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Old 09-27-2012, 06:55 PM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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American drones are inefficient, terrorize civilians, and create more terrorists.

This. Is an absolutely devastating read.

Even if you buy into drones. Even if you don't mind the complete lack of checks and balances on their usage. Even if you don't mind their liberal usage. Even if you think the sacrifices being made are excusable and necessary blowback.

Your tax dollars go into this program that seemingly creates as much antipathy towards us as it extinguishes. It creates terror while pretending to be fighting it. And ths study from NYU shows the tremendous civilian cost that goes into it.

The drone program creates a warfare that America would already be trigger-happy to use. But add into the fact that there's no checks on this power, no conceivable way to exhaust it, and no attempts from either party to even remotely slow it down... and this becomes a practice whose blowback seems tailor made for civilian psychological destruction, if not outright physical destruction.

Death from above, in robot form. The sad thing is, the human fingers on the button turn out to be as indifferent as the drones themselves.


New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama's drones
New research shows the terrorizing impact of drones in Pakistan, false statements from US officials, and how it increases the terror threat
Glenn Greenwald
Tuesday 25 September 2012 08.18 EDT

A vitally important and thoroughly documented new report on the impact of Obama's drone campaign has just been released by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School. Entitled "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan", the report details the terrorizing effects of Obama's drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading public statements from administration officials about that campaign. The study's purpose was to conduct an "independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians".

The report is "based on over 130 detailed interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists." Witnesses "provided first-hand
accounts of drone strikes, and provided testimony about a range of issues, including the missile strikes themselves, the strike sites, the victims' bodies, or a family member or members killed or injured in the strike".

Here is the powerful first three paragraphs of the report, summarizing its main findings:

Whilte noting that it is difficult to obtain precise information on the number of civilian deaths "because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability", the report nonetheless concludes: "while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians."

But beyond body counts, there's the fact that "US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury":

In other words, the people in the areas targeted by Obama's drone campaign are being systematically terrorized. There's just no other word for it. It is a campaign of terror - highly effective terror - regardless of what noble progressive sentiments one wishes to believe reside in the heart of the leader ordering it. And that's precisely why the report, to its great credit, uses that term to describe the Obama policy: the drone campaign "terrorizes men, women, and children".

Along the same lines, note that the report confirms what had already been previously documented: the Obama campaign's despicable (and likely criminal) targeting of rescuers who arrive to provide aid to the victims of the original strike. Noting that even funerals of drone victims have been targeted under Obama, the report documents that the US has "made family members afraid to attend funerals". The result of this tactic is as predictable as it is heinous:

"Secondary strikes have discouraged average civilians from coming to one another's rescue, and even inhibited the provision of emergency medical assistance from humanitarian workers."
In the hierarchy of war crimes, deliberately targeting rescuers and funerals - so that aid workers are petrified to treat the wounded and family members are intimidated out of mourning their loved ones - ranks rather high, to put that mildly. Indeed, the US itself has long maintained that such "secondary strikes" are a prime hallmark of some of the world's most despised terrorist groups.

Perhaps worst of all, the report details at length that the prime excuse offered by Obama defenders for this continuous killing - it Keeps Us Safe™ by killing The Terrorists™ - is dubious "at best"; indeed, the opposite is more likely true:

All the way back in 2004, the Rumsfeld Pentagon commissioned a study to determine the causes of anti-US terrorism, and even it concluded: "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies." Running around the world beating your chest, bellowing "we're at war!", and bombing multiple Muslim countries does not keep one safe. It manifestly does the opposite, since it ensures that even the most rational people will calculate that targeting Americans with violence in response is just and necessary to deter further aggression.

A one-day attack on US soil eleven years ago unleashed a never-ending campaign of violence around the world from the target and its allies. Is it really a challenge to understand that continuous bombings and civilian-killing assaults over many years, in many Muslim countries, will generate the same desire for aggression and vengeance against the US?

Time and again, those who have attempted to perpetrate attacks on US soil have cited the Muslim children and other innocent human beings extinguished by Obama's drones. Recall the words of the attempted Times Square bomber, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, at his sentencing hearing when the federal judge presiding over his case, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, asked incredulously how he could possibly use violence that he knew would result in the deaths even of innocent children -- as though she were literally unaware that her own government continuously does exactly that:

"'Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It's a war, and in war, they kill people. They're killing all Muslims' . . . .

"'I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I'm avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.'"
The minute he was apprehended by US authorities, Shahzad, as reported by the Washington Post, "told agents that he was motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said. 'One of the first things he said was, 'How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan.'"

Perhaps most importantly, the report documents the extreme levels of propaganda used by the western press to deceive their citizens into believing pure myths about the drone campaign. As I've argued before, the worst of these myths is the journalistic mimicry of the term "militants" to describe drone victims even when those outlets have no idea who was killed or whether that term is accurate (indeed, the term itself is almost as ill-defined as "terrorist"). This media practice became particularly inexcusable after the New York Times revealed in May that "Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants."

