Predator Drones – two words for you – no joke (they provoke counter attacks seen as legitimate defense)

Predator Drones

– two words for you –

no joke

(they provoke counter attacks

seen as legitimate defense)

“….boys, don’t get any ideas, I have two words for you —

predator drones.

You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking…”

Thus were the words  spoken by President Obama joking around about a highly controversial targeted killing program which eerily recalled the the worst  of the Phoenix Program, read on…


As one commentator said:

In reality, civilian deaths stir up hatred in Afghanistan from the friends and families of the victims, some of whom take revenge and become “the enemy,”, thus strategically prolonging the stay of our soldiers who are caught in the middle of Washington’s geopolitical chess game.


Posted by America 20xy at 9:31 AM



Predator Drones:

no joke for the thousands upon thousands killed by this



electronically laser guided,

unmanned aircraft missile weapon system,

fired thousands of miles away in Nevada in impersonal chambers.

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

This is not a video game, but real kill,

with lots of “Collateral Damage,”

provoking moral outrage, anger

and counter “revenge” attacks seen as legitimate defense)


Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

– David Kilcullen (Counterinsurgency Expert) Center for New American Security


As one of the remote warriors  said about a similar robotic system:

“Great! That means we can kill Jihadonazis by day, and head off to Sin City Las Vegas for a night of debauchery.”


Click image above to enlarge


Drone Revenge is seen as Blowback effect, by many experts and analysts: the natural outcome of many civilian deaths, indiscriminate impersonal bombing from afar.

Indeed violence breeds violence, and the cycle continues….



Some Recent News on DroneWarfare


The US love affair with drones
A war strategy built around drone attacks is not only unethical, but will hurt US interests in the long run.
Ted Rall Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 07:39
Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker
A jirga, or tribal assembly, discusses US drone strikes in Pakistan after a Predator drone attack killed three men in South Waziristan [EPA]

One of the pleasures of traveling through the developing world is that things develop. They change. There’s always something new.

Afghanistan is, depending on one’s point of view, developing, deteriorating, or doing both at once.

Example: Last August found me and two fellow Americans in a hired taxi zooming past bombed-out fuel trucks through Taliban-held Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan near the Tajik border. The sense of menace was palpable, but our driver seemed calm.

Then his face darkened. We were passing into the flatlands east of Mazar-i-Sharif. We saw nothing but dirt, dust and rocks, all the way to the horizon. Yet our driver was nervous. He scanned this bleak landscape. “Motorcycles,” he said. “I am looking for the motorcycles.”

The adaptable neo-Taliban increasingly rely on the classic tactics of guerilla warfare. Rather than hold territory, these postmodern Islamists-cum-gangsters rely on hit-and-run strikes using something I hadn’t seen in 2001: motorcycles. Like a scene from the Kazakh film epic about Genghis Khan updated by Quentin Tarantino, squadrons of bearded bikers are terrorizing Afghanistan’s newly- and cheaply-paved highways.

I call them the Talibikers.

One of the more intriguing revelations in last year’s WikiLeaks data dump was that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has been supplying the Taliban with thousands of Pamir dirtbikes, including a 2007 shipment of 1,000 to the Waziristan-based network led by Mawlawi Jalaludin Haqqani. Talibs ride the Pamirs and their preferred brand, the Honda 125 and its Chinese knock-offs, to assassinations. They launch attacks on highways from bases in villages 10 to 15 kilometers away.

The Talibikers speed across the desert in great clouds of dust, “Mad Max” style, to ambush and bomb fuel trucks. There they set up checkpoints where they shake down travelers for cash. Sometimes they kidnap motorists and demand ransom payments from their families. By the time the hapless Afghan national police shows up, the resistance fighters are long gone.

An early report on the Talibikers appeared in the Telegraph in 2003. “The motorcycles have played a key role in Taliban hit-and-run operations in the south of the country where the campaign against international troops and aid workers has intensified,” the British newspaper reported in November of that year. “In the latest incident, a Frenchwoman working for the United Nations was shot dead this month by the pillion passenger on a motorcycle in the south-eastern town of Ghazni. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In another recent attack, a group of motorcyclists opened fire on an aid convoy near Kandahar, killing four Afghans. In August, two motorcyclists threw a grenade into the Kandahar compound of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, damaging the building but causing no injuries.”

ISI-funded motorbikes continue to play a vital role in the Taliban’s war to drive US and NATO occupation troops out of Afghanistan. “Day and night, Taliban assassins on motorbikes hunt their victims, often taunting them over the telephone before gunning them down in the city’s streets,” Paul Watson wrote in The Star, a Canadian newspaper, in February 2011.

“They are working their way through lists, meticulously killing off people fingered as collaborators with the Afghan government or its foreign backers … The build-up of Afghan police and soldiers, and foreign troops, in and around Kandahar city over recent months has improved security, but agile and coldly efficient motorbike death squads remain active.”

Mass attacks continue as well. “About 100 Taliban fighters on motorcycles attacked a northern Afghan village that was working to join the government-sponsored local police program against the insurgency, killing one villager, police said Wednesday. An ensuing battle also left 17 militants dead,” the Associated Press reported in May 2011.

There are fewer than 10,000 Talibikers in Afghanistan. They could be eliminated – if the US and NATO stopped focusing on assassination-by-drone and instead used the same technology to increase security.

Drones, drones everywhere

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) date to the maiden flight of the now-familiar Predator drones in 1994. After 9/11 the United States became addicted to the Predator and its successor, the Reaper.

Today the Air Force and CIA have at least 7,000 UAVs in service around the world, representing the biggest and most visible presence of the US military in Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. This trend is likely to accelerate. As of March 2011 the US Air Force was training more remote drone “pilots” than those for conventional planes. Next year the Pentagon wants $5 billion just for drones.

Drones are getting smaller and more numerous. “One of the smallest drones in use on the battlefield is the three-foot-long Raven, which troops in Afghanistan toss by hand like a model airplane to peer over the next hill,” according to The New York Times. “There are some 4,800 Ravens in operation in the Army, although plenty get lost.” More on this later.

US unveils new ‘micro-drone’

It’s easy to see why generals and politicians are so enthusiastic. The pilotless planes, guided by operators manning a joystick at military and pseudomilitary agencies such as CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and armed by Xe, the private contractor formerly called Blackwater, are relatively cheap. A Predator costs $4.5 million; an F-22 Raptor fighter jet runs $150 million a unit.

Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, cites the “three Ds”. Drones are “dull” because they can patrol empty stretches of barren land 24 hours a day. They’re “dirty” because they can fly in and out of toxic clouds, including radiation.

Most appealingly, they are “dangerous” because the absence of a pilot eliminates the risk that a pilot – they cost millions to train – will be killed or captured by enemy forces. UAVs exploit the element of surprise: though relatively unobtrusive, they fire supersonic armor-piercing Hellfire missiles capable of striking a target as far as five miles away.

“People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying,” The New Yorker magazine reported in 2009.

“‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) [Bleeding] human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.'”


According to the Pentagon, drones hit their targets with 95 percent accuracy. The problematic question is: who are their targets?

Thousands of people have been rubbed out by drones since 9/11.

(Press accounts document between 1,400 and 2,300 extrajudicial killings by allied forces, mostly in the Tribal Areas adjacent to Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. According to media reports cited by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 957 Pakistanis were murdered by American drones in 134 airstrikes during the year 2010 alone. Since the media only learns about a fraction of these “secret” killings, the real number must be many times higher.)

Drone attacks illegal, unethical

Since the Pakistani government does not officially acknowledge, much less authorize, such attacks, they are illegal acts of war.

Political philosopher Michael Walzer asked in 2009: “Under what code does the CIA operate? I don’t know. There should be a limited, finite group of people who are targets, and that list should be publicly defensible and available. Instead, it’s not being publicly defended. People are being killed, and we generally require some public justification when we go about killing people.”

One would think.

Legal or not, Christine Fair of Georgetown University says the US doesn’t use drone planes indiscriminately: “You have lawyers, you have targeteers, you have intelligence operatives, you actually have pilots who are manning the drones. These are not 14-year-old kids right out of basic training, playing around with a joystick,” she told National Public Radio.

In the real world, it’s often hard to tell the difference. There’s no doubt that drone operators make mistakes. In April 2011, for example, two American marines were killed by a Predator in Afghanistan.

Of course, the majority of victims are local civilians. In Afghanistan and Pakistan drone strikes have killed countless children and wiped out so many wedding parties that it’s become a sick joke. Estimates of the civilian casualty rate range from a third (by the New America Foundation) to 98 percent (terrorism expert Amir Mir). There is no evidence that a single “terrorist” has ever been killed by a drone – only the say-so of US and NATO spokesmen.

Errors are inherent due to the principal feature of the technology: remoteness. Manned aerial warfare is notoriously inaccurate; pilots zooming close to the speed of sound tens of thousands of feet above the ground have little idea who or what they’re shooting at. Drone operators have even less information than old-school pilots. Like a submariner peering out of a periscope, they are supposed to decide whether people live or die based on fuzzy images through layers of glass. They call it the “soda straw.”

Nowadays, staffing is a troubling challenge: it takes 19 analysts to study images and other data from one drone. In the future, a war could eliminate unemployment entirely: it will take approximately 2,00 men and women to process information from one drone equipped with “Gorgon stare” optics capable of scanning an entire city at once.

First flown in 1994, the Predator became widely used only after 9/11 [GALLO/GETTY]

There’s also a huge gap in education, experience and culture. Virtual warriors require simple rules that don’t apply when trying to kill jihadis. At the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan in 2001, for example, it was an article of faith within the Pentagon that men wearing black long-tailed turbans were Talibs.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of noncombatants were killed because of this incorrect assumption. In February 2002 a drone operator blew up a man because he was tall – as was Osama bin Laden. In fact, he and two other men killed were poor villagers gathering scrap metal. Again, this doesn’t address the broader issue of whether it’s okay to murder people simply because they are members of the Taliban.

At least as interesting as the choice of target is whom the U.S. does not try to kill: the Talibikers.

Unlike the wedding parties, houses and tribal councils that have been mistakenly incinerated by the aptly-named Hellfire missiles, Taliban bike gangs are easy to identify from the air. One or two hundred dirtbikes speeding across the desert toward a truck on an Afghan highway are unmistakable. Most Afghans, even those who oppose the US occupation, fear the Talibikers and resent being robbed at impromptu checkpoints. There have been a few scattershot drone strikes, nothing more. Why don’t the CIA whiz kids make these easily-identified fighters a primary target?

Afghans a low priority for US

I posed the question to Afghan government officials. They told me that the same US military that blows $1 billion a week on the war won’t lift a finger to save Afghan lives by providing basic security. “Afghan lives are worth nothing to the Americans,” a provincial governor told me.

Last week the United Nations announced that civilian casualties were up 15 percent during the first six months of 2011. If the same rate continues, this will be the worst year of the ten-year-long American occupation.

A well-placed US military source confirms that Afghan security “isn’t a priority, it isn’t even much of a passing thought”. Contrary to President Obama’s claim that US is in Afghanistan in order to prevent the country from becoming a base for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups and to combat opium cultivation, he says that Afghanistan isn’t about Afghanistan at all. “Afghanistan is a staging area for drone and other aerial strikes in western Pakistan,” he says. “Nothing more, nothing less. Afghanistan is Bagram [airbase].”

Under Obama the death toll has risen, worsening relations between the White House and its puppet president, Hamid Karzai. Beyond the horror of the deaths themselves, it would be impossible to overstate the contempt that ordinary people in nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan feel for the drone program. “Americans are cowards” was one refrain I heard last year. Real soldiers risk their lives. They do not send buzzing machines to kill people half a world away…people they know nothing about.

Back in 2002, former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith worried about blowback. “If [Taliban leaders and soldiers are] dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs,” he noted. Ongoing drone attacks “suggest that it’s acceptable behavior to assassinate people…Assassination as a norm of international conduct exposes American leaders and Americans overseas.”

These days, the media gives little to no time or space to such concerns. Americans have moved into postmorality. Right or wrong? Who cares?

Recently international law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame University said that the new reliance on drones could prompt an already militaristic superpower to fight even more wars of choice. “I think this idea that somehow this technology is allowing us to kill in more places and … aim at more targets is for me the fundamental ethical and legal problem.”

Meanwhile, adds Mary Dudziak of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law: “Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on…endless war.” No casualties? No problem.

Meanwhile, at a “microaviary” inside an air force base north of Dayton, Ohio, “military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds”, approvingly reports The New York Times.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Al Jazeera


Photos From an Anti-War Rally,

speak millions & common sense

Terrorism by Drones

Predator Targeted Assassinations

(with lots of Collateral Damage)

> Some  articles


US Drone Use Setting Off New Global Arms Race

The proliferation of drone technology is, justifiably but hypocritically, generating concern in Washington

by John Glaser, January 09, 2013

With the US’s dramatic expansion of drone use for both surveillance and targeted bombings, a veritable arms race in unmanned aerial vehicles has begun, prompting concern from some in Washington worried about international rivals using drones like the US does.

“The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress,” USA Today reports.

Both China and Japan are working on sophisticated drone technology as their territorial disputes get more intense. Pakistan is also attempting to acquire armed drone systems, apparently with help from China. And Iran is known to have fielded their own drones.

Even the United Nations has expressed interest in acquiring their own drones, reportedly for use in peacekeeping missions.

The proliferation of drone technology is justifiably generating some concern in Washington. The prospect of other countries using drones in the same lawless, lethal, unaccountable way the US has is unnerving to Americans, who have long believed they should not be subject to the rules everybody else must follow.

“When we possess such weaponry, it turns out there is nothing unnerving or disturbing, apocalyptic or dystopian about it,” Tom Engelhardt observes in Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

But “when the first Iranian or Russian or Chinese missile-armed drones start knocking off their chosen sets of ‘terrorists,’ we won’t like it one bit,” Engelhardt warns. “Then let’s see what we think about the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies—and anyone else in the vicinity—by drone.”


U.S. departs Pakistan base, source says

By Nick Paton Walsh and Nasir Habib, CNN
April 22, 2011 — Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
  • U.S. military personnel depart a Pakistan base, a Pakistani official says
  • The location is a hub of drone activity, another official says
  • The news comes amid public furor over civilians killed in drone strikes

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — U.S. military personnel have left a southern base in Pakistan said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN on Friday.

Drones are said to take off and get refueled for operations against Islamic militants from the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

News of a possible U.S. departure comes amid a public furor over American drone attacks, which have killed civilians.

A suspected U.S. drone strike Friday in the Pakistani tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, a Pakistani intelligence source said. Another one on March 17 killed 44, mostly civilians.

Unmanned aerial vehicles


Another senior Pakistani intelligence official, who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue, confirmed Americans had been using the base as a center of operations for launching drone strikes. He was not able to confirm if the Americans had left.

The first official said that American personnel were no longer operating out of the base, but he could not say whether they had left voluntarily or at the request of the Pakistani government.

The operation of the base — which the U.S. government has not publicly acknowledged — has always been presumed to have occurred with tacit Pakistani military consent.

It was not clear from the Pakistani officials when the presence there began or when it ended.

A U.S. military official who did not want to be identified told CNN: “There are no U.S. forces at Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan.” He did not respond at the time or in writing to queries as to whether U.S. personnel had been based there in the past.

The departure of American personnel — if confirmed — would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the drone attacks and the Raymond Davis affair in which a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in a Lahore neighborhood.

It has always been unclear how many drone bases the United States operates in or near Pakistan. But Friday’s attack in North Waziristan that killed 25 people would indicate the United States maintains the capability to strike tribal areas with drones.

Carl Forsberg, research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, said he doesn’t think such a move would affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.

Many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said Pakistanis could be making such a move to appease a populace angry at the United States.

The southern air base, he said, doesn’t appear to be integral to the tribal area fight and is probably a supporting base.

“It’s not like the Pakistanis shut down the program,” he said. “It’s possible they want to do this as a means of pre-empting drone strikes in Balochistan,” where there is a Taliban presence.

“The United States has an interest in going after the Taliban in Balochistan,” he said, and in an ideal world the United States would like to target Taliban sanctuaries in that region with drones.

Also, he said, it’s possible the Pakistanis are using pressure on the United States to offset any U.S. pressure on them.

He said it’s no coincidence that the development emerged after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pakistan’s Geo TV, Mullen spoke forcefully about the Haqqani Network, saying it “specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they’re killing Americans.”

“I can’t accept that and I will do everything I possibly can to prevent that specifically,” he said.

Mullen said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence “has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani Network. That doesn’t mean everybody in the ISI, but it’s there.”

“I also have an understanding that the ISI and the (Pakistani military) exist to protect their own citizens, and there’s a way they have done that for a long period of time,” Mullen said. “I believe that over time, that’s got to change.”

A senior Pakistani intelligence official responded by saying, “We do have a relationship: that of an adversary.”

“We have made our resolve very clear that (the Haqqani Network) is an enemy we need to fight together,” said the official, who did not want to be identified discussing intelligence matters.

The Pakistani intelligence official told CNN that “we have our hands full” fighting other Islamist militant groups along the border with Afghanistan, notably those under the umbrella of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, “and once we are through with them we can turn on the other (the Haqqanis). We do not have the capacity to undertake simultaneous operations.”

The official said the “onus of providing proof of this” relationship was on the Americans and it was not up to the ISI “to start providing clarification.”

Asked if offense was taken from Mullen’s remarks, the intelligence official said: “Not personally, no.”

In Friday’s attack, a drone fired five missiles on a hideout in Mir Ali of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan, two intelligence officials said.

The officials said the militants, who were staying in the hideout, were planning to move into Afghanistan for an attack against coalition forces.

The militants were local Taliban members from Orakzai agency, another district of Pakistan’s tribal region, who were trained for war, the officials said. The intelligence officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

But the attack also killed at least three women when one of the missiles hit a house next to the targeted compound, officials said. The Pakistani intelligence source identified the slain civilians as five women and three children.

Friday’s drone strike was the 20th this year, compared with 111 in all of 2010, based on a CNN tally.

The strike comes two days after Pakistan issued a strongly worded statement condemning deadly suspected U.S. drone strikes in the country’s tribal region.

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counterterror campaign,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday. “We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists.”

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.


18 March 2011 Last updated at 11:13 ET


Time for ‘A Full and Open’ Debate about Drones

12:10 pm in Uncategorized by daphneeviatarhumanrights1st

Last week, in a rare public interview, Michael Leiter, the nation’s counterterrorism chief, acknowledged that the government’s drone and targeted killing strategy, which appears to have become a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s “war on terror,” demands “a full and open debate.”

Leiter was responding to a question from Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff about the fact that the Obama administration has said that it can target for killing certain U.S. citizens abroad based on their alleged connections to terrorism. The U.S. citizen and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen, has been widely reported as a U.S. government target. Leiter said last week that the U.S. believes that Awlaki had a “direct operational role” in failed Christmas day bombing attempt on a plane over Detroit last year.

The idea that the U.S. would target for killing its own citizens, though, has outraged many critics, who claim that amounts to government-sponsored assassinations.

In fact, targeted killings may be legal in some circumstances, when the government can show that the killing is actually necessary in self-defense against some imminent attack, or that the target is an enemy belligerent who’s fighting a war against the United States and therefore can lawfully be killed by U.S. forces. But the Obama administration (and the Bush administration before it) has never offered a real explanation of who it’s targeting and why, and how it knows that those targets are either directly fighting the United States or about to launch an imminent attack against U.S. targets.

Even if it can’t provide all the names and specific evidence in advance, the government could do far more to explain its targeting policy and the legal support for it. Although State Department officials have assured critics that the government is following the law, those assurances amount to a plea to the public to trust that the government is doing the right thing. Unfortunately, government actions over the last eight years surrounding the “war on terror” have demonstrated that “trust us” just isn’t good enough.

Leiter has now publicly acknowledged the point. “[C]ertainly, the policy decisions about the ways in which we should or should not use force demand a full and open discussion,” he told Isikooff. “And again, I think it’s part of my appearance, here, I’m trying to answer the questions to the extent I can.”

Still, Leiter didn’t really answer the question. Of course, the questions are difficult, and to some extent the government may need to keep some of the facts classified for national security purposes. But it could provide a whole lot more information than it’s providing now.

In the case of al-Awlaki, for example, who has already been named as a target, what information connects al-Awlaki to the failed Detroit bombing? And is this the only attempted terrorist incident he’s believed to have been involved in? If so, that might qualify him as conspiring to commit mass murder, but an isolated incident wouldn’t make him an actual enemy belligerent under the laws of war. Or, is the government claiming it can kill him in self-defense? If so, it would have to demonstrate some real reason to believe he’s an imminent threat.

Some critics of the targeting policy suggest that Awlaki, like any other suspect, deserves due process and should be arrested, charged and tried – not simply killed. While that treatment might be a good idea if the circumstances allow for it, if Awlaki is truly an enemy belligerent fighting the United States, then the laws of war don’t require that. As Leiter pointed out: “Just to be clear, the U.S. government through the Department of Defense goes out and attempts to target and kill people, a lot of people, who haven’t been indicted.”

Of course, those are people who are (presumably) actively participating in a war against us. The government cannot simply target people it suspects of, say, financing terrorism or providing material support for terrorist actions. It needs to acknowledge that publicly.

Asked how the U.S. responds to the fact that several recently convicted terrorists, such as Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi, have said they were motivated to attack the United States due to the U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Leiter acknowledged the challenge. “I certainly will not try to argue that some of our actions have not led to some people being radicalized.” He added: “That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. That means you craft a fuller strategy to explain why you’re doing that and try to minimize the likelihood that individuals are going to be radicalized.”

Explaining the strategy and its justification is actually the key to minimizing the likelihood that the strategy will motivate others to become radicalized. And that’s exactly the part of the U.S. targeted killing strategy that’s still missing.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

State Dept Promises To Produce Legal Justification for Drone Attacks

4:46 pm in Terrorism by daphneeviatarhumanrights1st

State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has promised to produce the Obama administration’s legal justification for its increased use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, reports Shane Harris of the National Journal.

“I have studied this question,” Koh told the audience at an American Bar Association breakfast yesterday. “I think that the legal objections that are being put on the table are ones that we are taking into account. I am comfortable with the legal position of the administration, and at an appropriate moment we will set forth that in some detail.”

Let’s hope that “appropriate moment” comes pretty soon, because controversy over the drone attacks is heating up. The ACLU in January filed a FOIA request asking the government to turn over that legal justification, as well as the facts underlying it. Then this week, after receiving a response from the CIA that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant documents, the ACLU filed a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, as Adam Serwer points out at The American Prospect, a New America Foundation study raises concerns that about a third of the victims of drone attacks have been civilians, and international lawyers have been debating for months now whether the targeted killings violate international law. (Jane Mayer’s story on drone attacks in The New Yorker last October does an excellent job of laying out the controversy.)

Such an eminent legal expert as Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, has said that the drone attacks, despite their obvious appeal to the U.S. and the U.K., raise serious legal concerns.

As he explained in a recent article in The Guardian with Hina Shamsi, “Drones may only be used to kill in an armed conflict. The killing must fulfill a military need, and no alternative should be reasonably possible.” In Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are fighting armed militants but not the troops of another country, “the target must have a direct connection to the combat, either as a Taliban or al-Qaida ‘fighter’, or as a civilian who is ‘directly participating in hostilities’. The use of force must be proportionate, meaning that commanders must weigh any expected military advantage against possible harm to civilians.” Violating these requirements could constitute a war crime.

Given the secrecy of the United States’ drone program, it’s impossible to know whether the government has met these legal requirements. That’s left the administration open to critics’ suggestions that it has not, and may well be fomenting anger among the residents of areas being targeted.

General Stanley McChrystal has said that reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan is critical to a key part of his counterinsurgency strategy — winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Revealing the facts about how the United States is using its expanded and now well-known drone program must be a critical component of that strategy.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Pakistan drone victim demands damages from CIA

Associated Press
2010-11-29 07:59 PM
Bookmark and Share

A Pakistani man who says he lost his son and brother in an American missile attack in the northwest threatened Monday to sue the CIA unless he receives compensation, a move that will draw attention to civilian casualties in such strikes.

Kareem Khan and his lawyers said they were seeking $500 million in two weeks or they would sue CIA director Leon Panetta, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a man they said was the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad for “wrongful death” in a Pakistani court.

The United States does not publicly admit to firing missiles into northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border, much less say who they are targeting or whether civilians are also being killed. Privately, officials say they are taking out al-Qaida and Taliban militants and dispute accounts that innocents often die.

Pakistani officials, who face criticism from their own people for allowing the attacks, rarely discuss them.

Khan said his 18-year-old son, Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were killed on Dec. 31 last year in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The third victim was a mason who was staying at the house, he said. Khan said his son and Iqbal were teachers.

“The people who were martyred were innocent,” Khan told a media conference in Islamabad alongside his lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar. “They did not have links with any terrorist group, nor they were wanted.”

The Associated Press and other media organizations reported that three people were killed on Dec. 31 in a missile attack in Mir Ali. Pakistani intelligence officials said then that the men were militants, but offered no proof.

Khan, who was working as a journalist, was in Islamabad at the time of the attack.

Any legal action stands no chance of success unless U.S. officials cooperate with the court, something highly unlikely given the secretive nature of the missile strike program. The most Khan and Akbar can hope for is to bring attention to the issue.

There have been more than 100 such attacks this year, more than twice than in 2009. The attacks began in 2005, but picked up pace in 2007 and have increased ever since. The border region is out of bounds for non-locals and much of it is under the control of militants, meaning independent reporting on who is being killed is nearly impossible.

Most of the missiles are believed to be fired from unmanned planes launched from Afghanistan or from secret bases in Pakistan.

Human rights groups have called on the United States to provide greater transparency about who is being targeted and publicly investigate allegations of civilian deaths. Without knowing, they say it is impossible to judge whether such attacks are legal.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the American military compensates the families of innocents killed once it carries out an investigation.


Drone strikes in Pakistan could backfire in long-term

2:31am EDT

Wed, Oct 6 2010

Wed, Oct 6 2010

Tue, Oct 5 2010

Tue, Oct 5 2010

Analysis & Opinion

By Michael Georgy

ISLAMABAD | Thu Oct 7, 2010 8:17am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Escalated drone attacks in northwest Pakistan, where a suspected al Qaeda plot to attack European targets may have originated, could hurt the U.S. war on militancy by alienating residents and hardline army officers.

The number of U.S. drone strikes in the region near the Afghan border hit a record monthly high of 21 in September, generating speculation that intelligence pointed to senior militants or the attacks were aimed at disrupting a plan to hit Western countries.

Such strikes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could jeopardize U.S. strategic interests in what is considered to be a global hub for militants.

“It seems Americans want short-term gains and are not interested in long-term ways through which militants can be sidelined by turning the public against them,” said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani expert on militancy.

Reports of eight German militants killed in a suspected U.S. drone attack in North Waziristan this week deepened concern that foreigners, some with Western passports, had traveled to Pakistan and planned attacks on Europe from the remote mountains.

A rare public opinion poll conducted in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas in July by the New America Foundation showed U.S. drone strikes were deeply unpopular among the population, now likely to have stronger objections after wider strikes.

That’s good news for al Qaeda.

“The intensity of opposition to the American military is high. While only one in ten of FATA residents think suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified against the Pakistani military and police, almost six in ten believe these attacks are justified against the U.S. military,” the poll showed.

More than 75 percent of FATA residents oppose drone attacks which have risen sharply under the Obama administration.

“Indeed, only 16 percent think these strikes accurately target militants; 48 percent think they largely kill civilians and another 33 percent feel they kill both civilians and militants,” said the study.

Drones have killed senior al Qaeda and Taliban figures.


Pakistan worries they undermine efforts to deal with militancy because civilian casualties inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants. But killing high-profile targets requires Pakistani intelligence, analysts say.

Pakistan may not be so cooperative if often stormy relations are strained – as they are now over NATO cross-border incursions.

Although army chief General Ashfaq Kayani is believed to have good ties with the United States, other senior officers may grow tired of U.S. doubts over Islamabad’s commitment to fighting militancy

By Michael Georgy

ISLAMABAD | Thu Oct 7, 2010 8:17am EDT

Imtiaz Gul, author of The Most Dangerous Place, a book about Pakistan‘s lawless tribal areas, said wider drone attacks would probably create many ripples in the military.

Hardline elements in the army could argue Pakistan had lost thousands of soldiers supporting the U.S. war on militancy and is getting little in return except pressure to do more.

“At some stage they could prevail or would at least be able to influence policy. You cannot totally disregard them,” said Gul.

The survey’s face-to-face interviews with 1,000 residents age 18 or older showed opposition to the drones was not based on general anti-U.S. feelings. They just don’t like the U.S. military.

That does not mean people backed al Qaeda or Taliban insurgents, according to the survey.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton)

UN expert: ‘Targeted killings’ may be war crimes

By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans, Associated Press Writer – 45 mins ago

GENEVA – Governments must come clean on their methods for killing suspected terrorists and insurgents — especially when using unmanned drones — because they may be committing war crimes, a U.N. human rights expert said Wednesday.

Philip Alston, the independent U.N. investigator on extrajudicial killings, called on countries to lay out the rules and safeguards they use when carrying out so-called targeted killings, publish figures on civilian casualties and prove they have attempted to capture or incapacitate suspects without killing them.

His 29-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council will put unwanted scrutiny on intelligence operations of the United States, Israel and Russia, who Alston says are all credibly reported to have used drones to kill alleged terrorists and insurgents.

Alston, a New York University law professor, said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by intelligence agencies such as the CIA to carry out targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is particularly fraught because of the secrecy surrounding such operations.

“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” Alston said.

