The Common Good

Quick Read - Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Spies, Marines and Drones

 

AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier reports

“WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country, and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources. The CIA has fewer people available to send, stretched thin from tracking conflicts across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.”

“To fill in the gaps in spies on the ground, the U.S. intelligence community has kept up surveillance over Libya with unmanned and largely unarmed Predator and Reaper drones, increasing the area they cover, and the frequency of their flights since the attack on the consulate, as well as sending more surveillance equipment to the region, one official said.”

“Largely unarmed?”  

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Shooting at Drones Leads to Airport Closing

The Associated Press reports

“BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — U.S. drones hovered over the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday and militia forces fired toward the crafts, prompting authorities to close the airport for several hours for fear a commercial aircraft could be hit, Libyan officials said.

“Abdel-Basit Haroun, the head of the militia in charge of city security, said the drones could easily be spotted from the ground. He says men angry over perceived foreign intervention fired in the air and authorities closed the airport.

"The drones are like bees," he said, referring to the long hours the drones were seen, with their buzzing noise heard in different neighborhoods of Benghazi. Militias, known as brigades, fought regime forces during Libya's eight-month civil war that led to Moammar Gadhafi's fall last year. Since then, many have roles in keeping security, though they have not been integrated into government forces.

“An airport official confirmed the firing on the drones was the reason for the airport shutdown.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Who Has Drones?

Micah Zenko, at the Council on Foreign Relations blog, points to a recently declassified report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the spread of drones. The report, Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, finds:

“Since 2005, the number of countries that acquired an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system nearly doubled from about 40 to more than 75. In addition, countries of proliferation concern developed and fielded increasingly more sophisticated systems. Recent trends in new UAV capabilities, including armed and miniature UAVs, increased the number of military applications for this technology. A number of new civilian and commercial applications, such as law enforcement and environmental monitoring, are available for UAVs, but these applications are limited by regulatory restrictions on civilian airspace.

“The United States likely faces increasing risks as countries of concern and terrorist organizations seek to acquire UAV technology. Foreign countries’ and terrorists’ acquisition of UAVs could provide them with increased abilities to gather intelligence on and conduct attacks against U.S. interests. For instance, some foreign countries likely have already used UAVs to gather information on U.S. military activities overseas. Alternatively, the U.S. government has determined that selected transfers of UAV technology support its national security interests by providing allies with key capabilities and by helping retain a strong industrial base for UAV production. For instance, the United Kingdom and Italy have used UAVs purchased from the United States to collect data on Taliban activity in Afghanistan.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Human Rights Violations

In a lecture Thursday evening at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, former President Jimmy Carter included drone killings in a list of human rights violations. The Muscatine Journal reported:

“Former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that America is engaging in — and its citizens are accepting — human rights violations that “would never have been dreamed of” before the terrorist attacks that occurred in this country 11 years ago.

“The nation’s 39th president said the U.S. government under both Republican and Democratic administrations has violated 10 of 30 provisions set out in a universal declaration of human rights that was forged after World War II, including perpetually detaining people in prison without informing them of any charges, providing them access to legal counsel or bringing them to trial and, more recently, by killing people via the use of unmanned drones.

“We have now decided as a nation that it’s OK to kill people without a trial with our drones, and this includes former American citizens who are looked upon as dangerous to us,” Carter told a group of Drake University students involved in a social-justice learning program.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Protesting Drones

As the number of drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen continue to increase, protests against them are growing.

On Sunday, some 40 people gathered to protest near the New York Air National Guard headquarters at Hancock Field in DeWitt, N.Y. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported

“The group Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drone and End the Wars chose Sunday for its event because the 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock was changing its name to 174th Attack Wing, which reflects the change in mission at the base from flying fighter aircraft to MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft.”

On Monday, two activists were convicted in federal court for trespassing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri while protesting the use of drones. The Associated Press reported

“Retired minister Ron Faust of suburban Kansas City and Brian Terrell, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement from Maloy, Iowa, were among a group of 40 protesters who demonstrated at the air base in mid-April. They were arrested after entering a restricted area without permission.”

“We were there not to commit a crime, but to prevent one,” Terrell said, describing seeing in person a 9-year-old girl in an Afghani refugee camp missing an arm from what he said was a wayward drone strike. … Faust, a 69-year-old retired Disciples of Christ minister, compared drone strikes to ‘premeditated murder’ that cheapen the value of human life by allowing shooters to be as detached from their targets as video game players.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Six Killed in Yemen

U.S. drones continue to hammer Yemen today. Reuters reports an attack this morning

A U.S. drone strike killed six suspected Islamist militants in eastern Yemen on Wednesday, a security official said, the latest sign of a Washington-backed campaign against al Qaeda-linked fighters in the impoverished country. The drone fired eight missiles at a house where fighters were thought to be hiding in the Wadi al-Ain area of Hadramout province, a witness told Reuters. Eight people managed to escape, the witness added.

