One of Pakistan’s major political parties has published the name of what it believes to be the CIA’s chief operative in Islamabad after a US drone strike killed five people last week. The group demanded on Wednesday that the spy chief face murder charges.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), led by the country’s cricket star Imran Khan, dropped the name of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative to police in a letter in which the party demanded that the agent face up to the “gross offence” of the drone strike.
The letter was released to the media. However, the name could not be independently verified.
“I would like to nominate the US clandestine agency CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) Station Chief in Islamabad … and CIA Director John O. Brennan for committing the gross offences of committing murder and waging war against Pakistan,” PTI information secretary Shireen Mazarisaid wrote in the letter.
“CIA station chief is not a diplomatic post, therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan,” the letter added. The complaint was lodged with Tal police station in Hangu district, northwestern Pakistan.
Intelligence agencies in foreign countries make a habit of keeping the identities of their agents and operatives private. If the PTI has successfully named the right person then he may be forced to leave the country.
This would not be the first time that an American operative has been outed in the country. In 2010 a former station chief was forced to leave Pakistan after his name was also revealed during a drone strike which led to the deaths of civilians.
The drone strike on 21 November was extremely provocative as it was one of the first outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province, and killed five militants – among them a senior commander of the Haqqani Network.
A separate strike at the beginning of November, which killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, prompted Khan to react with similar fury over how continued strikes could scuttle peace talks.
“The Taliban held only one condition for the peace talks and that was that drone attacks must end,” he said at a press conference. “But just before the talks began we saw this sabotage.”
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the Islamabad station chief’s name to the AP and declined to comment on the matter immediately.
Thousands of demonstrators protesting US drone strikes in Pakistan blocked a main road Saturday in the Peshawar province used to transport NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan.
The protests was led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is led by Imran Khan, a former international cricketer now turned politician.
They were supported by their allies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and they were also joined by the Jamaat -i-Islami (JI) and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad (AJIP) political parties.
“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told reporters.
“We are here to give a clear message that now Pakistanis cannot remain silent over drone attacks,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior member of the PTI, addressing the protesters.
Imran Khan has been a fierce critic of US drone attacks, arguing that they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Khan said that the Pakistani government is doing nothing to stop drone attacks except for issuing statements of condemnation and that the protest would continue indefinitely.
Khan stressed that NATO supplies would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly called North-West Frontier Province, and added that the province’s PTI-led government had the mandate to block NATO trucks from passing through its territory.
Earlier Imran Khan had warned that NATO supply routes will be blocked if continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan threaten the country’s peace talks with the Taliban.
An attack on November 1 killed the former leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to peace talks. Officials said they were enraged by the attacks, although the Pakistani government is known to have supported some of the drone attacks in the past.
Party workers from the PTI and the JI travelled to Peshawar from across Pakistan and an estimated 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests. The protesters shouted anti US slogans such as “Stop drone attacks” and “Down with America”.
“I am participating in today’s sit-in to convey a message to America that we hate them since they are killing our people in drone attacks. America must stop drone attacks for peace in our country,” Hussain Shah, a 21 year old university student, told Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.
American drones are performing regular extrajudicial killings of Islamist leaders, accompanied by the collateral damage of many civilian casualties.
Strict security measures were in place Saturday, with 500 police personnel on duty. Trucks were directed to use an alternative route, although Tahir Khan, a government official, said there was normally little NATO traffic Saturday as most of the trucks arrive by Friday night to clear the border crossing.
However, protesters said that they would begin to stop trucks carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Sunday night, which could spark conflict with the federal government in Pakistan.
The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.
When a man shot up a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year, Barack Obama announced how “deeply saddened” he was that such an attack “took place at a house of worship.” His Republican challenger for the presidency, Mitt Romney, likewise expressed his disgust at “a senseless act of violence . . . that should never befall any house of worship.”
At the time, that was grotesquely funny because, by that point, Barack Obama had himself committed numerous acts of senseless violence against houses of worship. And, being the commander-in-chief of a military fighting a war in Afghanistan and Pakistan that he dramatically expanded upon taking office, he has continued to bomb religious institutions ever since.