Although not illegal as such, CIA drone strikes are also more likely to breach the rules of war than similar operations carried out by armed forces, who are more familiar with international law and can resort to non-lethal means because they have troops on the ground, Alston said.

“Unlike a state’s armed forces, its intelligence agents do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, rendering violations more likely and causing a higher risk of prosecution both for war crimes and for violations of the laws of the state in which any killing occurs,” he wrote.

In a March speech, U.S. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said the administration’s procedures for identifying lawful targets were “extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise.”

The CIA, which refuses to discuss specific activities, claims all of its operations are lawful and subject to government oversight.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of intelligence matters, said lethal drones were an effective and legal means to target members of al-Qaida and the Taliban in far-flung areas where the United States or its allies have no military presence.

The U.S. official cited Pakistan, which officially condemns drone strikes on its territory but is widely believed to share intelligence with Washington for at least some of the attacks, especially those that target Pakistani Taliban militants blamed for numerous attacks in the country.

There was no evidence to prove large numbers of innocent lives have been lost due to drone strikes, the U.S. official said.

This view has been challenged by human rights groups and independent observers, who say remotely operated drones risk ingraining a video game mentality about war and can never be as accurate as eyewitness confirmation of targets from the ground.

“The point is that innocent people have been killed, this has been proved over and over again,” said Louise Doswald-Beck, a professor of international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

“If you don’t have enough personnel on the ground, the chances of your having false information is actually quite huge,” she told The Associated Press.

Among the most sensitive recommendations in Alston’s report is that governments should disclose “the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective, independent and public investigations of alleged violations of law.”

Doing so could threatened counter-terror operations in countries such as Pakistan, said Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

“The drones program is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high,” he said.

Alston’s report also warns that CIA personnel could be extradited to those countries where the targeted killing takes place and wouldn’t have the same immunity from prosecution as regular soldiers.

Alston claims more than 40 countries now have drone technology, with several seeking to equip them with lethal weapons.

Doswald-Beck said the next step could be the development of fully autonomous drones and battlefield robots programed to identify and kill enemy fighters — but without human controllers to ensure targets are legitimate.

“If that’s the case you’ve got a major problem,” she said.



Alston report:


Associated Press Writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.



“Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more
recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”
– David Kilcullen (Counterinsurgency Expert) Center for New American Security

On January 16th, 2010 from 1pm to 4pm activists will descend upon the home of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia to protest the immoral, illegal, and inhumane use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs–also known as “drones”).

Speaking at this event will be:

Cindy Sheehan (world renowned U.S. anti-war/peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee)
Cynthia McKinney (former six term member of the U.S. House of Representatives and former Green Party candidate for President of the United States)
Hadi Jawad (Pakistani-American and Co-founder of the Crawford Peace House)
Kathy Kelly (U.S. peace activist, pacifist and author, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, one of the founding members of Voices in the Wilderness, and currently a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence)
Debra Sweet (Brooklyn-based director of World Can’t Wait)
Bruce Gagnon (coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space)
Joshua Smith (anti-war/peace activist, analyst and coordinator)
David Rovics (musician)

By some reports the current implementation and planned operational expansion of the strike-capable drone programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have to date yielded up to 33% civilian (non-combatant) deaths. To any sane and honorable person this statistic alone should prove that the “actionable intelligence” and robotic delivery vehicle do not yield a proper basis and/or method for credible attack. The primary and proven case against drone attacks is that they pose a public danger that can only be deemed as indiscriminate bombing. On the day of the event, activists will demand that the United States and its allies adhere to the protection of civilians (non-combatants) in international armed conflicts in accordance with the multiple existing conventions, protocols and customary international laws. These same activists will, of course, also demand an end to the wars and occupations currently under way and an immediate withdrawal of all troops and contractors.

Drones operate in the theater of war by being fueled and maintained at airbases within their locale but which are remotely piloted via satellite connected ground control stations half-way around the world and from an environment disassociated with any human connection to reality of their actions. The psychological aspect of this endeavor will ultimately create a false sense that war is easier to condone, safer to conduct and more acceptable in U.S. public and political opinion to initiate.

Recently, it has been reported in mainstream media that the United States Central Intelligence Agency has been working in cooperation with Private Military Contractors (PMCs–also known as “mercenaries”) in waging secret operations in utilizing drone attacks. Under this veil secrecy it can only be assumed that impunity for war crimes is being actively cultivated within the highest level of Department of Defense operations via proxy by the Central Intelligence Agency (which then sub-contracts out the directives).

The most well known drone is the propeller driven Predator A (MQ-1). This drone began as merely a streaming video reconnaissance tool but was soon armed with Hellfire missiles. The United States Military then upgraded the entire drone arsenal with what has become a an even more ruthless killer–the Predator B “Reaper” (MQ-9). With millions upon millions, of U.S. taxpayer funded dollars the Reaper became higher, faster and stronger with increased size and fuel capacity, quicker engagement via a turbo-prop engine and a larger weapons payload/assortment. The Reaper is seemingly a “steroid raged monster” that cowardly stalks it’s prey. The next evolution is the Predator C “Avenger” which will employ stealth design/materials, jet engine and highly advanced optics systems.

Within the oration of the activists at this event the most frightening aspect of future drone programs will be explained and spelled out to attendees and to the press. The three most notable facts are (1) that drone programs currently under development will soon yield a series of UAV aircraft that will operate in a fully autonomous mode (meaning that no human will be controlling the craft remotely), (2) that the UAV program is destined to become the primary type of air power for the U.S. military which will also be tasked with the ability to carry out nuclear strikes, and (3) the use of drones will morph into rapid and various domestic roles as well (operating in, around and over cities of the United States).

Location: Langley, VA – Route 123 (Dolley Madison Blvd) between Potomac School Rd & Savile Ln.
Google map is here.

UPDATE: (January 12, 2010) Previously announced speaker Ann Wright is due for some well deserved rest after spending a full month in Cairo, Egypt facilitating the Gaza Freedom March logistics and governmental negotiations.  She will be replaced by Hadi Jawad.

# # #


PDF Flyer



International Law: The First Casualty of the Drone War
(A comprehensive legal analysis of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan)

President Obama orders Pakistan drone attacks

What are the risks of the CIA’s covert drone program?

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047

Suspected U.S. drone strike kills 4 in Pakistan

Chavez Says U.S. Drone Planes Entered Venezuela

Doug Valentine: CIA Killings Spell Defeat In Afghanistan

Air Force Completes Killer Micro-Drone Project

Why Was Pakistan Drone Strike So Deadly?

CIA suicide bombing ‘was revenge for drone attacks’

C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones

Obama to CIA: Bombs Away! No Let Up in US Drone Attacks

Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

CIA keeping drone attacks data secret

Attack on the CIA in Afghanistan raises jitters in Pakistan

CIA base at heart of drone program


UN Expert:

CIA Targeted Killings violate international law

U.N. Expert Calls On U.S. To Halt CIA Targeted Killings
William Fisher

NEW YORK, 2 Jun (IPS) – Targeted killings, including those using drones, are increasingly being applied in ways that violate international law, according to a report issued Wednesday by a United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings.

The report by special rapporteur Philip Alston will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. It says that while targeted killings may be permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants, fighters or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities, they are increasingly being used far from any battlefield.

It states that “this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other States can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial killings”.

Alston also criticised the U.S. invocation of the “law of 9/11”, which it uses to justify the use of force outside of armed-conflict zones as part of the so-called global war on terrorism.

The report called for the United States and other countries to end the “accountability vacuum” by disclosing the full legal basis for targeted killings and specifically the measures in place to ensure wrongful killings are investigated, prosecuted and punished.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the report “underscores the alarming legal questions raised by the U.S. program of targeting and killing people – including U.S. citizens – sometimes far from any battlefield”.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Programme, said, “The U.S. should heed the recommendations of the rapporteur and disclose the full legal basis of the U.S. targeted killings programme, and it should abide by international law.”

“The entire world is not a battlefield, and the government cannot use quintessentially warlike measures anywhere in the world that it believes a suspected terrorist might be located,” he added.

In March, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas, and in April sent a letter to President Barack Obama condemning the U.S. policy on targeted killings and urging him to bring it into compliance with international and domestic law.

“The U.S. programme of targeted killing outside of armed conflict zones is illegal and raises serious policy questions that ought to be debated publicly,” said Jonathan Manes, legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project.

“In addition to the legal basis, scope and limits of the programme, the Obama administration should disclose how many civilians have been killed, how the programme is overseen, and what accountability mechanisms exist over the CIA and others who conduct the targeted killings,” he said.

While welcoming an initial effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to offer a legal justification for drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists overseas, human rights groups say critical questions remain unanswered.

In an address to an international law group in March, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insisted that such operations were being conducted in full compliance with international law.

“The U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defence under international law,” he said. “…Individuals who are part of such armed groups are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law.”

Moreover, he went on, “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” which require limiting attacks to military objectives and that the damage caused to civilians by those attacks would not be excessive.

While right-wing commentators expressed satisfaction with Koh’s evocation of the “right to self-defence” – the same justification used by President George W. Bush – human rights groups were circumspect.

Drone attacks, which have increased significantly under Obama, are widely considered to have become the single-most effective weapon in Washington’s campaign disrupt al Qaeda and affiliated groups, especially in the frontier areas of western Pakistan.

In Obama’s first year in office, more strikes were carried out than in the previous eight years under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), they reportedly killed “several hundred” al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban militants since Obama took office in 2009, forcing many of them to flee their border hideouts for large cities where precision attacks would be much harder to carry out without causing heavy civilian casualties.

While noting criticism that the use of lethal force against some individuals far removed from the battlefield could amount to an “unlawful extra-judicial killing”, Koh – who was one of the harshest and most outspoken critics of the Bush administration’s legal tactics in its “global war on terror” – insisted that “a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force”.

“Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise,” he said.

Alston, the U.N. rapporteur, was far from satisfied with these assurances, however, calling Koh’s statement “evasive”.

He “was essentially arguing that ‘You’ve got to trust us. I’ve looked at this very carefully. I’m very sensitive to these issues. And all is well,'” he told an interviewer on ‘Democracy Now’ in March.

In a statement Wednesday, Alston noted that “some 40 states already possess drone technology, and some already have, or are seeking, the capacity to fire missiles from them.”

However, he stressed that, “The most prolific user of targeted killings today is the United States, which primarily uses drones for attacks.”

“It is clear that many hundreds of people have been killed, and that this number includes some innocent civilians. Because the programme remains shrouded in official secrecy, the international community does not know when and where the CIA is authorised to kill, the criteria for individuals who may be killed, how it ensures killings are legal, and what follow-up there is when civilians are illegally killed,” he said.




UN official criticises US over drone attacks

cites “… extrajudicial killings  …’Playstation’ mentality”

Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 19:22 UK

US use of Predator drones is singled out for particular criticism

The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says.

Philip Alston said that the US in particular was doing damage to rules designed to protect the right of life.

Mr Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, feared a “Playstation” mentality could develop.

His report to the UN Human Rights Council also brings renewed scrutiny of Israel and Russia.

Both nations are also reported to have carried out targeted killings of alleged militants and insurgents. President Barack Obama has increased the use of Predator drones to attack militants in Pakistan.

‘Hundreds of killings’

The UN report comes days after the US hailed news of the death of Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s third in command in Pakistan, who was reportedly killed by a drone strike in May, along with his family.

Mr Alston reserves particular criticism for CIA-directed drone attacks, which he said had resulted in the deaths of “many hundreds” of civilians.

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” the report says.

Mr Alston also suggests that the drone killings carry a significant risk of becoming war crimes because intelligence agencies “do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law”.

And he adds: “Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.”

‘Law of 9/11’

In Mr Alston’s view, there are circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal.

But his report also expresses concern that the US has put forward what hedescribes as “a novel theory that there is a law of 9/11”, enabling it to legally use force in the territory of other states as part of its inherent right to self-defence.

This interpretation of the right to self-defence, he says, would “cause chaos” if invoked by other nations.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that Mr Alston clearly believes that the rules of conflict need updating to encompass weapons that may strike a long way away from any traditional definition of the battlefield.

However, some security analysts are concerned that this could jeopardise highly sensitive counter-terrorism operations.

Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying: “The drones programme is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high.”


Published on Saturday, May 29, 2010 by BBC News

US Reprimands Six Drone Operators Over Deadly Air Strike in Afghanistan

The US military has reprimanded six operators of an unmanned drone, which mistakenly attacked a civilian convoy in Afghanistan killing at least 23.

Warnings that the convoy was not an attacking force were ignored or played down, while the ground-force commander was not sure who was in the vehicles, an investigation found.

The deadly assault took place in Uruzgan Province in February.

Civilian deaths in strikes have caused widespread resentment in Afghanistan.

A Nato statement at the time said it was thought the convoy contained Taliban insurgents on their way to attack Afghan and foreign military forces.

However, troops then found “a number of individuals killed and wounded”, including women and children.

A US military investigation said the order to attack was based on inaccurate information from the crew monitoring the convoy from an Air Force base in Nevada and on flawed analysis by Nato commanders.

The reports said poorly functioning command posts “failed to provide the ground-force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat”.

The commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, said letters had been issued reprimanding four senior and two junior officers in Afghanistan.

He said: “Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people; inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission.

“We will do all we can to regain that trust.”

The botched strike happened despite Gen McChrystal’s introduction of much tougher rules of engagement in a bid to minimise such casualties.



Secret detention practiced in 66 countries

‘International law clearly prohibits secret detention’

First Published 2010-06-04

UN rights experts call for prosecutions against ‘widespread and systematic’ secret detentions.
GENEVA – UN rights experts called Thursday for action and prosecutions to end the secret detention of terror suspects, in which it alleges 66 countries including the United States are involved.

The experts on torture, counter-terrorism and enforced disappearances said the 66 countries they had named in a January report must investigate the covert imprisonment of alleged terror suspects.

The report warned that the “widespread and systematic” secret detentions could pave the way for charges of crimes against humanity against the countries concerned.

It listed 66 countries allegedly involved and called on governments to prosecute those who ordered such detentions.

“International law clearly prohibits secret detention, which violates a number of human rights and humanitarian law norms that may not be derogated under any circumstances,” said the report.

“Resorting to secret detention effectively means taking (detainees) outside the legal framework and rendering the safeguards contained in international instruments, most importantly habeas corpus, meaningless,” it added.

In a debate Thursday on the report, the experts urged the UN Human Rights Council to take action.

“We think this is enough evidence that the council should take action,” said Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture.

A summary of the debate said “secret detention should be explicitly prohibited along with all other forms of unofficial detention.”

“In almost no recent cases have there been any judicial investigations into allegations of secret detentions and practically no one has been brought to justice.”

The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said it was clear from the debate that the issue had not been brushed away despite months of delay.

“I don’t think the Human Rights Council can ignore the need for inquiries at domestic level, that will necessarily be part of the package,” he told journalists.

The experts noted a shift in attitude in Europe and the US government of President Barack Obama, even though domestic political battles had held up progress since the announced closure of secret CIA prisons.

However there was little promise of action from the United States and other major Western powers as well as countries like Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Djibouti.

UN expert: CIA drones claim ‘licence to kill’ with impunity

A UN human rights expert on Wednesday urged the United States to sideline the CIA from targeted killings using drones, warning that the practice amounted to “a licence to kill without accountability”.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned that the “prolific” US use of targeted killings, mainly by unmanned aircraft, was setting a damaging example that other countries would follow.

“I’m particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe,” he told the 47-member council.

“But this strongly asserted but ill-defined licence to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

Alston’s study on targeted killings sharply criticised the legal arguments invoked to justify them, their civilian toll and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” Alston told the rights council.

Countries had to demonstrate that they were complying with rules limiting killings of targeted individuals to those directly involved in fighting, he underlined.

“The clearest challenge to this principle today comes from the programme operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency in which targeted killings are carried out from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones,” Alston said.

He warned that hundreds of people had been killed including innocent civilians yet the CIA criteria for targeted killings remained shrouded in official secrecy.

“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” he added.


US missile used in Yemen raid

Page last updated at 3:01 GMT, Monday, 7 June 2010 4:01 UK

Amnesty says the images show pieces of cruise missiles

American missiles were used in a raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen in which women and children died in December, rights group Amnesty International says.

Amnesty has released images taken after the raid that it says show remnants of a US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.

Cluster bombs were also apparently used in the attack, which Amnesty described as “grossly irresponsible”.

The US has said its troops gave support for the raid, in Abyan province.

But Yemeni officials have denied any US involvement.

Obama congratulates

At the end of 2009 Yemen suddenly stepped up its offensive against al-Qaeda militants.

The authorities launched a number of raids, saying intelligence showed that Western targets were in imminent danger.

On 17 December two attacks on militant targets were said to have killed more than 30 militants The raids were hailed as a big success in Yemen.

US President Barack Obama telephoned his Yemeni counterpart, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to offer his congratulations.

But Amnesty now says the US in fact supported the raid with cruise missiles.

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.”

Unnamed US officials have said that elite US troops provided essential support, contradicting Yemeni government claims that it was entirely their operation, says the BBC’s Sebastian Usher.

But the US has refused to confirm reports that it had fired cruise missiles – the crux of Amnesty’s new allegations.

Analysts say the US is deeply involved in the country’s drive against al-Qaeda.

But Yemen’s leaders are keen not to appear too closely bound to American interests – one reason why the US has been keeping the extent of its military role in the country under wraps, our correspondents adds.

US cluster bombs killed Yemen civilians: Amnesty

Posted 4 hours 41 minutes ago

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was behind a December attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International says.

The London-based rights group released photographs that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the December 17, 2009 attack on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen,” said Mike Lewis, the group’s arms control researcher.

“Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards.”

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Philip Luther, the deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Yemen’s defence ministry had claimed responsibility for the attack without mentioning a US role, saying between 24 and 30 militants had been killed at an alleged Al Qaeda training camp.

But a local official said 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed “indiscriminately”.

Amnesty said a Yemeni parliamentary committee reported in February that in addition to 14 alleged Al Qaeda militants, 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, were killed in the attack.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,” Mr Luther said.

Amnesty said photographs it had obtained showed damaged remains of the BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

“This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster sub-munitions which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150 metres away,” an Amnesty statement said.

“An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.”

The Yemen parliamentary committee had said when it visited the site that “all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it had requested information about the attack from the Pentagon, but had not yet received a response.

Amnesty said it had obtained the photographs from its own sources, but had not released them earlier in order to ascertain their authenticity and give the United States time to respond.

The United States and Yemen have not yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty designed to comprehensively ban such weapons which is due to enter into force on August 1, 2010.




Afghanistan’s Operation Phoenix

Stephen Lendman
Global Research
June 17, 2009

On June 15, AP reported that “Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a four-star American general with a long history in special operations, took charge of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (today), a change in command the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent eight-year war.”

One person involved called Operation Phoenix a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

McChrystal is a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon’s infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – established in 1980 and comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads writer Seymour Hersh described post-9/11 as an “executive assassination wing” operating out of Dick Cheney’s office.

A 2006 Newsweek profile called JSOC “part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to ‘work on the dark side’ after 9/11.” It called McChrystal then “an affable but tough Army Ranger” with no elaboration of his “dark side” mission.

In his May 17 article titled “Obama’s Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice,” James Petras called him a “notorious psychopath” in describing him this way:

His rise through the ranks was “marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building.”

His resume shows contempt for human life and the rule of law – a depravity Conrad described in his classic work, “Heart of Darkness:” the notion of “exterminat(ing) all the brutes” to civilize them, and removing lesser people to colonize and dominate them by devising battle plans amounting to genocide.

In June 2001, McChrystal became Chief of Staff, XVIII Airborne Corp. After the Afghanistan invasion, he was appointed Chief of Staff, Combined Joint Task Force 180, Operation Enduring Freedom. In September 2003, he was Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In February 2006, he became Commander, Joint Special Operations – Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, United States Special Operations, then in August 2008 General Director, the Joint Staff until his current appointment as US/NATO Afghanistan commander.

Detailed information of his role in these capacities is classified and unacknowledged, but Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed some of what he directed in its July 22, 2006 report titled “No Blood, No Foul” – meaning short of drawing blood, all abuses were acceptable and wouldn’t result in investigations or prosecution.

HRW reported soldiers’ firsthand accounts of detainee abuse by Task Force 20/121/6-26/145 at Baghdad’s Camp Nama (an acronym for Nasty-Ass Military Area) and elsewhere in Iraq.

JSOC’s assignment was (and still is) to capture or kill “high-value” combatants, including Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, and many hundreds of Iraqis targeted in sweeping capture and extermination missions that include lots of collateral killings and destruction.

Through most of 2003 and 2004, detainees were held at interrogation facilities like Camp Nama at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). With good reason, it was off-limits to the ICRC and most US military personnel. In summer 2004, it was moved to a new location near Balad and also had facilities in Fallujah, Ramadi and Kirkuk.

US personnel and former detainees reported torture and abuse as common practice, including beatings, confinement in shipping containers for 24 hours in extreme heat, exposure to extreme cold, death threats, humiliation, psychological stress, and much more.

Sergeant Jeff Perry (a pseudonym he requested to avoid recrimination) was a Camp Nama special interrogator during the first half of 2004. He said task force members were military special forces and CIA personnel, none of whom revealed ranks or last names to maintain secrecy.

Five interrogation rooms were used, the harshest called the “black room” where everything was black with speakers in the corners and on the ceiling. A table and chairs were in one corner for a boom box and computer.

Detainees were stripped naked and subjected to stress standing, sleep deprivation, loud noise, strobe lights, beatings, dousing with cold water, and other abuses.

Harshness levels were less severe in other rooms, the “soft room” being least extreme and used for cooperating detainees. However, throughout interrogations, they were shifted from one room to another, but those put in the “black room” were considered the most high-value.

Treatment authorization in writing or by computer came from the camp’s command structure – signed by “whoever was in charge at the time” reporting to McChrystal or one of his subordinates.

Sergeant Perry saw him visit Camp Nama several times, and said its commanding officer told interrogators that the White House or Donald Rumsfeld were briefed on the information they obtained. He also learned that the facility was “completely closed off” and secret, and that ICRC, other investigators, and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) were forbidden access to it.

In March 2006, The New York Times published a feature article based on interviews with over a dozen US personnel who served at Camp Nama or were familiar with its operations. Their accounts corroborated Perry’s and included details of other abuses. Much of the same information came out about torture at Guantanamo and other overseas US prisons, including Camp Cropper, Iraq (near Baghdad Airport) now expanded to hold up to 2000 detainees.

HRW reviewed hundreds of “credible allegations of serious mistreatment and torture (as) standard operation procedure” at locations throughout Iraq involving special forces, CIA, and others. Its report is based on firsthand accounts from three locations between 2003 – 2005 when McChrystal was in charge of Special Ops.

On March 31, 2009 on Democracy Now, Seymour Hersh said US forces conducted assassinations in a dozen or more countries, including in Latin and Central America. “And it’s been going on and on and on,” he said. George Bush “authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle East” and elsewhere….” Now Obama’s doing the same thing.

“And the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional power or the legal right to tell soldiers….to go out and find people based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me….”

During his tenure, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) authority to carry out killings anywhere on the globe. Hersh said “it operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings.” One is “the Joint Special Op – JSOC. It’s a special (Navy Seals and Delta Force) unit….black units, the commando units….And they promote from within. It’s a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the elements….about getting ahead….is the number of kills you have,” especially high-value targets. Cheney was deeply involved. Robert Gates likely is now.

Targeting goes on in a lot of countries besides Iraq and Afghanistan, including Colombia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Kenya, or anywhere to “kill people who are believed….to be Al Qaeda….Al Qaeda-linked or anti-American” – fictitious outside enemies without which Obama’s wars can’t continue nor could they under George Bush..

In his book “America’s War on Terrorism,” Michel Chossudovsky uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation from the Soviet-Afghan 1980s war, and in the 1990s Washington “consciously supported Osama bin Laden, while at the same time placing him on the FBI’s ‘most wanted list’ as the World’s foremost terrorist.”

He remains so today, even though David Ray Griffin’s new book (“Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?”) provides convincing evidence that he died in late 2001, a conclusion many US counterterrorism experts support and believe his conveniently timed video messages are fakes.

Capturing or Killing Bin Laden

In a January 2009 CBS television interview, Obama suggested that he’s dead by saying “whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference (is) to capture of kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America.”

Nonetheless, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to the latest purported bin Laden statement that it’s “consistent with messages we’ve seen in the past from al Qaeda threatening the US and other countries that are involved in counterterrorism efforts.”

So it’s no surprise that top administration orders reach field commanders like McChrystal to capture or kill the usual suspects. From known reports about him, he carries them out with relish.

The Obama administration gave him carte blanche authority to choose his staff for their assigned mission – expand the Af-Pak war with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and secret drone and other attacks against any targets he chooses in either country. He’ll also have more political control, possibly with a Washington-appointed civilian authority to run the Afghanistan government day to day, making Hamid Karzai more of a figurehead than currently.

Obama’s war aims to pacify the country and Afghan/Pakistan border areas through scorched earth terror, targeted assassinations, and as much mass killing as it takes to prevail. McChrystal has the job, a man one observer said “comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of government secrecy provides the necessary protection.” All the greater with Obama’s endorsement.

Former 82nd Airborne Division commander General David Rodriquez, Defense Secretary Gates’ top military aide, will be his deputy. Gates praised McChrystal for his “unique skill set in counterinsurgency” and said the mission of both men and their team “requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders.” Clearly implied are the Special Ops skills they possess in what an unnamed Defense Department official called “unconventional warfare….to track and kill insurgents.”

These tactics kill many hundreds, displace hundreds of thousands, and enrage civilians on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Yet pursuing them is Obama’s top war strategy priority that may include Iraq as violence there heats up.

Operation Phoenix

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran or was involved in the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces and its own Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG) involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NLF resistance called the Viet Cong or VC). One person involved called the operation a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine said it was “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” It even targeted certain US military personnel considered security risks and members of the South Vietnamese government.

In simple terms, the program conducted mass killings and seizures of suspected NLF members and collaborators with special emphasis on high-value targets – by some estimates around 80,000 or more before it ended.

Wayne Cooper was a Foreign Service officer at the time. He spent 18 months in Vietnam, most of it as a Phoenix advisor at Cantho in the Mekong Delta. He called the operation a “disreputable, CIA-inspired effort, often deplored as a bloody-handed assassination program (and) a failure.”

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA “Counter Terror (CT) program “never recognized by the South Vietnamese government.” It “recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation – against the Vietcong leadership.”

By 1968, the program was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix. From General William Westmoreland and “Ambassador-for-pacification Robert Komer” on down, “neutralizing” the VC was top priority.

Westmoreland took charge. A Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established, under which Phoenix was run. Cooper cited numerous problems for its failure and criticized experts sifting through them to get it right next time. He called the program a “gimmick” unable to “compensate for South Vietnam’s” popular opposition to the war and concluded that no counterinsurgency can succeed under those circumstances.

Certainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries historically opposed to foreign occupations with a record of brave resistance to end them. They represent what the CIA called Vietnam during that earlier era – “the grand illusion of the American cause;” the latest Washington misadventures no matter how long they go on, whatever amounts are spent on them, or how much mass killing and destruction persist under any command. America hasn’t won a war (or fought a legal one) since WW II, something Obama might consider as he plans his next move.

US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan

Posted: 2010/05/02
From: Mathaba
Print | Share | 2 Comments
US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan – by Stephen LendmanAfter General Stanley McChrystal took charge of US/NATO Afghan forces last June, systematic atrocities escalated sharply after promises of kinder, gentler killing (an oxymoron), winning hearts and minds, and fewer civilian casualties as a “paramount” objective – now much higher the result of more than a fourfold increase in night raids, targeting civilians, including children, while they sleep.

McChrystal’s resume exposed his history – death squad terror, mostly against civilians, the same counterinsurgency he waged throughout Iraq as Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), especially in Al-Anbar Province that increased violence to curb it.

It’s no surprise for a man this writer earlier called “a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as (JSOC) head” – since 1980 comprised of Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units, killers to reign terror on vulnerable targets, mainly civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and earlier in Vietnam as part of Operation Phoenix. More on that below.

Rare On-the-Ground Reports

The London Times Kabul-based Jerome Starkey reports what major US media accounts suppress. For example, his March 15 commentary headlined, “Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks.”

The incident involved the February 12 killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a policeman and his brother. “No one has claimed responsibility (and) A US official in Kabul refused to” say for reasons of national security, the usual cover-up for high crimes and misdemeanors prohibited for any reason.

This time, survivors were paid off for their loss, but family head Haji Sharabuddin wants justice, not money, and to get it “will….do suicide attacks and (the whole province) will support us.”

Starkey debunked the official story about the raid being a mistake. These were targeted assassinations, the same kinds rampant daily on the ground and by drone-launched missiles, mostly against civilians called Taliban or Al Qaeda militants.

Sayed Mohammed Mal, Gardez University’s vice-chancellor, told Starkey that he once thought these type raids safeguarded Afghans, what he now knows isn’t so after members of his own family were killed. “I realize I was wrong,” he said. “Now I accept the things (other) people told me. I hate (foreign forces). I hate the Government” that tolerates them.

According to the dead policeman’s son, Abdul Ghafar, “My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him….I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice.” Another victim’s father, Mohammed Tahir, said “They teach us human rights, then they kill a load of civilians. They didn’t come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists.”

A March 8 Starkey article titled, “Karzai offers families ‘blood money’ for sons killed in raid” told a similar story about other victims – “nine children killed (aged 12 – 18) in a brutal night raid” called a mistake – a cold-blooded one murdering children while they slept, shot in their beds, or dragged to another room and killed. Also, Abdul Khaliq, a neighboring farmer, was gunned down when he ran out of his house during the raid.

