There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~Ben Franklin
"Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America's newfound taste for remote-controlled
warfare." That's how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day
in court on Tuesday, when fourteen of us stood trial for walking on to
Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009 to protest the U.S.
The prosecutors challenged each witness, but their questions only enabled the witnesses to speak further on our behalf.
Through carefully crafted questions, the defendants were able to extract several key points from their witnesses:
* Intentional killing is a war crime, as embodied in U.S. constitutional law.
* Drone strikes by U.S. and coalition forces kill a disproportionate number of civilians.
* People have the right, even the duty, to stop war crimes.
* According to the Nuremberg principles, individuals are required to disobey domestic orders that cause crimes against humanity.
Several of our witnesses have employed the classic metaphor when talking of a necessity defense. There's a house on fire, and a child crying from the window and there's a no trespassing
sign on the door. Can one ignore the sign, kick down the door and
rescue the child?
It was a great privilege for us to hear Ramsey Clark, a master of understatement, who put it best. "Letting a baby burn to death because of a no trespass sign would be poor public
I submit that the house is on fire and babies are burning in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan because of the activities at Creech AFB.
The baby is burning also in the persons of the young people who are operating the drones from Creech AFB, who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at rates that even exceed
that of their comrades in combat on the ground.
Colonel Ann Wright testified that soldiers do pay attention to what is going on in the public forum, and that they do respond to a "great debate" in the
public sphere. There is no great debate going on about drone warfare in
our country. Some have noted that the trend toward using drones in
warfare is a paradigm shift that can be compared to what happened when
an atomic bomb was first used to destroy the city of Hiroshima in Japan.
When Hiroshima was bombed, though, the whole world knew that everything had changed. Today everything is changing, but it goes almost without
notice. I hesitate to claim credit for it, but there is certainly more
discussion of this issue after we were arrested for trespassing at
Creech AFB on April 9, 2009, than there was before.
Judge Jansen, we appreciate the close attention you've given to the testimony you've heard here. The question that you asked Bill Quigley, --"Aren't
there better ways of making change than breaking the law?", is a
question we are often asked and that we often ask ourselves.
It was a question that was asked of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 when he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama. Several clergy people
of Birmingham wrote a letter to Dr. King asking him the very same
questions that you asked Professor Quigley. Isn't there a better way?
Why sit-ins? Why marches, why protests? Isn't negotiation the better
Dr. King's reply to these questions -- in his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which is regarded by many as one of the finest things ever written in the English language -- heartily agreed
that negotiation is the better way. But, he said that a society that
refuses to face crucial issues needs "nonviolent gadflies" using direct
action to raise the level of awareness and raise the level of "creative
tension" for a society to rise from the depths of monologue to the
majestic heights of dialogue, where the great debate that Colonel Ann
Wright says we need, can happen.
The house is on fire. And we fourteen are ones who have seen the smoke from the fire and heard the cries of the children. We cannot be deterred by a No Trespassing sign
from going to the burning children.
"By all accounts, the Creech 14 trial is the first time in history an American judge has allowed a trial to touch on possible motivations of anti-drone protesters," the local paper said.
read the full article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/18-0
excerpt from an article by Chris Floyd:
Oddly enough, when a modern nation consciously adopts a "warrior ethos," it casts aside -- openly, even gleefully -- whatever virtue that ethos has historically claimed for itself, such as courage in battle and honor toward adversaries. In its place come the adulation of overwhelming technological firepower and the rabid demonization of the enemy (or the perceived enemy, or even the "suspected" enemy), who is stripped of all rights, all human dignity, and subject to "whatever it takes" to break him down or destroy him.