Incredibly, even after that radical redefinition was revealed, and even after the Obama administration got caught red-handed spewing demonstrable falsehoods about the identity of drone victims, US media outlets continued to use the term "militant" to describe drone victims. The new report urges that this practice stop:

Significantly, the report says the prime culprit of these evils is what it calls the "dramatic escalation" of the drone campaign by the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate - escalated not just in sheer numbers (in less than four years, Obama "has reportedly carried out more than five times" the number ordered by Bush in eight years), but more so, the indiscriminate nature of the strikes. As Tuesday's Guardian article on this report states: it "blames the US president, Barack Obama, for the escalation of 'signature strikes' in which groups are selected merely through remote 'pattern of life' analysis."

The report is equally damning when documenting the attempts of the Obama administration to suppress information about its drone victims, and worse, to actively mislead when they deign selectively to release information. Recognizing the difficulty of determining the number of civilian deaths with exactitude - due to "the opaqueness of the US government about its targeted killing program" as well as the inaccessibility of the region - it nonetheless documents that "the numbers of civilians killed are undoubtedly far higher than the few claimed by US officials." In other words, the administration's public statements are false: "undoubtedly" so. As the LA Times summarizes the study's findings today: "Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged."

(The report is particularly scathing about the patent unreliability of the New America Foundation and its leading drone-and-Obama cheerleader, Peter Bergen, also of CNN, who has been amply rewarded with lucrative access by the administration he dutifully defends. Echoing a recent article by the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf and an analysis from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the report concludes that scrutiny of Bergen's key claims "has since revealed omissions and inconsistencies in
New America Foundation's dataset, calling its widely publicized conclusions into question." It documents "several other glaring omissions from New America Foundation's data" used to depict Obama's drone campaign as far more benign than it actually is.)

Finally, the report notes the threat to democratic accountability posed by the Obama administration's refusal to allow any transparency or judicial oversight regarding who the president orders killed: "The opaque position of the US government on civilian casualties is also emblematic of an accountability and democratic vacuum." In that regard, the report - as its final paragraph - quotes the question I have often asked about this state of affairs, an answer to which I have never heard from Obama's drone defenders:

What has always made that question particularly pressing for me is that American progressives cheered loudly when a similar question was posed by Al Gore in a widely celebrated 2006 speech he gave on the Washington mall denouncing the Bush/Cheney assault on civil liberties:

"'If the president has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?'"
What has always amazed me about that is that, there, Gore was merely decrying Bush's mere eavesdropping on Americans and his detention of them without judicial review. Yet here Obama is claiming the power to decide who should be killed without a shred of transparency, oversight, or due process - a power that is being continuously used to kill civilians, including children - and many of these same progressives now actually cheer for that.

Democrats spent several days at their convention two weeks ago wildly cheering and chanting whenever President Obama's use of violence and force was heralded. They're celebrating a leader who is terrorizing several parts of the Muslim world, repeatedly killing children, targeting rescuers and mourners, and entrenching the authority to exert the most extreme powers in full secrecy and without any accountability -- all while he increases, not decreases, the likelihood of future attacks. This new Stanford/NYU report is but the latest in a long line of evidence proving all of that.
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Old 10-02-2012, 01:01 PM   #136
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Our support of Israel's a big part of it, especially given what the Muslim world has observed as Israel's movement away from the two-state solution in recent years. Another big part of it is our soldiers that we keep stationed all over the subcontinent, in particular in Saudi Arabia. Another big part of it is our propping up and doing financial dealings with numerous dictators in the region, in some cases empowering those very dictators to slaughter democratic protesters.

But to pretend like firing missiles and dropping bombs on Muslim populations for the near-entirety of the 21st century isn't a serious, serious influence is, well, misguided.

You're creating a false dichotomy when you say the only options America has in the Middle East are (a.) a complete reversal of everything we're doing in the Middle East, and (b.) what we're doing now. You're leaving out a ton of middle ground.

At the end of the day, I would say we need to protect ourselves at the lowest risk of losing American lives while still being respectful of losing other lives as well. The children we've killed in our drone campaign did nothing wrong, at the very, very least.
Another big part of it is that you have no concept of national security and keeping a strong presence in the hot spots globally. Shit spirals out of control too fast when it involves your Palestinian jingle balled boyfriends. Another big part of it is that there will never be a two state solution so why keep trying. Yessir Suckacat made that loud and clear. Another big part of it is the lunatic fringe has control of much of the ME and until the "good" religion of peace types rise up and take back control, bad shit will continue to happen to them. i.e drone attacks and our presence there. Another big part is outside of that happening they can all take their medicine and deal with the consequences that their prophet has bestowed upon them. See I watch Homeland and I know a lot and can make up silly shit too. Fun fun!!!
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Old 02-09-2013, 04:27 PM   #137
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God, this is such a great read on the subject.


What We Don’t Know About Drones
Posted by Dexter Filkins
February 7, 2013

When I read the news that John Brennan was set to appear before the Senate in hopes of becoming of the C.I.A. director, I thought of the group of villagers I met at a seaside hotel in Yemen two years ago. They had driven many miles to see me, coming from the Yemen countryside in a pair of battered taxis, and they were waiting in the hotel parking lot. There were about a dozen of them in all. It was a beautiful hotel, called the Mercure, with panoramic views of Aden harbor. The villagers, dressed in robes and rags, looked out of place, but they’d come to talk.

I had flown to Yemen to report on the popular uprising that was unfolding against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, but I was also trying to find out about the secret war that the United States was waging there. In December, 2009, the Yemeni government had announced that its Air Force had bombed an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of Al Majalah, in a remote corner of the country, killing thirty-four fighters, and that the U.S. had provided the intelligence for the strike. The reality, as I discovered, was different.

For starters, as American officials confirmed, the attack was not carried out by the Yemeni Air Force but, rather, by the United States. The U.S. had launched a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles from a ship off the coast. (As far as we know, most of the attacks in Yemen since then have been carried out with drones.) As was later revealed in documents released by Wikileaks, American and Yemeni officials had reached a secret agreement that allowed the U.S. to take action against suspected terrorists. The Yemeni President told General David Petraeus, then the head of CENTCOM, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

As I wrote in a Letter from Yemen, in 2011, the villagers from Al Majalah had come to the hotel parking lot tell me their story:

Hussein Abdullah, a herdsman, told me that he had been tending a herd of goats and camels when Al Majalah was hit. He recalled lying in his tent at sunrise, half-awake, when there was an enormous flash. “The sky turned white,” Abdullah said. “Everything suddenly disappeared.” He was knocked unconscious, and when he came to, he told me, he saw his wife running toward him. “And when she threw her arms around me I felt blood all over me,” he said. She died, as did his daughter; only his infant son survived.
That same evening, I met a fifteen-year-old girl named Fatima Ali, who, when she rolled up the sleeves of her chador, showed me terrible burns. Another girl was missing a finger. Her mother, she said, had been killed by the strike.

Some months after the attack in Al Majalah, Amnesty International released photos showing an American cluster bomb and a propulsion unit from a Tomahawk cruise missile. A subsequent inquiry by the Yemeni parliament found that fourteen Al Qaeda fighters had been killed—along with forty-one civilians, including twenty-three children.

Later, when I spoke to American officials, they seemed genuinely perplexed. They didn’t deny that a large number of civilians had been killed. They felt bad about it. But the aerial surveillance, they said, had clearly showed that a training camp for militants was operating there. “It was a terrible outcome,” an American official told me. “Nobody wanted that.”

None of the above is intended as an attack on Brennan, who has spent the past four years as President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. He has a hard job. He is almost always forced to act on the basis of incomplete information. His job is to keep Americans safe, and he’s done that. Al Qaeda’s leadership, particularly in the tribal areas of Pakistan, has been decimated. Operating in Yemen, where vast tracts of the country lie beyond anyone’s control, cannot be easy.

But, as the details from the Al Majalah show, even the best-intentioned public servants operating with what appears to be decent intelligence can get things horribly wrong. Maybe Al Majalah was indeed an Al Qaeda training camp—maybe those aerial surveillance images were spot on. But, in retrospect, we know that the cameras missed the women and children.

Indeed, if there is one overriding factor in America’s secret wars—especially in its drone campaign—it’s that the U.S. is operating in an information black hole. Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate. When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from an unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at. Most drone strikes in Pakistan, as an American official explained to me during my visit there in 2011, are what are known as “signature strikes.” That is, the C.I.A. is shooting at a target that matches a pattern of behavior that they’ve deemed suspicious. Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When Brennan claimed, as he did in 2011—clearly referring to the drone campaign—that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death,” he was most certainly wrong.

The same is true of opponents of the drone war, who sometimes lay claim to much more knowledge than they actually possess. And so, when a Pakistani newspaper reports that twenty civilians were killed in an attack, it is often taken as gospel truth, even though, as is often the case, the reporting is done over the telephone. For Americans—who are, after all, the ones whose country is firing the drones—it’s more or less impossible to independently verify many details of a drone strike. The reason is obvious: for a Western diplomat or reporter to go to the area where most of the drone strikes have taken place would be reckless in the extreme. (I’ve been to the tribal areas twice on my own. The first time, I was arrested and expelled by the Pakistani government; the second time, I was invited by a Taliban warlord who was killed six weeks later. Each trip took days of preparation and negotiation to arrange.)

The best and most painstaking attempts to get at the truth of the drone war—like one by the New America foundation—acknowledge the difficulty of the enterprise. The New America study found that between 2004 and 2010, the U.S. carried out a hundred and fourteen strikes, which the study’s authors estimated killed between eight hundred and thirty and twelve hundred and ten people. Of those, the study found, between five hundred and fifty and eight hundred and fifty—roughly two-thirds—were probably militants. Included in the dead were many militant leaders. That means that roughly a third of the dead—several hundred—were probably civilians. That’s a lot of bodies. These may be the best estimates we have, but they are still approximations.

Brennan is likely to face sharp questioning in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well he should. You will hear a lot of claims about militants killed and civilians killed and civilians spared. Most likely, neither side will be entitled to its shrillness. If the Al Majalah strike has any value now, it should be to remind us not just of our knowledge but also of our ignorance.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:02 PM   #138
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What part was "a great read"?
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