As Reuters reported on Wednesday:
A suspected U.S. drone fired on an Islamic seminary in Pakistan’s northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa early on Thursday, killing at least five people, police said. [...]
Fareed Khan, a police officer, said the unmanned aircraft fired at least three rockets at the madrassa in the Hangu district, killing two teachers and three students just before sunrise on Thursday.
Now, and this is important: an anonymous official did say a potentially bad person was potentially seen at that madrassa a few days earlier (potentially), so Barack Obama can sleep soundly at night knowing he authorized the killing of a few people who were probably familiar with that bad guy…
Meanwhile Reuters continues:
The attack took place a day after Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz was quoted as saying that the United States had promised not to conduct drone strikes while the government tries to engage the Taliban in peace talks.
The United States has not commented on Aziz’s remarks.
I’m really pretty sure that it has.
The only surprising thing about the news that the US is sabotaging peace moves in Afghanistan and Pakistan is that anyone should find the news surprising.
As reported on RT, Pakistan has accused the US of sabotaging peace talks between the authorities in Islamabad and the Taliban following last Friday’s drone assassination of the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
“The murder of Hakimullah is the murder of all efforts at peace,” Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisa said. “Brick by brick, in the last seven weeks, we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you [the US] done?”
The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud comes less than a month after the US effectively wrecked the Afghan government’s efforts to engage with the Taliban by capturing Latif Mehsud, Hakimullah’s lieutenant. Latif Mehsud was the man that the Afghan government hoped would be a go-between for peace talks with the Taliban. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was reported to have been furious about the US operation. Karzai has also said that the drone strike against Hakimullah Mehsud “took place at an unsuitable time.”
The fact is that on several important occasions in the last 30 years or so, the US has wrecked peace efforts and used its power to provoke or prolong conflicts which could have been avoided or solved without further bloodshed.
1. Iraq 1990-1991
From August 1990 to January 1991, there were plenty of chances to achieve a diplomatic solution in relation to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and which would have resulted in an Iraqi withdrawal, but Washington was determined to go to war. When the war started, they rejected diplomatic moves, such as the plan put forward by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to end the conflict before ground troops were deployed in Kuwait.
Saddam Hussein’s forces could have been removed from Kuwait without a war in which many thousands were killed, but Washington didn’t want it.
That was at the start of the ’90s. Now let‘s fast forward to the end of that decade. In order to complete the destruction of Federal Yugoslavia, Washington aggressively championed the cause of a hardcore terrorist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army, in the late 1990s. The US marginalized Kosovar leaders who wanted to pursue a peaceful path towards independence, such as the politician Ibrahim Rugova, who urged passive resistance. Instead they pushed for a violent solution to the problem of Kosovo’s status: their strategy being to provoke a retaliation from the government in Belgrade, which would then provide the pretext for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
The Rambouillet Conference of March 1999 was ostensibly about trying to broker a peace deal between the Kosovar Albanian delegates and the Yugoslav authorities. But the terms were deliberately made so onerous – Appendix B allowed NATO forces freedom of movement throughout the whole of Yugoslavia – so as to guarantee its rejection by Belgrade.
“I think certain people were spoiling for a fight in NATO at that time,” revealed Lord Gilbert, a UK minister of state for defense procurement, in 2000. “If you ask my personal view, I think the terms put to Milosevic at Rambouillet were absolutely intolerable. How could he possibly accept them? It was quite deliberate.”
Even Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state and a man who can hardly be labeled a ‘peacenik‘, admitted: “The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing.”
Again, Washington had sabotaged a peaceful solution to a dispute and war ensued, with all its horrors.
3. Iraq 2002-2003
In 2002/3 we had the contrived WMD ’crisis’ with Iraq.
If Washington had genuinely been concerned about the possibility of Iraq being in possession of WMDs, they would simply have waited for Hans Blix and his team of UN weapons inspectors to finish their job. However, as we all know, the WMDs issue was merely a pretext for war, with the US knowing full well that the country was disarmed. The Iraqis were desperate to avert an attack on their country, but diplomatic offers from Baghdad in the lead-up to the illegal invasion were dismissed.