Meanwhile, the attack on Sunday that killed 14 civilians is now being investigated as coming from a drone. Initially, the strike was said to have come from Yemeni planes, although the Yemen Post and Al Jazeera reported sources saying it was a drone. On Monday, CNN quoted “three security officials” calling it a U.S. drone. Today, AFP reports

Yemeni authorities have sent tribal representatives to investigate civilian deaths in an apparent US drone strike targeting an Al-Qaeda commander, one of them told AFP on Tuesday. Three women and a child were among 14 people killed in Sunday's strike near the town of Radaa, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Sanaa, targeting Al-Qaeda's Abdelrauf al-Dahab who escaped unharmed, local officials said.

 

 

 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: August 2012 Update

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has released its monthly report on covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Pakistan: August sees the highest number of CIA strikes in Pakistan since October 2011. A number of senior militants are killed along with at least two named civilians.

July 2012 actions

Total CIA strikes in August: 7
Total killed in strikes in August: 29-65, of whom at least 2 were reportedly civilians

For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

Yemen: At least 26 people are killed in five confirmed US drone strikes in Yemen. This is still less than the May peak. Civilian casualties are confirmed for the first time since May.

August 2012 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 5
Further reported/possible US strike events: 1
Total reported killed in US operations: 26-33
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 2

Click here for the full Yemen data.

Somalia: For the fourth month no US military actions are reported in Somalia.

Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Weekend

U.S. drones are having a busy weekend, killing people in both Pakistan and Yemen.

On Saturday, an attack in Pakistan is reported to have killed six people. Pakistan’s The Nation reports that “A U.S. drone strike targeting a compound on Saturday killed at least six suspected militants in North Waziristan’s Datta Khel tehsil bordering Afghanistan.” DAWN newspaper added that six drones flying low in Dattakhel fired four rockets on a vehicle and a house.”

On Sunday, AP reported a strike in Yemen killed five people, including a top al-Qaida militant wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker.

In a separate attack, 14 civilians were killed when a disputed strike hit two cars. In the same story, AP reported:

“Yemeni fighter planes mistakenly hit vehicles carrying civilians traveling south of the capital, killing 14. Military officials said the airstrikes in Radda in the province of Bayda were based on faulty intelligence that the passengers were al-Qaida members. Missiles fired from the warplanes hit two vehicles carrying local residents returning to their villages. Tribesman Sheik Ahmed Ali said the dead included three women and three children.”

The Yemen Post, however, cites “local sources” saying the attack was by a U.S, drone. Al Jazeera, citing officials and local tribal leaders, also reported the attack as a drone strike. Bloomberg, citing an “independent Yemeni news website,” reported that “it wasn’t clear whether the strike was launched from a U.S. drone or a Yemeni warplane.”

Either way, 14 civilians are dead due to faulty intelligence. Ultimately, that is more important than the source of the missiles that killed them.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Yemen Attack Kills Eight.

Last week was drone week in Pakistan, this week it’s Yemen. Two deaths were reported in an attack on a car on Tuesday, at least four in another car on Wednesday, and another attack today that killed eight. Reuters reports:

“Eight Islamist militants were killed by a U.S. drone strike on Friday in a remote part of Hadramout, a Yemeni official said, the third such strike in the eastern Yemeni province this week.

Yemen's defense ministry said on its website that eight al Qaeda members were killed in an air strike on their vehicle in the isolated, desert district of Hawra. The local official, who declined to be named, said it was a drone strike.

The men were heavily armed, carrying machine-guns and explosives, the ministry said. The local official said the men were thought to have been on the way to carry out an attack.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Attack Kills Two in Yemen

Reuters reports that a drone attack in central Yemen yesterday killed two suspected militants:

"Two men thought to be Islamist militants were killed in an apparent U.S. drone attack on a car in central Yemen on Tuesday, the defense ministry said.

A security source and witnesses told Reuters the car was hit on a remote road from Hadramout to Maareb province - a mostly desert southeastern region where militants have taken refuge after being driven from their southern strongholds last month.

It was not clear if there were other casualties in the attack. Washington, which fears the spread of militants in Yemen, has stepped up attacks by unmanned drones this year."

The Yemen Post reported a local website as quoting a security source saying that one of those killed was a Saudi militant, and that a second car managed to get away.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Pakistan Protests Drone Strikes

The Pakistan Foreign Office has formally protested this week’s drone strikes. DAWN, a leading Pakistani newspaper, reported today,

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday summoned a senior American diplomat to protest against US drone strikes in the country’s troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesman, the US Embassy in Pakistan was “démarched on recent drone strikes in North Waziristan.”