Thus our American militarists exult in the advanced hardware that allows "soldiers" to slaughter people from thousands of miles away, with missiles, bombs and bullets fired from lurking, unreachable drones high in the sky. (A recent study shows that even by the most conservative reckoning of who is or isn't a "militant," at least one third of the hundreds killed in the Bush-Obama drone campaigns on the "Af-Pak" front are clearly civilians.) The drone "warriors" -- often living in complete safety and comfort -- see nothing but a bloodless image on a screen; they face no physical threat at all. This is assassination, not combat; it reeks of cowardice, and dehumanizes everyone it touches, the victims and the button-pushers alike. Yet our militarists -- most of whom, of course, have somehow never found the time to fight the wars they cheer for -- wax orgasmic about this craven weaponry. In the transvaluation of values that militarism produces, cowardice becomes a martial virtue.The drone programs -- emblazoned with names that proudly proclaim their savage nature: "Predators" and "Reapers," launching "Hellfire" missiles into sleeping villages -- keep expanding relentlessly. As noted by Nick Turse -- who is doing invaluable work detailing the deadly nuts and bolts of the militarist empire and its profiteers -- the Pentagon is drooling over visions of vast robotic forces filling the heavens and roaming the earth, even down to the smallest crevice. He rightly notes the main purpose of this massively funded R&D: to make war "easier," less deadly to "our side," and thus more palatable to the public:
"This means bigger, badder, faster drones – armed to the teeth – with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions."
It’s a future built upon advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings – remote-controlled assassinations – ever more effortless.
"... For the Air Force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it’s a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking."
The CIA’s drone program, which is expanding globally, explicitly targeting and killing large swathes of people without knowing who they are. Murder, solely on “suspicion” is the rule rather than the exception. Many times, like in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the US will knowingly target large groups of people. If they plan on killing 20 or more people, they need to get permission from the Pakistani government.CIA Drones Kill Large Groups Without Knowing Who They Are
Determining who is a target not a question of intelligence collection. The cameras on the CIA fleet of Predators and Reapers work just fine. It’s a question of intelligence analysis — interpreting the imagery collected from the drones, and from the spies and spotters below, to understand who’s a terrorist and who, say, drops off the terrorists’ laundry. Admittedly, in a war with a shadowy enemy, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Fundamentally, though, it’s a question of policy: whether it’s acceptable for the CIA to kill someone without truly knowing if he’s the bombsmith or the laundry guy.A young man named Tariq was killed in a drone strike with his 12-year old cousin, Waheed Khan, while driving their aunt home.
“Tariq was a good kid, and courageous,” writes Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer. “My warm hand recently touched his in friendship; yet, within three days, his would be cold in death, the rigor mortis inflicted by my government.”
How do you console the kid at the computer console who killed U.S. soldiers playing with his joystick?
Multiple missteps led to drone killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Thirty-one seconds after the pilot reported muzzle flashes, the Marines at Alcatraz ordered that the Predator be prepared to strike if the shooters could be confirmed as hostile. At 8:49 a.m., 29 minutes after the ambush began, they authorized the pilot to fire.
In minutes, two Americans would be dead.
The decision to fire a missile from one of the growing fleet of U.S. unmanned aircraft is the result of work by ground commanders, pilots and analysts at far-flung military installations.
The video feed used can also prompt commanders to make decisions before they fully understand what they're seeing.
In February 2009, a crew operating a drone over Afghanistan misidentified a civilian convoy as an enemy force. The Predator pilot and the Army captain who called in the airstrike disregarded warnings from Air Force analysts who had observed children in the convoy. At least 15 people were killed.
follow-up story: includes photo of latest boy-casualty of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) aka "drones"
"The CIA's unaccountable drone war claims another casualty"
Over 2,300 people in Pakistan have been killed by such missiles carried by drone aircraft such as the Predator and the Reaper, and launched by remote control from Langley, Virginia.
The columnist argues: "It's not too late to call for a prosecution and trial of whoever pushed the button and the US government officials who gave the order: that is, Mr Preston and his boss, President Barack Obama. [T]he killing of this 16 year old was murder, and any jury should convict the CIA accordingly.
The boy-victim was known personally by prominent international human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.
Tariq Aziz, age 16, had volunteered to take pictures of people killed by the remotely piloted aircraft to help Stafford Smith highlight what he calls illegal killings.
Three days later, on Oct. 31, he and his 12-year-old cousin were themselves killed by a drone missile strike in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, Stafford Smith said.
For the veteran lawyer, the deaths highlighted major flaws in the CIA-run drone campaign: "What they did to Tariq was absolutely disgusting," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He considers the drones as "scandalous" as the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Stafford Smith also draws parallels between Guantanamo and the drone campaign in Pakistan, arguing both detentions and strikes were often based on dubious intelligence. He suspects the death of Aziz was a prime example of that.
Read more from the interview: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/interview-us-drone-strikes-must-...
Tony Nuspl posted a story:
CIA Drone War Kills Large Numbers of People They Haven’t Even Ident...
