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Tag Archives: Common Dreams

Pratap Chatterjee | Common Dreams

Boeing, the aircraft manufacturing giant from Seattle, helped defeat a Republican proposal in Washington state that would have forced government agencies to get approval to buy unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly known as drones, and to obtain a warrant before using them to conduct surveillance on individuals.

Local authorities in Seattle and in King county experimented with conducting surveillance from Draganfly Innovations drones last year, only to cancel both programs in the fact of public protest. “I’m not really surprised that people are upset,” said Jennifer Shaw from the American Civil Liberties Union, a human rights group that campaigned against the drones. “It’s a frightening thing to think that there’s government surveillance cameras overhead.”

On February 7, 2013, David Taylor, a Republican member of the state legislature, introduced a bill to regulate drone use. The proposed law quickly won support from several Democratic party politicians on the state Public Safety Committee.

Alarmed by the growing bipartisan coalition, Boeing jumped into the fray. “We believe that as the technology matures, best practices and new understanding will emerge, and that it would be counterproductive to rush into regulating a burgeoning industry,” Boeing spokeswoman Sue Bradley wrote in a statement. (The company makes a variety of drones from the Unmanned Little Bird and the A160 Hummingbird helicopters to the ScanEagle which has been used in Iran and Iraq and the proposed new X-45C combat aircraft)

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Alice Ross | Common Dreams

A host welcomes guests from the convoy to his compound. (Photo: Katie Falkenberg/23rdStudios, courtesy of Code Pink)

US peace activists joined politicians, lawyers and the world’s press on Sunday as they attempted to march into Pakistan’s tribal region in protest at the CIA’s drone campaign.

The two-day march, organised by Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-presidential hopeful who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, set out from Islamabad on Saturday aiming to hold a rally in Kotkai, a town in the Waziristan border region that has seen most drone strikes. Access to Waziristan is tightly controlled and usually impossible for foreigners.

Tens of thousands of locals defied threats from the Taliban to join a convoy of vehicles that stretched 15km, according to Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve. The convoy, accompanied by journalists from around the world, paused overnight in Dera Ismail Khan – where locals welcomed visitors with barbecues, according to attendees.

The convoy left for Waziristan on Sunday morning despite warnings that the authorities would prevent it from entering the region.

‘We had been told we were going to be stopped by the authorities – but we were such a massive group that there was no way they could stop us: we went through a series of roadblocks,’ Stafford Smith told the Bureau. He described how the authorities blocked off roads using shipping containers – only for marchers to heave them out of the way.

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Medea Benjamin and Robert Naiman | Common Dreams

The US peace delegation photographed in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 4th, 2012. (Photo: Flickr / 23rdstudios.com)

Islamabad, Pakistan – Many Americans have an image of Pakistan and its people as “teeming with anti-Americanism.”Americans see images on TV of angry Pakistani demonstrators burning American flags. Indeed, polls say three of four Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

But in the last week, we and thirty other Americans have been blessed with an experience few Americans have shared, seeing a more hopeful side of the relationship of the people of Pakistan to Americans. For the last week in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and then in the nation’s tribal areas, our delegation that came to Pakistan to protest U.S. drones has been showered with tremendous hospitality, warmth and friendship.

The tribal area our peace delegation visited last weekend borders Waziristan, which since 2004 has been continuously hit with U.S. drone strikes. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,500 and 3,200 people have been killed in these drone strikes. A recent report from Stanford and NYU law schools noted that only 2 percent of these deaths were “high-level” targets. The rest were civilians, including women and children, and low-level fighters.

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Common Dreams

Former US ambassador and peace activist Ann Wright – who has arrived in Islamabad to participate in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s peace march to South Waziristan. Wright and Imran Khan spoke to the media in Islamabad on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Anti-drone protesters from across Pakistan and around the world are gathering in Islamabad this week in preparation for a weekend march into the tribal areas of South Waziristan.

Ignoring a travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department for Pakistan, a delegation of 30 US activists and parents of U.S. Army soldiers has arrived in Islamabad, where they plan to join the October 6 and 7th march and rally.

The march is being organized and led by Imran Khan, the former Pakistani national cricket captain and now head of the polical party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Khan and his party have emerged as the leading critics of America’s covert program of lethal drone strikes.

Khan has said that he expects up to 100,000 to join this weekend’s march.

When Khan announced plans for the march this summer the Pakistani Taliban said they would stop the march by killing Khan, the former cricket star turned politician Imran.

“If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him,” the Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told the Associated Press during an interview in a remote compound in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a mountainous and lawless region on the Afghan border.

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Shahzad Akbar (left), a Pakistani lawyer who co-founded the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Right, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has become a critical force in litigating and advocating for drone victims. On his right is, Karim Khan, a resident of a small town in North Waziristan who claimed that his 18-year-old son and 35-year-old brother were killed when a CIA-operated drone struck his family home. (Reuters)

Medea Benjamin | Common Dreams

When is the last time you heard from a civilian victim of the CIA’s secret drone strikes? Sure, most of them can’t speak because they’re deceased. But many leave behind bereaved and angry family members ready to proclaim their innocence and denounce the absence of due process, the lack of accountability, the utter impunity with which the U.S. government decides who will live and die.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were initially used for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are now routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians and even American citizens, have been killed in such covert missions.

The U.S. government will not even acknowledge the existence of the covert drone program, much less account for those who are killed and maimed. And you don’t hear their stories on FOX News, or even MSNBC. The U.S. media has little interest in airing the stories of dirt poor people in faraway lands who contradict the convenient narrative that drone strikes only kill “militants.”

But in Pakistan, where most strikes have occurred, the victims do have someone speaking out on their behalf. Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who co-founded the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Right, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has become a critical force in litigating and advocating for drone victims.

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