Posts Tagged Yemen
Thanks to Medea Benjamin, Code Pink, Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the attention and energy of 400 who gathered this past Saturday at Georgetown Law School, we were able to consider Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation & Resistance. It was a very worthwhile weekend which will impact how people act on and respond to U.S. use of drones.
Most movingly, we heard from three people who traveled from Yemen to speak of U.S. drone strikes. Kevin Gosztola on Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s calm, deliberate description of the attack that killed his brother and nephew, just after his own son’s wedding:
Five men were gathering behind a local mosque in their village of Khashamir in southeast Yemen when a US drone launched Hellfire missiles at them. Four of the men were instantly killed, their bodies blown into pieces. The fifth man was killed as he tried to crawl away.
The attack took place on August 29, 2012. Yemen’s Defense Ministry initially claimed that three members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had been killed. Two of the individuals killed, according to a Human Rights Watch report, turned out to be Salim bin Ali Jaber, “a cleric and father of seven,” who “had long preached against AQAP’s violent methods.” Another man killed was Walid bin Ali Jaber, “one of the village’s few police officers.” They had been participating in a meeting because “three alleged AQAP members” wanted to meet with him about a recent “strong denunciation of AQAP at the local mosque.”
Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, presented on the claim that the U.S. drone programs violate international law. She recounts in Voices from the Drone Summit:
Baraa Shaiban, a human rights activist who works with REPRIEVE, revealed that 2012 was a year that saw “drones like never before” in Yemen. He described the death of a mother and daughter from a drone strike. “The daughter was holding the mother so tight, they could not be separated. They had to be buried together.”
Two members of Al Qaeda were in Entesar al Qadhi’s village, one of the most oil rich areas of Yemen. Villagers were negotiating with the two men. A drone killed the chief negotiator, scuttling the negotiations and leaving the village vulnerable to Al Qaeda. “The drones are for Al Qaeda, not against Al Qaeda,” al Qadhi said.
Former military intelligence Analyst Daniel Hale told us that he was 14 on 9/11/01. When he reported to work in 2012, he passed constant photos of 9/11, aimed at directing his “mission” to kill terrorists. He related an incident in 2012 where the military’s qualification for a drone strike was whether the target was “of military age.” “This struck me as ridiculous” he said, that children were considered targets. My tweeted note: “Hale had thought he was defending US interests, told terrorists were cowards, but began to think US military shooting drones are cowards.”
Pardiss Kebriaei and Mary Ellen O’Connell joined Cohn in speaking about the legal challenge to drone strikes, exposing the Obama/Bush administration’s legal justification as very basically counter to the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter (which themselves are effectively U.S. law).
Very interesting to me was a presentation by Dalit Baum (@dalitbaum) on the use of autonomous weapons by Israel. Baum described unmanned bulldozers knocking down homes. Why? The Israeli military needed to remove human operators because 1) they might talk afterward, and 2) they might lose their nerve. Baum also showed a chilling video clip of a drone killing of several Bedouin youth near the Wall in Gaza by Israeli drones. We learned that the major drone producing countries are the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, with Israel producing 41% of the world’s drones.
There’s more. We worked hard on Sunday on how to spread opposition to drones way beyond the existing too tiny movement. Monday night, The Illuminator and Granny Peace Brigade lit up midtown:
This week World Can’t Wait joins kNOwdrones.com and Granny Peace Brigade in ambitious outreach across Manhattan to protest U.S. drones for warfare & surveillance. We have 3 replica drones and volunteers of all ages. We talk about how drones are used in targeted killing. Each lunch hour we’re in key parts of the city, talking to people about why secret, dirty, wars employing horrific technology should be opposed. The campaign, which is being launched while the U.N. General Assembly meets here in NYC, includes a demand for a world ban on weaponized and surveillance drones.
The outrageous use of drones by the U.S. is in news this week, as the U.N. meets:
Baraa Shiban, an investigator for Reprieve who was returning from Yemen to the U.K. was detained at the airport under the infamous British Anti-Terrorism Act, questioned by an un-named suited interrogator. He recounts in The Guardian
“So,” he asked, “does your organisation have anything to do with terrorism in Yemen?”
I replied, “My organisation addresses counter-terrorism abuses inside the country.”
“Exactly!” He said. “Why doesn’t your organisation do something about the terrorism that happens in your country, instead of focusing on the counter-terrorism abuses?”