During the February Marja campaign, Operation Moshtarak killed 19 civilians. US Special Forces bombed three minibuses in Oruzgan province, killing at least 27 more, at times apologizing when victims are revealed as noncombatants.

As for the reported successful US offensive, New York Times writer Richard Oppel’s April 3 article headlined otherwise, saying: “Violence Helps Taliban Undo Afghan Gains,” explaining “how little (control) Marines (have) outside their own outposts,” the Taliban as dominant as ever. So much so that “Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed,” Brig. General Larry Nicholson saying “Most people here identify themselves as Taliban,” stopping short of acknowledging widespread hostility to occupation.

Starkey’s April 19, 2009 article headlined “Botched Afghan raid kills mother and (her brother-in-law and three) children (one a new-born)” in Khost province – another “mistake” the Pentagon conceded, the same kind made daily, always against civilians, admitted only as damage control, the official lie, when cover-up doesn’t work.

A late December Kunar province massacre killed 8 children, dragged from their beds and shot in cold blood, some of them handcuffed. The Pentagon called them terrorists, making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They were kids, students, in grades six through 10 (aged 11 – 17), eight from the same family. After speaking to their school headmaster, a government investigator said:

“It’s impossible they were Al Qaeda. They were children. They were civilians. They were innocent. I condemn this attack.”

In late February, nine more children were killed, aged 12 – 18. Most were “shot at close range while they slept,” another dragged from his bed and murdered, NATO initially alleging their involvement in IED making, then saying they entered a village and took fire so returned it, and finally admitting they were civilians saying:

“Knowing what we know now, it would probably not have been a justifiable attack. We don’t now believe that we busted a major ring,” something known all along but only acknowledged as damage control.

On March 22, Starkey headlined “US-led forces in Afghanistan are committing atrocities, lying, and getting away with it,” saying McChrystal-led forces “are rarely called to account because most reporters are too dependent on access, security and the ’embed culture’ to venture out” and learn the truth. Worse still, they’re paid to lie, cover up, or be fired.

For example, New York Times writers CJ Chivers and Rod Nordland’s February 14 article headlined “Errant US Rocket Strike Kills Civilians in Afghanistan.” It quoted Hamid Karzai expressing “regret (for) this tragic loss of life.” Neither he or the writers acknowledged the cold-blooded murder of 10 Helmand province civilians, including five children, verboten admissions in major US media reports.

Nor by a puppet leader. Yet fearing national opposition to his regime, he’s begun openly criticizing Washington saying, “They wanted to have a puppet government,” virtually admitting that US/NATO forces are invaders.

Paid Lying – What Major US and Western Media Do

Like in America, the entire Western media, including BBC and so-called National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting scrupulously suppress the truth. They rarely mention “embarrassing” incidents, and when they do it’s dismissively. They won’t say raids terrorize, bomb homes and wedding parties, massacre civilians, their wives and children, noncombatants called Taliban or Al Qaeda, to save villages by destroying them, to pacify Afghans by killing them, to bring tyranny papered over as democracy. If reporters did, they’d be fired.

What they suppress, Starkey reports, his latest April 5 article headlined, “US special forces ‘tried to cover-up’ botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan,” saying:

“US special forces dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened….”

The victims – two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother, those killed in the above mentioned February 12 raid. After initial lies and cover-up, NATO finally “admitted responsibility for all the deaths for the first time last night,” yet continuing to deny a cover-up and saying no evidence showed inappropriate conduct. In other words, murdering civilians in cold blood is acceptable and appropriate. Apparently so as it’s ongoing daily.

Extrajudicial Killings – Predator Drones Target Civilians

On March 16, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit:

“demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and the other basis information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.”

At issue is using them against civilians, Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), saying US citizens will be targeted.

The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments after each provided no requested information “nor have they given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU’s request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents.” CIA wasn’t sued because the ACLU will first appeal its non-response to the Agency Release Panel.

Killer drones were used in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, perhaps elsewhere, and virtually anywhere targeted attacks are planned globally.

Officially know as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remote piloted vehicles (RPVs), they’re used, among other purposes, for surveillance and combat equipped with Hellfire or other missiles for targeted killings.

At issue is their legality, given their use outside traditional battlefields for extrajudicial assassinations, a practice US and international laws prohibit. Yet reports confirm the Obama administration ramping up their use – why the ACLU and other human rights groups express concern.

A December 2009 Social Science Research Network-published Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper titled, “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones: A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004 – 2009” said the following:

“First drones launch missiles or drop bombs, the kind of weapons that may only be used lawfully in an armed conflict. Until the spring of 2009, there was no armed conflict (in Pakistan). International law does not recognize the right to kill without warning outside an actual armed conflict. Killing without warning is only tolerated during the hostilities of an armed conflict, and, then, only lawful combatants may lawfully carry” them out.

CIA members “are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing persons – even in an armed conflict – is a crime.” US military forces may be “lawful combatants in Pakistan” only if its government requested them. It did not.

Further, beyond targeted individuals, collateral killing is commonplace. “Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been up to” 50 civilians for each militant. As a result, drone use violates “the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity.”

Yet they happen daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have escalated dramatically under General McChrystal for extrajudicial killings. Along with bombers and helicopter gunships, their use in Afghanistan (and North Waziristan, Pakistan) is so pervasive that anyone in the open or near targeted sites risks being killed – civilians, including women and children, most vulnerable.

Spiegel online ( March 13, 2010) calls killer drones the “Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror….the weapon of choice….But the political, military and moral consequences are incalculable.”

One report said in the past two years the Air Force Research Laboratory embarked on a program to “build the ultimate assassination robot (described as) a tiny, armed drone for the US special forces to employ in terminating ‘high-value targets’ ” that most often are noncombatants.

On April 4, New York Times writers Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah headlined, “Drones Batter Qaeda and Allies Within (North Waziristan) Pakistan,” referring to a “stepped-up campaign….over the past three months (casting) a pall of fear over an area (by) fly(ing) overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry….” The ferocity of strikes got one “militant” to say, “It seems they really want to kill everyone….,” civilians, of course, most vulnerable.

Vietnam’s Operation Phoenix – Prototype for McChrystal’s War

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces’ Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG), involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NFL resistance Viet Cong or VC).

It was a depersonalized murder program to remove opposition elements and terrorize people into submission – now used against Iraq, Afghanistan, North Waziristan, Pakistan, elsewhere, and perhaps one day coming to a neighborhood near you.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine called Phoenix “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” Included were security-risk US military personnel and members of the South Vietnamese government. Before it ended, around 80,000 people were killed, yet it failed.

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA Counter Terror (CT) program that recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation against the Vietcong leadership.

By 1968, it was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix, to neutralize the VC as top priority, much like McChrystal’s counterterrorism in Afghanistan and North Waziristan, and earlier in Iraq.

In Vietnam, a Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established overseeing Phoenix. It was a gimmick doomed to fail, much like current Iraq and Afghanistan occupations aren’t sustainable in countries known historically as foreign occupier graveyards.

Phoenix was called Vietnam’s “grand illusion of the American cause,” the same miscalculation today no matter how long current wars continue, whatever amounts are spent, or how much more terror, mass killings and destruction lie ahead for people determined to resist and prevail. Given their past successes, odds are they’ll do it again, no matter the price.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


New US Commander in Afghanistan Assembles

Team of Assassins

By Bill Van Auken

June 12, 2009 “WSW” — Confirmed Wednesday as President Barack Obama’s new commander for the widening war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Stanley McChrystal has been given extraordinary powers to assemble his own staff.

According to press reports published Thursday, in forming a permanent war council-dubbed the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell-McChrystal is drawing heavily from a super-secret assassination squad that he commanded under the Bush administration.

That unit, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was formed in December 1980 in the wake of the military’s abortive operation to free US hostages in Iran. Comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs, the command directs Special Mission Units that carry out classified operations, often in collaboration with CIA squads.

Commanded by McChrystal between 2003 and 2008, JSOC has been linked to assassinations in over a dozen countries as well as abduction and torture. Under the Bush administration, it was reportedly used to carry out covert operations inside Iran, which included the abduction and assassination of officials suspected of aiding Iraqi militia groups.

Earlier this year, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who is writing a book on the subject, termed the command “an executive assassination wing.” He said that it was tasked with “going into countries…finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.” Hersh added that, under the Bush administration, the unit reported to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

According to the New York Times, McChrystal “has been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans.” The newspaper attributed the “extraordinary leeway” granted to the general to the Obama administration’s concern over the war, which over the past year has registered the highest levels of violence since the US invasion of the country in October 2001 and has seen the Taliban and other insurgent elements gain control over much of the country.

Citing Pentagon figures, McClatchy News reported, “The first five months of this year have seen a 59 percent increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, a 62 percent increase in coalition deaths and a 64 percent increase in the use of improvised explosives compared to the same period last year.”

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the sudden ouster of Gen. David McKiernan and his replacement by McChrystal, a move that reflected increasing desperation in Washington. The shakeup followed the findings of a Pentagon task force headed by McChrystal in May that reported in relation to Afghanistan that the “security situation in key areas is poor, stalemated or deteriorating.”

Tapped to serve as McChrystal’s deputy and assigned to oversee day-to-day operations in Afghanistan is Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was chosen last year by Defense Secretary Gates as his personal military assistant. Rodriguez is reportedly a longtime friend and protégé of McChrystal.

McChrystal has selected Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as his intelligence advisor for Afghanistan, the Times reported. Flynn, who is currently director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, had previously served as McChrystal’s intelligence chief in the shadowy operations of JSOC.

Chosen as commander of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell is the longtime special operations officer Gen. Scott Miller, who as a captain commanded Delta Force troops in the US military’s “Blackhawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the so-called coordination cell is “modeled on a system Gen. McChrystal put in place in Iraq, when he commanded the Navy Seals and other Special Operations personnel.”

The units that he commanded in Iraq are reported to have carried out an assassination program in that country aimed at eliminating suspected leaders of Iraqi insurgent groups hostile to the US occupation. Personnel under his command also ran a detention and interrogation center near the Baghdad airport known as Camp Nama, where prisoners were subjected to systematic abuse amounting to torture. The motto of the unit running the camp was “No Blood, No Foul,” meaning that any form of abuse that did not draw blood was acceptable and would not result in investigations or prosecution. Soldiers assigned to the facility have reported that McChrystal was a regular visitor.

Given this background, it is noteworthy that the Democratic-led Senate Armed Services Committee subjected McChrystal to no serious or sustained questioning during his confirmation hearing last week. The committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, disposed of the torture issue at the outset by helping McChrystal to lay the blame on then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and on orders from Washington.

The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal gloated over the Democrats’ failure to make an issue out of torture, writing on June 4 that it assumed this was the case “because General McChrystal happens to have been nominated by President Obama, not President Bush.”

In the end, the only obstacle placed in the way of McChrystal’s nomination was general procedural foot-dragging by the Republicans.

To break the logjam, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the Senate floor Wednesday and made a dramatic announcement that he had received a telephone call from Adm. Mike Mullen. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman had told him, Reid said, that McChrystal had to fly to Afghanistan that very night and was “literally waiting by an airplane,” because there was no commander on the ground in Afghanistan.

“Let’s get the man approved tonight so he can go,” Reid said. Senate Republicans responded by moving to confirm McChrystal and two other military nominees.

Media coverage of McChrystal’s confirmation and the changes in war strategy surrounding the creation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell has centered on innocuous suggestions that the planned rotation of this core group of 400 between the war in Afghanistan and Afghanistan-related planning in Washington would allow these personnel to “accumulate expertise.”

McChrystal’s military career and those of the chief officers he is selecting as his aides, however, suggest that what is being prepared is a dramatic escalation of the killing in Afghanistan, through the utilization of the type of methods employed during Operation Phoenix in Vietnam or the death squad killings during the US intervention in El Salvador.

Speaking to reporters during a flight to a NATO meeting in Brussels, Defense Secretary Gates reiterated the repeated warnings from senior military officials that, as the US continues to build up its forces in Afghanistan to a target of nearly 70,000 troops by the end of the year, the bloodshed will grow accordingly.

“We’ve been very upfront about the fact that as we send in more troops, and go into areas that have not had an Afghan government or ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] presence yet, that there will be more combat and the result of that will be more casualties,” Gates said.

In its escalation of the US war in Afghanistan, and its increasing extension across the border into Pakistan, the Obama administration has chosen as its senior commander an officer who is among those most deeply implicated in the criminal operations carried out under Bush and Cheney. This appointment, and its confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate, is a clear warning that the ruling establishment in Washington is pursuing a consensus policy that will involve even greater war crimes against the Afghan people, as Washington continues its attempt to assert hegemony in Central Asia by military means.


US drones killed 2,043 people, mostly civilians, in Pak during last five years

Tue 04 Jan 2011

Islamabad, Jan 2: As many as 2,043 people, mostly civilians, were killed in US drone attacks in northwestern parts of Pakistan during the last five years, a research has revealed.

The yearly report of Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) has termed the CIA drone strikes as an ‘assassination campaign turning out to be revenge campaign’, and showed that 2010 was the deadliest year ever of causalities resulted in drone-hits in Pakistan.

According to the report, 134 drone attacks were reported in Pakistan’s FATA region in 2010 alone, inflicting 929 causalities. December 17 was the deadliest day of 2010 when three drone attacks killed 54 people in Khyber Agency.

Regarding civilian causalities and attacks on women and children, the report said: “People in the tribal belt usually carry guns and ammunition as a tradition. US drone will identify anyone carrying a gun as a militant and subsequently he will be killed.”

“Many times, people involved in rescue activities also come under attack. The assumption that these people are supporters of militants is quite wrong,” The Nation quoted the CMC report, as stating.

The document cited the Brooking Institute’s research, which suggested that with every militant killed, nearly ten civilians also died.

It also mentioned a related research report of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which underlined that at least 2,100 civilians were killed and various others injured during 2009, in the ongoing war on terror and drone attacks.

“It is unclear whether CIA counter-checks human intelligence with other available sources or not. Because in Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal belt people use to settle their personal enmity by accusing their opponent as militant and passing wrong information to US forces,” it stated.

The CMC report also revealed that Pakistan and US were deliberately concealing civilian deaths, and that they lacked any proper mechanism to ascertain civilian deaths, and it also accused the FATA Secretariat for overlooking civilian causalities.

“Civilian casualties were deliberately overlooked to avert the public reaction,” the report said.


January 02, 2011, All voices


Published on Saturday, May 29, 2010 by BBC News

US Reprimands Six Drone Operators Over Deadly Air Strike in Afghanistan

The US military has reprimanded six operators of an unmanned drone, which mistakenly attacked a civilian convoy in Afghanistan killing at least 23.

Warnings that the convoy was not an attacking force were ignored or played down, while the ground-force commander was not sure who was in the vehicles, an investigation found.

The deadly assault took place in Uruzgan Province in February.

Civilian deaths in strikes have caused widespread resentment in Afghanistan.

A Nato statement at the time said it was thought the convoy contained Taliban insurgents on their way to attack Afghan and foreign military forces.

However, troops then found “a number of individuals killed and wounded”, including women and children.

A US military investigation said the order to attack was based on inaccurate information from the crew monitoring the convoy from an Air Force base in Nevada and on flawed analysis by Nato commanders.

The reports said poorly functioning command posts “failed to provide the ground-force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat”.

The commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, said letters had been issued reprimanding four senior and two junior officers in Afghanistan.

He said: “Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people; inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission.

“We will do all we can to regain that trust.”

The botched strike happened despite Gen McChrystal’s introduction of much tougher rules of engagement in a bid to minimise such casualties.



Australian SAS Units Function

as Death Squads in Afghanistan

By James Cogan

December 11, 20008 “WSWS” — An Australian Defence Department (ADD) report published in October, and highlighted on November 26 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Lateline” program, provides a rare account of the shameful operations being performed by the Australian military as part of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

The units most involved are from the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and the Fourth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), the Army’s designated commando battalion. These are highly trained troops and their ostensible role in times of war is to carry out long range reconnaissance, surveillance, harassment or raids on enemy targets. In the so-called “war on terror”, they are being used as little more than death squads.

The ADD report presents the findings of an inquiry into a September 17 Australian operation that resulted in the mistaken killing of Rozi Khan, the pro-occupation governor of Chora district in Uruzgan province and a long-time colleague of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The intended target, codenamed “Musket” by the Australian military, was an alleged member of the Islamist Taliban movement. While much of the mission statement remains censored, it is apparent that a squad was sent out to storm into the man’s house in the dead of night and execute him in cold blood.

The possibility for things to go wrong is inherent in such operations in civilian areas, and on September 17, they went terribly wrong. Just days before the hit on “Musket” was ordered, the Taliban had issued threats against residents of a village, which lay on the route being taking by the Australians. Rozi Khan had encouraged the villagers to resist any attack and promised to come to their aid with his armed followers.

As the Australian troops moved close to the village, sentries atop houses spotted them and assumed they were Taliban intruders. Within minutes, dozens of villagers were firing on the Australians from the east, west and north. Khan and his men, alerted by the gunfire, began moving toward the fighting, as did local Afghan police.

Troops in an Australian back-up unit, who had manoeuvred to try and flank what they believed to be Taliban, engaged Khan’s group and, the inquiry found, most likely inflicted fatal wounds on the district governor. It was not until a police vehicle arrived that the Australians made efforts to communicate with the men they were attacking.

After realising their mistake, the Australian troops aborted their “Musket” mission—at the cost of two dead and five wounded Afghans. The Defence Department inquiry ruled: “That Rozi Khan was among the casualties is resultant of his unfortunate intervention into a complex situation, albeit with altruistic motives.”

The September 17 mission was no isolated incident. It was part of a broader and ongoing operation codenamed “Peeler” that tasks the Australian special forces with “disrupting [i.e., killing or capturing] Taliban leadership or improvised explosive device facilitators”.

Not all missions result in the target’s assassination. Last month, the alleged Taliban “shadow” governor of Uruzgan, Mullah Bari Ghul, was detained in a raid that was most likely conducted by Australians.

Other missions result in massacres. On November 23, 2007, Private Luke Worsley of 4RAR was killed during an assault on a residence in Chenartu village in Uruzgan. Because of the Australian fatality, details of the incident were made public. The target was Taliban leader Mullah Baz Mohammed, who was expected to be at the house that night.

Australian troops crept up under the cover of darkness, blew the outer doors off the housing compound and rushed in. They left the Daad family—three men, two women and one female child—dead on the floor. A neighbour, Faiz Mohammed, told Time magazine: “There was blood everywhere.” Worsley was shot as he entered the house. Mullah Baz Mohammed was not there.

“Lateline” commented that the Defence Department report “prompts questions about the legality and the ethics of targeted killings, even in the dusty and chaotic battleground of Afghanistan”.

Tim McCormack of Melbourne University, a professor of Humanitarian Law consulted by the program, provided reassurances. “International law is not pacifist law,” he said. “It does allow the killing of enemy combatants and civilians who take a direct part in hostilities—just as it’s also legal for the Taliban to hunt down an Australian SAS person or anybody on the Australian side or any of the allied side”.

McCormack’s remarks, however, serve only to obscure the essential issues. They ignore the thoroughly predatory and, therefore, criminal motives behind the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were utilised as the pretext to deploy military forces into the desperately impoverished country with the aim of securing long term bases in the very heart of Central Asia, a region rich in untapped resources. Over the past seven years, the Afghan war has evolved into a component of the struggle for regional dominance between the US—supported at present by its European NATO allies—and Russia and China.

The existence of Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the decision to send in troops. Not only did the Bush administration reject offers by the Taliban to hand Osama bin Laden over to a third country if evidence were presented of his involvement in 9/11, but virtually no steps were taken by the US military to prevent the bulk of Al Qaeda simply moving across the border into Pakistan’s tribal agencies—where it has largely operated ever since.

Australia’s involvement in the war was the result of the most cynical calculations. By sending troops to fight in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the former Howard government hoped to cement Washington’s backing for a series of military operations that would secure Australian strategic and economic interests in the South Pacific, as well as a free trade agreement with the United States. The Rudd Labor government is continuing the same policy.

There is a stark difference—both politically and morally—between the activities of citizens resisting the invasion of their country and those of the invading army. Afghans are fighting for the right to determine their own future free from foreign domination. The Australian military in Afghanistan is an instrument of imperialist aggression. It is conducting a campaign of terror throughout Uruzgan province to force the population to accept a US puppet government.

One obvious parallel to the Afghanistan operation is the Vietnam War’s Operation Phoenix. Over a five-year period, American and South Vietnamese death squads assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese on the grounds they were supporting the Viet Cong (VC) liberation movement. Only the most craven apologist for US imperialism would claim that such atrocities were “legal” on the basis that many of the victims belonged to the VC.

The Labor government repeatedly tries to ennoble the Afghan war with flowery descriptions of Australian soldiers as “heroes” who are “putting their lives on the line for the rest us”. The truth is they are killing and maiming people, including entirely innocent civilians, of an oppressed country for a thoroughly reactionary, neo-colonial cause.

Click on “comments” below to read or post comments

Comments (77)


Drone Wars

What was once the stuff of science fiction – remote controlled drones dropping bombs onto targets thousands of miles away – is now taking place on an almost daily basis. indeed it seems to have become the preferred method of attack by US and British forces. However one aspect of warfare has not changed.

According to the Washington-based think-tank, The Brooking Institution ,

for every ‘militant’ killed in a drone strike at least 10 civilians also die.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are small remotely-piloted aircraft controlled from the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. While there are literally dozens of different types of drones, they fall into two basic categories: those that are used purely for surveillance and intelligence purposes and those that are also armed with missiles and bombs and can be used for attack. Whilst armed drones were first used in the Balkans war, their use has escalated massively in Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently in the undeclared war in Pakistan.

Britain began using armed UAV’s in Afghanistan in Oct 2007 after purchasing three Reapers from General Atomics in 2007 at a cost of £6m each. One of these crashed in Afghanistan in April 2008 and was later replaced, leaving three in service. The UK has ordered a further two Reapers which are due to enter service in 2010.The UK is also developing its own “sovereign” armed UAVs under a £124m programme called Project Morrigan, which has resulted in an armed UAV, still under development by BAE Systems, called Taranis.

Whilst the British and US Reaper and Predator UAVs are in physically in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are actually operated via satellite communication from Nellis and Creech USAF base just outside Las Vegas in Nevada. Ground support troops launch the UAVs from Kandhar airbase and then, once they have reached several thousand feet, control of the drones is handed over to a crew of three operators sitting in front of video screens in specially designed trailers in the Nevada desert. One person ‘flies’ the drone, another controls and monitors the cameras and sensors, whilst a third person is in contact with the “customers”, ground troops and commanders in the war zone.

You can watch a 12 minute film by CBS about armed Reaper and Predator drones being operated from Creech here

Although the use of armed drones is still relatively new, FoR has a have a number of serious concerns not least because there is a picture beginning to emerge of high civilian casualties. In addition the use of armed drones to target specific individuals could amount to summary or arbitrary execution, and currently drone operators are making life and death decisions when they are emotionally and mentally exhausted by long hours and regular schedule changes.

Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth. FoR calls on the Government to make public the number of causalities resulting from British drone attacks and we urge that there is a serious, informed and open discussion about the use of armed drones by British forces in the very near future. We believe that there should be a ban on the use of armed unmanned drones.FoR advocates nonviolent conflict transformation in order to bring about genuine and lasting peace. Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth.

FoR is developing information and campaigning resources on the use of armed drones.

If you would like to be notified when new resources are ready or informed about campaign events please contact


Q&A: military drones explained

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 June 2009

In the skies of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, more and more missions are being carried out by unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

A predator control room

The drones, controlled 6,000 miles away in the Nevada desert, can carry up to 14 missiles.

The United States has the Reaper drone, the Chinese have the Invisible Sword. Robotics expert professor Noel Sharkey, from Sheffield university, explains where drones came from, and what they can do:

How long have these drones been around?
Unmanned drones have actually been used for about 30 years. They were first used for surveillance.

When did drones start to be used in attacks?
The first test of an armed drone was in 2001 by the CIA. They put hellfire missiles on what is known as a predator drone, which was previously used for spying. These are the missiles they still use today.

When was the armed drone first used on a ‘real’ target?
The first deployment was in the Yemen in 2002, again by the CIA. They used it to blow up a sports utility vehicle in the middle of the desert. They claimed it killed an al-Qaida member, and five of his associates.

How many armed drones are there?
There are about 200 of the armed Predator drones now; while it also has a bigger brother now called the Reaper – which can carry 14 missiles, there are about 30 of those now too.

Who ‘flies’ them?
At the moment the drones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are controlled from Creech air force base in the Nevada desert. In the US you can just take a course to learn how to control these aircraft, while at the moment the British stipulate that you must have been a combat pilot to control them.

How are they controlled?
It’s a bit like a console games controller. These people are sat in front of a big screen. It is actually called a “man in the loop” system. It does an awful lot of things automatically. It has high resolution cameras and sensors – it sees things on the ground. It does have heat sensors to work out whether people are in a building or not.

Who makes the decision to fire the missiles, the drone or the human?
The pilot does, although on a lot of instances they won’t have that much time – the drone will identify a target and ask them whether to shoot: yes or no? A lot of the time the pilot is vetoing targets rather than finding them.

How long can the drones stay in the air for?
The predator can stay up for about 26 hours, whereas some of the unarmed drones can stay in the air for up to 72 hours.

Are other countries developing these armed drones?
Yes, at the moment there are 43 countries developing these programmes. Russia alone has 18 programmes, while the Chinese have a drone known as the Invisible Sword.

Why have they proved so popular with military forces?
Firstly you don’t have to worry about your pilot getting fatigued or shot down. If they want to go to the toilet during a shift they can and someone else can take over. After work than can go home and have a meal with the wife and kids. There’s also the cost: a drone can cost $40m, whereas a fighter plane can cost $350m


Taking out the Taliban; Home for Dinner

For these Air Force pilots, the front line of the war in Afghanistan is right here, at a base less than an hour from Las Vegas.


As you read this, the odds are good that there’s a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a mission somewhere over Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The MQ-1 Predator UAV used most commonly by the military and CIA is about the size of a small Cessna prop plane. It’s equipped with at least three different types of cameras that record full-motion video. It can fly up to 454 miles at a maximum height of 25,000 feet and at a speed up to 135 mph. Following the September 11th attacks and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Predator was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles.

Rudimentary pilotless flying machines were first attempted by soldiers in the Civil War, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used by the U.S. military as surveillance tools since the 1950s. Other types of U.S. UAVs include the MQ-9 Reaper, three times faster than the Predator and capable of carrying 15 times more firepower, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the first pilotless aircraft to fly non-stop across the Pacific. In the Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers allegedly surrendered to a unmanned aerial vehicle, marking perhaps the first time in history that man surrendered to a robot. Today, the Air Force has 195 Predators and 28 Reaper UAVs in its fleet.

The Predator and its cousins are controlled remotely by a two- or three-person teams: a pilot and one or two sensor operators. Most of the CIA’s Predators are flown by teams at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, while the Air Force’s UAVs are run out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where pilots hunker down in air-conditioned trailers in front of multiple screens streaming live video. Both locations are more than six thousand miles from their target zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the past year, under pressure from citizens, the Pakistani government has publicly protested the U.S. use of UAVs while simultaneously requesting control of the planes. Controversy surrounding the use of UAVs has mounted, with critics faulting the UAV campaign for alienating Pakistani citizens and providing recruitment propaganda for the Taliban. The tension has continued to build as the Pakistani Army begins to take on the Taliban near the capital, Islamabad. The CIA and the military do not confirm UAV missile strikes in Pakistan, but some reports claim that up to 370 people have been killed since UAV attacks intensified in August 2008. A recent LA Times Op-Ed quotes a counterinsurgency official claiming the elimination of 14 senior Al Qaeda operatives by UAV attacks since 2006. The official places the civilian death toll during this time at around 700.


The Future of War

As we speak, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used to carry out our wars remotely. P.W. Singer, the author of Wired for War, and an expert in military technology, looks at the benefits and the costs of using robots to fight for us.


Drone attacks provoke calls for revenge

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

In a report on the CIA’s campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan, the Los Angeles Times recounts the stories of some of the civilian victims of the attacks.

Many of the boys that Zaman Khan grew up with in the South Waziristan town of Shakai eventually joined the Taliban. He knew they had become militants, but he never thought it odd to have them over for tea.

Whether it was because of Taliban visits or the proximity of a regular Taliban meeting place 30 yards away, Khan’s house became a target March 15, 2008.

The missile struck while everyone slept, killing Khan’s brother, Wazir Khan, 40; Wazir’s wife, Zara Bibi, 30; and their 4-year-old son, Irshad. The left half of Wazir’s body had been sheared off. Zara’s and Irshad’s bodies were charred from head to toe.

Wazir’s two other children, Noor Rehman, 10 at the time, and Ishaq Khan, 3, survived. Physically, they recovered but suffer from psychological problems, Zaman Khan said.

“Ishaq doesn’t talk at all,” Khan said. “He can’t recognize his family, and he drinks only if someone helps him.”

Three weeks after that strike, a house full of civilians in the same neighborhood was struck, instantly killing cousins Sher Maan, 20, and Azeem Ullah, 30, and Azeem’s wife, Gul Anama, 25.

“It was a huge blast that shook the ground,” said Amin Ullah, 20, a Shakai farmer.

“I believe that most of the victims of these drone attacks are innocent people,” Ullah said. “Pakistan should be carrying out these attacks. Pakistan knows the terrain, knows its people and knows the militants.”

Andrew Exum, a former Army officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, has declared the drone program counterproductive and called for an end to it. In an analysis published last year, Exum and David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency advisor to the head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, dismissed drones as technology substituting for strategy.

“Every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement,” they wrote.

Drones have proved invaluable in Afghanistan, where they focus on surveillance, intelligence-gathering and watching over coalition troops, Exum said in an interview. But in Pakistan, the U.S. and the government in Islamabad need to make the case that the attacks are part of a joint strategy supporting Pakistani policy, he said.

“I’m not saying drones can’t be part of the solution, but right now I think they’re part of the problem,” Exum said.

Drone attacks have enraged men such as Momin Khan. On a September morning last year, Khan heard the thunderclap of a drone strike in Machis, his village in North Waziristan, and ran to see what had happened.

As he joined other villagers running down a dirt road, the 50-year-old unemployed teacher saw black smoke and flames curling out of a house about 60 yards away. The missile had killed two people there. As he ran closer, a second missile strike shook the ground.

Shrapnel from the blast cut into his shoulder and legs. He woke up in a hospital.

Four people were killed in the second strike, he said. Although Taliban militants have often used Machis as a haven, Khan said he was sure the house initially targeted had only civilians in it.

“These drones fly day and night, and we don’t know where to hide because we don’t know who they will target,” he said. “If I could, I would take revenge on America.”

Philip Alston, the United Nations special representative on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, said that without full disclosure of the CIA drone program, “the opportunities for abuse are immense.”

“The CIA is running a program that is killing a significant number of people, and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international law,” he said.

Scott Horton, while considering some of the legal issues surrounding the program notes:

No weapons system remains indefinitely the province of a single power. Drone technology is particularly striking in this regard, because it is not really all that sophisticated. It seems clear that other powers have this technology–Israel and Iran have each been reported to be working with it, Russia and China could obviously do so easily if they desired, and the same is probably true for Britain, France, and Germany, not to mention Japan and Taiwan, where many of the cutting-edge breakthroughs in robotics actually occur. The way America uses this technology is therefore effectively setting the rules for others. Put another way, if it’s lawful for America to employ a drone to take out an enemy in the desert of Yemen, on the coast of Somalia, in a village in Sudan or Mauretania, then it would be just as lawful for Russia, or China–or, for that matter, for Israel or Iran. What kind of world is this choice then creating? Doesn’t it invariably lead us closer to the situation in which a targeted killing will be carried out in a major metropolis of Europe or East Asia, or even the United States? And doesn’t that move us in the direction of a dark and increasingly lawless world?

This is not idle speculation. The choices the United States has made are being studied very closely in capitals around the world. In Russia, for instance, national-security analysts have noted the American drone strikes with a measure of approbation, because they see such strikes as justifying lethal countermeasures of their own against perceived terrorist enemies. A number of enemies of the Russian government who were critical of policies or actions connected with the Second Chechen War have recently met violent death, often after Russian authorities linked them to Chechen terrorist groups. The Polonium poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, for instance, or the assassination of Umar Israilov in Vienna, which Austrian prosecutors linked earlier this week to a Putin-protégé, the president of Chechnya, are two examples that suggest that Europe may have been cleared as a theater for targeted killings by a great power. The 2004 killing of former Chechen President Zelimkhan in Qatar is an example of another Russian targeted killing in the Gulf. The recent likely Israeli assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai is another instance. Targeted killings of this sort have always been with us, of course, but with the Bush-era “War on Terror” they are making a strong comeback and are gaining in claims of legitimacy and legality. The drone technology promises to take targeted killings to a whole new level.

My point here is a simple one. The United States cannot assume exclusivity in this technology, and how it uses the technology will guide others. The United States has to decide now whether it wants to legitimize a broader right of sovereign states to assassinate their enemies using drones. The consequence of such a step to the world as a whole will be severe. This also points to the danger of the United States using drones for targeted killings and keeping silent about the process, which invites the view that the practice involves an arbitrary and capricious use of power. If the United States elects to continue on its current path, it also owes the world a clear accounting for its use of drones as a vehicle for targeted killings.

// ShareThis

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Christopher Hoare May 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Sorry, Mr Horton, the barn door is already open and the horse has escaped. The US has no moral standing to issue any guidance on the use of targeted murder — in the same way that the owner of a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons is justly accused of hypocrisy when it seeks to prevent other states from having them.
The world looks fondly back at the good old days early in the 20th century when the US pursued an isolationist policy and didn’t try to mind everyone elses’ business. Almost everything they’ve done since 1945 has brought misery and suffering to millions — for no good end.

Predator warfare blowback

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

“Looks like you just lost that bet, Mr. Woodward. I’ll be waiting for your apology,” a reader said after I wrote on Sunday, “if I was to place a bet on who did this, I’d go with someone whose sympathies are probably more Tea Party than Taliban.”

Indeed I was wrong, though I’m not sure what I’m being asked to apologize for. Having engaged in premature speculation or having entertained the suspicion that there could be among the ranks of the Tea Party crowd anyone crazy enough to try and set off a bomb in Times Square?

Even if I and others were mistaken in suggesting that the Times Square incident might be connected to the Tea Party movement, the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem — not pretend it’s simply the victim of unfair criticism.

Moving on, Noah Shachtman reports:

Federal agents have made an arrest in the Times Square bombing attempt. And YouTube may have provided some clues to the investigators.

Faisal Shahzad was attempting to board a plane for Dubai when he was apprehended at New York’s JFK airport. Law enforcement officials believe the Connecticut resident recently bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged with explosives and fertilizer and left smoldering in Times Square.

One “clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are being sought by law enforcement,” ABC News reports.

The video (below), features the voice of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the “Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers,” according to the Long War Journal. The clip congratulates fellow Muslims for the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.” “The attack a revenge” for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan, the video continues, and is a response to “the recent rain of drone attacks.”

If Faisal Shahzad was the best recruit the Pakistani Taliban could find, the threat they pose to the United States is probably limited, but DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s initial assessment that this was a “one-off” operation is clearly premature. Indeed, if the intense campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan has triggered enough outrage among a few Pakistani Americans to seek revenge in Times Square, then there is one word that this administration should now be thinking about seriously: blowback.

President Obama seems to pride himself in having been less hesitant to take the war to Pakistan than was his predecessor, yet as the reappearance of Hakimullah Mehsud should make clear, the successes of the drone campaign have not been as great as the CIA has often claimed, while the costs have just as frequently been understated.

Killing innocent people “over there,” inevitably elevates the risk that innocent people will again end up dying here.

The bomb-making abilities on display in Times Square may have made some observers respond dismissively — and I am guilty of having done so — but the Taliban’s threat to bring the war to the United States can no longer be regarded as empty rhetoric.

// ShareThis

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

DE Teodoru May 4, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think– like our wooden headed military– we’re missing the point. I can understand Mr. Woodward’s error as no one would think that anyone but Tea Party would send out such incompetents. But so would alQaeda because they do the job: TERRORIZE US even as they fail. Look, Taliban gets one guy to buy an SUV with peanuts from their unlimited Gulf stocks of cash and tries something. Like a guerrilla soldier, let’s say, he dies or is captured. So what? What vital assets were invested in him? With that level of investment into his competence he’s no loss as he scares people even as he fails. Meanwhile, we talk about our “Special Forces” (SF) guys. It costs a fortune to train them and they are precious few. They’re more muscle trained than brain trained to observe and many seem to come up with magic formulas of their own:
WE can see the limits of their strategic thinking there!

Now I always admired soldiers who go native. But this is kind of native on amphetamines! Yet it is at least concrete compared to what the Pentagon guys write. Yet no one considers how expensive are our SF guys, how long and expensive the logistic trail for our expeditionary corps, and how disruptive to our society as they drain its assets. The Taliban, on the other hand, sends in some fool who either blows himself up or doesn’t. IN Mideast one way shahids are limitless, far more than our SFs. How little preparation they need (and get) indicates how little of terrorism’s unlimited assets it took to send him forth. He failed so what? As my dad used to say when other researchers stole his ideas: I’ve got millions!

Wunjo May 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm

“the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem”

“If I were to place a bet”, I would say it would be more fruitful to psychoanalyze people like Paul Woodward in order to understand its image problem among people like Paul Woodward. When someone looks at the old ladies at Tea Parties and sees bomb planting extremists, I really don’t think the old ladies are the ones we should worry about.

Ian Arbuckle May 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Paul, you have nothing to apologise for. The muddy waters run deep and it is by design not accident. Taleban this, or the Al Qaeda that, these are words and names that are slung around like blankets to cover anything but have very little real meaning except on this side of the info-propaganda war divide. Western half baked intelligence seems more often wrong than not and has mostly been hell bent on identifying “the enemy” (or even finding one). Regularly they have fallen pray to false information often designed to lead them to commit unjustifiable atrocities like the bombing of weddings, stabbing of pregnant women in the night, shooting tied up children in the head or the old family members of Afghan-Canadian parliamentarians protecting their compound from apparent special forces marauders.

Yes there are extremists who see the Western aggression in the Middle East, East Africa, Iraq and South Asia as a war on Islam, and not without good reason, but on the other hand recruiting and organizing these extremists has not been the exclusive domain of other Middle Eastern, Arab, or South Asian zealots and their funds and complex organizations have been known to lead to agents and strings being pulled from Tel Aviv and Langley.

So because a south Asian or an Arab is arrested or even later proven to be involved in any of these attempted “shows” of potential violence does not preclude that the powers and motives behind them are not much more mundane and conventional.

Put more simply, the war on terror “must go on” and is just the latest manifestation of the military industrial complex’s innitiative and nobody is going to sustain those billions and trillions in wars and homeland defence against “imagined” enemies. Now and again they need something substantial to justify their efforts. Real, if difficult to accept in terms of pathetic, “terrorists” must be shown to the masses Just like the witches in the 16th and 17th century, we need the occasional inquisition and trial by fire too, with all the hocus-pocus of torture and state secrecy and all the self righteous political crowing of satisfaction from “leaders” too. They say truth is stranger than fiction even if it is as pathetic as an American Muslim preacher “wanted dead or alive”, apparently coordinating from his pulpit and hiding in Yemen the pathetic attempt by a Nigerian boy, known and advised repeatedly to authorities, including by his father a diplomat, and helped by other “authorities” seemingly to board a plane in Europe, to try and set off a very stupid and improbable devise on his leg just before landing in the US.

Now we have this pathetic attempt at igniting a car bomb in Time Square… Sorry but to me it all begs belief. I know terrorism when I see it and I have no doubt who is responsible for both sides of the coin. Cause and effect, smoke and mirrors, agent provocateurs, false flag events, all for what end? Now that is an important question mor people should ask.

DE Teodoru May 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hey Wujo, Mr. Woodward, from his perch on the American continent, gave us his personal suspicion and explained why, period. Do you recall after 9/11 the “teabagger types” insisting that there was a dark “Middle Eastern looking” guy with McVey because no on the Right believed that a Red Blooded American veteran would do such a thing on his own so must have been brainwashed by Muslim terrorists? But what’s not discussed is that, so far, the “training” these terrorists get must make the Unabomber laugh in his cell. What all this proves is that our PREVENTIVE security guys are the dummies, rather than alQaeda being the brilliant one. Had security insisted on airlines following the claw and maintaining the pilot’s cabin impenetrable in flight, four airliners would never have been seized in ten minutes each (I won’t mention how all these guys going to flight-school was disregarded by them). On the other hand, it is the “let’s find the guys that did it” gum-shoes who are the real heroes. Instead of beefing up our police detectives should we send drones over Connecticut and, from video consoles in Nevada, drop JDAMs on anything that looks like a mosque?

Please recall that Mr. Woodward’s hunch about “teabaggers” is based on the assumed competence of alQaeda trainers NOT sending from their terror school such bumbling “grads” against us. If anything, perhaps his problem is that he accepted too much of the Bush-it about what a danger is the alQaeda training camp, as fed to us by the last administration. But I don’t recall such assumption, per DSM VI being diagnostic reason to recommend psychotherapy; has taking your Gov’s words seriously become a mental disorder

Post: Would-be Times Square Bomber

Wanted Revenge

for U.S. Drone Attacks on Taliban


Thirty-year-old Faisal Shahzad said that even though he had traveled to Pakistan to receive terror training from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, it was what he witnessed while there that actually spurred him to load up a Nissan Pathfinder with propane and leave it to explode in Times Square. According to the Post, after drone attacks by the United States government wiped out the leadership of the group, Shahzad told authorities that he vowed revenge. Sources told the tabloid that during his months in Pakistan Shahzad witnessed many of the drone attacks, which have gone on for the past year. So far U.S. authorities have downplayed the Pakistani Taliban’s claims of credit for the attempted Times Square bombing, even though the group specifically mentioned it was revenge for drone attacks. But yesterday Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Qureshi told reporters, “This is a blowback. This is a reaction. This is retaliation. And you could expect that.”

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission [NYP]

By: Chris Rovzar

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission

* Revenge for US drone slayings * Trained for terror in Pakistan * 8 Islamic cohorts rounded up


Last Updated: 7:27 AM, May 5, 2010

Posted: 3:02 AM, May 5, 2010

Comments: 104

| More Print
Read more:

US drone bombing blowback in NYC bomb plot

Posted on May 6, 2010 by The Editors

NYC Bombing Retaliation for CIA Drone Strikes: U.S. officials

U.S. officials say they now believe the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) may have played a role in the failed car bombing of New York’s Times Square. The TTP which wages war on Pakistani citizens and the Pakistani government because it considers them allies of the US– has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has reportedly provided new information about his alleged contacts with Pakistani militants under continued interrogation.

A top Pakistani official meanwhile has echoed speculation the failed attack could have been retaliation for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with CBS News.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: “This is retaliation. Let’s not be naive. They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you to eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

In a video made before the bombing attempt, Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud called the attack “revenge” for drone attacks in Pakistan as well as the killings of militant leaders in Iraq. According to the New York Post, Faisal Shahzad told interrogators he witnessed several drone attacks during his recent eight-month stay in Pakistan.

Filed under: Current Affairs | Tagged: NYC bomb plot, US drone bombing

« Death Penalty: Shehzad should get same punishment as McVeigh Pressurizing Pakistan »

Published on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 by Wired

Times Square Terror: Drone Payback?

by Noah Shachtman

Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb Times Square as payback for American drone attacks in Pakistan.

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a screen during a press conference at the US Justice Department in Washington. Outside his locked family homes, shocked Pakistanis remember Shahzad as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

That’s what the New York Post is reporting, at least. The tabloid, relying on anonymous “law-enforcement sources,” says that Shahzad was an “eyewitness” to the unmanned “onslaught throughout the eight months he spent in Pakistan beginning last summer.”

In a video made prior to the attack, the Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud said “the attack is a revenge” for “the recent rain of drone attacks,” and for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan.

There have been an estimated 121 American drone strikes in Pakistan since early 2008. The death toll, by some calculations, is over 1,000 people.  Counterinsurgency and counterterror experts have warned that the drone strikes risked creating more enemies than they offed.

I’m skeptical of neat, tit-for-tat rationales, however. I’m guessing Shahzad was radicalized long before American drone war over Pakistan got into full swing in 2008. The robot attacks might have helped convince Shahzad to assemble his crappily-made, Rube Goldberg bomb. I’m sure there were other factors.

Shahzad remained attached to his native Pakistan; he bought a one-way ticket there after the failed bombing. But the Pakistani Army is publicly doubting whether their local militants had anything to do with the terror attempt.

“Anybody can claim anything, but whether the organization has that kind of reach is questionable,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military’s chief spokesman, said. “I don’t think they have the capacity to reach the next level.”

© 2010 Wired

Blowback On the Border: The Purpose of the Terror War System
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:37



Let me say — or rather, reiterate — up front that it is my personal view that the form of vigorous activism known as non-violence is the only way, or the best way, that we can hope to even begin to address the inherent and intractable conflicts of human existence in a genuinely effective profound, sustainable and humane manner. That is the ideal I strive toward.

Of course, I also recognize that being what I am — a white man of Christian heritage living safely and comfortably under the penumbra of empire — it is easy for me to espouse this ideal. No drone fired in the distant black sky is going to kill my children tonight as they sleep warmly in their beds. No raiding party of assassins is going to tear down the door of my parents’ house tonight and shoot them at the dinner table. No one with a grudge against me — or simply in need of quick cash — is going to sell me into the captivity of a worldwide gulag. I’m not going to be caught in the crossfire of marauding mercenaries on my way to work. I’m not going to wake tomorrow in a refugee camp, my home and livelihood abandoned in the wake of a ravaging “counterterrorism” operation. No foreign soldier is going to shoot me, or abuse me, or humiliate me, or simply refuse to let me pass down the street of my own city. I’m not going to be stopped, “profiled,” or regarded with suspicion or hatred simply because of my skin color or the cultural or religious etymology of my name.

If I lived under the bootheel of such forces, I don’t how I would react, how firmly I could hold to my ideal. I don’t know if I would have the strength of mind and will, or the fortitude and wisdom it would take to resist our primal pull to violence — especially if I grew up in a culture that exalted certain forms of violence as cardinal virtues. (Of course, as an American, I did grow up in such a culture — and so has almost every other human being in history. To take the non-violent way is to appear — and yes, often feel — unnatural, deracinated, alien.)

Nonetheless, despite all these caveats and complexities, the ideal abides. I decry, denounce and mourn for the use of violence. Each act of violence — however understandable it might be in context — is a vast, ruinous defeat for our common humanity.

And of course many acts of violence are not “understandable” in any context, save that of our bestial desire to dominate others in one form or another. Here the defeat is even greater, its reverberations deeper, wider, longer-lasting: a degradation and degeneration that further brutalizes both the dispenser and victim of violence — especially the former, and especially when the dispensing culture comes to countenance an ever-widening array of violent acts as worthy, necessary, laudable, even honorable.

Each such act perpetuates the cycle of violence, the horrific dynamic of blowback: a self-perpetuating feedback loop that uses itself to engender more violence, in new and expanding forms. We are living today in the midst of a particularly virulent form of this dynamic, the so-called “War on Terror,” which I think has been designed — more or less deliberately so, although the obscene ignorance and arrogance of the powerful have also played their fateful part in unwittingly exacerbating these evils — to rage on without chronological end, without geographical, limits, and without any moral, social, legal or financial restraints. In his book X Films (reviewed here), Alex Cox uses an apt term borrowed from systems analysis — POSIWID: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.

The Terror War is not an event, or a campaign, or even a crusade; it is a system. Its purpose is not to eliminate “terrorism” (however this infinitely elastic term is defined) but to perpetuate itself, to do what it does: make war. This system can be immensely rewarding, in many different ways, for those who operate or assist it, whether in government, media, academia, or business. This too is a self-sustaining dynamic, a feedback loop that gives money, power and attention to those who serve the system; this elevated position then allows them to accrue even more money, power and attention, until in the end — as we can plainly see today — any alternative voices and viewpoints are relegated to the margins. They are “unserious.” They are unimportant. They are not allowed to penetrate or alter the operations of the system.

These reflections were prompted bylast week’s attack on the CIA base near Khost, Afghanistan, and by the reaction to the attack among the operators and servants of the Terror War system. As the world knows, seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomber. (Two of the dead were actually Blackwater mercenaries, but as CNN solemnly informs us, the Agency considers such hired guns to be part of the family.) The officers were at a “forward operating base” near the Pakistan border. From this redoubt, they plotted and directed attacks by drone missiles and, if they were similar to other CIA teams, which seems likely, also helped run assassination squads, with bombs and ground raids launched against villages, private homes and other locations which allegedly contain alleged terrorists, both in Afghanistan, which American forces are now openly occupying, and in Pakistan, a sovereign, allied country where American military and security forces are carrying out a more and more open “secret war.”

The officers were killed when a suicide bomber — apparently a ‘native’ whom the CIA was grooming as a potential agent — walked into a gym and set off his hidden belt of explosives. Again, as noted above, I decry all deaths by violence, although I direct most of my attention to the violent deaths caused by the gargantuanly disproportionate infliction of state terrorism that characterizes our age, as opposed to the piecemeal pinpricks of small bands of extremists and isolated individuals — incidents which themselves often betray strong indications of the fomenting or facilitating hand of various operators in the Terror War system.

So it gave me no pleasure to note the grim truth that was confirmed, yet again, by the attack at Khost: Those who live by dirty war, die by dirty war. The CIA-mercenary squad at the base was a key part of what the New York Times rightly describes as the CIA’s evolution into a “paramilitary organization.” Like all terrorists, they operate outside the law, claiming moral superiority as their justification. And for this particular band, what they have dealt out to others — sudden death in a surprise attack with no possibility of defense —  they have now been dealt in turn.

Of course, the NYT seems to find no moral problem with the United States of America operating “paramilitary” squads of spies and mercenaries carrying out “extrajudicial assassinations” — or “murders,” as they once would have been called — in foreign lands occupied by American military forces slaughtering civilians on a regular basis. (We noted one such slaughter in Afghanistan last week; now yet another one is being reported.) The story which carried this description is concerned largely with describing the struggle of these noble bands as they struggle manfully on distant borders to keep us safe.

In this, the tone of the story strongly echoes the genuinely sick-making words of Barack Obama after the incident. From CNN:

“These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement Thursday.

“The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA.”
The CIA’s decades-long record of sickening crime, outright atrocity, constitutional subversion, bungling, near-unbelievable incompetence, and unrelenting exacerbation of hatred for and violence toward the United States is indisputable. (For just one egregious example, see  “The Secret Sharers.”) Few government organizations in world history have been so inimical to the national interests of the state they purport to serve. It was with very good reason that John F. Kennedy — to whom Obama’s sycophants often liken their hero — once declared his intention to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” (Nor can it be entirely coincidental that Kennedy was later murdered in a case that had innumerable ties to the security apparat.)

There is nothing further from the truth — nothing further from the established historical record — than Obama’s statement that the CIA has been absolutely indispensable in “maintaining the freedom and security” of the United States. On the contrary; the historical record clearly shows that the activities of the CIA have, time and again, reduced both the freedom and security of the people of the United States.

Yet here we have Obama, once again, groveling to this renegade, retrograde, criminal organization — much as he did early on in his presidency, when he  cravenly guaranteed the Agency’s thuggish torturers that they need never fear prosecution from his administration for the KGB-like, Stasi-like, Gestapo-like atrocities they had inflicted on their victims.

Instead of shattering the CIA, or even curtailing it, the NYT story confirms, yet again, that Obama is accelerating the militarization of the agency, and giving it broad new scope to deceive and murder. What’s more, as we noted here a few days ago, Obama’s handpicked “special envoy” for the “Af-Pak front,” Richard Holbrooke, admitted, in a little-noticed story last month, that the United States is carrying out covert operations in “every country in the world.” And all of this is accepted without debate, without demur, as a just, honorable and natural state of affairs.

And while Obama is praising the murderers, torturers and incompetents of the CIA, the Agency itself is plotting its revenge for the blowback against its own dirty war, as CNN reports, with an obvious frisson of titillation at the tough talk:

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” [an anonymous] intelligence official vowed. “There are some very bad people who eventually are going to have a very bad day,” the official promised Friday.

And so, as I wrote the day after 9/11 (and quoted again recently, in this piece about Obama’s surging Terror War): “Blood will have blood; that’s certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations?”

The cycle will go on — because that is what is wanted. The purpose of the system is what it does.

UPDATE: It turns out that the suicide bomber at the CIA center was not a native being groomed as an agent, as previously reported, but a Jordanian double agent pretending to be a “turned” and repentant extremist, hired, no doubt at great cost, by the CIA and its Jordanian offshoot to “penetrate” al Qaeda.

Once again, live by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder, die by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder.  But it sure is great to see our Langley boys working cheek-by-jowl with yet another vicious security apparat of yet another dictator.

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites // <![CDATA[
var addthis_config =
ui_cobrand: “Advertising Tools
// ]]>


Subscribe to this comment’s feed

Michael B said:

I think the discussion of violence versus non-violence misses the point entirely. The more important argument revolves around the discussion of “What works?”Violence and counter-violence are quite different things. It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance. I suspect you are admitting as much in your opening paragraphs.Let’s take this crude example:A man is walking around the neighborhood and you see him going from house to house shooting up the families in the neighboring homes. You see him approaching your home. You look over at your petrified children. What are you going to do? It is absurd at this point to even consider a response that is “non-violent.” What you will do is take him down. Once that is done it does not perpetuate the cycle of violence, it halts the violence.So let us examine all of the options and consider what is working, what has worked and what has the greatest likelihood of stopping the violence. Let us also be honest with ourselves and examine all that we have attempted and assess it’s efficacy.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

Grandma Jefferson said:

Sooner or Later, They Will Destroy Themselves
I’m convinced the cretinous citizens, so called, understand this on some fumbling subconscious level, that all the “wars” of the past 60 years have just been a complex, self-perpetuating scam of the plutocracy for their own eternal aggrandizement and enrichment, and don’t care. They are enamoured of their own “American exceptionalism” and xenophobia, and just love the idea of killin’ them some foreign butt, for any pretext, and the more elaborate the technology of massacre becomes, the better they love it, and will happily pay for it. They have ever preferred genocide, if it’s ‘Merkin induced, to caring for their own people. The success of the relentless media blitz of lying, war-mongering propaganda across the past decade couldn’t happen if the audience had the slightest flicker of rational intelligence, or moral sense.But the amoral cretins here would shred their pesky Constitution, rather than pull their troops out of these countries and deal with the lethal problems our murderous meddling has created. Americans have never believed “foreigners” to be entitled to any “rights” anyway, so it’s no big deal. Utterly incapable of rational thought, they don’t see the boot coming down on their own necks as a result.Indeed, we prefer global war everywhere, and a permanent police state in the sacred Homeland, to peace and caring for our own destitute people. We rejoice in the expansion of the patriotic CIA, unleashed like the Black Plague in every country on the globe, to “keep us safe”, because, you know, we’re Americans, and our safety must be preserved at all cost to the rest of the world. That’s just gawwwd’s will for its chosen people: their “safety” is paramount to any other consideration.We deserve everything that is coming to us. And the crushing accretion of monstrous war crimes and atrocities done by us across too many years guarantees a terrible retribution here, sooner or later. The CIA, with its track record of cosmic incompetence, corruption, and bungling, is just another step down that road.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +19

Harpfool said:

We’ve been taken over by the same sickness that swept Europe in the 1920s, came to fruition in the 1930s, and collapsed in world war in the 1940s. We know how that story ended for the citizens of countries like Germany, who had supported the rise of the dictators: in a nightmare of horrific dimensions. Our nightmare awaits.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Chris Floyd said:

I think you may be confusing non-violence as a philosophy of political action on a mass level with personal passivity on the individual level. States, organizations and ideologies, etc., are not individual perpetrators of violence who can be “taken down” with one shot, and that’s the end of it. The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.In any case, non-violent resistance to evil remains an ideal, as I noted in the piece. But an ideal cannot automatically be equated with fantasy. Fantasy is something that one simply sits back and pretends is real. An ideal is something that one feels is worthy of working toward, of attempting to make it a reality in the real world. For example, a person might have sexual fantasies that he or she would never try to put into practice; but one might also have an ideal of a love relationship with a particular person, and then try very hard to make that into a reality.But these examples are not very germane, because, as I said, I think there is a difference between the macro and micro level on this issue. If someone is shooting up my neighborhood, then yes, I am likely to take any measure possible to stop him. I would not, however, then go shoot up his neighborhood, or blow up his children, or hunt his blood kin down through the generations — even though this might well “work” in deterring anyone else in town from going on a shooting spree. What “works” can still be an evil and/or unproductive thing to do.And I imagine that both the inner circles of the imperial War Machine and those who direct bands of violent extremists take the same approach to violence as you mention. They too see the main argument as being “what works” when it comes to using violence as their tool. Is it time to back off the airstrikes for awhile? Should we avoid bombing sports events because of the bad PR? Or is now the time to “surge,” to lay some heavy hurt on the other side, come what may? What will “work” best today? I’m sure these kinds of interesting debates go on all the time. And I am also sure that both sides always see their violence as counter-violence, the “good” kind.I agree that we should take a cold, clear-eyed look at the efficacy of all means of resistance to organized violence. I have been trying to take just such a look for at least 35 years of study, investigation and reflection on this topic. That’s one reason I’ve come to regard non-violent resistance, as a philosophical and political approach on the mass scale, as perhaps the best way forward, not only toward stopping organized violence but also toward building a more humane and just civilization. But I do not pretend to have the final answer on this matter — or on any other — and remain always open to further investigation, analysis, new insights, new facts.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Jimmy Montague said:

Nicely put, Chris!
“The purpose of the system is what it does.”We’ve all probably had the same thought many times but none of us has put it so succinctly. Brevity is the soul of rhetoric, as they say, and your one little sentence expresses the whole essay quite nicely. Good job.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

john kelley said:

Michael B said:”It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance.”Well, it is a collective American fantasy to think that violence can be a solution at all. Organized, violent revolution in America is a macho pipe dream (much imbued with that “frisson of titillation”). In the unlikely event that it should come to pass, and in the even more unlikely event that it should be successful, …so what? What exactly are you planning to build with blood-stained hands on a blood-soaked foundation?Social justice through education is the first step to a collective higher consciousness. Clearly, it’s a long road. A hundred years at least. Probably two or three hundred. So, nourish the ideal and grit your teeth.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:

Hopefully this will not sound foolish, but is there a consensus as to what one defines as violence? Because, in Iraq for instance, the number of dead is given as a range of numbers from as low as 100,000 which estimate might refer to dead by physical violence; shootings, bombs, etc by either side, on up to over a million which estimate might refer to people believed to have frozen from lack of shelter, starved from lack of nutritious food, died of illness they might have otherwise been hale enough to survive, etc resulting from the war, as well as those dead by violence.If one decides to perform an action against the war, there is obvious violence like a death by guillotine, and then there is the person who might freeze during the winter having lost her job because one blockaded and damaged a railway line to prevent military shipments… Is violence only the use of force or is it any action that results in readily foreseeable impairment to another’s ability to survive? Also, is one to use the same standard at home as one might apply in say, an illegitimate foreign war of aggression? If not, is violence then circumstantial?“The purpose of the system is what it does”. The system makes perpetual war directly, but it makes many things indirectly: money, power, death, cruelty; destruction. Is it possible to say which if any is/are the primary purpose(s)?
I have heard many people suggest that the primary goal is money or power. Yet I am not so sure that the cruelty, death, and destruction are not the primary goals: they are remarkably consistent byproducts.
This is why I am not anti-violence: because there is violence aimed at stopping evil, and then there is violence aimed at maintaining evil. I do think there is a difference.I am not btw disagreeing with the statement,”The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.”
My contention is: any challenge to evil, whether it is a violent challenge or a nonviolent challenge, will be met ultimately with violence.

