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Protesters march to the perimeter fence of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire to protest its use as a centre for drone piloting in Afghanistan. Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA

Protesters march to the perimeter fence of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire to protest its use as a centre for drone piloting in Afghanistan. Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA

Hundreds of peace campaigners gathered outside an RAF base today to protest against armed drones being operated from Britain to conduct missions in Afghanistan.

Around 400 demonstrators took part in a march from Lincoln to a rally at nearby RAF Waddington, which assumed control of British drone missions in Afghanistan earlier this week.

The Guardian revealed on Thursday that the RAF had begun remotely operating its Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles from the Lincolnshire airbase.

The drones were previously operated from a United States Air Force base in Nevada.

Chris Cole, a coordinator of the Drone Campaign Network, said the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to wage war raised numerous legal, ethical and moral issues. Speaking near RAF Waddington’s perimeter fence, Mr Cole said: “This is the new home of drone warfare in the UK and there are questions about the growing use of these armed, unmanned systems.

“Because of their remote nature, there is no risk to any of our forces and that makes it easier to launch weapons and makes it much easier for politicians to get involved in warfare.” Read More

Jon Boone and Peter Beaumont | The Guardian

Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after more than four years of self-imposed exile. Photograph: Fareed Khan/AP

Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after more than four years of self-imposed exile. Photograph: Fareed Khan/AP

Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf has admitted giving permission for the CIA to launch drone attacks inside his country, directly contradicting repeated claims by the Pakistani government that it has never authorised drone strikes.

His comments in a CNN interview screened on Thursday night follow US media claims this week that Pakistani officials were for years intimately involved in the US drone campaign in the country. The unexpected admission breaks Pakistan’s policy of blanket denial of involvement. Last month following a visit to Islamabad Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, said he had been given assurances that there was no “tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory”.

For its part the Obama administration has defended the legality of its drone activities and said strikes are conducted only with consent from the states involved.

Musharraf said Pakistan gave permission “only on a few occasions, when a target was absolutely isolated and [there was] no chance of collateral damage”.

He said the strikes were discussed “at the military [and] intelligence level” and cleared only if “there was no time for our own [special operations task force] and military to act. That was … maybe two or three times only”. Read More

Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

Strikes will be studied to assess extent of any civilian casualties, identity of militants targeted and legality of actions.

Strikes will be studied to assess extent of any civilian casualties, identity of militants targeted and legality of actions.

A United Nations investigation into targeted killings will examine drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to the British lawyer heading the inquiry.

Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, will reveal the full scope of his review which will include checks on military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in UK operations in Afghanistan, US strikes in Pakistan, as well as in the Sahel region of Africa where the conflict in Mali has erupted. It will also take evidence on Israeli drone attacks in Palestinian territories.

About 20 or 30 strikes – selected as representative of different types of attacks – will be studied to assess the extent of any civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted and the legality of strikes in countries where the UN has not formally recognised there is a conflict.

The inquiry will report to the UN general assembly in New York this autumn. Depending on its findings, it may recommend further action. Emmerson has previously suggested some drone attacks – particularly those known as “double tap” strikes where rescuers going to the aid of a first blast have become victims of a follow-up strike – could possibly constitute a “war crime”. Read More

Naomi Wolf | The Guardian

Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 drones will be in use in US domestic airspace. Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

People often ask me, in terms of my argument about “ten steps” that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.

Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them.

An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step – one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. 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'.

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

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian

A Reaper drone, as used by the CIA and American military in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama’s administration is in the process of drawing up a formal rulebook that will set out the circumstances in which targeted assassination by unmanned drones is justified, according to reports.

The New York Times, citing two unnamed sources, said explicit guidelines were being drawn up amid disagreement between the CIA and the departments of defense, justice and state over when lethal action is acceptable.

Human-rights groups and peace groups opposed to the CIA-operated targeted-killing programme, which remains officially classified, said the administration had already rejected international law in pursuing its drone operations.

“To say they are rewriting the rulebook implies that there isn’t already a rulebook” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Center for Democracy. “But what they are already doing is rejecting a rulebook – of international law – that has been in place since [the second world war].”

Read More

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