The wreckage of a car in Shabwa Province, Yemen, stood as testament to the destructive abilities of American drone strikes.
WASHINGTON — One morning in late September 2011, a group of American drones took off from an airstrip the C.I.A. had built in the remote southern expanse of Saudi Arabia. The drones crossed the border into Yemen, and were soon hovering over a group of trucks clustered in a desert patch of Jawf Province, a region of the impoverished country once renowned for breeding Arabian horses.
A group of men who had just finished breakfast scrambled to get to their trucks. One was Anwar al-Awlaki, the firebrand preacher, born in New Mexico, who had evolved from a peddler of Internet hatred to a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Another was Samir Khan, another American citizen who had moved to Yemen from North Carolina and was the creative force behind Inspire, the militant group’s English-language Internet magazine.
Two of the Predator drones pointed lasers on the trucks to pinpoint the targets, while the larger Reapers took aim. The Reaper pilots, operating their planes from thousands of miles away, readied for the missile shots, and fired.
It was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, intense deliberation by lawyers working for President Obama and turf fights between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., whose parallel drone wars converged on the killing grounds of Yemen. For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial. Read More
Ed Pilkington | The Guardian
A Predator drone spyplane-bomber. Illustration: Rex Features
John Brennan, the counter-terrorism adviser nominated by President Obama to be the next head of the CIA, has reportedly agreed to exempt agency strikes in Pakistan from a new set of rules that attempts to justify and codify the use of drones to assassinate leaders of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups around the world, including US citizens.
The dispensation to allow so-called targeted killing to continue without restrictions in Pakistan removes from the new set of guidelines the most important and controversial target of drone strikes. In the past few weeks the frequency of US strikes in the tribal areas of northern Pakistan, where many al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are hiding out, has been stepped up.
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is close to finalizing the new guidelines on drone strikes, known as the “playbook”. But a multi-agency committee of national security officials led by Brennan agreed to remove Pakistan from its terms. Read More
Vicki Divoll | The New York Times
President Obama has refused to tell Congress or the American people why he believes the Constitution gives, or fails to deny, him the authority to secretly target and kill American citizens who he suspects are involved in terrorist activities overseas. So far he has killed three that we know of.
Presidents had never before, to our knowledge, targeted specific Americans for military strikes. There are no court decisions that tell us if he is acting lawfully. Mr. Obama tells us not to worry, though, because his lawyers say it is fine, because experts guide the decisions and because his advisers have set up a careful process to help him decide whom he should kill.
He must think we should be relieved.
The three Americans known to have been killed, in two drone strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011, are Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico; Samir Khan, a naturalized American citizen who had lived in New York and North Carolina, and was killed alongside Mr. Awlaki; and, in a strike two weeks later, Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was born in Colorado. Read More
David Alexander | Reuters
Aerial reconnaissance and attack drones have had a liberating effect on U.S. military forces, but they are deeply hated by many people and their overuse could jeopardize Washington’s broader objectives, retired General Stanley McChrystal said on Monday.
McChrystal, who authored the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, said use of drones had enabled him to carry out missions with smaller groups of special operations forces because the “eye in the sky” provided backup security.
“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” he said in an interview. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.’” Read More
Ann Wright | OpEd News
As President Barack Obama spent his last day, January 5, in Hawaii, representatives from Hawaii Peace and Justice and World Can’t Wait protested his assassin drone program and lack of effort on Palestinian issues in front of his Hawaii vacation home.
Drone protests in the United States over the past three years have had an effect on reducing the number of drone strikes and the deaths of civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) reported on January 4, that probably due to public criticism, “civilian deaths fell sharply in Pakistan in 2012, with Bureau data suggesting that a minimum of 2.5% of those reported killed were civilians — compared with more than 14% in 2011. This suggests the CIA is seeking to limit non-militant casualties, perhaps as a result of sustained criticism.”
BIJ states that another reason for a decline in Pakistani strikes and civilian casualties may have been growing hostility. Some 74% of polled citizens said they view the US as an enemy, and that Pakistan was the only nation favoring Mitt Romney for US President. Read More
George Monbiot | The Guardian
A memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut. The children killed by US drones in north-west Pakistan ‘have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and teddy bears’.
“Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” Every parent can connect with what President Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.
It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why. Read More