The result of the US opting for war and not peace in Iraq has been the deaths of at least 500,000 people since 2003.
In 2011, a UN resolution ostensibly about protecting civilians was used by the US and its NATO allies as a pretext for forcibly removing from power the government of Libya. During this ‘humanitarian’ intervention, which led to a sharp spike in the death toll, Washington and its allies frequently rejected calls for a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution. Today, Libya is – like Iraq – a wrecked country. But it all could have been very different, if Washington, instead of opting for war, had worked to bring warring factions to the negotiating table.
In Syria too, the US has set out since 2011 to prevent a peaceful solution to the country’s internal divisions. While an outright NATO attack on Syria has, at least for the time being, been avoided, it’s been public opinion in Western countries and adroit Russian diplomacy which has prevented World War III from breaking out in the Middle East this year, rather than America’s leaders suddenly turning over a new leaf.
If the US genuinely wanted an end to the terrible bloodshed in Syria they’d be encouraging the so-called ‘rebels’ to halt their campaign of violence and sign up to the political process and contest elections.
The Baathists have made significant reforms in Syria in the past two years, not least ending the party’s near five-decade long political monopoly, but Washington hasn’t been interested in peaceful democratic change, only in the violent overthrow of President Assad and his replacement by someone who will do its bidding. The result of this policy has been catastrophic for the people of Syria who, like the people of Iraq and Libya, watch as their country is destroyed before their very eyes.
While promoting itself as the great ‘peacemaker’, it’s the sober truth that no country has done more to stoke up conflicts and sabotage peaceful solutions to them in recent years than the US, with the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud being only the latest example.
Why does the US act in this destructive way? It’s important to understand that the US government doesn’t act in the interests of the ordinary, decent Americans, who are sick and tired of war and military ‘interventions’, but in the interests of Wall Street and what President Eisenhower famously referred to as ‘the military-industrial complex’.
The very last thing that Wall Street and the military-industrial complex want is peace. They thrive on wars and conflicts. Wars and conflicts mean profits. Nice, big, juicy profits. As Charlie Chaplin‘s anti-hero Monsieur Verdoux put it, “Wars, conflicts – it’s all business.”
Last month a report by the Public Accountability Initiative revealed that many of the leading ‘commentators’ who went on US TV stations to call for military strikes against Syria had undisclosed ties to military contractors. The report “identifies 22 commentators who weighed in during the Syria debate in large media outlets, and who have current industry ties that may pose conflicts of interest. The commentators are linked to large defense and intelligence contractors like Raytheon, smaller defense and intelligence contractors like TASC, defense-focused investment firms like SCP Partners, and commercial diplomacy firms like the Cohen Group.”
Among the ‘commentators’ supporting strikes on Syria was Madeline Albright, the US secretary of state at the time of the phony ‘peace’ conference at Rambouillet in 1999.
Bombing Yugoslavia, bombing Syria. With the violent destruction of Iraq and Libya along the way, to say nothing of the turmoil US policies have brought to Afghanistan and Pakistan. John Lennon implored us to ‘give peace a chance’, but until the US radically changes its political system and power is returned to ordinary people and away from those with a vested interest in endless war, its stoking up of conflicts and sabotaging of peace initiatives will only continue.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday condemned the latest U.S. drone attack and termed it as an attempt to sabotage the proposed peace talks with the Taliban.
The U.S. unmanned aircraft fired missiles on a house and vehicles of the Pakistani Taliban leaders in North Waziristan tribal region and killed six of them.
Local media said the American drone launched the strike at a time when the Taliban leaders were holding a meeting in their stronghold Dandey Darpakhel area.
Two Taliban figures, Tariq Mehsood, personal guard of the Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsood, and another commander identified as Abdullah were among those killed, local media reported.
Geo television reported that the vehicle targeted in the strike was being used by the chief of Pakistani Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsood. But it was not clear if Hakimullah Mehsood was in the vehicle at the time of the strike.
Dunya TV quoted security sources that Hakimullah Mehsood was killed in the strike.
Taliban and the government have not officially confirmed the reports.
The interior minister angrily reacted to the U.S. attack as it was carried out at a time when the government was set to begin talks with Taliban militants.
He said in a statement that the government has planned to send a three member delegation for initial discussion with the Taliban on Saturday. “We think that the latest drone attack was an attempt to sabotage the dialogue,” Chaudhry Nisar said.
Local media quoted security sources as saying that the American spy aircraft struck the Taliban compound when the Taliban were holding a meeting of their central council. Hakimullah Mehsood was scheduled to preside over the council’s meeting.
Some sources said the meeting was called to discuss strategy for talks with the government.
Reports suggested that the Taliban were holding the meeting when the U.S. drone rained missiles into the area.
Another report said that local Taliban chief, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Friday asked the residents to leave North Waziristan for a week in view of the deteriorating situation in the region.
A pamphlet distributed in the region asked the people to take their precious items with them.
For the first time since the United States began using drones to attack foreign enemies, members of Congress had the chance this week to hear directly from civilian survivors of such attacks at a special hearing.
But only five lawmakers bothered to show up.
The five representatives—all Democrats—were: Alan Grayson of Florida, John Conyers of Michigan, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Rush Holt of New Jersey, and Rick Nolan of Minnesota.
They heard from a Pakistani schoolteacher, Rafiq ur Rehman, and his two children, who traveled to Washington, DC, to describe the U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on October 24, 2012, that killed Rafiq’s mother, midwife Momina Bibi, and injured his two offspring.
Using a translator, the survivors talked about their experience, and how it changed their lives.
“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” Zubair ur Rehman, 13, said, adding that his leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.
At one point in the testimony, the translator broke down in tears while relaying the family’s ordeal.
Grayson invited the guests to appear before Congress, telling The Guardian that the hearing was intended “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”
“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama prior to the testimony. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed–a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”
“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” he continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.
“Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breeds more terrorism.”
The family’s effort to travel to the U.S. to testify made news prior to the hearing when the State Department refused to grant a visa to their lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. drone war in Pakistan.
With their attorney prevented from entering the U.S., the family was joined by Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve, a British human rights organization.
To Learn More:
State Department Blocks Lawyer of U.S. Drone Strike Survivors from Testifying Before Congress (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
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.” …
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.
Empire Under Obama: Part 3
By Andrew Gavin Marshall | The Hampton Institute | October 17, 2013
Obama’s global terror campaign is not only dependent upon his drone assassination program, but increasingly it has come to rely upon the deployment of Special Operations forces in countries all over the world, reportedly between 70 and 120 countries at any one time. As Obama has sought to draw down the large-scale ground invasions of countries (as Bush pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq), he has escalated the world of ‘covert warfare,’ largely outside the oversight of Congress and the public. One of the most important agencies in this global “secret war” is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC for short.
JSOC was established in 1980 following the failed rescue of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran as “an obscure and secretive corner of the military’s hierarchy,” noted the Atlantic. It experienced a “rapid expansion” under the Bush administration, and since Obama came to power, “appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in national security” and “counterterrorism,” in areas which were “traditionally covered by the CIA.”One of the most important differences between these covert warfare operations being conducted by JSOC instead of the CIA is that the CIA has to report to Congress, whereas JSOC only reports its most important activities to the President’s National Security Council.
During the Bush administration, JSOC “reported directly” to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (of the New Yorker), who explained that, “It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.” He added: “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”
In 2005, Dick Cheney referred to U.S. Special Forces as “the silent professionals” representing “the kind of force we want to build for the future… a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action.” And without a hint of irony, Cheney stated: “None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror.”Not unless those “fanatics” happen to be wearing U.S. military uniforms, of course, in which case “committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror” is not an issue.
The commander of JSOC during the Bush administration – when it served as Cheney’s “executive assassination ring” – was General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, JSOC began to play a much larger role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.In early 2009, the new head of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, ordered a two-week ‘halt’ to Special Operations missions inside Afghanistan, after several JSOC raids in previous months killed several women and children, adding to the growing “outrage” within Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by US raids and airstrikes, which contributed to a surge in civilian deaths over 2008.
JSOC has also been involved in running a “secret war” inside of Pakistan, beginning in 2006 but accelerating rapidly under the Obama administration. The “secret war” was waged in cooperation with the CIA and the infamous private military contractor, Blackwater, made infamous for its massacre of Iraqi civilians, after which it was banned from operating in the country.
Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, was recruited as a CIA asset in 2004, and in subsequent years acquired over $1.5 billion in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA, and included among its leadership several former top-level CIA officials. Blackwater, which primarily hires former Special Forces soldiers, has largely functioned “as an overseas Praetorian guard for the CIA and State Department officials,” who were also “helping to craft, fund, and execute operations,” including “assembling hit teams,” all outside of any Congressional or public oversight (since it was technically a private corporation).
The CIA hired Blackwater to aid in a secret assassination program which was hidden from Congress for seven years.These operations would be overseen by the CIA or Special Forces personnel. Blackwater has also been contracted to arm drones at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Obama’s assassination program, overseen by the CIA. The lines dividing the military, the CIA and Blackwater had become “blurred,” as one former CIA official commented, “It became a very brotherly relationship… There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually become an extension of the agency.”
The “secret war” in Pakistan may have begun under Bush, but it had rapidly expanded in the following years of the Obama administration. Wikileaks cables confirmed the operation of JSOC forces inside of Pakistan, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani telling the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson (who would later be appointed as ambassador to Egypt), that, “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
Within the first five months of Obama’s presidency in 2009, he authorized “a massive expansion of clandestine military and intelligence operations worldwide,” granting the Pentagon’s regional combatant commanders “significant new authority” over such covert operations.The directive came from General Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, authorizing Special Forces soldiers to be sent into “both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.” The deployment of highly trained killers into dozens of countries was to become “systemic and long term,” designed to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” enemies of the State, beyond the rule of law, no trial or pretenses of accountability. They also “prepare the environment” for larger attacks that the U.S. or NATO countries may have planned. Unlike with the CIA, these operations do not report to Congress, or even need “the President’s approval.” But for the big operations, they get the approval of the National Security Council (NSC), which includes the president, as well as most other major cabinet heads, of the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc.
The new orders gave regional commanders – such as Petraeus who headed CENTCOM, or General Ward of the newly-created Africa Command (AFRICOM) – authority over special operations forces in the area of their command, institutionalizing the authority to send trained killers into dozens of countries around the world to conduct secret operations with no oversight whatsoever; and this new ‘authority’ is given to multiple top military officials, who have risen to the top of an institution with absolutely no ‘democratic’ pretenses. Regardless of who is president, this “authority” remains institutionalized in the “combatant commands.”
The combatant commands include: AFRICOM over Africa (est. 2007), CENTCOM over the Middle East and Central Asia (est. 1983), EUCOM over Europe (est. 1947), NORTHCOM over North America (est. 2002), PACOM over the Pacific rim and Asia (est. 1947), SOUTHCOM over Central and South America and the Caribbean (est. 1963), SOCOM as Special Operations Command (est. 1987), STRATCOM as Strategic Command over military operations to do with outer space, intelligence, and weapons (est. 1992), and TRANSCOM handling all transportation for the Department of Defense. The State Department was given “oversight” to clear the operations from each embassy,just to make sure everyone was ‘in the loop,’ unlike during the Bush years when it was run out of Cheney’s office without telling anyone else.
In 2010, it was reported by the Washington Post that the U.S. has expanded the operations of its Special Forces around the world, from being deployed in roughly 60 countries under Bush to about 75 countries in 2010 under Obama, operating in notable spots such as the Philippines and Colombia, as well as Yemen, across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The global deployment of Special Forces – alongside the CIA’s global drone warfare program – were two facets of Obama’s “national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values,” in the words of the Washington Post, though the article was unclear on which aspect of waging “secret wars” in 75 countries constituted Obama’s “values.” Commanders for Special Operations forces have become “a far more regular presence at the White House” under Obama than George Bush, with one such commander commenting, “We have a lot more access… They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.” Such Special Operations forces deployments “go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counterterrorism forces and joint operations with them.”
So not only are U.S. forces conducting secret wars within dozens of countries around the world, but they are training the domestic military forces of many of these countries to undertake secret wars internally, and in the interests of the United States Mafia empire.
One military official even “set up a network” of private military corporations that hired former Special Forces and CIA operations to gather intelligence and conduct secret operations in foreign countries to support “lethal action”: publicly subsidized, privatized ‘accountability.’ Such a network was “generally considered illegal” and was “improperly financed.”When the news of these networks emerged, the Pentagon said it shut them down and opened a “criminal investigation.” Turns out, they found nothing “criminal,” because two months later, the operations were continuing and had “become an important source of intelligence.” The networks of covert-ops corporations were being “managed” by Lockheed Martin, one of the largest military contractors in the world, while being “supervised” by the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command.
Admiral Eric T. Olson had been the head of Special Operations Command from 2007 to 2011, and in that year, Olson led a successful initiative – endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates – to encourage the promotion of top special operations officials to higher positions in the whole military command structure. The “trend” was to continue under the following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA from 2009 to 2011.When Olson left his position as head of Special Operations Command, he was replaced with Admiral William McRaven, who served as the head of JSOC from 2008 to 2011, having followed Stanley McChrystal.
By January of 2012, Obama was continuing with seeking to move further away from large-scale ground wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocus on “a smaller, more agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.” Surrounded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in full uniforms adorned with medals, along with other top Pentagon officials, President Obama delivered a rare press briefing at the Pentagon where he said that, “our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.” The priorities in this strategy would be “financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”
In February of 2012, Admiral William H. McRaven, the head of the Special Operations Command, was “pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy,” advocating a plan that “would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed,” notably with expansions in mind for Asia, Africa and Latin America. McRaven stated that, “It’s not really about Socom [Special Operations Command] running the global war on terrorism… I don’t think we’re ready to do that. What it’s about is how do I better support” the major regional military command structures.
In the previous decade, roughly 80% of US Special Operations forces were deployed in the Middle East, but McRaven wanted them to spread to other regions, as well as to be able to “quickly move his units to potential hot spots without going through the standard Pentagon process governing overseas deployments.” The Special Operations Command numbered around 66,000 people, double the number since 2001, and its budget had reached $10.5 billion, from $4.2 billion in 2001.
In March of 2012, a Special Forces commander, Admiral William H. McRaven, developed plans to expand special operations units, making them “the force of choice” against “emerging threats” over the following decade. McRaven’s Special Operations Command oversees more than 60,000 military personnel and civilians, saying in a draft paper circulated at the Pentagon that: “We are in a generational struggle… For the foreseeable future, the United States will have to deal with various manifestations of inflamed violent extremism. In order to conduct sustained operations around the globe, our special operations must adapt.” McRaven stated that Special Forces were operating in over 71 countries around the world.
The expansion of global special forces operations was largely in reaction to the increasingly difficult challenge of positioning large military forces around the world, and carrying out large scale wars and occupations, for which there is very little public support at home or abroad. In 2013, the Special Operations Command had forces operating in 92 different countries around the world, with one Congressional critic accusing McRaven of engaging in “empire building.”The expanded presence of these operations is a major factor contributing to “destabilization” around the world, especially in major war zones like Pakistan.
In 2013, McRaven’s Special Operations Command gained new authorities and an expanded budget, with McRaven testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”In 2012, it was reported that such forces would be operating in 120 different countries by the end of the year.
In December of 2012, it was announced that the U.S. was sending 4,000 soldiers to 35 different African countries as “part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge,” operating under the Pentagon’s newest regional command, AFRICOM, established in 2007.
By September of 2013, the U.S. military had been involved in various activities in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, among others, constructing bases, undertaking “security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network.”
In short, Obama’s global ‘war of terror’ has expanded to roughly 100 countries around the world, winding down the large-scale military invasions and occupations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increasing the “small-scale” warfare operations of Special Forces, beyond the rule of law, outside Congressional and public oversight, conducting “snatch and grab” operations, training domestic repressive military forces in nations largely run by dictatorships to undertake their own operations on behalf of the ‘Global Godfather.’