January 05, 2010
Votes: +3

scott douglas said:

The puppet government in Kabul has rather petulantly declared the killings in Khost province this week an atrocity, and has demanded that the ‘International Forces’ surrender the perpetrators to justice. Ho! The UN observer agrees: Atrocity. Ho Ho!Yes. Forces in the command of the U.S. corralled, handcuffed, and executed a passel of mere boys last week — as though they were tainted livestock.Funny. There is NO uproar in these United States, as I write. None; none at all! I don’t think there is anything cogent left to say about my personal contempt for this twisted perversion of a so-called ‘Nation’.Chris is absolutely correct that mass, non-violent public action is the only moral avenue to change. I have immense respect for this man: steadily articulating a non-doctrine of humane, rational, reality-based thought and action in response to the horrendous times in which we find ourselves.The relevant question for the domestic subject of this Empire remains: what is the optimum moral strategy in the struggle to remove the strangle-hold of the Plutocracy from around the necks of the average citizens of the Nation? Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action. The TeeVee tells all!Sad to say, the Plutocrats got there first; and they have got it covered, dude! Shoot-you anybody who advocates peaceful mass protest! The sheep only follow; they don’t spontaneously gather in the malls! With no Martin Luther King to follow? No Problema!So, my friends, there is no solution at hand. “Red Horse” is exactly what we’ve got coming. Soon, there will be war with Iran – and that will morph into World War. The United States of America will have been the catalyst for global catastrophe on a scale undreampt-of in either Nostradamus or St. John. This ride is almost over. Hope you got your affairs in order, Kids…

January 05, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:

have y’all seen this article?…-blogger/
it contains link to Jordanian’s suicide bomber’s blog and a website he frequented; it is interesting.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

NomNomNom said:

oops that is not working
can just google “cia suicide bomber was a blogger”

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Rob Waller said:

“Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action.”Either a wage-slave or a self-absorbed dickhead too busy slavering after the latest cell-phone and playing with it while watching American Idle (sic) or watching Pravda (AKA Fox Noise)or any other number of soporifics called “American TV”.Then we have the Republican Wurlitzer bellowing about the necessity of attacking everything that isn’t up to snuff with the American Way, whatever that is.American serfs are tied to their overlords as much as the Russian people were, which is where the similarity ends, the Russians had had enough of eating grass and the elitist blood flowed (along with many many peasants’ blood). I am flabbergasted as to what WILL IT TAKE to wake America up from being screwed, blued and tattooed.As that great American patriot George Carlin once said, “The American Dream, cause you’d have to be asleep to believe it”.I’m very fond of a great Beach Boys song… “Serfin’ USA”…Rant ends…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +2

Michael B said:

Misinterpretations or selective reading
Not saying “violence” is the or even ‘a’ solution. Again the point was missed. If someone is punching you in the face every day you better wise up and fight back by any means necessary.Chris got it wrong too by implying that there was any hint of continuing the killing against this hypothetical madman’s kin or “his” neighborhood. However what is actually happening via the imperial juggernaut is the continued killing of any and all neighborhoods and no passive resistance has proven to be able to halt this. Send me one example otherwise.For the record the highest rates of survival during the Nazi aggressions occurred from those who actively took up arms.Could Grandma Jefferson specify as to who she means when she says “we?” Does that include my children? Does that include all of us who have been resisting Empire actively in the streets through the years? Does that include…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Bill Jones said:

The great Robert Higgs
Looked at the political system in the US and like Cox’s “The Purpose of a System is What It Does”, concluded that “There is no such thing as a persistently failed policy” If a policy overtly fails to achieve its stated goals then the real goals of the policy are different from those stated. The “War on Drugs” springs readily to mind.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Grandma Jefferson said:

…The usage of “we” was sarcastic, a sort of antic Greek Chorus in the voice of the maniacs who run this place, and the bovine tea-bagging pizza-chompers who adore them, to sum up some of the more salient aspects of their psychotic ideology and actions, not literal. I sometimes forget that not all people recognize that sort of writing. I have no intention of changing my style, so take from it whatever you do.I console myself for this misapprehension on your part with the fact that you continue to misunderstand Chris also, no surprise. His citation of Ghandi and Martin Luther King as perfect examples of successful, organized, passive resistance on a national scale are certainly applicable here, and IMO the only moral way to combat the abominable depravity the plutocracy represents. Brutality breeds brutality, blood breeds blood, and “If you battle with monsters, have a care that you do not become a monster also”, as the philosopher warned us. You cannot fight evil with evil. But there is no organized passive resistance here to fight them, so one cannot claim, as you do, that it isn’t working. It isn’t being attempted. Endless bitching from one’s keyboard is not “passive resistance”.You falsely claim those who took up arms against the Nazis had higher survival rates. Please name who it is you’re talking about. Are you referring to Poland? Czechoslovakia? France? Russia? They died in the millions. If you mean the victims, random chance insured survival for some. They were certainly not armed, they didn’t allow guns in Auschwitz. If you mean the global alliance that levied world war against Germany and ultimately destroyed it, well yes, some soldiers, who were certainly armed, didn’t get killed, others did, war being what it is. But the assertion has no meaning in the context.But what you’re really talking about is another civil war, an armed revolution, and that will never succeed here, as the traitors of the Confederacy learned to their cost 150 years ago. This isn’t 1776. It is logistically impossible. The G is too physically and technologically entrenched, too thoroughly fused with the corporates who own it, and hold all necessary information on everyone, the nation is too vast, too populous, with too many state, county, and city governments (and enforcers), the surveillance too complete, and the weaponry too terrible, for any popular rising to go anywhere at all.Add to that formidable opposition the utter spinelessness, selfishness,and cowardice of the 300 million here, who do not dare attempt even “passive resistance” against the vampiric oligarchy that has bled them dry, for fear of losing whatever shreds are left to them. Forget about rousing such quaking, craven rabble to take their handguns into the streets.Anyone can foresee the outcome of any attempted revolt: a few hundred thousand jailed forever, a few thousand killed, and the rest groveling on their bellies, begging for “protection” from the revolutionaries.Sorry, it won’t happen.

January 07, 2010
Votes: +1

Write comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

Georgetown Professor:

‘Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians’ in Pakistan

REFUTED BY Jeremy Scahill

I’m not sure how many of you caught the segment last Friday on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC featuring Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a 25 year army veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Task Force STRATUS IVY and Georgetown University professor Christine Fair of the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). The two were discussing the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and potential connections to the Taliban in Pakistan. In the discussion, Lt. Col. Shaffer raised the issue of US drone strikes against Pakistan, which Shahzad reportedly has said were part of his motivation for the attempted bombing. “The Taliban are more motivated than ever to come at us,” said Shaffer, saying that “the Predator program is having the same effect in Afghanistan two years ago in killing innocents” that it is now having in Pakistan.

Related Content

Grief Without Portraits

Letter From Ground Zero

Pakistan’s Trump Card

William Polk on Afghanistan

Climate Activists Hit the Streets

About the Author

Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater…

Also by The Author

[ Click for More ]

Erik Prince Says His Enemies Are al Qaeda, Taliban and ‘Noisy Leftists’ (Politics, World)

Blackwater’s owner called his critics ‘tapeworms’ and did his best to sound like a member of the Tea Party.

Jeremy Scahill


Amy Goodman, Colleagues Sue Minneapolis Police, Secret Service Over Abuse at RNC

Three Democracy Now! journalists were assaulted and arrested while covering protests at the RNC. Now they are fighting back.

Jeremy Scahill


Related Topics

Afghanistan Christine Fair Faisal Shahzad Georgetown University Lt. Col. MSNBC Pakistan Person Career Taliban The New York Times Tony Shaffer War director professor

Professor Fair, who has also worked for the RAND Corporation and as a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, acted dumbfounded at the idea that the US drone strikes kill any civilians. “I take extreme exception top the way my colleague characterized the drones,” Fair said. “Actually the drones are not killing innocent civilians. Many of those reports are coming from deeply unreliable and dubious Pakistani press reports, which no one takes credibly on any other issue except for some reason on this issue. There’ve actually been a number of surveys on the ground, in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. The residents of FATA generally welcome the drone strikes because they know actually who’s being killed. They’re very much aware and who’s being killed and who’s not.”

Here is video of the segment:

Some estimates, most of which are indeed Pakistani sources, suggest that the vast majority of Pakistanis killed are civilians. In an Op-Ed for The New York Times last year, David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, called for a moratorium on the strikes, saying they had “killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.” They relied on “Pakistani sources,” which are apparently offensive to Professor Fair. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation recently did a meticulous review of the strikes, citing the following methodology:

“Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks–the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC–and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan–The Daily Times, Dawn, and The News–as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.”

Bergen and Tiedemann concluded that “the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent.” They concluded that under President Obama Under President Obama, who has used the drones with much greater frequency than Bush, “about a quarter [of drone-inflicted deaths] appear to have been civilians.”

I expect that Professor Fair, if confronted on this, will have to retract her definitive statement “the drones are not killing innocent civilians.” It just simply is false.

Jeremy Scahill

May 10, 2010

View Ratings | Rate It (5 comments)

Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

By michael payne (about the author)     Page 1 of 1 page(s)

For OpEdNews: michael payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama �” Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage.

This appears to be one of those situations in which the use of napalm, white phosphorus weapons and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War enraged the population and resulted in a tremendous blowback. At that time, our military was under the impression that such shock and awe administered on the nation of Vietnam would bring them to their knees. In fact, the result was exactly the opposite when, after 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives, our military was forced to quickly exit that war when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.

You know, if drones were used properly, there could be a place for them around the world. It has been reported that the U.K., Australia, Germany and Italy have begun to experiment with drones for border patrols, to curtail illegal fishing, for illegal immigration and for drug enforcement. So more and more nations are beginning to acquire these drones for apparent peaceful uses. But just consider what might happen if, at some point in time, numerous nations with sizable fleets of drones might begin using them in military operations such as border disputes, typically such as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Where is our nation headed morally? Not long ago, the question of torture was all over the news and there was a furious debate going on about its moral implications. Then the issue just disappeared when Mr. Obama just looked away, with time to only look forward and not dwell on the past. And so, we Americans also let the matter drop.

Now we have another great moral issue with these deadly, lethal drones. Their use and the devastating impact on innocent civilians apparently doesn’t register with our president either as he remains completely silent on the entire matter. He is just looking away. And so, are we the people once again going to let the matter just drop?

When we Americans are witnesses to these extremely moral issues, will we simply look away? Is that what America has become?

Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author

and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors

Operation Moshtarak | Decision: Afghanistan | Life and Culture | Around the Web | Photo Spotlight | Your View | Pakistan

May 4th, 201006:34 PM ET
Share this on:

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>


// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

Share post

Add a comment

U.S. official: Greater use of drones goes back to Bush era

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When the latest apparent U.S. drone strike was conducted this week against militants in Pakistan, the obvious question appeared to be: Did the United States get a “big fish” in the Taliban or al Qaeda organizations?

But a U.S. counterterrorism official says that’s now the wrong question to ask, and chances are those hit were not major players. He wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the latest strike, but with the official backing of his bosses, he sought to explain how U.S. strategy has changed in the crucial effort to attack targets inside Pakistan with missiles fired from drones.

The plan now is to attack a broader set of terrorist targets far beyond the original effort to strike and kill top al Qaeda leaders, the official said.

The strategy originated not with President Barak Obama, but with the previous administration, he said.

While the United States is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones – which are controlled remotely – U.S. officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes.

The more expansive target set was originally approved in the final months of the Bush administration in late 2008, but has been stepped up under the Obama White House, the official said. It is seen as a key strategy to help protect the growing number of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan from insurgents operating in Pakistan’s border region.

Drone-launched missiles are now hitting lower-level al Qaeda and Taliban personnel, camps, training areas, bomb makers, buildings and other targets in the remote region.

“You’ve had an expanded target set for time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” the official said.

“The enemy, to be sure, has lost commanders, operational planners, weapons specialists, facilitators, and more. But they’ve also lost fighters and trainers – the kinds of people who have killed American and allied forces in Afghanistan,” he said. “Just because they’re not big names doesn’t mean they don’t kill. They do. Their facilities – where they prepare, rest, and ready weapons – are legitimate targets, too.”

Success in using the drones depends on larger intelligence efforts, said Frances Fragos Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, and now a CNN intelligence analyst. Drones are just one tool in larger strategy, she said.

It requires other tools – intelligence, military and diplomatic – to support it, she said.

The administration has been sensitive to accusations that a large number of civilians have been killed since the stepped-up raids began. Statistics kept by the New America Foundation indicate that 30 percent of those who died in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 were non-militants.

The U.S. counterterrorism official disputed that, saying, “We believe the number of non-combatant casualties since this campaign intensified is under 30 – those being people who were near terrorist targets, often by choice – while the total for militants taken off the battlefield exceeds 500.”

The official said those figures are based not only on intelligence but also on visual observations before and after strikes.

“The terrorists, who have a real incentive to spread stories of atrocities from the air, haven’t done so because they can’t do so,” the official said. “They’d have to produce names, dates, photos and witnesses – the kinds of things you see almost instantly if the coalition makes a mistake in Afghanistan. But you just don’t see that sort of thing coming out of the tribal areas. Instead, even press accounts from the area speak of militants cordoning off places that have been struck, and of local and foreign fighters being hit.”

Post by: CNN’s Barbara Starr
Filed under: Civilian deaths • Drone strikes • Obama • Taliban • al Qaeda

Displaying 38 Comments | Add comment

1May 4th, 20101:56 pm ET Unfortunately the extremely poor vetting being used in evidence of the large numbers of innocent civilians killed, unknown people being targeted and simply poor directional information makes me wonder if Dick Cheney’s old cronies are still pulling the puppet strings in the vetting conferences which green light the targets of the hell fire missiles.Blasting a innocent village family by mistake directly translates to 100 or more previously neutral residents to take up arms against America in revenge. And they’ll target any American tourist, journalist or soldier they can find. Time and time again there have been public apologies for poor vetting resulting in a wrongful hellfire missile attack. Such happens, however the unintended blow back can have long lasting regional problems which is seldom ever considered.Posted by: Smith in OregonFlag this comment
2May 4th, 20107:42 pm ET An excellent way to make more enemies.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
3May 4th, 20108:28 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,INFlag this comment
4May 4th, 201010:19 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.
Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,IN———–Excellence is in truth, not in a reason or fabrication, No body excels more in criminality, than a criminal, pretending to be beneficent, but in reality a manipulating crook.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
5May 5th, 20102:05 am ET Remember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
6May 5th, 20102:17 am ET Are you sure you’re a paramedic, Iraq Paramedic? You sound more like a freaking chapalin to me.Posted by: Steven MacReadyFlag this comment
7May 5th, 20102:49 am ET Steven McReady, yes I am a paramedic & have been on the streets of large American cities on 911 ambulances, worked night shifts in emergency rooms of hospitals & been on offshore oil rigs as a paramedic & now over here. My personal experiances of having my hands on the newly dead, dieing & severly injuried have only strengthened my belief in GOD & his son JESUS CHRIST. It is quite comforting to know that after witnessing a mans brains all over the walls & cieling of his residence & then having to tell his family that GOD will listen to me & calm me so I can go on to the next call. It is hard some times to realize that it all is part of his ultimate plan but, that is a conversation for another forumn.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
8May 5th, 201011:22 am ET Taking the human out of warfare, takes the possibility or demand for peace out of warfare as well.Also, I know this ‘protects Americans by taking them out of harms way’, but I feel that we are assuming such an enormous technological advantage that we will force the enemy to seek out non-conventional weapons like chemical, biological or God forbid; nuclear.Look at this from their perspective: it’s like War of the Worlds for them, and if we were in their shoes, you bet we’d be looking for the biggest, baddest weapon imaginable to try and level the playing field.Posted by: SteveFlag this comment
9May 5th, 201012:30 pm ET Steve – I am sure they would use chemical, biological, and nuclear if they could get ahold of those items. And an enormous technological advantage is what we are striving for. We do not intend to fight a fair or even fight.Posted by: HeuibFlag this comment
10May 5th, 20101:22 pm ET It is unfortunate that civilians get caught in a hostile environment but if the blame is to be set upon anyone it should be the antagonists. How do you do that when one side claims invasion and one claims self-defense? Islam claims persecution across the globe but at the same time, most of the countries tied up in a conflict with Islam is doing so out of retaliation for something the radicals initiated on them in the first place. Why is it that Islam feels the need to impose it’s will on the rest of the world? How many other religions use death and destruction as a platform to do that? One might argue that Christians do the same thing, but I have yet to hear even one claim that America is in the middle east in the name of God. On the contrary, America is more and more denouncing God and the leader is actually endorsed and supported by the same people who demand seperation of church and state, so, that seems illogical to me. Now if Obama was crying for the destruction of all Arabs or Muslims because God demands it (like the majority of Muslim leaders) then Yes I could catagorize Christians with Islamists but so far that hasn’t happened.Posted by: jcFlag this comment
11May 5th, 20103:16 pm ET “without putting our soldiers in harms way”Dude, that’s what we get paid for. That’s what we train for. That’s what we do!Predator’s… pffft.Posted by: Real soldierFlag this comment
12May 5th, 20103:42 pm ET Beware of making war too easy and less costly in terms of US human lives.Posted by: davecFlag this comment
13May 5th, 20103:49 pm ET Tracking, thats what you get paid for. I am right there with you. But if I can take you over and bring you back, that is even better. The UAVs are a great asset, but like you said this is what we get paid to do.Posted by: Real OfficerFlag this comment
14May 5th, 20104:35 pm ET I have to disagree Smith in Oregon. I would venture to say that there are very few if any innocent villages in the that area of Pakistan. I don’t think there are many people in that area who either have not already taken up arms against the west or support those who have taken up arms. I don’t agree with killing innocent people and I agree that when it happens it can create more problems. However, how would you have the military fight? Wait until they come over to Afganistan or America and shoot at someone or blow something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.Posted by: D in OregonFlag this comment
15May 5th, 20104:49 pm ET The difference is that the use of Drones shows just what a hypocrite Obama is. He uses them because they are out of sight and out of mind of the News Media. But he’s not really willing to do what it takes to win the war. And so soldiers die for nothing – and Afghanistan will fall back into medievalism.Posted by: jkantor267Flag this comment
16May 5th, 20105:04 pm ET May 5th, 2010
2:05 am ETRemember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!———–Life begins with the man, not the woman. Masters Isacc and Ishmael were of the same seed. There is no difference in seed of one man. There is nothing more for one and there is nothing less for other. They were the children of our parents, Adam and Eve. They are our brother and of equal status as human being. They were chosen, we are not. Greatness is not in birth, but in obedience of God as was commanded by the masters, our master and our Imams., peace be upon them. Massage of obedience of the truth, not of the desires. May Allah the merciful, bless us to decide every thing by the Truth, not a reason, because every one of us is created equal. The day you are ready to implement the truth, Muslim will not be far behind. Ba Izan Allah. By the will of the limit most high. The Truth.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
17May 5th, 20105:19 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.Posted by: dr,vFlag this comment
18May 5th, 20105:30 pm ET something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.
Posted by: D in Oregon—————–Do you mean, 9/11 and other attacks are justified. do you agree with them,presumption of guilt by association is justified. If this is the case, probably you have no case against them.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
19May 5th, 20105:40 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.
Posted by: dr,v————–No body else has to judge, if a person makes his choice in truth. 9/11 was not an action but a reaction, one has to remember the action he took to invite the reaction, It is forgivable, if person admits it and rectifies. but denial of it will not make the problem, go away. Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
20May 5th, 20107:12 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.Posted by: slozombyFlag this comment
21May 5th, 20108:13 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.
Posted by: slozomby————–Drones were invented before Bush time. Only thing, mushroomed was the conservative ignorance. A proud contribution of Bush, Chennai.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
22May 5th, 20108:45 pm ET Send in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.Posted by: censorshipFlag this comment
23May 5th, 201010:40 pm ET May 5th, 2010
8:45 pm ETSend in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.
Posted by: censorship
Flag this comment————–So now you wish to do, what Shazad failed to do, Collateral damage in USA besides Afghanistan and Pakistan..Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
24May 6th, 20102:18 am ET No matter what, better them than us. Anyone that writes about innocent people getting killed and that we cannot control the kills good enough are playing into the terrorists hands and,,,,,makes me wonder just who they are. Most of the negative remarks are terrrorists themselves or friends of them. Say what you want but, YOU idiots are playing into someones hands and are not protecting OUR soldiers by suggesting that we walk and shake their hands hoping that they’ll be better people. The only good ones are dead ones and anyone near them should consider that their lives might end very quick. Yes, I know that some have no choice but, You’ll never convince me that any ten or twenty or fifty of them is worth one of ours. My suggestion is get a life, get over it, stay away from the terroristsand their friends and when some get converted because of a loss of a loved one, prepare to die also. Once you convert, I really do want you in my crosshairs.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
25May 6th, 20102:25 am ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbyePosted by: ArmyFlag this comment
26May 6th, 20102:26 am ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
27May 6th, 20102:40 am ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?—–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
28May 6th, 20104:10 am ET If three men were standing in a field and one took out a hidden gun and shot a bystander,
Only one man is guilty of Murder. How ever it is known in law if you know who fired the gun and do not speak out or oiint out that person with the gun then you are aiding and abetting and felon. This makes you his accomplice. We apply this to bank robbers and the like but does it not also apply here? I think it does. In the Koran and the bible a lie by ommission is still a lie because you do not speak out the truth.Posted by: InterestingFlag this comment
29May 6th, 20106:46 am ET The US. military needs to steep up us of the use of drones in military defeance. I think it is the one od the best tech. advantages we have. Todays warfare is around the world and we can not maintain military bases around the world to defend our country. The us of a drone is no more deferant then cruster bomding and area killing many civilians, with the drone are target is normaly hit.
The use of Dones and more tech. in them is needed.Posted by: Scotch HollowFlag this comment
30May 6th, 20108:38 am ET The US Navy was using drones off destroyers in Vietnam in the sixties. Ballons were used to spot artrillery fire by our founding fathers. Did I see a funny bug the size of a golf ball floating around?Posted by: HereOneTimeFlag this comment
31May 6th, 201012:41 pm ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?-–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.
Posted by: DAN——-Call your self American brain less conservative Osma bin Ladin. He thinks the same way and sending human Drones to inflict civilian casualties like American Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not America or Good sensible Americans deserve it, but Blinded Goons like you. He claims to be taking GANGRENE off of the Worthless brains of self described ignorant conservatives. If there is any thing in there head,other than GANGRENE.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
32May 6th, 201012:52 pm ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbye
Posted by: Army————-see, see they not, hear, hear they not, They just do not under stand. Mathew 13:13. The Ignorant conservative Genitals (Brian less slaves) of the Pharisees, The criminals. True one can not argue with an Ignorant, you and your kind, The slaves.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
33May 6th, 20101:01 pm ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.
Posted by: DAN———–Pray left one will be you, there is no grantee, Match is still on, So for has been blow for a blow, Brainless elephant is loosing strength and Dancing on the tunes of Osama. Intelligent people have their own initiatives, not the ignorant followers of Pharisees (criminal) proud to be Genitals (slaves) not free people, like rest of the Americans.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
34May 6th, 20101:17 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes-precise and effective-have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: No-Name Terrorists Now C.I.A. Drone Targets as U.S. Set to Expand Airstrikes « Little Alex in WonderlandFlag this comment
35May 6th, 20103:31 pm ET […] Obama cannot waste time with those things either. As an always-unnamed official told CNN: […]Posted by: Bomb Faith « THE NEW TERRORISTFlag this comment
36May 6th, 201011:41 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: The Truth Or The Fight » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
37May 7th, 20103:03 am ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: Technofascism blog » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
38May 8th, 20107:14 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: No-name terrorists now CIA drone targets | Live News Instant


Local View: Drone warfare is inhumane

By TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm | (9) Comments

Font Size:

Default font size

Larger font size

Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (or drones) more and more are becoming the weapon of choice for America’s international War on Terror. The Predator and the Reaper models, in particular, have become so popular that, in its 2011 budget, the Air Force is requesting more drones than piloted combat aircraft.

Capable of staying aloft unobserved for 24 hours at time and conducting surveillance with spy cameras, at a moment’s notice, these hunter/killer drones abruptly can launch their Hellfire guided missiles and smart bombs at suspected terrorists. The missions for these robot warriors now range from standard military operations in Afghanistan, to targeted assassinations of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan coordinated by the CIA and even the notorious private security firm, Blackwater (now called Xe).

And though its name is almost never mentioned, U.S. Strategic Command here in Nebraska is an active accomplice in each and every one of these drone flights.

StratCom, with its Space, Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance and Global Strike missions, is integrally involved at every stage of these missions-from the intelligence-gathering to the targeting to the actual ‘flying’ of these satellite-controlled aircraft.

Before our very eyes, these airborne robots are changing the art and rules of warfare.

But the butchery that their space-directed missiles and bombs wreak down on the ground is as grisly and hideous ever.

In 2009, the CIA’s almost weekly clandestine drone attacks in Pakistan were credited with killing anywhere from 350 to 550 people-many of them innocent civilians, including children. The non-combatant death toll has fed anti-American sentiment in that country, threatening the stability of the 1-year-old elected government and its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

No less problematic is the fact that these deaths of innocent bystanders have served as a recruiting tool for both al-Qaida and the Taliban. As David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency warfare expert who advised Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, bluntly puts it, “Every one of these non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”

War by robot may be reducing U.S. fatalities, which the folks here at home undoubtedly appreciate. The message it is sending to the developing world, though-of an imperial power that kills brutally, indiscriminately and impersonally-is arriving with the force of a Hellfire missile. And it’s creating serious political blowback for the Obama administration.

The ramifications of this drone warfare policy go even deeper, however-right to the core of our democratic system of governance. With the CIA and even mercenary outfits like Blackwater/Xe now regularly assassinating so-called high-value targets on the U.S. government’s behalf, where’s the accountability? Who exactly is drawing up these hit lists and on whose authority? Covert entities like the CIA whose disregard for legislative oversight is legendary? Soldiers for hire like Blackwater who kill in America’s name? Can our senators and representatives in Washington tell us? Do they even know?

And let’s not forget StratCom. With eight different military missions in its quiver (including combating weapons of mass destruction and cyberwarfare), StratCom today-in the words of its current commander, Gen. Kevin Chilton-is “the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.” Now charged with split second authority to engage and defeat terrorism, StratCom is routinely skating on the edges of national and international law, practicing what’s beginning to look worrisomely like vigilante justice.

Drone warfare is inhuman, inherently undemocratic and based right in Nebraskans’ backyard at U.S. Strategic Command. Our democratic system of checks and balances, however, was never designed to deal with a phenomenon like robot war and this dangerous drift in our nation’s military policy.

Legally and militarily, this is a spooky new world we are blundering into. And our elected officials need to know that we’re worried and we’re watching to see what they plan to do about it.

Tim Rinner is state coordinator for Nebraskans for Peace.

Posted in Columnists on Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm Updated: 8:05 pm.

Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

October 25, 2009 by Infowars Ireland

For OpEdNews: Michael Payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama – Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage. Read full article…

// ShareThis

Related posts:

  1. Concern mounts over US Predator covert killings Tom Baldwin London Times Saturday, May 23, 2009 The CIA…
  2. US drone strikes are of limited value, says report February 27, 2010 WASHINGTON: The US drone program…
  3. BOMBING PAKISTAN WITH ACRA CONTROL The Phoenix Feb 27 2009 THE ELECTION of Barack Obama…
  4. Drone attacks in Pakistan ‘backfiring’ LAHORE: The US drone attacks in Pakistan are backfiring…
  5. Weapons of Mass Prescription by Mike Adams March 01, 2010 (NaturalNews) Most people…
  6. Pakistan – At Least 65 Killed as US Drones Attack South Waziristan Funeral Procession Mourners From Early Strike Killed in Second Attack On…
  7. Defense Secretary Robert Gates Confirms Xe (Blackwater) Presence In Pakistan US Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirms that American…
  8. US drones killed 123 civilians, three al-Qaeda men in January By Amir Mir February 01, 2010 LAHORE: Afghanistan-based…
  9. Afghans allege dozens of civilian deaths KABUL (AP) — Afghan officials alleged Tuesday that dozens…
  10. Red Cross: Dozens of Afghans Killed in US Airstrike Red Cross officials are backing local reports that U.S.-led…

Filed Under: State Terror

Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan–

the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

Posted on January 9, 2010 by Juan

I just saw a clip on Aljazeera Arabic of the “martyrdom tape” of Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian-Palestinian double agent who carried out a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan, last week, killing 7 Americans working for the Central Intelligence Agency along with his handler, a Jordanian intelligence operative. He said his action was a message to the enemies of the Muslim community in the Jordanian and US intelligence agencies. The tape began with him outside firing a weapon, then he was seated against a black backdrop in Afghan clothing. He said he would prove that religion could not be bought and sold (was the CIA offering him millions as a reward?) He said that his suicide operation would be revenge for the killing by CIA drone of Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Urdu acronym: TTP). He noted that Mahsud had said that Usama Bin Laden was not in South Waziristan, but that if he came there, he would be protected. Al-Balawi asserted that Baitullah Mahsud was killed for these words, which were right words. He spoke of the latter’s son and successor, Hakimu’llah Mahsud, as his ‘amir’ or leader, and wished him every success in his holy struggle. The Arabic print press is now picking up the story.

