel’s 40,000 Bedouin from their native Negev communities and move them to government-sponsored “reservations.” This is also known as the infamous Prawer Plan. This land transfer would enable the Judaization of the Negev, just as settlers are gradually expelling East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes in neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
Perhaps the crowning glory in all this is the identity of the Sugar Daddy who’s going to finance the construction of this munificent educational palace. He is none other than Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest Palestinian in the world. Numerous media profiles of him invariably feature his weirdly out-of-place Italian palazzo in the middle of the West Bank. Al-Masri has a far-flung empire that includes a construction company that will likely undertake building the campus. He is a key power player in the PA and Fatah and undoubtedly seeks to curry favor with Israel, which could lead to further business opportunities.
Given that the Israeli government has never seen fit to offer funding to NAI, one must ask the question: why would the Israeli Lands Authority suddenly think it a wonderful idea to donate land for this new school?
Apparently the Palestinian administrators presently running the institute are feeling somewhat like the proverbial drowning victim suddenly tossed a life preserver. Cook supplies a quote from Dean of Students Suher Bisharat:
We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university]. But when we didn’t find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution.
Cook goes on to comment:
There are good reasons to be worried about this development.
The chancellor of Texas A&M, John Sharp, has this to say: “I wanted a presence in Israel. I have felt a kinship with Israel.”
Also behind this initiative stands the very unpleasant figure of Pastor John C. Hagee, a notorious Christian Zionist who has no love of Palestinians in Israel. He apparently sold the idea to Shimon Peres, who wants to get Arabs better integrated into the workforce to help Israel’s poor OECD rankings.
Lessons will be taught in English, not Arabic – and therefore will do nothing to stop the gradual erosion of Arabic language and culture in Israel. It also seems that the staff will be from Texas A&M, therefore doing nothing to help local Arab academics who are massively under-represented in Israeli academia (currently they’re about 1% of higher education staff).
It will be called the Texas A&M Peace University, reiterating the idea commonly expressed by Israeli Jews that “Arabs” need western education and values to curb their inherent terrorist impulses.
Doubtless, economically this move will be good for Nazareth. But there are reasons for great concern. It will destroy for another generation any hope of a real Arab university in Israel. The foreign staff, with their dubious agenda, risk subtly reinforcing racist colonial stereotypes among the local population. And with Hagee involved, there are good grounds for fearing that the campus could ultimately contribute to increased tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Galilee, one of Israel’s long-standing goals.
Cook has previously written about efforts to divide Muslims and Christians by enticing Palestinian Christian youths to join the Israeli military. Will the new facility, despite being named “Peace University,” endeavor to facilitate this drive? Will it also seek to inculcate a Christian Zionist ideology among the Palestinian Christians who enroll? Silverstein thinks there is a possibility that Palestinians will boycott the new school, but this, he says, will in reality further the Judaization process already under way. In other words, even if Palestinians don’t enroll at the university, Jews will.
This is a significant statement because Israeli ultra-nationalists have set their sights on “Judaizing” all of the territory within Israel with significant Arab populations including the Negev, Galilee, and East Jerusalem. This is part of a covert attempt to expel Palestinians through attrition. Trajtenberg is tacitly putting Nazareth further into play in this battle by suggesting that Israeli Jews from around the country may find attractive the opportunity to pursue English-language studies at a low-cost American university. In such a way, Texas A&M could become an advertent or inadvertent participant in this far-right campaign toward a Jewish majority in the Galilee.
For more on Governor Rick Perry and his Christian Zionist leanings see my article The Hypocrite’s Masquerade.
- So called Christian Zionists help Jewish terrorists take Palestine lands (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
Ni’lin Village | October 28, 2013
Ni’lin, Occupied Palestine – Since last week the village of Ni’lin is being targeted daily by midnight raids from the Israeli occupation forces. The soldiers have been shooting tear gas into people’s homes while they are sleeping. Only two people have been arrested but ten houses have been invaded by the soldiers.
The arrested are Naha Nafi, 21, and Tariq Kawaja, 24. Another three young men were sought but could not be found.
The situation has escalated in the last few days. Israeli soldiers have started blocking the entrances of Ni’lin preventing people from entering or leaving the village. For the villagers who commute to Ramallah for work or studies this collective punishment has caused huge problems.
However, 11 pm on Saturday night a large number of Israeli jeeps invaded the village, seemingly just to cause disturbance. The soldiers began harassing villagers, firing their rifles without any apparent reason. As youths gathered to drive the soldiers out of the village they were directly fired upon with rubber coated steel bullets. One young man was hit in his leg and many bystanders suffered from tear gas asphyxiation. Also at this occurrence tear gas was fired into the homes of sleeping villagers.
At present the entrances to Ni’lin is still being blocked by the Israeli military. The villagers are awaiting their next move with anxiety.
- Five kids arrested in Ni’lin village (nilin-village.org)
- Israeli mid-night invasions in Ni’lin, one arrested. (nilin-village.org)
- PCHR Weekly Report: 1 killed, 5 wounded in 103 invasions by Israeli forces this week (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)