The CIA’s drone program, which is expanding globally, explicitly targeting and killing large swathes of people without knowing who they are. Murder, solely on “suspicion” is the rule rather than the exception.
from an article on Common Dreams:
December 28, 2011
During the first year of the Obama administration, there were 51 drone attacks, compared to 45 drone attacks during President Bush’s two terms in office, according to The Year of the Drone, a report by the Washington-based New America Foundation. The report also states that in 2010 the civilian fatality rate has been 32 percent in drone attacks since 2004. Today, there are more than 7,000 drones being used by the U.S. the military in several countries around the world.
In a research paper entitled “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones” Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, says, “The CIA’s intention in using drones is to target and kill individual leaders of al-Qaeda or Taliban militant groups. Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been about 20 leaders killed for 750-1000 unintended victims. Drones are having a counter-productive impact in Pakistan’s attempt to repress militancy and violence. The use of the drone is, therefore, violating the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality, humanity.”
An interview this week on Democracy Now, with Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, provides some details on the Obama administration's bombing campaigns in Yemen.
excerpt from rush transcript:
JEREMY SCAHILL: Obama did something that President Bush had only done once, to my knowledge, and that is to start to bomb Yemen. On December 17th, 2009, President Obama authorized cruise missile strikes against Yemen, and they smashed into a remote village in Abyan province called al-Majala and killed more than 40 Bedouins. And when that incident happened, on December 17th, 2009, the Yemeni government took responsibility for those bombings and said that it was a counterterrorism operation, that it had succeeded, that a number of al-Qaeda people were killed. There were even reports that Awlaki himself was killed. Well, it turns out that, in fact, it was a U.S. missile strike, that it was Tomahawk cruise missiles. In fact, we were able to interview people from that village: one woman who lost seven members of her family; another man, 17 members of his family. It was a dirt poor Bedouin village that was hit. There was only one man that anyone in the area could identify as having any connection to al-Qaeda, and it was—he was a mujahideen during the war in Afghanistan, which, of course, the United States was supporting the mujahideen during the mujahideen war in the 1980s. That then kicked off a series of air strikes. The Obama administration began an air war in Yemen. Sometimes the strikes hit the people that were the intended targets, but oftentimes civilians were killed.
Yemenis of all political stripes don’t like these bombings....everyone is saying, "Why are you bombing civilians?"
The interview goes on to discuss the potential for "blowback" due to the Obama's administration's bombing campaign in that country.
One London-based group, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has published drone casualty figures based on media reports, witness testimony and other information. It said strikes have killed between 2,383 and 3,109 people, of whom 464 to 815 were civilians. That implies the percentage of civilians killed was roughly 20 to 30 percent.
Recent independent on-the-ground investigation by AP confirms this rate of civilians killed.
AP IMPACT: New light on drone war's death toll
Christopher Rogers, a lawyer who has studied civilian casualties in Pakistan from drone attacks and other military action, said that regardless of casualty tolls, the U.S. still needed to make the program more transparent to prove it is complying with international laws on who may be targeted and measures to minimize the loss of innocent lives.
"The percentage of militants killed is an important piece of this, but it is one piece of a larger picture," said Rogers, who works at Open Society Foundations, an advocacy group in New York City. "The bigger issue here is the covert nature of the program, the complete lack of any transparency and accountability and the lack of information about how the U.S. distinguishes a militant from a civilian."
update from DemocracyNow!
Five activists have been sentenced for their role in a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan at a New York military base last year. The activists were arrested at the New York Air National Guard base at Hancock Field near Syracuse, New York. They draped themselves in white clothes splattered with blood-red pigment and then staged a "die-in" at the main entrance to the base. The group calls themselves the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters. Thirty-three of the activists were sentenced in December. On Wednesday, the remaining five were sentenced to fines and a one-year conditional discharge.
Excellent human interest piece by Kathy Kelly, of Creative Voices for Non-Violent Solutions, on the pain and hardship undergone by hapless civilian victims, caught in the crossfire of drone warfare (bombs launched remotely by unmanned aerial vehicles)
The Ghost and the Machine
Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience that they had survived and that too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.
“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”
“How many ‘high-level targets’ could there possibly be?”
“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”
This past week, on Feb. 23, the legal action charity Reprieve spoke up on behalf of more than a dozen Pakistani families who had lost loved ones in drone strikes and asked the U.N. Human Rights Council to condemn the attacks as illegal human-rights violations.