Pakistani officials told the diplomat, who was not identified, that the attacks were unacceptable, unlawful and a violation of the country’s sovereignty. “A senior US diplomat was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said an official statement. “It was emphatically stated that such attacks were unacceptable.”

How much longer will the U.S. government be able to flout international law?

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

2,000 U.S. Deaths in Afghanistan

After nearly 11 years of war, the New York Times reports that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan went over 2,000 this week.  In an analysis of those deaths, the Times reports that “… three out of four were white, 9 out of 10 were enlisted service members, and one out of two died in either Kandahar Province or Helmand Province in Taliban-dominated southern Afghanistan. Their average age was 26.”

Accompanying the piece is an interactive photomontage of these men and women, with their age and hometown. Clicking through the photos is a sobering experience, and makes one wonder how many more will die? As one mother, whose son had just turned 21 when he died, told the Times, “Our forces shouldn’t be there,” she said. “It should be over. It’s done. No more.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Investigate Drone Attacks

As international concern about U.S. targeted killings with drones rises, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said Sunday that every drone strike should be impartially investigated. According to Common Dreams,

"Emmerson is preparing a report for the next session of the Human Rights Council in March covering the use of drone attacks, which have spiked since Obama's presidency.

He questioned the legality of the drone strikes and noted the growing global outrage over their use. ‘We can't make a decision on whether it is lawful or unlawful if we do not have the data. The recommendation I have made is that users of targeted killing technology should be required to subject themselves, in the case of each and every death, to impartial investigation. If they do not establish a mechanism to do so, it will be my recommendation that the UN should put the mechanisms in place through the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Office of the High Commissioner.’”

This comes as a flurry of drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the last four days have killed at least 18 people.  Reuters reports that six people were killed in an attack on Saturday, five early on Sunday, and two more later on Sunday near the location of the previous strike. These attacks came as celebrations of the Eid al-Fitr festival, marking the end of Ramadan, were occurring. Tuesday, a further strike killed five, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Emmerson’s call for investigations is an important step, one that will hopefully mark the beginning of the end for drones as killing machines.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: The Drone Revolution’s Next Phase

As drones continue to proliferate, the technology is behind them is speeding ahead. Wired takes a look at the next generation of drones now in development.

"Today's unmanned robotic planes only seemadvanced. A decade after the CIA and the Air Force tucked a Hellfire missile under the wing of a Predator drone, much hasn't actually changed: pilots in air-conditioned boxes remotely control much of the armed drone fleet; the robo-planes are easy for an enemy to spot; the weapons they fire weigh about the same; as much as they love the skies, they take refuge on dry land; and they're built around traditional airframes like planes and helicopters. Yawn.

Drones are moving out to sea -- above it and below it. They're growing increasingly autonomous, no longer reliant on a pilot with a joystick staring at video feeds from their cameras. They're getting stealthier; the payloads they carry are changing; and they're going global. They're pushing humans out of the gondolas of blimps. And the laboratories of the drones of the future aren't only owned by American defense contractors, they're in Israel and China and elsewhere, too. … Here's a look at the more ambitious ways drones are getting re-imagined."

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: When are Drone Killings Illegal?

Efforts to bring the rule of law to killing are not always easy or clear-cut.  Although as an advocate of non-violence, I can condemn all killing; whether killing in a conflict is “legal” or not depends on the circumstances in which it occurs. International law does not prohibit all taking of life.

Mary Ellen O'Connell, a law professor and research professor of international dispute resolution at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is a specialist on the international law of armed conflict. In a column on CNN, she explains that under international law, killing enemy fighters during an armed conflict – a war – is legal. Outside of war, it generally is not, the human right of life prevails. Although this “dual standard for justifiable killing makes the law protecting the right to life more complicated,” it is how international law assesses violent conflicts.

O’Connell analyzes drone attacks in light of this distinction, posing the central question: Is this killing occurring in war?  She summarizes the history of the Bush and Obama administration’s efforts to defend it as part of a “war on terror,” and the efforts of a committee of the International Law Association to legally define “war.” Her conclusion:

“Targeted killing with drones in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have generally violated the right to life because the United States is rarely part of any armed conflict in those places. The human right to life that applies is the right that applies in peace.

Today, the United States is engaged in armed conflict only in Afghanistan. To lawfully resort to military force elsewhere requires that the country where the United States is attacking has first attacked the United States (such as Afghanistan in 2001), the U.N. Security Council has authorized the resort to force (Libya in 2011) or a government in effective control credibly requests assistance in a civil war (Afghanistan since 2002).”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence