Posts Tagged drone war

The New York Times & More Weapons of Mass Destruction

Dear Reader of The New York Times,

If you’re been worrying, even slightly, about how people at the receiving end of the U.S. drone war — wait, excuse me, the “remotely piloted vehicle” war — it seems yesterday The Times must have made you feel better.

As we are told in Elizabeth Bumiller’s front page article, A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away, we really should be concerned more about its effect on the pilots of the drones such as a colonel who acknowledges the “peculiar new disconnect of fighting a telewar with a joystick and a throttle from his padded seat in American suburbia.”

More chaplains and shrinks are being ordered up to bases where the pilots operate.  A recent study revealed increased stress on the pilots.  An Air Force doctor explains that watching targets for weeks at a time in domestic situations can mean it feels strange to shoot up a home.  “At some point, some of the stuff might remind you of stuff you did yourself. You might gain a level of familiarity that makes it a little difficult to pull the trigger.”

Bumiller’s point, or shall we just say, the point of The New York Times, is directed right at you, and your humanitarian objections to targeted killing and murder from a distance: “Stop worrying about the people at the other end of the war.”

And don’t worry about the U.S. military pilots either.  Despite a job doing 12 hours shifts 18″ from a screen where they watch families going about daily life one moment, and obliterated the next, they’re OK.  Bumiller quotes the colonel:

“I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy,” he said. “I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”

Peter Hart, on FAIR’s blog today reminds us that Elisabeth Bumiller is:

“perhaps best known for a testy C-SPAN appearance where she explained that New York Times reporters ‘can’t just say the president is lying.’”

It was only two weeks ago that The New York Times published  The Moral Case for Drones by Scott Shane, who has done some accurate and critical reporting of the U.S. global “war on terror.”  But that was then, in the Bush years.  Now he quoted only one academic political scientist who raised objections to killing targets instead of capturing them.  His drone cheerleader sources were a former C.I.A. official, and a military professor.

And the voices of the people targeted are so not there, almost ever, in the main newspaper of record in the richest country ever, with the biggest military in history.

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What the US Drone War Is, What It Isn’t and Remembering the Nameless Victims

This is the talk I gave in Madison two weeks ago at the Veterans for Peace Memorial Day Commemoration:

I am so glad to be here in Madison, and to appreciate what Madison has brought us, including the 1967 Dow Chemical protests against Napalm, and the 2011 uprising against Walker.  The Veterans for Peace chapter in Madison is so active. I saw many of you last week in Chicago, protesting US/NATO war crimes.  Todd Dennis and others did an inspiring action last Sunday by throwing their medals, won in the illegitimate, unjust, immoral US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, back at the NATO Summit.  I am proud of Iraq Veterans Against the War for the content of their message, and for the way many of them spoke of the damage to the people of those countries.

After almost 11 years of US war on Afghanistan, I’ve had people say to me recently, “at least President Obama is ending that war.”  Of course, he isn’t doing any such thing.  It was Obama who vastly expanded the war on Afghanistan in 2009 to 150,000 troops.  It’s the US/NATO forces under which the “surge” brought about the biggest loss of Afghan civilian life of the war, during the last year.  It’s Obama and Afghan President Karzai who just signed an agreement to keep US forces in Afghanistan until 2024, or another 12 years at least.

This was the war that had to be fought to “save” the Afghan people, according to the Bush regime.  In 2001, Afghanistan was the second most dangerous country on the globe for a woman to give birth.  In 2011, it was the MOST dangerous country for a woman to give birth – it had the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.   And this past winter brought reports of dozens of children under 5 freezing to death in coalition-sponsored refugee camps, while the U.S. has sent tens of billions of dollars to fund the occupation.

Out of this comes the U.S. drone war, now fully directed and justified by the Obama administration.  Since 2009, Obama has increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – drones  –  by 8 times more than the Bush administration in Pakistan.  Drones are now fully a part of the US war-fighting plan, so much so that the US Air Force is now training more pilots of un-manned vehicles than of fighter-bomber planes.  These pilots are based around the world, and within the US, controlling the surveillance and armed drones at 18” from the action on their screens.  Of the two US drone programs, the one run by the CIA is probably the larger – the budget is secret – and employs civilian pilots.

The argument from The Pentagon is that drones can “surgically target” insurgents.  You have people in the Obama Justice Department who criticized George Bush for doing what they now defend Obama for doing.  In fact, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks US drone strikes in Pakistan, has found that at least 175   children have been killed, and hundreds of people not involved with Al Qaeda or any local insurgent group.  In fact, the U.S. military defines people as insurgents merely by the fact that they’ve been killed in a drone strike.  Most alarmingly, there are repeated and growing examples of strikes coming in series, killing groups of rescuers and mourners.  There is no hiding from the drones; they have sophisticated surveillance technology, including heat sensors that can see through walls.  Buildings and bodies are obliterated.

So that’s what the US drone war is.  But, as terrible as the use of drones is, it doesn’t change anything about US wars of empire.  They are still illegitimate, immoral, unjust.  And they are most damaging to the people they target; secondarily, they have mostly destroyed the lives of the one million U.S. military who have been used to fight them.  The U.S. drone wars — now in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and they used drones in Libya – are the newest technological development in the United States effort to spread an unchallengeable empire, no matter who the president is.

The problem for those of us trying to end these wars is that too many people living in this country go along with these crimes carried out in our name, thinking that their interests are the same as those in power.  World Can’t Wait says, “Humanity and the Planet Come First – Stop the Crimes of Our Government.”  We say this in recognition of the damage causes by these now endless wars, the system of indefinite detention that is part of the wars, and in recognition that American lives are not more important than other lives.

Join us in working to end the crimes of our government, and in a sending a message to the people of the world that there are people here who say, NO, not in our name!

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Going on 10 years, the drone from Washington gets louder

It’s difficult to pick out the most disturbing feature of the Obama administration’s expanding use of unmanned drones in its continuing war on “terror” in at least 5 countries. Would it be that the pilots, sitting in Texas or Nebraska, “watch” targets across the world for hours or days, and then go home for dinner with the kids?  That their slang term for human beings they’ve hit is “squirter?”  That the C.I.A. minders of one of the U.S. drone programs claim “no” civilians are killed?  Or that there’s no oversight, no budget limit, no one in the upper levels of government who is even disturbed by this inhumanity?

I’d go for all of the above, and together, they are only one reason I’m calling you to protest on October 6, and in the days after, at the outrage of 10 years of aggressive war and occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.  See World Can’t Wait protest plans, October2011.org, and 10 Years and Counting.

In Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 6, we will have replica Predator drones on Freedom Plaza. We’ll be talking to the public about how they’re used, and we’ve got the facts to fuel outrage.  Last month, the New York Times reported on a drone attack in Pakistan, and raised questions:

On May 6, a Central Intelligence Agency drone fired a volley of missiles at a pickup truck carrying nine militants and bomb materials through a desolate stretch of Pakistan near the Afghan border. It killed all the militants — a clean strike with no civilian casualties, extending what is now a yearlong perfect record of avoiding collateral deaths.

Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.

The Telegraph U.K. reported that at least 168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign, although all concerned know how difficult it is to count the victims of the secret drone campaign.

In the first seven months of the year, 51 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 443 people, according to a report by Conflict Monitoring Center. The report showed that the two deadliest months were June and July, when 117 and 73 people were killed respectively. One of the deadliest attacks was carried out on July 11 and 12, when four air strikes killed 63 people, the report said.  Controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. Details about the alleged militants are usually not provided, and the U.S. government does not comment on the strikes.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.

Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for Guantanamo prisoners, wrote more on the children and civilians killed by U.S.drones:

The CIA claims that there has been not one “non-combatant” killed in the past year. This claim always seemed to be biased advocacy rather than honest fact. Indeed, the Guardian recently published some of the pictures we have obtained of the aftermath of drone strikes. There were photos of a child called Naeem Ullah killed in Datta Khel and two kids in Piranho, both within the timeframe of the CIA’s dubious declaration.

Smith raises a challenge that “every time we read news of the latest drone strike in Pakistan, we need an honest assessment of the civilian casualties – and of whether we feel comfortable with an unaccountable spy agency carrying out killings on a military scale (the CIA’s strikes now outweigh the firepower used in the opening round of the Kosovo war).”

All of this, done in our name, must be stopped by people acting in this country who know that American lives are not more important than the lives of other people, and that this outrageous war is fundamentally against humanity’s interest.

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