What could I reply? Of course I oppose terrorism. But I also oppose the secret air war in my country – waged by the US, apparently with covert support from the UK and others. The drone war in my homeland has claimed innocent lives and terrorised civilians. It operates wholly outside the law, and serves only to fuel anti-western sentiment.
These are considered views. I formed them in conversations with dozens of witnesses, victims, and officials across Yemen. I was not about to apologise for them to this interrogator.
Glenn Greenwald tied this to NSA documents UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA’s view of drone opponents as ‘threats’ and ‘adversaries’
Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.
Excerpts of those documents, straight from the horses’ mouths, are published by The Guardian. My friend John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post reporter, nailed the role of ruling-class media in fostering the actual government propaganda campaign against drone critics by the un-named government sources in Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?
There is great concern that U.S. pressure will affect the report coming on October 25 from Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism. Substantial evidence has been presented to Emmerson that this secret program is extensive and dangerous to Yemenis. From Alkarama, the Swiss human rights organization: “Drones War in Yemen”: Report presented to UN experts:
From the first air strike in November 2002 until the month of May 2013, there have been between 134 and 226 U.S. military operations in Yemen, including strikes by aircraft, drone missiles, or attacks launched from warships stationed in the Gulf of Aden. The number of deaths due to these targeted killings is estimated at 1150.
…not only is the definition of ‘terrorist’ or ‘combatant’ problematic but these high-profile targets in fact only represent 2% of the individuals who have died because of these ‘targeted’ air strikes.
In more repression of those working to expose the drones, Shazad Akbar, a Pakistani attorney who works with Reprieve to expose the U.S. drone war in Pakistan, and seeks reparations for its victims, has been denied a visa to enter the U.S. to testify at a hearing convened by U.S. Representative Alan Grayson about drone killings. In Obama administration blocks drone victims’ lawyer from testifying in congress, Akbar says:
Failing to grant me a visa silences the 156 civilian drone strike victims and families that I represent. These families, who have lost children, parents, and siblings, are now trying through legal means to achieve justice. They have powerful stories to tell in their own voices, but will not travel without me, their legal representative.”
Robert Greenwald just produced a short film which focuses on one of the families Akbar represents, and who would come along to the U.S. to testify in Congress if the visa is granted to him.
Greenwald says you can help get Mr. Akbar into the country (as our protests did in 2012):
- Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
- Follow up with an email demanding the State Dept. issue a visa for Shahzad
Importantly, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has a huge new project: “Naming the Dead” — those killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. The project (thebureauinvestigates.com/namingthedead) will list the known names of those reported killed by drones together with as much biographical information as can be gathered.
No one who pays any attention to world news can say they don’t know, now, about the US secret drone war of targeted killing. Our mission is to ignite outrage among people in whose name this illegitimate, unjust, immoral enterprise is conducted.
The counter-attack of city authorities to clear the “Occupy” movement has now led to a serious injury, leaving protester Scott Olsen critically injured by an injury to his brain from a police projectile. Oakland police attacked a peaceful encampment on Tuesday at 5:00 am, after massing 500 police, for hours. Within minutes, hundreds were driven away, and police destroyed everything.
Tuesday evening, over 1,000 people gathered again in downtown Oakland to protest the eviction, and they were attacked viciously with tear gas canisters shot into the crowd, concussion grenades, and reports of rubber bullets.
While New York Mayor Bloomberg was not able to carry through on his eviction plan of Occupy Wall Street on October 14, because thousands of people answered a call to defend it, we continue to hear rumors and threats, as the New York Post, Fox News and other reactionary media outlets argue for more police repression.
Last night, hundreds from Occupy Wall Street marched uptown to protest the police attack on Oakland, and have adopted the slogan “We are All Scott Olsen.” I’ve been on the phone all afternoon with a young woman arrested last night in the march who received a puncture wound in the leg from being beaten up by police. She’s still awaiting arraignment, and may be there until Friday.
The authorities cannot tolerate such gatherings in public space. Huge numbers of police are surrounding the encampments, and any marches proceeding from them. Is there anyone that thinks, if there were just more police, that would solve any of the underlying problems causing people to take to the streets in a mix of desperation, anger, and hope?
Kristin Gwynne writes today on Alternet about Scott Olsen:
The videos of his injury (below) are heartbreaking. The victim is lying in the street, bleeding from the face. Demonstrators run to help him, and a cop tosses a canister at the crowd gathering around the injured vet. It explodes. Carried out by a group of organizers, Olsen emerges from a cloud of smoke, bleeding from the head, his eyes in a daze. His body is limp, with his arms dangling above his face. When they scream “what’s your name?” he can’t respond. His hand moves, but his eyes stare straight ahead. The crew screams in horror “MEDIC!! MEDIC!!!”
Jon Stewart was shocked by the Oakland police attack.
“They were concerned about a public safety threat, so they did this? [cue footage of tear gas clouds and exploding stun grenades].”
There’s no evidence yet that the police attacks are deterring people from their righteous occupations in the U.S., as the much, much, more violent state repression against the spring uprisings beginning in Tunisia did not, and has not stopped, the people, who continue in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen to battle the authorities.
Occupy Oakland is back, bigger than ever, and for the time being, the city has backed off with the heavy police presence, at least for now. Occupy Wall Street is sending them $20,000 and new tents.
We need our own version of mass support for the occupations. If you can’t get to one right now, get into print, get online, get on the phone, and weigh in:
“Hands off Occupy!”
The voices almost never heard in the discussion of torture, indefinite detention and Bush’s Guantánamo are the men who were themselves detained. Over 600 have been released, in a tacit admission by the U.S. that they committed no crimes. 174 are still detained, even though Obama’s own commission found last year that more than 90 should be released immediately. We should hear these voices.
Andy Worthington published this letter last week, from a Yemini detainee:
A letter from Guantánamo, by Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
To Attorney David Remes who dedicated his efforts to work on my dead case. The case that has been buried by its makers under the wreckage of freedom, justice, and the malicious and cursed politics.
Testimony and Consolation
I offer my dead corpse to the coming Yemeni delegation.
They agreed on the torture and agonies that I went through all those years.
They knew that I am innocent and at the same time ill and that I left my country to seek treatment.
This is also a message to the Yemeni people who bear the responsibility of my death in front of God and the responsibility of all of the other Yemenis inside this prison. This prison is a piece of hell that kills everything, the spirit, the body and kicks away all the symptoms of health from them.
A Testimony of Death
A testimony against injustice and against the propagandists of freedom, justice and equality.
Adnan Farhan Abdulatif while in the throes of death.
From Close Guantanamo with Justice Now, by dozens of organizations to mark the beginning of the 10th year of Guantanamo on Tuesday, January 11, 2011:
The story of Guantánamo remains the shameful case of the U.S. government rounding up nearly 800 men and boys, indiscriminately labeling them “the worst of the worst,” and throwing them into an island prison designed to exist beyond the reaches of the law, where they would have no right to challenge their detention or abuse. The vast majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place. Many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were fleeing the chaos of war when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. Only one in twenty was captured by the U.S. military. Most were captured by local civilians and authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sold to the United States in exchange for substantial bounty. According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior State Department official who served in the Bush administration between 2002-2005, the Bush administration knew early on that the majority of the men at Guantánamo were innocent but did not release them due to political concerns that doing so could harm support for the government’s push for war in Iraq and the broader “Global War on Terror.”
Andy Worthington and other journalists have spent years documenting the abuse detainees suffered. See the report by ProPublica, Prisoners’ Recollections Differ from Guidelines, contrasting the “torture memo” report released by the Obama administration in 2009, with its dry and utterly bland descriptions of torture procedures ordered by the Bush regime, with the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2007 which, given the ICRC’s reluctance to criticize governments, was scathing in its criticism of the Bush program.
The problem is not simply that Barack Obama has not followed through on his pledge to close Guantanamo by January 22, 2010. In many ways, as we said in the Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them statement,
this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.
Ten weeks after the publication of that statement in The New York Times, Obama, it was reported by Dafna Linzer at ProPublica that
The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials… the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.
This executive order, may be released on or near January 11, putting a close to any faint illusions — or delusions – on the part of those who says that Obama is “really trying” to close the illegal prison.
In another recent piece With Indefinite Detention and Transfer Bans, Obama and the Senate Plumb New Depths on Guantánamo Worthington says:
President Obama is now fulfilling one of Dick Cheney’s great hopes, presiding over a prison in which the overwhelming majority of the remaining 174 prisoners will, in all likelihood, continue to be held indefinitely.
Over at The Talking Dog, dog says:
Every day, in every way, the people of the Obama Administration just want you to know that if there is any material difference between it and the Bush Administration… they must not be doing their jobs right.
Just so we are clear: the continuation of the global “war on terror” continues, now fully endorsed by the administration and the Congress. As always, it’s up to us to make our demands visible. Join me in Washington DC on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.