Although Pakistani troops fighting in South Waziristan had found Arab passports and other effects suggesting a small presence of Arab fighters with the TTP, al-Balawi had clearly joined the movement and given it his allegiance. It seems to me an alarming development, as the Aljazeera anchor also noted, that Arab jihadi volunteers might now be enlisting under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban rather than, as in the past, al-Qaeda or one of the Afghan insurgent groups. The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).

Many intelligence specialists had insisted that the Khost bombing was the work of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. But I read al-Balawi’s emotionalism about the Mahsuds as a clear indication that he was working for them rather than for the Haqqanis. He must have repeated seven or eight times that Baitullah Mahsud would be avenged. The militant founder of the TTTP was killed by a US drone strike in South Waziristan in August.

The Obama administration convinced the Pakistani military to launch an attack on the Taliban Movement of Pakistan in South Waziristan this fall, so that Hakimu’llah Mahsud is on the run.

The day before, Mustafa al-Yazid, the reputed head of ‘al-Qaeda in Afghanistan’ (which doesn’t really exist; there are only 100 al-Qaeda fighters in that country) said that the Khost operation was in revenge for US drone strikes on militants in the Federally Administered Tribal areas of Pakistan.

Two US drone strikes, on Wednesday and Friday, have killed an estimated 16 militants in North Waziristan.

Al-Balawi’s sad biography in fact ties together the whole history of Western, including Israeli, attacks on the Middle East. Al-Balawi’s family is Palestinians displaced from Beersheba by Zionist immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, who in 1948 ethnically cleansed about 700,000 Palestinians from what became Israel. Most Palestinians in Jordan are bitter about the loss of their homes, for which they never received compensation, and some still live in refugee camps. The British Empire and the United States supported this displacement of the Palestinians and to this day the US government often attempts to criminalize even charitable aid to the suffering Palestinian people.

AP has a video interview with al-Balawi’s Turkish wife, in which she traces his radicalization to the brutal US occupation of neighboring Iraq, including reports of the rape of Iraqi women by US troops at Abu Ghraib (where much of the torture had sexual overtones) and the US destruction of the city of Fallujah in November-December 2004.

The Arabic press is confirming that al-Balawi was further enraged by the Israeli war on poor little Gaza last winter. A physician, he volunteered to be part of a group that intended to go to Gaza to do relief work for the victims of Israel’s brutal targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. (The Israelis were trying to destroy the fundamentalist Hamas party, which rules Gaza, and gave as their pretext the occasional rockets Hamas fired into Israel, though in fact there had been a truce for much of 2008, a truce of which the Israelis coldly took advantage to plan their war.)

The Jordanian secret police arrested al-Balawi to prevent him from going to Gaza. It may be that he had to agree to work for it as a quid pro quo to regain his freedom.

After the vicious war on Gaza was over, and the schools and hospitals lay in ruin, Israel ratcheted up a siege of the small territory of 1.6 million persons, half of them children, denying them enough services, fuel and even food for a decent life. In some parts of Gaza, 10 percent of the children are stunted because of malnutrition. Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport and harbor and strictly controls what goes into the territory. Israel never says what its end game is here, and how long exactly they are going to keep the children of Gaza in what one Vatican official has called a ‘concentration camp.’

In the past couple of weeks (though you would not know it from American television), two separate civilian Western aid convoys were mounted to relieve the Gazans via Gaza’s small southwestern border with Egypt (the Israelis would never have allowed them to do this, and the Egyptian state wasn’t happy either). One was supported with a hunger strike by an elderly Holocaust survivor. Some of those in the second were assaulted by the Egyptian police. British MP George Galloway was deported and forbidden to return to Egypt. Egypt is dragooned into supporting the illegal blockade of Gaza by the US on behalf of Israel, and is also afraid of the fundamentalist Hamas, which has resorted to terrorism.

Collective punishment of a whole population, especially one still technically occupied, is illegal in international law.

What is fascinating is the way al-Balawi’s grievances tie together the Iraq War, the ongoing Gaza atrocity, and the Western military presence in the Pushtun regions– the geography of the Bush ‘war on terror’ was inscribed on his tortured mind.

Morally speaking, al-Qaeda is twisted and evil, and has committed mass murder. Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Al-Qaeda or a Taliban affiliate turned al-Balawi to the dark side. Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us the proper response to social injustice (and it should not be forgotten that Gandhi had a significant following among the Pashtuns). But from a social science, explanatory point of view, what we have to remember is that there can be a handful of al-Balawis, or there can be thousands or hundreds of thousands. It depends on how many Abu Ghraibs, Fallujahs, Lebanons and Gazas the United States initiates or supports to the hilt. Unjust wars and occupations radicalize people. The American Right wing secretly knows this, but likes the vicious circle it produces. Wars make profits for the military-industrial complex, and the resulting terrorism terrifies the clueless US public and helps hawks win elections, allowing them to pursue further wars. And so it goes, until the Republic is bankrupted and in ruins and its unemployed have to live in tent cities.

So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.

End/ (Not Continued)

// This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

← Obama: The Age of the War on Al-Qaeda


20 Responses to Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan– the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

  1. gdamiani says:

January 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.

Then who is ?

Also with all the due respect Professor but mass murder are not social injustices…


  1. Jean-ollivier says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Excellent paper, though a saddening one. It is fascinating to note that Afghanistan remains the graveyard of empires (no quote unquote marks) after such a long time and so many experiences.


  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?


  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Where do we go from here? To be safe are we yet wiling to board air planes naked? Are we yet willing to be handcuffed while in flight?

No, these are not the answer. The answer can only be found by first asking the question, why they hate us. No, they don’t hate us for our freedom – as suggested by our government, and propagated by our corporate owned media. (Unless the freedom we are talking about is our freedom to bomb and occupy their countries with impunity)

So, where do we go from here? It should be clear to everyone that Pres Obama is not the answer. Our government is run by a military-industrial-congress complex. Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy). Today, as voters, we do not have a choice – both major parties represent the same interests.

We need campaign finance reform and we need independent media. Come next election we should vote only for candidates who support the above two issues to start with. Unless we do so I see no hope of peace for the world an no hope for our country getting back on track.


  1. James-Speaks says:

January 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

“So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.”

Now, now Juan. Donald Rumsfeld explained to us several years ago that al-Balawi is an “unknown unknown” upon which US policy is based, so you see, the system works.


  1. Scott Corey says:

January 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I very much agree with Prof. Cole’s identification of political benefit being derived from a vicious circle of violence.

This would be a good moment for readers to check the Wikipedia entry for German philosopher Carl Schmidt. The entry suffers from some spelling and grammar problems, but see if you do not recognize Dick Cheney’s “unitary executive” in Schmidt’s ideas about authority making a permanent exception for itself, and the role of enmity against guerrillas and other “partisans.”

This ideological connection has been openly discussed among political scientists for more than a decade. It is what distinguishes the unitarists from other neo-cons, and it is how we can realize that the political party of limited government has been infiltrated by a faction that believes in unlimited government.

I would leave out the connection to the military industrial complex. The Bush administration did not mind starving the traditional military industries that wanted to produce armor for the Iraq war. Money went instead to military “contractors” that were, for instance, given immunity from prosecution for any crime whatsoever in Iraq. It is not really about the money, it is about unrestrained power and violence.

What has been added to Schmidt is the realization that such a system of arbitrary, violent authority creates enemies and, as Prof. Cole points out, this feeds back to support further abuse of power.


  1. JamesL says:

January 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Dr. Cole,

You write that neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Then you continue with many reasons why US and Israeli policies create intolerable conditions which facilitate violence and increase despair, the continual combination of which is the best growth medium for violent crackpots. That the US and Israel are not responsible is only true within a thin theoretical slice.

The numbers of the radically disaffected are not as important as the trend, the dynamic, and the energy. Al-Balawi’s clearly stated reason was revenge for Mahsud’s death via a drone strike. The trend, dynamic, and energy of the conflict he describes are not simply those of Mahsud, Al-Balawi, and other disaffected people, but also of the US (and perhaps other unknown players). Focusing on the reactions of those labelled “terrorist” misdirects away from the reasons for the reactions. The US trend, dynamic, and energy are toward MORE drone attacks, MORE military intervention, more local covert activity, more intervention. Drone stikes didn’t even exist just a few years ago. They are the new baby of the CIA and US military about which every detail, including the dead, is “reported”. No proof means no oversight. And, in terms of care and feeding of continual war, as long as the dead are unidentified that identity can be used repeatedly. Who will run DNA checks on a mid level terrorist? Does Bin Laden lie crushed and buried in some collapsed cave while his legend marches on?

The log in America’s eye is that it choses not to comprehend that many actions such as those of Al-Balawi are merely blowback–payback– for US actions, made possible by technology and individual will. The choice to not comprehend is intentional ignorance, which Bush II enthusiastically endorsed and which has become increasingly popular. But intentional ignorance is unpleasant beyond the short term and suicidal in the long term. Actions such as Al-Balawi’s only rate in the short-term/unpleasant category. In the scope of time and with increasing US interventions, much uglier consequences await. America’s further dilemma is that the log in its eye is held there by continual constructs by the military and military industrialists–which before advertising were hated by Americans as blood sucking war profiteers–to whom the effective manipulations of social science upon the public mind are as critically important as a plump budget and a new upcoming war.

If the dynamic of the US is toward more and more violent intervention, by what equation does one believe that the reactions of ordinary people will not follow suit. By what equation does the US prove it can “win” by using one multi-million dollar missile to kill six people, half of them innocent, when ordinary people, motivated to suicide by a personal compulsion based on family, religion, and culture, can kill several people for a hundred dollars or less. How does the equation change if the number of missiles is 50, 100, or 500? This is America’s dilemma, not that of those affected by American policy, because Americans, placed in the same situation, would do the same thing. America’s dilemma is how to stop shooting itself.


  1. Emrys says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This mess is the result of policy decisions dating back to at least FDR. As unintended consequences from these policy decisions exploded in our faces, new decisions were made which also had unintended consequences. So like a person in a maze, we continue to blunder along looking for the exit, taking advice from whomever promises us an exit. The military/industrial complex tells us that the increased use of drones, along with increased intelligence, will suppress terrorist elements in the Middle East and East Africa. Is this without conseqences? And with every hurt inlicted on us, we react with outrage, demanding revenge. This all works to those elements that want our continued involvement in this region, and as near as I can tell, it is exceeding.


  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

>> So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy. <<

Say someone comes to the intelligence agencies and says “I’ve got a background with these jihadist groups, I’ve been involved with them for several years, I’ve got a history of expressing views that’ll give me credibility with them, if they check out my history and family background they’ll find it convincing, and I can use this to find some of their leaders for you.”

They check out his story and it’s all like he said. He does have that background and those connections and has expressed those views.

Now what do you make of this background check?


  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Anonymous wrote:
>> Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back? <<

Wait, are you implying that this somehow shows Baitullah Mahsud’s threats “on the US homeland” are somehow bigger than they seemed? How so?


  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Dear Professor Cole :
You wrote ; “The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).” That is how I understood the origins – but I’ve just read Churchill’s tale of The Malakand Field Force . He wrote ;
” Their superstition exposes them to the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood–”Mullahs,” “Sahibzadas,” “Akhundzadas,” “Fakirs,”
–and a host of wandering Talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey, and live free at the expense of the
people. ”
Young Winston was not the most unbiased reporter , and I doubt he knew more Pushtu than me , but … ” talib-ul-ilm ” ?
I suspect that there is more to the history of the talibs than we hear about . In a society that is mostly illiterate , those who are learning must have some status , so I suspect that there may be stories about ” students to the rescue ” which predate the present taliban .
Please shed some light on this – I suspect there is a story here .


  1. jcc2455 says:

January 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

“Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?”

And if he did, so what? Since when is Khost, Afghanistan part of the “US Homeland?” Did I miss a congressional annexation vote, and an application for statehood by the new US territory of Afghanistan?


  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

“Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

Do you not believe in self defense?

Maybe your use of this phrase hinges on the word “crackpots”, because surely by invading and occupying a country you are responsible for the ensuing civil unrest. You can’t expect to illegally invade a country without encountering legitimate resistance.

Otherwise, for example, the Nazis would be blameless for the actions of the French Resistance. I wouldn’t call them crackpots. Would you have expected them to behave like MLK?


  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:13 am

Cole: “Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

From Glen Greenwald’s piece “Helen Thomas Deviates From the Terrorism Script”:

“The evidence of what motivates Terrorism when directed at the U.S. is so overwhelming and undeniable that it takes an extreme propagandist to pretend it doesn’t exist.

What is (John) Brennan so afraid of? It’s true that religious fanaticism is a part of their collective motivation, but why can’t he just say what’s so obviously true: “they claim that the U.S. is interfering in, occupying and bringing violence to their part of the world, they cite things like civilian deaths and our support for Israel and Guantanamo and torture, and claim that their terrorism is in retaliation”? ”


  1. Arnold Evans says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:20 am

Following the link, the stunting rate in Gaza was 10% in 2006.

It is certainly higher now, as much less food is entering, unfortunately I don’t think a solid figure is available.


  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 1:32 am

How this suicide bomber opened a new front in Al-Qaeda’s war

New details have emerged of the failures that led to the deaths of seven CIA agents and one Jordanian agent in Afghanistan

The Meaning of al Qaeda’s Double Agent

The jihadists are showing impressive counterintelligence ability that the CIA seems to have underestimated


  1. Peter Attwood says:

January 10, 2010 at 5:50 am

I’m not clear how blowing up seven CIA people in Afghanistan, while they are engaged in terrorizing that nation’s population with drones, is an act of terrorism. According to the US “Defense” Dept, terrorism is violence directed against a civilian population to further political goals.

Starving and bombing the civilians of Gaza falls under that definition, as does the regular murder of Afghan civilians being undertaken by those CIA people when they were blown up. But blowing up people engaged in such activity in someone else’s country is not terrorism by the Pentagon’s definition, no more than it would have been terrorism for one of Washington’s soldiers to set a match to some gunpowder to kill senior British officers at the cost of his own life.

And it must be said that although the British burned some American seaports, they never contemplated the sorts of atrocities that are routine in America’s colonial wars today.


  1. MonsieurGonzo says:

January 10, 2010 at 7:53 am

i think it’s weird when Americans and their media talk about terrorist attacks on US = “people within the arbitrary border that is the U.S.A.” when the problem is Americans getting killed by terrorists ~ what, more or less every day? wherever in the world they happen to be. i think it’s weird that Americans put hundreds of thousands of their citizens in uniforms and say, “it’s OK to kill and maim THEM, bring it on,” and so thousands of them die and tens of thousands of them are grievously wounded ~ but somehow these “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over There are not the same as “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over Here. But most of all, i think it’s weird that Americans send hundreds of thousands of their citizens ~ soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines ~ over to places like IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN, obviously to serve as an Occupation Force: yet then, what ~ feel ashamed? by this Mission, apparent ~ the word “occupation” itself becomes media radioactive ~ ashamed to such an extent that they fail to Just DO It = OCCUPY the place; take control of it. “What strange occupiers not,” the peoples living under U.S. military occupation-not, must think of US, “that they would so enthusiastically send so many of their citizens over here to die and become wounded, mostly not in real combat, but in the act of just being here in the first place.” That some political leaders and corporations profit from this macabre enterprise is certainly true. but yeah, i think it’s weird that so many Americans hold the delusion that this ritual sacrifice (could future historians and cultural anthropologists reach any other conclusion?) of so many of their citizens somehow makes Americans feel, or will some day then make them real secure.


  1. Samson says:

January 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I found where you say this following quote to be interesting.

“The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).”

But, when I think of the timelines, the events you site were basically back in the 1980’s. So, if they were the cause, you’d have expected the TTP to arise at around the same time. Yet, you point out that they only arose 7 years ago.

What happened 7 or 8 years ago? It was Bush and the Democrats both agreeing that launching a war on Afghanistan in the region was a great idea.

Doesn’t it seem much more likely that the rising of this new group in the last 7 years is much more to do with the US bipartisan war in the region that it had as anything to do with Charlie Wilson’s war of 20 years ago?


  1. Anonymous says:

January 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

“Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy).” And the Israelis can attest to that. Regarding the use of crackpots being twisted and evil, I guess you must agree that the whole Israeli political elite were a bunch of crackpots and terrorists. Weren’t they the initiators of terrorism, the way we know in the Middle East, through Irgun and other terrorist groups?


Leave a Reply

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Shahzad saw hits in Pakistan; lost Conn. home to foreclosure

By Kevin Spak| Posted May 5, 10 11:14 AM CDT| // Share

// 4Share

(Newser) – A picture is starting to emerge of what drove Faisal Shahzad to attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square. The 31-year-old father of two lost his home to foreclosure last summer, unable to parlay his Master’s degree into success, the LA Times reports. Shortly thereafter he spent eight months in his native Pakistan, where he witnessed US drone strikes on Tehrik-i-Taliban leaders, sources tell the New York Post. Outraged, he signed up with the Taliban, and was trained to make explosives.

“This is blowback,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister said yesterday. “This is retaliation. And you could expect that. Let’s not be naïve, they’re going to fight back.” Officials had initially rejected the Taliban’s claims that the botched attack was retaliation for drone hits. But Post sources say Shahzad was on authorities’ radar before the attack. According to one report, investigators are looking into a possible connection between him and David Headley, a Pakistani-American involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Pakistani villagers gather in front of a locked house, owned by the family of Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, in his native village of Mohib Banda, May 5, 2010.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)


High-Tech Death from Above: U.S. Drone Wars Fuel War Crimes

by Tom Burghardt / May 3rd, 2010

As America continues its uncontrolled flight towards disaster, Israeli-style “targeted killings” (assassinations) of alleged militants and unarmed civilians in the “Afpak theatre” are on the rise.

With indiscriminate attacks by armed drones soaring since President Obama was sworn into office, the Pentagon’s mad dash to achieve what it describes as “full-spectrum dominance” in this regional “battlespace,” has sought to leverage its dominant position as the world leader in robotized forms of state killing and obtain a decisive technological edge over their adversaries.

Judging by proverbial “facts on the ground,” they’ll need it. The World Socialist Web Site disclosed May 1, that a “semi-annual report released by the Pentagon on the Afghanistan war recorded a sharp increase in attacks on occupation troops and scarce support for the corrupt US-backed puppet regime of President Hamid Karzai.”

Despite Obama’s dispatch of 35,000 troops since his inauguration as imperial Consul, socialist critic Bill Van Auken writes that the congressionally-mandated progress report “presented a grim picture of the state of the nearly nine-year-old, US-led war,” and that “the country’s so-called insurgents considered 2009 their ‘most successful year’.”

That the drone wars will escalate is underscored by a piece in Air Force Times. Writing May 1, an anonymous correspondent reports that Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Glenn Walters, the deputy director for resources and acquisition for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said “the U.S. military has sent so many of its 6,500 UAVs to the Middle East that other operating theaters are going without.”

Speaking April 28 at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) conference in northern Virginia, Walters said that Obama’s Afghanistan “surge” has stripped other Pentagon commands of drones and that it “will likely be a year before U.S. planners have a better handle on how many UAVs will be needed there and how many can be spared for use outside of the Middle East.”

“By 2012,” Walters told the killer robot conclave, “we’ll have 8,000 UAVs that will have to fit into” the Defense Department’s global maintenance and basing structure.

All the more reason then, in keeping with the Pentagon’s twisted logic, to escalate attacks on Pakistan, raining high-tech death from above!

Remote-Controlled War Crimes

Since its inception under the criminal Bush regime, the administration’s robot assassination policy has been called into question by legal scholars and civil liberties’ advocates who charge that CIA, but also military pilots, waging America’s undeclared drone war on Pakistan may be liable for war crimes.

During hearings last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s National Security and Foreign Affairs panel, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the committee that “Combat drones are battlefield weapons. They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

The one caveat I would add to the professor’s statement are that “police” would be “proper law enforcement agents” outside combat zones were America a “normal” country that abides by the rule of law, including laws governing armed conflict. Clearly, a nation that squanders nearly $800B of it’s treasure in a single year on death and destruction is anything but normal.

O’Connell went on to say that “restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use. Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.” The Notre Dame law prof continued: “At the very time we are trying to win hearts and minds to respect the rule of law, we are ourselves failing to respect a very basic rule: remote weapons systems belong on the battlefield.”

In a sharply worded letter to President Obama, submitted as a statement for the record to the House panel, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero wrote, “I am writing to express our profound concern about recent reports indicating that you have authorized a program that contemplates the killing of suspected terrorists–including U.S. citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict. If accurately described, this program violates international law and, at least insofar as it affects U.S. citizens, it is also unconstitutional.”

Romero stated that the “U.S. is engaged in non-international armed conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq and the lawfulness of its actions must be judged in that context. … The entire world is not a war zone, and wartime tactics that may be permitted on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be deployed anywhere in the world where a terrorism suspect happens to be located.”

But as the imperial project goes to ground, we can expect that the administration’s policy of targeting its enemies for liquidation on the streets of Sana’a, Mogadishu or perhaps, even New York or Washington, will continue along on its merry way.

Last October, investigative journalist Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker that the Air Force UAV fleet “has grown from some fifty drones in 2001 to nearly two hundred; the C.I.A. will not divulge how many drones it operates. The government plans to commission hundreds more, including new generations of tiny ‘nano’ drones, which can fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.”

And given the classified rules governing the CIA’s “geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” the highly-compartmented program affords the President another plausibly deniable weapon in the Executive Branch arsenal. Because of this, Mayer writes, “there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

“Should something go wrong in the C.I.A.’s program,” Mayer reports, “it’s unclear what the consequences would be.”

Judging however, by the response of our “forward looking” President and his “liberal” acolytes in Congress, academia and the media to widespread constitutional abuses (warrantless wiretapping), the waging of preemptive, aggressive wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), and illegal detention and torture by the previous, and current, U.S. regimes, it’s pretty obvious what those “consequences” will be.

“The Predators in the C.I.A. program,” Mayer observes, “are ‘flown’ by civilians, both intelligence officers and private contractors.” Described as “seasoned professionals” by Mayer’s counterterrorism source, the CIA has outsourced “a significant portion of its work.” And “from their suburban redoubt,” we’re informed, “they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target.”

But therein lies the rub for the CIA.

During last week’s congressional hearings, Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, told the House panel that the CIA’s crew of killer drone pilots could, in theory at least, be prosecuted because they aren’t combatants in a legal sense.

“It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” Glazier said.

“Under this view” Glazier continued, “CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause.” Here’s where things get interesting. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.” (emphasis added)

There it is, plug-and-play state killing; but fear not.

As a top Bush administration aide told investigative journalist Ron Suskind in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

While the swagger and imperial hubris of the Bush regime may have been swapped for the vastly superior Obama (PR) product, the results are inevitably the same: death and destruction on a planetary scale and to hell with the law and human rights.

Drone Wars Escalate

As The Long War Journal noted in January, the American drone campaign “in Pakistan’s tribal areas remains the cornerstone of the effort to root out and decapitate the senior leadership of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other allied terror groups, and to disrupt both al Qaeda’s global and local operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

CNN reported that CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles last May that the American drone war is “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt” the leadership of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda.

But with civilian deaths spiking, the robot reign of terror has sparked widespread opposition across all political sectors in Pakistan, from far-right Islamist factions to the socialist left. While Pentagon and CIA officials claim that civilian deaths are “regrettable,” an unintended consequence of America’s global imperial project, facts on the ground tell a different tale.

Last year, investigative journalist Amir Mir reported in Lahore’s English-language newspaper, The News, that of 60 “cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.”

According to Mir, the “drone attacks went wrong due to faulty intelligence information, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children.” The Pentagon and CIA dispute these figures.

In February however, Mir disclosed that Afghanistan-based Predator drones “carried out a record number of 12 deadly missile strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan in January 2010, of which 10 went wrong and failed to hit their targets, killing 123 innocent Pakistanis. The remaining two successful drone strikes killed three al-Qaeda leaders, wanted by the Americans.”

According to the journalist, the spike in drone assaults indicated that “revenge is the major motive for these attacks,” and can be “attributed to December 30, 2009 suicide bombing in the Khost area of Afghanistan bordering North Waziristan, which killed seven CIA agents. US officials later identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national linked to both al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

In other words, the slaughter of 123 civilians was viewed by the CIA and Pentagon as a splendid means “to avenge the loss of the seven CIA agents and to raise morale of its forces in Afghanistan.”

Sensitive as always to the suffering of others, The Washington Post reported April 26, that “CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimize civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan.”

According to the Post, “technological improvements” in recent months “have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage,” the unnamed officials said.

Stung by the growing furor over civilian deaths, the Agency defensively claims their assassination program delivers “precision unsurpassed in the history of warfare.”

Chief among the “improvements” cited by the Post, CIA Predators are now fielding a Lockheed Martin-designed “Small Smart Weapon” called the Scorpion. Clocking-in at 21 inches, weighing 35 pounds and having the diameter of a “small coffee cup,” the Post reports that it causes far less damage than a Hellfire “and it can be fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person, in complete darkness.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the Scorpion “provides the warfighter with low cost lethality against a broad target set” and “ensures accuracy to less than one meter and dramatically reduces the possibility of collateral damage.”

I’m sure this comes as a comforting reassurance of America’s pure intentions, especially for “Afpak” women and children who’ve been turned into smoldering body parts scattered across the landscape of our latest “good war.”

An Evolving Marketplace…for High-Tech Death

As the United States continues its drive to dominate resource-rich, but politically unstable regions of the world, the Pentagon, in a throw-back to the “Camelot” era of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ have embraced the counterinsurgency doctrine of fighting multiple “brushfire” wars in inhospitable global hot-spots.

Increasingly, as the “battlespace” morphs from fighting in jungles, deserts or that former Cold War set-piece, the European plain, directly into large urban areas, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) takes center stage. While “situational awareness” of the hot zone has always been a preoccupation of Pentagon planners, the nature of urban combat places a premium on complex technological systems that gather intelligence–from low earth orbit to right outside your door.

Such preoccupations have been a boon for America’s defense and security grifters.

During 2010’s first quarter, Washington Technology reported, that “contracts announced during January, February and March had values that ranged from $266 million to $2.8 billion.”

According to reporter Nick Wakeman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., “secured” a $266 million contract from the Air Force for “program and technical support for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems.”

Work will include “program and configuration management, logistics, technical services, flight and operations, software maintenance and data collection.”

As investigative journalist Nick Turse reported for TomDispatch in January, the Pentagon “cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010.” In addition to the General Atomics deal, Turse reported that the Air Force inked a “$38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones.”

As combat operations across the “Afpak theatre” escalate, the use of drones by both the CIA and Air Force have sharply increased; indeed, the Pentagon is on a veritable shopping spree.

This is borne-out by the flight hours logged by unmanned systems. “In 2004″ Turse writes, “Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours.”

According to Air Force estimates Turse avers, “the combined flight hours of all its drones–Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks–will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.”

Such estimates can only be music to the ears of General Atomics’ shareholders.

While these systems are powerful reminders that being an Empire means never having to say you’re sorry to the victims, it seems they’re not quite good enough.

Air Force Times reported last May that the Air Force “is already looking at a third generation of armed remote-control planes even as it continues to build up its fleet of MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.”

Although General Atomics has the lock on providing the CIA and Pentagon with MQ-1 and MQ-9s, the “service has started an analysis” for a next gen killer drone, the MQ-X, “with the goal of choosing a plane in 2012, Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford told reporters.”

According to Air Force Times, “General Atomics has already unveiled a jet-powered UAV called the Avenger, able to fly at 460 mph–about twice as fast as the Reaper–and carry 3,000 pounds of weapons and sensors.”

Last week, Defense Systems reported that the Defense Department “is reassessing its view of unmanned aerial vehicles–a key component of modern combat operations–and deciding what the military needs from UAVs beyond their traditional use as a platform to gather intelligence and fire weapons.”

Defense Systems’ reporter Amber Corrin wrote that “next-generation UAVs will need to take on additional duties including cargo transport, refueling and possible medical applications, and they will need to be interoperable with different platforms, users and military services.”

One wag, Col. Dale Fridley, the Director of the Air Force Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force, said that the Air Force is looking for a “plug-and-play” approach and that “interoperable command and control, multi-access controls and enhanced human-system interfaces are among the most important short-term enablers in developing next-generation UAVs.”

Fridley described the proposed MQ-X as the “embodiment of the flight plan.”

According to General Atomics, the firm’s next-gen, jet-powered Predator C drone, the Avenger, can attain air speeds far greater than the lumbering systems currently operating. With a 41-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, the system can “can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B,” the MQ-9 Reaper. The company envisages the manufacture of both armed and unarmed reconnaissance models for the Defense Department and other willing customers.