Make no mistake: this is global warfare. Imagine for a moment the international outcry that would result from news of China or Russia conducting secret warfare operations in roughly 100 countries around the world. But when America does it, there’s barely a mention, save for the passing comments in the New York Times or the Washington Post portraying an unprecedented global campaign of terror as representative of Obama’s “values.” Well, indeed it is representative of Obama’s values, by virtue of the fact that he doesn’t have any.
Indeed, America has long been the Global Godfather applying the ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations, lock-in-step with its Western lackey organized crime ‘Capo’ states such as Great Britain and France. Yet, under Obama, the president who had won public relations industry awards for his well-managed presidential advertising campaign promising “hope” and “change,” the empire has found itself waging war in roughly one hundred nations, conducting an unprecedented global terror campaign, increasing its abuses of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all under the aegis of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama.
Whether the president is Clinton, Bush, or Obama, the Empire of Terror wages on its global campaign of domination and subjugation, to the detriment of all humanity, save those interests that sit atop the constructed global hierarchy. It is in the interests of the ruling elite that America protects and projects its global imperial designs. It is in the interests of all humanity, then, that the Empire be opposed – and ultimately, deconstructed – no matter who sits in office, no matter who holds the title of the ‘high priest of hypocrisy’ (aka: President of the United States). It is the Empire that rules, and the Empire that destroys, and the Empire that must, in turn, be demolished.
The world at large – across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America – suffers the greatest hardships of the Western Mafia imperial system: entrenched poverty, exploitation, environmental degradation, war and destruction. The struggle against the Empire cannot be waged and won from the outside alone. The rest of the world has been struggling to survive against the Western Empire for decades, and, in truth, hundreds of years. For the struggle to succeed (and it can succeed), a strong anti-Empire movement must develop within the imperial powers themselves, and most especially within the United States. The future of humanity depends upon it.
Or… we could all just keep shopping and watching TV, blissfully blind to the global campaign of terror and war being waged in our names around the world. Certainly, such an option may be appealing, but ultimately, wars abroad come home to roost. As George Orwell once wrote: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”
- Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, 1 December 2009
- Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, 24 May 2010
- Eric Black, “Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes ‘executive assassination ring‘,” Minnesota Post, 11 March 2009
- John D. Danusiewicz, “Cheney Praises ‘Silent Professionals’ of Special Operations,” American Forces Press Service, 11 June 2005
- Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, December 1, 2009
- Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, 9 March 2009
- Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in Pakistan, The Nation: November 23, 2009
- Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy,” Vanity Fair, January 2010
- Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists,” The New York Times, 19 August 2009
- R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, “Blackwater tied to clandestine CIA raids,” The Washington Post, 11 December 2009
- James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones,” The New York Times, 20 August 2009
- James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret C.I.A. Raids,” The New York Times, 10 December 2009
- Jeremy Scahill, “The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan,” The Nation, 1 December 2010
- March Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” The Atlantic, 25 May 2010
- Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, May 24, 2010
- Marc Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” May 25, 2010
- Max Fisher, “The End of Dick Cheney’s Kill Squads,” The Atlantic, 4 June 2010
- Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” The Washington Post, 4 June 2010
- Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, “Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants,” The New York Times, 14 March 2010
- Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts,” The New York Times, 15 May 2010
- Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, “Special Operations Veterans Rise in Hierarchy,” The New York Times, 8 August 2011
- Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, “Obama Puts His Stamp on Strategy for a Leaner Military,” The New York Times, 5 January 2012
- Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces,” The New York Times, 12 February 2012
- David S. Cloud, “U.S. special forces commander seeks to expand operations,” Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2012
- Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, “A Commander Seeks to Chart a New Path for Special Operations,” The New York Times, 1 May 2013
- Nick Turse, “How Obama’s destabilizing the world,” Salon, 19 September 2011
- Walter Pincus, “Special Operations wins in 2014 budget,” The Washington Post, 11 April 2013
- David Isenberg, “The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces,” IPS News, 24 May 2012
- Tom Bowman, “U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa,” NPR, 25 December 2012; and Lolita C. Baldor, “Army teams going to Africa as terror threat grows,” Yahoo! News, 24 December 2012
- Nick Turse, “The Startling Size of US Military Operations in Africa,” Mother Jones, 6 September 2013
The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.