“In Pakistan, the CIA is creating desolation and calling it peace,” said Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith. “The illegal program of drone strikes has murdered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan. The U.N. must put a stop to it before any more children are killed.
Also on the topic of UAVs, also by Kathy Kelly:
Indefensible Drones: A Ground Zero Reflection
On April 9, 2009, after a ten-day vigil outside the air force base, we entered it with a letter we wanted to circulate among the base personnel, describing our opposition to a massive targeted assassination program. Our trial date is set for September 14.Creech is one of several homes of the U.S. military’s aerial drone program. U.S. Air Force personnel there pilot surveillance and combat drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with which they are instructed to carry out extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan and Iraq. The different kinds of drone include the "Predator" and the "Reaper." ... As the U.S. accelerates this campaign, we hear from UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, who suggests that U.S. citizens may be asleep at the wheel, oblivious to clear violations of international law which we have real obligations to prevent.
One of the defendants in this case was interviewed on DemocracyNow.org
Kathy Kelly on Afghan Humanitarian Crisis, Civilian Casualties and Drone Warfare
She explains how the protesters are trying to focus the American public's attention on what she calls "a new kind of robotization of the United States military,"
full transcript of the interview is available here: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/12/kathy_kelly_on_afghan_humanit...
updates on Obama's diffuse assassination program, likely a war crime by international standards of law:
(Above story includes map)
US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in South Waziristan
Attacks Target Members of Maulvi Nazir Faction
by Jason Ditz, March 13, 2012
Nazir’s faction has for the most part been on good terms with the Pakistani government, but has fought the US off and on, usually launching attacks in response to drone strikes.
Officials termed all the slain as “suspected militants” but so far there are no indications who the second attack, which targeted a car near North Waziristan, actually killed. This is common among US strikes, many of the victims of which are never publicly identified.
The strikes mark the ninth time US drones have attacked Pakistan since the beginning of the year, and is the deadliest such attack.
An American Teenager in Yemen: killed by Obama's drone strikes
A wave of CIA drone strikes in Yemen is stoking widespread anger there that U.S. policy is cruel and misguided.
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, was the third American killed in as many weeks by suspected CIA drone strikes in Yemen. His father, the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was killed earlier , along with alleged al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan, who was from New York.
"He was my best friend, we played football together everyday," said Sam al-Homiganyi Another of his friends spoke up, gesturing to the gloomy group of jeans-clad boys around him: "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies ... you know, normal stuff." al-Homiganyi and his fellow teenagers were shocked by the sudden death of a friend and are struggling to understand why.
According to his relatives, Abdulrahman left the family home in the Sana'a area on Sept. 15 in search of his fugitive father who was hiding out with his tribe, the Awalak, in the remote, rugged southern province of Shabwa. Days after the teenager began his quest, however, his father was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Then, just two weeks later, the Yemeni government claimed another air strike killed a senior al-Qaeda militant. Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin and six others died in the attack as well. A U.S. official said the young man "was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and that the U.S. was trying to kill a legitimate terrorist — al-Qaeda leader Ibrahim al-Banna, who also died — in the strike that apparently killed the American teenager.
Abdulrahman's distraught grandfather is not buying the explanation. Nasser al-Awlaki, who received a university degree in the U.S., had for years sought an injunction in American courts to prevent the Obama Administration from targeting and killing his son, Anwar. He told TIME, "I really feel disappointed that this crime is going to be forgotten. I think the American people ought to know what really happened and how the power of their government is being abused by this Administration. Americans should start asking why a boy was targeted for killing." He continued, "In addition to my grandson's killing, the missile killed my brother's grandson, who was a 17-year-old kid, who was not an American citizen but is a human being, killed in cold blood. I cannot comprehend how my teenage grandson was killed by a Hellfire missile, how nothing was left of him except small pieces of flesh. Why? Is America safer now that a boy was killed?" As for Abdulrahman's father, Nasser says that the U.S. "killed my son Anwar without a trial for any crime he committed ... They killed him just for his freedom of speech." He levels the charges directly at the U.S. President. "I urge the American people to bring the killers to justice. I urge them to expose the hypocrisy of the 2009 Nobel Prize laureate. To some, he may be that. To me and my family, he is nothing more than a child killer."