And with Predators clocking more than 30,000 hours of flight time per month, and with more than 40 UAVs aloft “every second of every day,” as GA boosters put it, and with the Air Force and the CIA seeking the capability to fly anywhere from 50-75 daily “missions” above Afghanistan, Pakistan and who knows where else, the always-open wallet’s of the American people will continue feeding, and accelerating, the imperialist “kill chain.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles by Tom, or visit Tom’s website.

This article was posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010 at 9:00am and is filed under Afghanistan, Anti-war, Assassinations, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Imperialism, Legal/Constitutional, Military/Militarism, Obama, Pakistan, War Crimes. // ShareThis

9 comments on this article so far …

Comments RSS feed

  1. mary said on May 3rd, 2010 at 9:25am #

This is Obomber’s idea of a joke when he was addressing the press.

‘Hollywood figures including Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg were joined in the Washington Hilton on Saturday night by a new generation of entertainers, including the 16-year-old Canadian singer Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers. “Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere,” Mr Obama said. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but boys, don’t get any ideas. *Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming*.”

Is he as psychopathic as Bush and Blair? Is killing by remote control as nothing to him?

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 3rd, 2010 at 11:03am #

mary, he is, I think,far worse. Obummer is, in my opinion, a plausible,charming psychopath,by far the most dangerous type. A sort of political Ted Bundy, completely programmed and controlled by the Zionists, as they boasted after his election became certain.The murder of innocents is bi-partisan policy in Washington, because it reflects Zionist genocidal plans for the Islamic untermenschen and because killing is the highest good in Yankee psychology. That pathopsychology itself is based on Old Testament (ie Torah) injunctions to genocide, which were expressly appealed to by Yankee killers from the days of New England, through the various Indian Wars, always genocidal and continuing across much of the world up to the present day.
For the Yankee killing is religiously sanctified and redemptive. It gives the killer the delusion of control and mastery over death, that ultimate, terrifying, reality that the Yankee fears so viscerally. Apart from denying death and pretending it doesn’t exist, the act of murder produces a great psychic release and a sense of mastery over life and death.How else do you explain the relentless cruelty of the extermination of the Indians, the viciousness of slavery,the group ecstasies of lynching, the hideous massacres in the Philippines, the devastation of Korea and Indochina, the absolutely unnecessary obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Madeleine Albright’s insouciant observation that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were a price that was ‘worth it’.
It is plain that the US, under Zionist control and influence, has committed itself to a policy of state destruction and mass murder, without restraint or pity, in order to shore up the global empire of the Zioamerican Reich. That this slaughter is planned to be implemented by amoral and pitiless robopaths, sitting at computer consoles thousands of miles from their victims, simply reflects the growth amongst the US elite and their hired murderers of a pathopsychology of intense hatred and pitiless indifference to the fate of others seen as untermenschen. This psychology is absolutely congruent with that of the Nazi mass murderers, although they often suffered dreadful psychic angst at the loathsome duties expected of them. The US seems to have perfected the production of pitiless killers, trained in violent computer games, brainwashed by relentless Zionist agit-prop to hate their Islamic victims pitilessly and incapable of seeing their ‘targets’ as fellow human beings.Unless something opposes US/Israeli malevolence and death worship and lust for absolute global control, in perpetuity, then the horrors of the 20th century will soon pale into insignificance before the massacres to come. The whole planet will become a vast Auschwitz,and death will descend, in an instant, from the heavens sparing no-one.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 3:42am #


like u say,
its in their culture

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:18am #

Agree with you both Mulga and Denk.

I also see that Hatoyama isn’t able to get rid of the Yanks on Okinawa. Why is that I wonder? Boot on his neck?

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:19am #

Link –

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 4th, 2010 at 8:09am #

Talk about synchronicity, mary. Just heard ‘jelly-back’ Hatoyama letting the Okinawans know that,in fact, he is not the Prime Minister of Japan.He is,in truth, a serf, tolerated by his Yankee masters only so long as he obeys orders. In Okinawa it’s Uncle Sam who calls the shots, not some jumped-up ‘Nips’ with ideas above their station. And they wonder why the world loathes them and looks forward to their coming collapse with eager anticipation.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 7:53pm #

mary and mm,

here’s my cut n paste contribution…
**okinawa is a true crime story written and directed by the governments of both the United States and Japan.**

  1. mary said on May 5th, 2010 at 1:03am #

The subject of the war on Afghanistan has been completely omitted from the UK election campaigns of the main parties.

Johann Hari’s article on the STWC website –

The shameful, bloody silence at the heart of the election

Johann Hari says we are sending young people to kill and die in order to prop up a President who (like his people) opposes almost all our actions and is threatening to defect to The Enemy. You might think that is worth discussing. Yet when Afghanistan comes up in this election, the sole subject of complaint is that our helicopters don’t work as well as they should…..

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 5th, 2010 at 3:47am #

mary,I swear I read that Cameron, a phony up there with Obama (the laugh of ‘Red Toryism’ had me adjusting my surgical appliance) but, sadly, with a charisma by-pass, had stated that a Tory priority was to wage the bloodbath in Afghanistan with renewed vigour. I suppose that is evidence either of the innate bloodlust of the Right, a desire to ingratiate himself further with the ever generous Zionist Lobby, whose ‘Zionist Plan for the MiddleEast’ is going so well in terms of dead ‘two-legged animals’ amongst the Islamic populations or a desire for revenge over the unfortunate events in the 1840s, or all of the above. Either way,it is a real insight, amongst many others, of just what the true nature of a Cameron ascendancy would involve. I’d say that enthusiastic endorsement of the ‘obliteration’ of Iran can also be relied on.

Add to the discussion

You must be registered user to comment on DV.
Log in or create an account.


Policy of drone strikes helping stoke

‘fanaticism,’ ‘radicalism’

By Bridget Johnson – 04/24/10 12:20 PM ET

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told an India-based news agency that the Obama administration’s policy of unmanned drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda positions in Pakistan is leading the U.S. “into an area of unaccountability that leads to blowback, where we actually lose friends, where we help inspire anti-American sentiments and fanaticism and radicalism.”

Kucinich, speaking to Asian News International, stressed his opposition to the strikes, which began under the Bush administration, and branded them as counterproductive.

“Just as an occupation fuels an insurgency, these drones build feelings and resistance against the United States and help gain support for those elements who wish to do America harm,” Kucinich said, adding that Obama needs to “be careful not to inadvertently create the circumstances that push Pakistan into becoming a failed state.”

In 2008, Kucinich denounced the Bush policy — which has continued unabated under Obama — as “playing with fire” and “violating international law by invading yet another nation which has not attacked the United States.”

Pakistan has protested the drone strikes, saying that it supports the fight against terrorists but wants control over the U.S. drone technology.


The contents of this site are © 2010 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a subsisiary of News Communications, Inc.

Comments (22)

PAGE |1|2|>

does anyone ever listen to this mental case anymore? If Kucinich were any more nuts, they would haul him away in a coat with sleeves that tie in the back.BY Mad Mike on 04/24/2010 at 12:38

Kucinich has a point. Action, reaction, isn’t that how the inner city gang wars escalated to the point of being out of control? 5 people working for the CIA died in Afghanistan, was that a reaction? Just playing the devil’s advocate here. What is the exit strategy?BY Mark on 04/24/2010 at 12:51

No Dennis, you’re wrong. There is no way for Obama to stoke anti-America sentiment. Only Bush could do that. The election of Obama means there is no more terrorism. C’mon man. Get with the program.BY LIAMD2 on 04/24/2010 at 15:04

Dennis might be right. Military analysts attribute half our Iraq casualties to the illegal Bush invasion of that country and the torture he committed. Why aren’t Bush and Cheney locked up in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes? allen on 04/24/2010 at 16:43

I’m tired about Obama running around the world telling nations who have no use for us besides aid and technology that we were “bad boys’ and we promise to do better next time. I’d rather be respected than liked. If drones can save even one American life and perform the function it was constructed to do, then use them and keep on using them until we develope something better.BY Don Sampietro on 04/24/2010 at 18:04

Kucinich is a noise maker, nothing more. He receives attention only because the media bows respectively to whatever the far left says. The same foolishness was said before WWII and Hitler not only marched across Europe, pounding Britain in the process, but was stopped only after hundreds of thousands soldiers died BECAUSE the rest of the rest of the world couldn’t/wouldn’t stop him. Ignore Kucinich. He’s not worth time.BY Jim Bradley on 04/24/2010 at 18:11

Hey Allen, did you just try to pass off some left wing blog as “impartial”? hahahahahahahah ahaThe rest of us have google, too, you know.DK is just angling for another plane ride! Yippee!!!!!!!BY Rick H. on 04/24/2010 at 18:49

sure, Kucinich must be some kinda lefty wacko, because he talks about innocent people being killedBY sammy on 04/24/2010 at 18:56

I think we should make some “sweet bombs” out of all that sugar-like tobacco product Congress wants to get off the shelves. Drop them all over Afghanistan, that will build some good will toward our mission.BY BC on 04/24/2010 at 18:59

Americans are now respected and feared, but these drones are sickening me. If they were killing only bad guys, that would have been another story. Find another means of protecting civilians. Respect human blood, and yes, Kucinich has a point. Terrorism is evil, take them down.BY Kingstone on 04/24/2010 at 20:33

PAGE |1|2|>


Drone Pilots Could Be Tried for ‘War Crimes,’

Law Prof Says

The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

Harold Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, outlined the administration’s legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh’s argument.

It’s part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military’s lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.

In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn’t seem likely. But that’s just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

The drones themselves are a lawful tool of war; “In fact, the ability of the drones to engage in a higher level of precision and to discriminate more carefully between military and civilian targets than has existed in the past actually suggests that they’re preferable to many older weapons,” Glazier added. But employing CIA personnel to carry out those armed attacks, he concluded, “clearly fall outside the scope of permissible conduct and ought to be reconsidered, particularly as the United States seeks to prosecute members of its adversaries for generally similar conduct.”

Drone attacks haven’t just become the primary weapon in the American bid to wipe out Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks. “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” CIA director Leon Panetta said.

But that “embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radical new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently observed. Before 9/11, the American government regularly condemned Israel for taking out individual terrorists. “Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.”

The U.S. government has since defended the strikes as legitimate self-defense — without going into details about the operations. Kenneth Anderson, an American University law professor, said the government’s reluctance to talk about the missions — as well as its reliance on an intelligence agency to carry out military action — raises some serious questions.

In his prepared statement (.pdf), Anderson said Koh “nowhere mentions the CIA by name in his defense of drone operations. It is, of course, what is plainly intended when speaking of self-defense separate from armed conflict. One understands the hesitation of senior lawyers to name the CIA’s use of drones as lawful when the official position of the U.S. government, despite everything, is still not to confirm or deny the CIA’s operations.”

What’s more, Anderson argued, Congress has been reluctant to talk about the bigger policy issue: Why this is a CIA mission in the first place. “Why should the CIA, or any other civilian agency, ever use force (leaving aside conventional law enforcement)?” he said. “Even granting the existence of self-defense as a legal category, why ever have force used by anyone other than the uniformed military?”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, was much more blunt in her statement. “Combat drones are battlefield weapons,” she told the panel. “They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

“Restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use, O’Connell continued. “Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.”

Not all of the law professors testifying today agreed. Syracuse University’s William Banks, for one, said that “the intelligence laws permit the president broad discretion to utilize the nation’s intelligence agencies to carry out national security operations, implicitly including targeted killing.” Current U.S. laws “supply adequate – albeit not well articulated or understood – legal authority for these drone strikes.”

But American laws may not be on the only ones applicable to drone strikes, critics contend. As Anderson argued, the United States may face legal challenges from what he called the “international-law community” – nongovernmental organizations, international bodies, U.N. agencies and others who view this as a program of targeted killing that falls outside the bounds of armed conflict.

Either way, this hearing will not end the controversy. As we’ve noted here before, the government has been less than forthcoming about who, exactly, authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are chosen and how many civilians may have been inadvertently killed.

– Nathan Hodge and Noah Shachtman

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense
Read More


President Obama’s

Joke About Predator Drones Draws Fire

May 03, 2010 8:45 PM

// PrintRSS




FarkTechnoratiGoogleLiveMy Space


A famous British actor once observed that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

A corollary might be that comedy can be especially hard when it comes from commanders-in-chief joking about the deaths they’re responsible for at times of war.

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, President Obama noted that in the audience were the Jonas brothers.

“Sasha and Malia are huge fans,” he said, “but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

The audience laughed approvingly but in the following days the joke has been met with a rising chorus of criticism — mainly from the Left.

After all, unmanned predator drone strikes have killed innocent civilians in Pakistan.

How many civilians? Unclear. Since the CIA’s predator drone program is top secret, little is known about it.

But writing in Foreign Policy, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann have estimated that their data shows that from 2008 until December 2009, drone strikes have killed between 384 and 578 individuals, with most of them militants but between 35 and 40 percent of them innocent civilians. Senior administration officials contend that the number of civilian casualties is far fewer than that.

As the New Yorker reported last year, “the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the C.I.A. program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

So given all that, should President Obama have made a joke about this program?

“Let’s be honest, fellow progressives,” the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch tweeted, “we’d be all over Bush if he made the same ‘predator drone’ joke Obama told last night.”

President George W. Bush did, of course, make a joke about war at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. In 2004, infamously, he joked about his inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, showing slides of himself searching for WMD under Oval Office furniture.

“It’s inappropriate to the thousands of people obviously who have been wounded over there,” Terry McAuliffe, then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Good Morning America. “This is a very serious issue. We’ve lost hundreds of troops, as you know, over there. Let’s not be laughing about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction. … We certainly should not be making light of the situation.” Then-RNC chair Ed Gillespie responded that “the people in the room obviously saw the humor in it at that moment. And to play it back now in a different context is unfair, frankly, I have to say.”

So far the criticism against President Obama seems to have been confined to the internet.

Wrote Salon’s Alex Pareene: “It’s funny because predator drone strikes in Pakistan have killed literally hundreds of completely innocent civilians, and now the president is evincing a casual disregard for those lives he is responsible for ending by making a lighthearted joke about killing famous young celebrities for the crime of attempting to sleep with his young daughters.”

The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer, noted that the “Obama administration has spent a great deal of time on outreach to Muslims worldwide, and on dialing down the volume and rhetoric of the prior administration in order to defuse al-Qaeda’s narrative of a clash of civilizations between Muslims and non-Muslims. So you have to wonder why in the world the president’s speech writers would think it was a good idea to throw a joke about predator drones into the president’s speech during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, given that an estimated one-third of drone casualties, or between 289 and 378, have been civilians. It evinces a callous disregard for human life that is really inappropriate for a world leader, especially a president who is waging war against an enemy that deliberately targets civilians. It also helps undermine that outreach by making it look insincere.”

Serwer assessed that the relative lack of outrage, compared to the response to Bush’s joke, might have “to do with whose lives were the butt of the joke — we recognize the names and faces of the American service members who died because of Bush’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction as friends, relatives, and family members. The people who die in drone strikes are anonymous — they have no faces or names — except for the suspected terrorist targets the administration celebrates as being neutralized.”

The Atlantic’s Max Fisher has a round-up of some response HERE.



Future police: Meet the UK’s armed robot drones


By David Hambling |10 February 2010 |Categories: PoliticsTechnology

Police forces all over the UK will soon be able to draw on unmanned aircraft from a national fleet, according to Home Office plans. Last month it was revealed that modified military aircraft drones will carry out surveillance on everyone from protesters and antisocial motorists to fly-tippers, and will be in place in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Surveillance is only the start, however. Military drones quickly moved from reconnaissance to strike, and if the British police follow suit, their drones could be armed — but with non-lethal weapons rather than Hellfire missiles.

The flying robot fleet will range from miniature tactical craft such as the miniature AirRobot being tested by Essex police, to BAE System’s new HERTI drone as flown in Afghanistan. The drones are cheaper than police helicopters — some of which will be retired — and are as wide as 12m in the case of HERTI.

Watching events on the ground without being able to act is frustrating. Targets often got away before an unarmed drone could summon assistance. In fact, in 2000 it was reported that an airborne drone spotted Osama bin Laden but could do nothing but watch him escape. So the RAF has been carrying out missions in Afghanistan with missile-armed Reapers since 2007. From the ground these just look like regular aircraft.

The police have already had a similar experience with CCTV. As well as observing, some of these are now equipped with speakers. Pioneered in Middleborough, the talking CCTV allows an operator to tell off anyone engaging in vandalism, graffiti or littering.

Unmanned aircraft can also be fitted with speakers, such as the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which could not only warn fly tippers that they were breaking the law but also be loud enough to drive them away.

The LRAD is a highly directional speaker made of a flat array of piezoelectric transducers, producing intense beam of sound in a 30-degree cone. It can be used as a loudhailer, or deafen the target with a jarring, discordant noise. Some ships now carry LRAD as an anti-pirate measure: It was used to drive off an attack on the Seabourn Spirit off Somalia in 2005.

LRAD makers American Technology prefer to call its product a device rather than a weapon, and use terms such as “deterrent tones” and “influencing behaviour.” Police in the US have already adopted a vehicle-mounted LRAD for crowd control, breaking up protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last year, although there have been warnings about the risk of hearing damage.

The LRAD has been tested on the Austrian S-100 unmanned helicopter, and the technology is ready if there is a police requirement.

But rather than just driving them away, a police drone should be able to stop fleeing criminals in their tracks. Helicopters already mount powerful searchlights, and strobe lighting capabilities can turn such systems into effective nonlethal weapons. High-intensity strobes can cause dizziness, disorientation and loss of balance making it virtually impossible to run away.

This effect was first harnessed in the “Photic Driver” made by British company Allen International in 1973. However, it has taken improvement in lighting technology (such as fast-switching Xenon lights) and an understanding of the physiology involved to make such weapons practical.

A “light based personnel immobilisation device” developed by Peak Beam Systems Inc has been successfully tested by the US military, and work to mount it on an unmanned helicopter in the States is under way.

This sort of light would be too dangerous for a manned aircraft because of the crew being affected. But an unmanned “strober” could be a literal crime stopper, and something we could see deployed within the next couple of years.

Even the smallest drones could be used for tactical police operations. As far back as 1972 the Home Office looked at model aircraft as an alternative to rubber bullets, literally flying them into rioters to knock them off their feet.

French company Tecknisolar Seni has demonstrated a portable drone armed with a double-barrelled 44mm Flash-Ball gun. Used by French special police units, the one-kilo Flash-Ball resembles a large calibre handgun and fires non-lethal rounds, including tear gas and rubber impact rounds to bring down a suspect without permanent damage — “the same effect as the punch of a champion boxer,” claim makers Verney-Carron.

However, last year there were questions over the use of Flash-Ball rounds by French police. Like other impact rounds, the Flash-Ball is meant to be aimed at the body — firing from a remote, flying platform is likely to increase the risk of head injury.

Another option is the taser. Taser stun guns are now so light (about 150 grams) that they could be mounted on the smaller drones. Antoine di Zazzo, head of SMP Technologies, which distributes tasers in France, says the company is fitting one to a small quad-rotor iDrone (another quad-rotor toy helicopter), which some have called a “flying saucer”.

Robots are already the preferred way of approaching possible bombs without putting officers lives at risk. In the future, police may prefer to deal with potentially dangerous suspects the same way, tackling them remotely using a taser if the situation requires it.

But tasers are controversial. In 2008 the Met rejected government plans for a wider issue of tasers to non-specialist officers because of the fear they could cause, and there have been numerous complaints of abuse. For some, the arrival of a hovering law-enforcement drone with a video eyes and a 50,000-volt taser at the ready might be a police technology too far.

Which leads Wired to ask you for your thoughts: Are tasers and armed robot drones the ideal next step for British law enforcement, or will it just make our police officers less capable of dealing with serious problems when they’re forced to intervene in person? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Flickr CC bixentro / Nate Lanxon (edited version)


Online Editor: Nate Lanxon

// Tags:


Americas Wars Provoking attacks and radicalism like blasphemous cartoons Provoking

How Iraq Afghanistan injustices create radical Muslim responses seen as legitimate defense

America’s Wars Provoke Attacks Like the One in NY

Still Fighting Them Here

Posted on May 11th, 2010 by Jack Hunter

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked my radio audience, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists. Given Shahzad’s current place of residence and following Lieberman’s logic, perhaps we should now start bombing Connecticut? If that terrorist-harboring state could be magically transplanted to a more oil-rich, defense contractor-benefitting and Israel-approximate location, no doubt Lieberman might consider it.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.” Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia. (Most of our victims are suspected terrorists, but we sometimes kill innocent civilians by mistake). Whether he was acting alone or in cahoots with Pakistani extremists, his abortive attack was probably a response to our efforts to eradicate terrorist groups in Pakistan via drone strikes and other special operations. In short, he decided to enlist in the ‘war on terror,’ but not on America’s side.” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quresh, who seems to be plagued by the same sort of pesky logic as Yemen’s president, told CBS News of the Pakistan-born Shahzad, “This is retaliation. And you could expect that … let’s not be naïve… They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you (to) sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

Shahzad’s alleged attempt was only one of many in Times Square since 9/11, and such incidents have not-so-coincidentally correlated with the further entrenchment of the United States in the Middle East, a phenomenon the CIA calls “blowback.” Mainstream media discussions that attempt to address Islamic terrorism while pretending “blowback” doesn’t exist, are about as useful as Obama officials who try to address the national deficit while pretending their own, expensive agenda doesn’t exist. Those who still naively contend that such terrorism has nothing to do with our foreign interventionism, but is exclusively due to some Islamic plan to dominate the world or “Caliphate,” should remember that New Yorkers attending the Broadway premiere of “My Fair Lady” in 1956 never had to worry about any car bombs bringing down the house, much less Times Square. Since Islam isn’t exactly a brand new religion, has the Koran been rewritten to be more intolerant of “freedom” than it was during Broadway’s golden age? Or could it possibly be something else?

With Shahzad, some military analysts are inclined to think it might be something else, or as The American Conservative’s Chase Madar writes: “David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, respectively a former adviser to General Petraeus and a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are both leading theorists of counterinsurgency warfare at the Center for a New American Security. They have testified before Congress that drone strikes are perceived to be wildly inaccurate—killing, they say, 700 people in attacks on 14 targets—and are undermining the ‘hearts and minds’ offensive that is central to the campaign. They recommend scrapping drone attacks. And then there is the American Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who happens to be a retired Army general. In leaked cables to the president, Eikenberry severely questioned the wisdom of the counterinsurgency campaign and the escalation… Is anyone listening to these well-informed skeptics?”

Obviously they’re not being listened to and worse, no one seems to be having similar conversations that actually address the root problem of why Islamic terrorists do what they do. In the minds of many Democrats, Obama’s Bush-style foreign policy is anything but, and too many Republicans believe we would be fighting even more terrorists on American soil if it were not for our wars overseas, with Shahzad only making it as far as he did because Obama is somehow wimpier than Dubya. It’s hard to imagine a more insane view of foreign policy. They fight us over here precisely because we are over there—and they will continue to do so until Americans find the will or the wisdom to finally question what their country is doing over there in the first place.

Filed under: war

13 Responses to “Still Fighting Them Here”

  1. Andy, on May 11th, 2010 at 8:03 am Said:

I agree they are fighting us here and there because we are over there, however it seems true to me that much of Islam today has been hijacked by radical elements that are seeking to dominate the world. Why are Islamists supporting terror in Europe when Europeans are not killing Muslims in Central Asia or the Middle East? When My Fair Lady opened in Times Square the world was much different. Radicals within Islam had neither the network or the funding they have today. In addition no Al Jazirah ,internet etc to easily radicalize the masses of Muslims with lies and staged propaganda when the inconvenient truths are much more complex

  1. Liam Register, on May 11th, 2010 at 10:30 am Said:

As a start how about some education for Americans. While Republicrats dream of blowing up Iran, little do they know, nor want to, that a few years before the Broadway opening of My Fair Lady of March 15, 1956, relations between the two countries were about as good as one could expect between any countries. In fact the prome minister, duly elected, was a fan of the US , especially its form of government which he held as a model in his hopes for Iran.

Then exactly 2 years 7 months before the Broadway opening, on August 15, 1953, following the withering campaign of Britain begging America to do so, the US executed a coup attempt against their ‘friend, the PM of Iran. The plot failed; US authorities wired instructions to their operative in charge of the overthrow to cease, but he (of an interesting American family) ignored the communique and proceeded with a second attempt, which succeeded, The PM, unmurdered, was thrown in prison for a few years, then to lifetime house arrest, The leader favored by America was installed; a handful of US companies got exclusive rights to oceans of Iranian oil. Gssoline was available @ 18cents/gallon, as ‘gas wars’ , price wars, were routine in America. The party lasted for a generation, whilst the Iranian secret police, installed as a ‘bonus’ of the coup, proceeded to do to Iranians what secret police forces usually do.

Then it ended with the sevevties. Was in all the papers.

Exactly a decade later our friend and ally in Vietnam was similarly dealt with. Unlike the Iranian PM he received the lead pellets in the rear of his skull. His brother too.

Those were the days.

But for heavens sake don’t tell the Americans.

  1. Jackie, on May 11th, 2010 at 5:12 pm Said:

Liam R.
I recognize the story of Mossadegh. Truman was against the Brits plan, but then Eisenhower was elected and Kermit Roosevelt carried off the whole thing.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am Said:

Hi Adam,
Actually, if you recall, there were Spanish troops in Iraq. What happened? The horrible train bombing in Madrid. There were Austrialin troops in Iraq. What happened? A deadly bombing in a Bali dance club, well-known as an Austrialian vacation destination. There were British troops in Iraq. What happened? The London train bombings.
One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm Said:

“One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.”

Agreed, but in point of fact the al-Qaeda types are trying to establish a caliphate although not one that encompasses the world–a task far beyond their powers or inclinations. They are mostly concerned with overthrowing what they perceive as corrupt, apostate regimes in the Islamic world. As Michael Schueur has asserted, all of their terrorism is no more than the manifestation of an insurrection within Islam in which America is unfortunately meddling. This unavoidable contest between the Muslim states and insurrectionists would be quickly decided were America to withdraw considering that the regimes that have been labeled apostate would swiftly quash the jihadists before full-blown fitna could erupt. America remaining mired in the Middle East is Bin Laden’s most treasured hope.

Another point for consideration: assuming that the US does withdraw and adopts non-interventionism, what would be our policy concerning another jihadist grievance–namely, our support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants?

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 6:56 pm Said:

Hi Pons,
Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement. Muslims, (both in and outside of Al Qaeda) have beefs with their local governments, and as such, they must determine how best to deal with them. By the United States avoiding taking sides on what are often internal matters, we avoid being caught in the collateral damage.
In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 8:41 pm Said:

“Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement…In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.”

No, there is no disagreement. All I am doing by bringing up these other jihadist grievances is to make more thorough the non-interventionist arguments. In this case, as you say, it is essential to ensure that those struggles remain local affairs with the US lending its moral support (surely al-Qaeda could not justify their attacks for merely offering moral support) and refuting any jihadist agitprop. Interference would be justified only if those resistance movements were being assisted by internationalist Islamists like al-Qaeda. Localist Muslim militants are no threat to America but it is imperative that internationalist Muslim militants
be prevented from linking with the natives as they did in Bosnia. This might be a surprisingly easy task, however, as localists like Hamas, for instance, loathe al-Qaeda and their fellow salafists. “We have no common enemy,” said a Hamas spokesman, “as long as they [al-Qaeda] wage a global struggle and we wage a local one.” Any additional thoughts?

  1. Erik Meyer, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:31 am Said:

Right, this is all quite obvious. It’s really rather remarkable that there aren’t more of these kinds of attacks, given how easy they are. They don’t seem to have much trouble setting off car bombs in Baghdad.

Of course, back in 1956, not only were we not bombing Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan ourselves, there were no Iraqis, Pakistanis, or Afghans (Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik, or whatever) in New York City to retaliate. (Old American Realism: Do nothing to provoke people, keep them far away…)

Nobody had to worry about the Viet Cong blowing up a bus in Times Square 1968 either (back then, at least we had the second part down, the part that really matters).

We could, in fact, bomb Pakistan until the end of time if that were our goal. If there weren’t any Pakistanis or other Muslims running around this country, what could they do about it? They’d have to blow something up in their own country… burn a big puppet, stone a rape victim, whatever it is they do when they’re upset… it wouldn’t be our problem.

Better still:
If we weren’t over there and they weren’t over here, we wouldn’t have to fight them at all.

  1. P Jerome, on May 13th, 2010 at 9:59 am Said:

This is all very interesting, and diverting. On what basis do we “know for a fact” that something called Al Queda (1) exists, and (2) wants to establish a medieval caliphate in all or part of the world? The short answer is we “know” no such thing because these are simply the fevered fantasies of war-related industrialists, being constructed and sold to the Western public by government intelligence agencies.

What we do know is that the US and its allies created the so-called “Muslim insurgency” in Afghanistan, and unleashed the fury of religious obscurantism throughout Central Asia. This continues to be the case as the CIA/DIA/MI6 continues to fund and mobilizes so-called fundamentalists in Chechnya, Turkey, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, of course, all the “–stans.” But we are to believe these same agencies are NOT funding the same strains of fundamentalism in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And even if they are not on the US/British payroll (which they almost certainly are), is it even conceivable that we need trillion dollar annual war budgets to fight these alleged rag-tag bands of angry Middle Easterners, more than were needed when we faced more than 10,000 Russian nukes? Please people, do not remain as ignorant, and stupid, as these tsars think we are.