President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls’ education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.
Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.
Malala recounted: “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.”
President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.
It’s up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.
The United Nations has released a report on “armed drones and the right to life” (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:
“Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes.”
Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:
“Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones.”
The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:
“An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones.”
The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined “imminent” to mean eventual or theoretical — that is, they’ve stripped the word of all meaning. (See the “white paper” PDF.) The U.N. doesn’t buy it:
“The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law.”
U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it’s part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:
“Insofar as the term ‘signature strikes’ refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected.”
The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders — namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:
“Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force.”
Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is “self-defense” the action must be reported to the U.N. — thereby making it sooooo much better.
A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for “a detailed public explanation.”
The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn’t heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.’s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org.
A new UN report warns that the use of armed drones threatens global security and encourages more states to acquire unmanned weapons.
The report, which has been submitted to UN General Assembly by Christof Heyns — the organization’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions — called for states that operate armed drones to be more transparent and publicly disclose how they use them, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
“The expansive use of armed drones by the first states to acquire them, if not challenged, can do structural damage to the cornerstones of international security and set precedents that undermine the protection of life across the globe in the longer term,” the report said.
“The use of drones by states to exercise essentially a global policing function to counter potential threats presents a danger to the protection of life, because the tools of domestic policing (such as capture) are not available, and the more permissive targeting framework of the laws of war is often used instead,” it pointed out.
The report also called for international laws to be respected rather than ignored.
“The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable, even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack, distorts the requirements established in international human rights law,” stated the report.
Countries cannot consent “to the violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law or international human rights law,” it added.
Heyns noted that “drones come from the sky but leave the heavy footprint of war on the communities they target.”
“The claims that drones are more precise in targeting cannot be accepted uncritically, not least because terms such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’ are sometimes used to describe people who are in truth protected civilians,” he said.
The report is the first of two major papers on drone strikes due to be debated at the UN General Assembly on October25. The second, by Ben Emmerson, special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, will be published next week.
Although no state is identified in the report, the comments are clearly directed at the legal problems raised by the US program of aerial attacks against what it describes as militants in other countries.
Emmerson said that drone strikes have killed far more civilians than US officials have publicly acknowledged.
He said on Thursday that at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen have been killed by the CIA drone strikes, and censured the US for failing to aid the investigation by disclosing its own figures.
The report was welcomed by the London-based human rights group Reprieve, which represents several civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.
“This report rightly states that the US’s secretive drone war is a danger not only to innocent civilians on the ground but also to international security as a whole.
“The CIA’s campaign must be brought out of the shadows: we need to see real accountability for the hundreds of civilians who have been killed – and justice for their relatives. Among Reprieve’s clients are young Pakistani children who saw their grandmother killed in front of them – the CIA must not be allowed to continue to smear these people as ‘terrorists’,” said its legal director, Kat Craig.
Washington uses assassination drones in several countries, claiming that they target “terrorists”. According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.
Officials at a top university in the United Kingdom have bowed to public pressure and withdrawn the school’s investment in U.S. drones.
The University of Edinburgh had a $2 million (£1.2 million) stake in Ultra Electronics, a British firm that manufactures navigation controls for Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and ground control stations.
Investing in drone development was deemed not “socially responsible” by the university as well as students and campaign groups that lobbied Edinburgh to pull out of the business.
“The covert US drone program has killed hundreds of civilians and traumatized populations in Pakistan and Yemen,” Catherine Gilfedder of the human rights group Reprieve told The Guardian. “In divesting from Ultra Electronics, Edinburgh University has demonstrated its disapproval of companies profiting from such killings, and the importance of socially responsible investment.”
American drones have been used on covert missions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism says more than 430 strikes have occurred since 2002, killing at least 428 civilians, of whom 173 were children.
In Afghanistan, British drones have been more than three times as likely to lead to strikes as American drones, according to the Bureau’s analysis of drone data recently released by the British government.