In a speech to the National Defense University yesterday outlining his new policies regarding the use of drones in targeted killings US President Obama told his audience;
…before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.
This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.
At least Obama is admitting – contrary to CIA director John Brennan’s claims that no civilians have been killed in drone strikes – that there are civilians being killed in these attacks though he is inferring that civilian deaths are not as high as some are reporting (though the Human Rights Institute are saying that some non-government reports are actually under-reporting the numbers) suggesting that the people of the world should believe US assessments rather than ‘non-governmental reports’. (Why would anyone want to believe ‘US assessments’ after the Iraq WMDs fiasco?)
Obama goes on to say that the civilian deaths will ‘haunt him’ and all those involved in the killings for ‘as long as we live’. This is unadulterated and utterly transparent garbage. Obama and his willing killers that operate the drones couldn’t care less about the civilian casualties. They do it time and time again. Thousands of civilians have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan alone and each time Obama thinks it’s enough just to say; ‘Sorry. We didn’t mean it. We’ll do our best to ensure it doesn’t happen again’, but, of course, it does happen again – and again, and again. Obama then sinks to new low levels of rhetoric by resorting to the use of moral relativism as he attempts to justify civilian deaths by saying that the ‘enemy they are targeting also kill civilians’.
The reality is that Obama and the US kill the enemy off battlefield simply because they can and they really are not in the slightest bit concerned about the civilian deaths except inasmuch that it may adversely effect public opinion; hence the attempts at justification. What doesn’t seem to have been thought through yet is the possibility that America’s enemy may one day have the same ability to kill by remote control. What then when scores of American citizens die when the enemy makes an attempt to assassinate an American political or military leader via a remotely controlled weapon?
TEHRAN – Pakistan rejected US media reports that the country has struck a deal with the CIA over a secret drone campaign in the tribal regions.
The New York Times has reported that Pakistan and the United States had signed the deal in 2004 and a US spy aircraft in its first strike had killed senior Pakistani Taliban commander Nek Muhammad in South Waziristan, Xinhua reported.
The CIA has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike, the paper said.
The Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the story is baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan on this matter.
“We have repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan regards the use of drone strikes as counterproductive,” the spokesman said while responding to a query regarding a story published in New York Times on an alleged deal on drones.
“It (drone strikes) violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and it violates International Law,” the spokesman said in a statement.
He said in a statement that there is now a growing debate in the international community to consider the legality and legitimacy of drone strikes.
The New York report claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the CIA agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the CIA’s covert action authority — meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.
A UN team investigating civilian casualties from US assassination drone attacks in Pakistan has stated that the terror airstrikes violate sovereignty of Pakistan.
Ben Emmerson, head of the UN team, said in a statement on Friday that Pakistani government told him at least 400 civilians have been killed in US drone strikes.
The team paid a three-day research trip to Pakistan that ended on Wednesday. The trip was kept secret until the team left the country.
“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,” Emmerson said.
The attacks “involve the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he added.
The UN launched an investigation into civilian casualties from drone attacks and other targeted killings in Pakistan in January 2013 and will publish the final report in October.
Pakistani officials have condemned the attacks as violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said in a report in February that the United States has carried out more than 360 drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, killing nearly 3,500 people.
Over the past few months, demonstrations have been held across Pakistan to condemn the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.
On February 13, hundreds of Pakistani tribesmen held an anti-US demonstration in Islamabad to protest against the killing of innocent civilians by the US drones.
MIRANSHAH/ PESHAWAR: Ten people were killed and three others seriously injured in yet another US drone attack, this time on a mosque in Hasukhel village in the Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan Agency early Thursday.
This was the second missile attack by pilotless US spy planes in North Waziristan in the last two days. Reports said the victims included foreign militants, believed to be Turkmen. Villagers and officials of the political administration, however, insisted that all the worshippers were local residents. Tribal sources said the drone fired two missiles and pounded the village mosque where the tribesmen were offering the Fajr (morning) prayers.
“Some of the people had offered the prayers and were leaving the mosque. Others were still praying and some were reciting the Holy Quran, when the drone fired two missiles and struck the mosque. The small structure of the mosque was demolished in the attack and those present inside were buried under the debris of the building,” a tribesman, Mohammad Roshan Dawar, said.
Talking to The News from Hasukhel village by phone, he said four US spy planes were seen flying over the area at the time of the attack. He said a large number of villagers later arrived there and helped retrieve the bodies of the slain men and those injured in the attack.
The tribesman said some houses located close to the mosque were also damaged in the missile strike, but did not cause any loss of life to the inmates. He said bodies of the slain men were mutilated beyond recognition.
“Their bodies were almost burnt and could not be recognised easily. It was a horrible scene as the villagers were offering prayers and reciting the Holy Quran in the mosque but within minutes there was devastation and human bodies lying everywhere,” the tribesman recalled.
Tribal sources said three people seriously injured in the attack were admitted to the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Miranshah. Pleading anonymity, a senior doctor at the Miranshah Agency Headquarters Hospital said all the three injured were in critical condition. “They were brought to us in a serious condition and had suffered multiple injuries. Also, we do not have any facility here in the hospital to save lives of seriously injured patients. Let alone other facilities, the only X-ray machine at the hospital is also out of order,” the doctor said.
Government officials based in Mir Ali confirmed that the drone had targeted the village mosque. Drones in the past had pounded schools, houses, Hujras and even the tribal Jirgas were not spared, but this was the first time that a mosque was attacked in North Waziristan. This was the 13th drone attack in North Waziristan this year.
Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar has been invited to speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, but the U.S. government is failing to grant him a visa.
The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, is important to the Summit because of his work providing legal aid to victims of CIA-operated drone strikes. Akbar filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims’ behalf.
While Akbar has traveled to the United States in the past, he has not been granted permission to return since becoming an outspoken critic of drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians. He was previously invited to speak about drone strikes at Columbia University in New York, but he never received a response to the visa application he filed in May 2011. One year later, he is still waiting for a response, and he has been unable to get an answer from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as to why his application is being held up.
“Denying a visa to people like me is denying Americans their right to know what the U.S. government and its intelligence community are doing to children, women and other civilians in this part of the world,” Akbar said. “The CIA, which operates the drones in Pakistan, does not want anyone challenging their killing spree. But the American people should have the right to know.”
The CIA’s secret drone program has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan with no due process and no accountability. Akbar represents families whose innocent loved ones have been killed and maimed in these drone attacks.
“Shahzad is the voice for these poor tribal people who have had no recourse,” said CODEPINK co-director Medea Benjamin. “It’s outrageous that our government is trying to keep him from speaking at the Drone Summit.”
“The Obama administration has already launched six times as many drone strikes as the Bush administration in Pakistan alone, killing hundreds of innocent people and devastating families,” said Leili Kashani, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “By refusing to grant Shahzad Akbar a visa to speak about this abhorrent reality in the United States, the Obama administration is further silencing discussion about the impact of its targeted killing program on people in Pakistan and around the world.”
The Drone Summit’s organizers vow to keep pressuring the U.S. government to grant Akbar a visa.
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