  1. dickerson3870, on May 13th, 2010 at 11:46 am Said:

We are fighting “them” “over there”, so that we will not have to fight our innermost demons “over here” where it would make quite a bloody mess!
There Will Be Blood – Daniel’s Baptism [03:38] –

  1. masmanz, on May 13th, 2010 at 12:18 pm Said:

Andy, it is only the war-mongers among the think tanks and news media who make us think that much of Islam has been hijacked by radical elements. If you leave aside the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and now the tribal area of Pakistan, the remaining 99.999% of Muslims don’t support any sort of terrorism. If they did we would have many many terrorist incidence. We need to get out of these senseless wars, not because of the fear of blowback but just because it would be the right thing to do.

If Muslims of the world wanted to establish a caliphate they can do it tomorrow, by just holding an OIC conference and choosing a caliph. But, even if they did that it should not be of any concern to us. Would they be foolish enough to attack the US?

  1. King of Holetown, on May 13th, 2010 at 6:15 pm Said:

You are over there because they have something that you want (oil, gold, water, lithium etc.)
Is there any one country that america is meddling in that has no resources that they want? NO!
The wars are driven by pure greed, nothing less.
There is NO al Qaeda and NO Osama bin Laden.
Anyone who believes otherwise is either plain naieve or totally brainwashed.
How can one man with a band of 200 followers at most, holed up in a cave in Pakistan elude, evade and resist the force of the greatest army on earth throwing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars a year at it?
What would happen if a real army were to face down the US then?
Give it a rest and get out of the peoples’ countries and leave them alone.
What they do is not your business.

  1. To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.? « Moral Outrage, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:00 pm Said:

[…] Full article […]

Bottom of Form


Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.?

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.”

Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia … via drone strikes and other special operations.”


Is the War Coming Home?

by Patrick J. Buchanan, May 11, 2010

Email This | Print This | // Share This | Comment | Antiwar Forum

Faisal Shahzad sought to massacre scores of fellow Americans in Times Square with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive fertilizer, gasoline, and alarm clocks.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 29.

Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of American corpses?

Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.

The New York Times ties all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.

Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.

What do the four have in common?

All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring the war in the Af-Pak here to America.

But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?

Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, “We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make … this country so great.”

This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who love freedom and stand for women’s rights.

And that is why they hate us – and why they come to kill us.

In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens advances a parallel view. We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.

We are loathed in the Islamic world, Stephens writes, because of “Lady Gaga – or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker, or any other American woman who has … personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called ‘the American Temptress.’”

This hatred is at least 60 years old, says Stephens, for Qutb wrote even before “Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women’s lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey Shore, and … Lady Gaga.”

Qutb’s revulsion at American degeneracy is why his legion of Islamic followers hate us.

Again, a comforting thought. For, if Lady Gaga is the problem, there is nothing we Americans can do about it.

Yet, this is as self-delusional as saying the FLN set off bombs in movie theaters and cafes in Algiers to kill the French because of what Brigitte Bardot was doing on screen in And God Created Woman.

American’s toxic culture may be a reason devout Muslims detest us. It is not why they come here to kill us. Mohammed Atta’s friends did not target Hollywood, but centers and symbols of U.S. military and political power.

U.S. Marines were not attacked by Hezbollah until we inserted those Marines into Lebanon’s civil war. No Iraqi committed an act of terror against us before we invaded Iraq. And if the Sept. 11 killers were motivated by hatred of the immorality of our society, what were they doing getting lap dances in Delray Beach?

Osama bin Laden declared war on us, first and foremost, to end the massive U.S. presence on sacred Saudi soil that is home to Mecca and Medina.

Some may insist this was not his real motive. But, apparently, the Saudis believed him, for they quickly kicked us out of Prince Sultan Air Base.

As for the Taliban, they would surely make short work of Lady Gaga. But their stated grievance is the same as Gen. Washington’s in our war with the British: If you want this war to end, get out of our country.

By Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Looking at America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Maj. Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and Shahzad decided that what we call the war on terror was in reality a war on Islam.

All decided to use their access to exact retribution for our killing of their fellow Muslims.

We are being attacked over here because we are over there.

Nor is it a good sign that U.S. intelligence is reporting that rising numbers of U.S. Muslims are making Internet inquiries about how and where to get training to bring the war home to America.


Read more by Patrick J. Buchanan


Afghan prosecutor issues arrest warrant for US army officer over police killing

• Kabul prosecutor seeks ‘outlaw militia’ for killings
• Hamid Karzai’s brother denies link to accused group

Afghan soldiers patrol a Taliban stronghold in Kandahar. An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for a US special forces officer over the murder of a police chief by US-trained militia. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for an American special forces commander over allegations that a police chief was murdered by a US-trained militia.

Brigadier General Ghulam Ranjbar, the chief military prosecutor in Kabul, has accused the US of creating an outlaw militia which allegedly shot dead Matiullah Qateh, the chief of police in the city of Kandahar.

The militia, which Ranjbar claimed is armed and trained by US special forces, also allegedly killed Kandahar’s head of criminal investigations and two other officers, when they attempted to free one of their members from a courthouse.

“We lost one this country’s best law enforcement officers for the [attempted] release of a mercenary,” said Ranjbar, interviewed for a film to be shown on Channel 4 News tomorrow.

He accused American officials of refusing to hand over evidence or to permit his investigators to interview the special forces commander, known to Afghans only as “John or Johnny”, who he alleges sanctioned the raid.

The arrest warrant, which has been circulated to border posts and airports, is an embarrassment for the US military, which is facing growing criticism for links to militias controlled by warlords. In Kandahar, the militias have been accused of murder, rape and extortion.

Ranjbar said an investigation found that the force that killed Qateh operated from Camp Gecko, in the hills outside Kandahar, a base for both US special forces and the CIA.

Officials in Kandahar said the militia supplies guards and is trained to work alongside special forces and intelligence officials in raids against Taliban targets.

“If you go to Kandahar, people say these guys pretend to be interpreters but they carry out night raids and assassinations,” said Ranjbar. “We hear lots of strange and shocking stories.”

He claimed that suspects arrested for the courthouse raid had confessed to being part of a 300-strong militia unit run by “Johnny”. They said they “could not move a muscle and could not leave their base without Johnny’s orders” Ranjbar said. “He was the head of the group and they [the Americans] were the ones paying them.”

Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the US military, denied that any US or other coalition forces were involved in the attack, and said those involved “were not acting on behalf of US or international forces”.

But, according to the Afghan account, the militia known locally as the “Kandahar Strike Force”, or the “Kandahar Special Group”, arrived at the courthouse last June with US-supplied uniforms, vehicles and weapons. They demanded the release of a comrade held for a traffic offence. When police were called to the scene by terrified court officials, the militia opened fire, killing Qateh, and three other policemen.

“The police chief took two steps forward and that’s when they fired,” claimed a witness, who showed Channel 4 the crime scene, pockmarked with bullet holes. “Within a couple of seconds the chief was sprayed with bullets. Then the head of CID came over. He pulled out his pistol and prepared to fire, but he was shot from behind.”

The involvement of the Camp Gecko militia is politically sensitive because of its alleged close ties to Ahmed WaliKarzai, brother of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Militia members claim to have been recruited by associates of Ahmed Wali, who press reports have claimed is on the CIA payroll.

Interviewed by telephone, Ahmed Wali called for an amnesty for the 41 men convicted of Qateh’s murder, but denied he had any militia connections.

Local militias have also been linked to a raid on 10 November last year when US and Afghan troops allegedly burst into the home of Janan Abdullah, 23, riddled him with bullets, and left his wife paralysed and the rest of his family traumatised.

“Nothing was left undamaged, they shot at everything,” said one of Janan’s uncles. “He was just lying in bed. I’d say they fired 200 bullets at him.”

The family claimed it was Afghans who did the shooting and stole thousands of pounds in cash. “We were surprised,” said the uncle. “It was our own people – Pashtuns – doing this to us.”

A US military spokesman said they had “no record” of the raid. However, the family were given medical treatment at Camp Gecko, leading to suspicions that it was the same Afghan militia that allegedly killed the police chief.


Iraq Soldiers joked about killing women and

Iraq: Soldiers ‘joked about killing women and children’

Gavin Dahl

Raw Story, May 13, 2010An Iraq War veteran who served with the company shown in the “Collateral Murder” videoreleased by whistleblower web site Wikileaks says the military trained him to dehumanize Iraqis.In a videotaped interviewreleased Wednesday, Josh Stieber told The Real News Network things that troops did on a regular basis in basic training, including chanting during marches, were the start of his loss of faith in the US military.Josh Stieber enlisted in the army after graduating high school. He was deployed to Baghdad from February 2007 to April 2008 with the military company shown on the ground in the Collateral Murder video. He was granted conscientious objector status upon his return home from Baghdad.In an interview with Real News Network senior editor Paul Jay, Steiber said he was alarmed in basic training when the chants “even joked about killing women and children.”STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”JAY: That’s as you’re marching.STIEBER: Right.JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.The common mindset was that Iraqis were always referred to as “Hajis” in a pattern he said dehumanized people, making it more difficult for soldiers to empathize with civilians.”So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you,” he said.”You know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.”US military personnel apparently mistook the cameras slung over the backs of two Reuters journalists for weapons when they opened fire on them and a group of people in a Baghdad suburb in 2007, according to video footage released in April by whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.As RAWSTORY reportedat the time, the video showed the deaths of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22 and Saeed Chmagh, 40, along with six other people on a street corner. It also shows US forces firing on a minivan in which two injured children were found.Training that makes killing civilians acceptable Josh Stieber: In boot camp we trained with songs that joked about killing women and children TranscriptJosh Steiber Interview (Part 1 of 4)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. A few weeks ago, some video of a shooting that took place in 2007 in Iraq—Apache helicopter shooting a group of men on the ground. And here’s some of that footage. I’m sure most people have seen it already.VIDEO, WIKILEAKS TRANSCRIPT: 01:09 Yeah roger. I just estimate there’s probably about twenty of them.01:13 There’s one, yeah.01:15 Oh yeah.01:18 I don’t know if that’s a…01:19 Hey Bushmaster element [ground forces control], copy on the one-six.01:21 That’s a weapon.01:22 Yeah.01:23 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight [second Apache helicopter].01:41 Yup. He’s got a weapon too.01:43 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight. Have five to six individuals with AK47s [automatic rifles]. Request permission to engage [shoot].02:43 You’re clear.02:44 All right, firing.02:47 Let me know when you’ve got them.02:49 Lets shoot.02:50 Light ’em all up.02:52 Come on, fire!02:57 Keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n.02:59 keep shoot’n.03:02 keep shoot’n.03:05 Hotel Bushmaster Two-Six, Bushmaster Two-Six, we need to move, time now!

JAY: Now joining us to explain what we’re seeing and why this took place is Josh Stieber. He joined the armed forces in 2006, was in Iraq in 2007, and after 14 months applied for conscientious objector status, which he finally got. And here he is. Thanks for joining us, Josh.

JOSH STIEBER: Sure. Thanks for having me.

JAY: So you grew up in Maryland.

STIEBER: Right. Not too far from here.

JAY: And so before we get into your story, just tell us—let’s go back and look at some of the footage. And first of all, as—we’re going to start playing the footage now. So, as we’re seeing it, tell us, first of all, how atypical is this? Or is this happening all the time, this kind of instance?

STIEBER: Incidents similar to this, I would say, are not altogether infrequent. I’m not as familiar with incidents with helicopters, because I was in an infantry unit, but that common mindset to shoot first and ask questions later is one that stems back as far as the very first days of training, and, yeah, that mindset and the things built on top of that throughout training have these results in combat.

JAY: Now, you’re in the company that was on the ground that day. You weren’t there yourself that day. But when the guys came home that day, was there something remarkable for them that they talked about it? Or was it kind of just another day out in Baghdad?

STIEBER: It was treated with a little more, you know, maybe, emotion than usual that—yeah, they came back and were talking about what had happened and that there was—what they said was an attack against them, and just, I guess, the number of people that were killed was maybe a little larger than usual. So a little bit more, but, you know, not something extremely irregular.

JAY: Was there any sense that the guys in the Apache helicopters had done anything wrong? Or this was par for the course?

STIEBER: The people in the video, you know, as you can see, weren’t actually on the scene as they saw what happened from the helicopter. So you just kind of trust what you’re told. If someone tells you, you know, this is what I saw and this is what I did, then you kind of take them at face value, ’cause there’s really no way to prove or to examine otherwise. So perspective from the helicopter, without this video or without other eyewitnesses, really couldn’t be verified.

JAY: Now, it’s hard to tell from the video whether there were actually weapons in the guys’ hands or not. Apparently they found some later. I mean, when you watch the video, can you see weapons in the hands of some of the guys on the—people on the ground?

STIEBER: I can see things that look like weapons enough that, based on the training that I went through, I know I would have been commanded to fire if I was in a position where I observed that. And then, also, in the 40 minute Wikileaks version of the video, the full video, the soldiers actually—you can hear them coming on the radio, saying they found weapons on the scene.

JAY: So let’s go back to you. I don’t know whether this incident or incidents like this helped to form who you were or who you became, but start from the beginning. Why did you join? And you told me off-camera you joined knowing—hoping to be sent to Iraq. Why?

STIEBER: I grew up very religiously and very patriotic, in a selective sense that, you know, I only wanted to hear things that I wanted to hear and only things that I thought would make my country look better and make my beliefs look better, and I wasn’t very interested in understanding other perspectives. And the vision I had of my country was that, you know, we were going all throughout the world doing, you know, all this great stuff and helping people in need. And, you know, after 9/11 I was obviously affected by that and wanted to protect the people that I cared about, and, from everyone I trusted, was told that the military would be a good way to do that, and then was also told, you know, there’s this country Iraq that’s getting oppressed by this horrible dictator who’s also a threat to us, and if we can get rid of him, not only will we be keeping ourselves safe, but we’ll also be helping this other country in the process.

JAY: How interwoven were your beliefs in America and what America stands for and your religious beliefs?

STIEBER: They were pretty closely intertwined. I went to a religious high school. And one example is, in a government class that I was in at this religious high school, we read a book called The Faith of George W. Bush. And people like that were held up as, you know, these—these are people that are fighting for God’s will here on Earth. So religion was very interwoven with a sense of nationalism.

JAY: But by 2006, when you join, it’s already really clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Bush and Cheney had essentially lied to start a war. Like, that was—by 2006 that’s fairly acknowledged. Had that penetrated in to you, to your school?

STIEBER: There, and just the—kind of the people I was listening to. And, again, I wasn’t making any kind of effort to really challenge my thinking. People were saying, you know, whoever it is, the media or other countries are out to make us look bad, and, you know, we did the right thing, and we’re doing the right thing. And I might have had a few doubts in my mind, but even I comforted the doubts by saying, you know, even if the reasons that we’re there weren’t completely justified, we’re there and we’re still in this position, since we’re there, that we can’t just pull out, and we need to help these people.

JAY: So even if there were no weapons and even if the argument for weapons wasn’t legitimate, it’s still good versus evil, and they’re evil and we’re good, and we’ve got to fight it?

STIEBER: Yeah. I bought into that lingo a lot.

JAY: So you go to Iraq. You join, you go through boot camp, and you’re sent to Iraq, and you’re still more or less the same mindset. Tell us a little bit about boot camp and the kind of training that takes place to prepare you for war. I mean, your religious training is supposed to be about love thy neighbor, and then you’re sent to war. So how do they get you ready for that?

STIEBER: Yeah, I guess that’s where I started to see, maybe, some of these contradictions, just by the kinds of things that we did on a regular basis in basic training, whether it was the cadences that we sang as we were marching around, some that even joked about killing women and children.

JAY: Like what?

STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”

JAY: That’s as you’re marching.


JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.

STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.

JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.

STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.

JAY: They would write back and defend a chant like that, that it’s okay to go down where the kids are playing and start to spray? They would defend that?

STIEBER: They would either defend it or say that ends justify the means or say, you know, maybe you personally don’t say chants like that and just march silently, but you still go along with the whole system. And so I adopted that mindset that even if there were particular things that troubled me, which there definitely were, then you can calm that discomfort by saying, well, you know, even if I’m uncomfortable with these certain practices, in the long run we’re still getting rid of the bad guys, and we’re still keeping our country safe, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world, so you shouldn’t focus on the smaller things.

JAY: So at this point, to what extent do you start to question your faith? ‘Cause it’s all about faith, and faith is about not questioning. So once you start to question, it leads you to places you haven’t been before. So does that—and does it begin in boot camp?

STIEBER: Yeah, I would say that it definitely did. And kind of the more I saw the things that seemed like they were in contradiction, I would kind of have less and less faith in my faith and just start doing things less—that—I guess that idealism or that religious motivation started to fall away, and it became more about doing things to either fit in with the crowd or to take on this nationalism that, yeah, we’re still a good country, you know, even if I don’t like these particular things, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

JAY: Now, I’ve been told by—I have never been in the military, but I’ve been told to get people ready to kill it’s quite an intense psychological process. Humans actually, apparently, don’t like killing each other. How did that—what was that for you, and what was the impact on you?

STIEBER: I would say it’s very calculated. It starts with bayonet training, even though bayonets haven’t been used in any war since, I believe, the Korean War. But, you know, they first start out by getting you used to stabbing a dummy with a bayonet, yelling “kill, kill, kill” as you do it. And if you can get comfortable with that, then it’s slightly more comfortable to shoot at a target from further away. And just the nature of the training, as the military’s gone on, as I’ve gone back and studied it, that has changed. Before, targets just used to be circles, and now the targets look like actual people. They just get you just to thinking in those dehumanizing terms that this is a target, and people that look like this are targets, rather than this is what a human looks like.

JAY: And to what extent was the actual politics of Iraq talked about, or what to make of Iraqis, what to think about Arabs? To be able to go and kill people, do they have to dehumanize all the people you’re about to meet?

STIEBER: The common mindset that I would say was coming towards Iraqis were, one, just kind of, you know, how they were referred to. They were always referred to “Hajis”, you know, similar to “Gooks” in Vietnam or other phrases and other words. So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you, or, you know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about you as you get to Iraq and how that helps to shape you. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Josh Stieber on The Real News Network.



Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy

Gen. McChrystal Questioned About Secret Assassination Teams Jeremy Scahill

May 13, 2010Midway through Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s press conference at the Pentagon Thursday, the man referred to as “The Pope”was asked–in a rather innocuous way–about the role US special forces assassination teams are playing in Afghanistan ahead of the planned summer Kandahar offensive. A reporter raised the issue of “the role of your Special Mission Units in targeting Taliban hard-core insurgents:  Are they being used in Kandahar City to go after some of these assassination teams?”SMUs are direct action teams composed of all-star special forces teams, the elite of the elite drawn from the Navy SEALs, Delta Force and other “Tier One” special forces, working with the Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9-11, these teams have been the premiere force in capturing or killing “high-value targets” around the world.Before becoming commander of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal served as the head of JSOC, from 2003-2008. During his tenure, JSOC’s operations, once largely focused on discreetly assisting “friendly” foreign military forces or US-backed proxy forces, were greatly expanded. While JSOC has historically worked sensitive counter-terrorism operations, since 9-11, JSOC has run a parallel rendition program, secret prisons and drones. JSOC forces have operated in Pakistan and other “denied areas.” Its forces maintain classified “hit lists”and are at the center of US assassination operations. SMUs are used for the most sensitive of these operations.McChrystal would never wax on about SMUs at a press conference, but the mere mention of them in his presence is fascinating nonetheless. “All of our special operating forces are doing a lot of things right now,” McChrystal answered.  “What we’re trying to do is maintain pressure on the insurgency, on their networks and on their leaderships, while we do what is typically thought of as more traditional counterinsurgency.”McChrystal added: “It’s interesting. Some people think that it’s either/or, that in counterinsurgency you’re either handing out volleyballs or you’re doing conventional war with tanks. And that’s actually not the case. Counterinsurgency is a wide effort that’s as much civilian as it is military. In some cases, it’s targeted operations against enemy leaderships. In other cases, it’s protecting Afghan civilians in the street. And so we do have an ongoing effective effort.”In other words, “Yeah, we’re bumping people off in Kandahr.””How successful has that ongoing effort been?” McChrystal was asked.”I’m satisfied with it so far,” he responded.Jeremy Scahill

:: Article nr. 65958 sent on 14-may-2010 01:22 ECT


:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid

in Afghanistan that killed five

(including two pregnant women)

Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid in Afghanistan that killed five (including two pregnant women) Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Bibi Shirin and her daughter Tamana. The woman’s face has been blurred at the request of her familesMarch 12, 2010A night raid carried out by US and Afghan gunmen led to the deaths of two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials in an atrocity which Nato then tried to cover up, survivors have told The Times.The operation on Friday, February 12, was a botched pre-dawn assault on a policeman’s home a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, eastern Afghanistan. In a statement after the raid titled “Joint force operating in Gardez makes gruesome discovery”, Nato claimed that the force had found the women’s bodies “tied up, gagged and killed” in a room.A Times investigation suggests that Nato’s claims are either wilfully false or, at best, misleading. More than a dozen survivors, officials, police chiefs and a religious leader interviewed at and around the scene of the attack maintain that the perpetrators were US and Afghan gunmen. The identity and status of the soldiers is unknown.The raid came more than a fortnight after the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan issued new guidelines designed to limit the use of night raids. Special forces and Western intelligence agencies that run covert operations in Afghanistan have been criticised for night raids based on dubious or false intelligence leading to civilian casualties.The first person to die in the assault was Commander Dawood, 43, a long-serving, popular and highly-trained policeman who had recently been promoted to head of intelligence in one of Paktia’s most volatile districts. His brother, Saranwal Zahir, was a prosecutor in Ahmadabad district. He was killed while he stood in a doorway trying to protest their innocence.Three women crouching in a hallway behind him were hit by the same volley of fire. Bibi Shirin, 22, had four children under the age of 5. Bibi Saleha, 37, had 11 children. Both of them, according to their relatives, were pregnant. They were killed instantly.The men’s mother, Bibi Sabsparie, said that Shirin was four months pregnant and Saleha was five months. The other victim, Gulalai, 18, was engaged. She was wounded and later died. “We had already bought everything for the wedding,” her soon-to-be father-in-law, Sayed Mohammed Mal, the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University, said.On the night of the attack about 25 male friends and relatives had gathered at Commander Dawood’s compound in Khataba, a small village, to celebrate the naming of a newborn boy. Sitting together along the walls of a guest room, the men had taken turns dancing while musicians played. Mohammed Sediq Mahmoudi, 24, the singer, said that at some time after 3am one of the musicians, Dur Mohammed, went outside to go to the toilet. “Someone shone a light on his face and he ran back inside and said the Taleban were outside,” Mr Sediq said.Lieutenant-Colonel Zamarud Zazai, the Gardez head of police intelligence, said: “Both sides thought the other group was Taleban.” Commander Dawood ran towards the family quarters with his son Sediqullah, 15. Halfway across the courtyard they were shot by a gunman on the roof. Commander Dawood was killed. Sediqullah, his uncles said, was hit twice but survived.The shooting stopped and the soldiers shouted in Pashto for everyone to come outside. Waheedullah, an ambulance driver, said that their accents sounded Kandahari.Nato said that the troops were part of a joint “Afghan-international” force but, despite new rules requiring them to leave leaflets identifying their unit, the family said they left nothing. US troops denied any involvement.In the hallway on the other side of the compound, women poured in to tend to the casualties. Commander Dawood’s mother said: “Zahir shouted, ‘don’t fire, we work for the Government’. But while he was talking they fired again. I saw him fall down. I turned around and saw my daughter-in-law and the other women were dead.”Mohammed Sabir, 26, the youngest brother of Commander Dawood and Zahir, was one of eight men arrested and flown to a base in neighbouring Paktika province. They were held for four days and interrogated by an American in civilian clothes who showed them pictures of their suspect. “I said, ‘Yes, it’s Shamsuddin. He was at the party. Why didn’t you arrest him?’ ” Sabir said. After they were released without charge Shamsuddin — who had spent five months fixing generators at the local American base — turned himself in for questioning. He, too, was released without charge.Nato’s original statement said: “Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a firefight and were killed.” The family maintain that no one threw so much as a stone. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Nato’s director of communications in Kabul, denied that there had been any attempt at a cover-up.He said that both the men who were killed were armed and showing “hostile intent” but admitted “they were not the targets of this particular raid”.”I don’t know if they fired any rounds,” he said. “If you have got an individual stepping out of a compound, and if your assault force is there, that is often the trigger to neutralise the individual. You don’t have to be fired upon to fire back.”He admitted that the original statement had been “poorly worded” but said “to people who see a lot of dead bodies” the women had appeared at the time to have been dead for several hours.The family were offered, through local elders, American compensation — $2,000 (£1,300) for each of the victims.”There’s no value on human life,” Bibi Sabsparie said. “They killed our family, then they came and brought us money. Money won’t bring our family back.”

:: Article nr. 64126 sent on 13-mar-2010 12:50 ECT


:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


Special Report:

How the White House learned to love the drone

Adam Entous

WASHINGTON Tue May 18, 2010 5:03pm EDT Tue, May 4 2010

A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing is refueled during operations on the flight line of an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia, January 10, 2010.  Credit: REUTERS/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol-US Air Force/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – By all appearances, the Obama administration wanted him alive, not dead. It posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the “location, arrest, and/or conviction” of Baitullah Mehsud, the fierce leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a March 25, 2009 notice.

But delivering Mehsud alive for prosecution was never a serious option for the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military Special Operations teams that track such “high-value” targets. He was killed less than five months later in a CIA-directed drone strike.

In the rugged mountains of western Pakistan, missiles launched by unmanned Predator or Reaper drones have become so commonplace that some U.S. officials liken them to modern-day “cannon fire.” And they are no longer aimed solely at “high-value” targets like Mehsud, according to U.S. counterterrorism and defense officials.

Under a secret directive first issued by former President George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama, the CIA has broadly expanded the “target set” for drone strikes. As a result, what is still officially classified as a covert campaign on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan has in many ways morphed into a parallel conventional war, several experts say.

Killing wanted militants is simply “easier” than capturing them, said an official, who like most interviewed for this story support the stepped-up program and asked not to be identified. Another official added: “It is increasingly the preferred option.”

An analysis of data provided to Reuters by U.S. government sources shows that the CIA has killed around 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the drone strikes intensified in the summer of 2008.

Reuters has also learned that Pakistan, though officially opposed to the strikes, is providing more behind-the-scenes assistance than in the past.

Beyond the human intelligence that the CIA relies on to identify targets, Pakistani agents are sometimes present at U.S. bases, and are increasingly involved in target selection and strike coordination, current and former U.S. officials said.

Back in Washington, the technology is considered such a success that the U.S. military has been positioning Reaper drones at a base in the Horn of Africa.

The aircraft can be used against militants in Yemen and Somalia, and even potentially against pirates who attack commercial ships traversing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, officials said.

“Everyone has fallen in love with them,” a former U.S. intelligence official said of the drone strikes.


By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad in the wake of Bush-era allegations of torture and secret detentions.

Besides putting an end to harsh interrogation methods, the president issued executive orders to ban secret CIA detention centers and close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: “There is nowhere to put them.”

A former U.S. intelligence official, who was involved in the process until recently, said: “I got the sense: ‘What the hell do we do with this guy if we get him?’ It’s not the primary consideration but it has to be a consideration.”

There are other reasons behind the expansion of the drone program, including improvements in drone technology.

“Many of the highest priority terrorists are in some of the remotest, most inaccessible, parts of our planet,” one U.S. official said of why targeted killing has gained favor. “Since they’re actively plotting against us and our allies, you’ve got two choices — kill or capture. When these people are where they are, and are doing what they’re doing, it’s just not a tough decision.”

The Obama White House chaffs at suggestions its policies could make it harder to capture wanted militants.

“Any comment along the lines of ‘there is nowhere to put captured militants’ would be flat wrong. Over the past 16 months, the U.S. has worked closely with its counterterrorism partners in South Asia and around the world to capture, detain, and interrogate hundreds of militants and terrorists,” a senior U.S. official said.

As the CIA program in Pakistan expands, the Pentagon’s own targeted killing programs, run by secretive Special Ops and intelligence units, have also been ramped up under Obama.

“There is little to no pushback” from the White House, according to one defense official who supports the policy. He said that when it came to adding wanted militants to top secret target lists, the Pentagon was getting “all the support it could want,” though some insiders think the military isn’t updating the lists fast enough.

For their part, U.S. officials say the targeted killing programs have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda and the Taliban, probably saving American lives in the process.

But as one former intelligence official, quoting Newton’s law of motion that every action has a reaction, said: there’s no way to know the consequences “upfront.”

There are signs that the drone strikes may have become a rallying cry for many militants and their supporters, including Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted car-bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1. U.S. investigators believe Shahzad received assistance from the Pakistani Taliban, which had vowed to avenge the killing of Mehsud.

Likewise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said its plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day was payback for what it called U.S. attacks on the group in Yemen.


In a June 2007 debate with his Democratic rivals, then-candidate Obama spelled out why he believed it would be legal to use a Hellfire missile to take out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan even if some innocent civilians would be killed in the process.

“I don’t believe in assassinations, but Osama bin Laden has declared war on us, killed 3,000 people, and under existing law, including international law, when you’ve got a military target like bin Laden, you take him out. And if you have 20 minutes, you do it swiftly and surely,” Obama said.

Obama’s saber-rattling about using force in Pakistan was a way to “demonstrate his national security bona fides” in the middle of a tough campaign, said Richard Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who served as foreign policy adviser to Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 election.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, said the Obama administration ran with the drone program because, when it came to office, “it found itself with a real al Qaeda threat and one tool to work with.”

“I don’t think he (Obama) had really any alternatives. He seized the tool that was in front of him,” said Riedel, who chaired Obama’s strategic review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy that was completed in March 2009.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the strategy was “politically foolproof” because the mainstream candidates on both sides of the political spectrum “campaigned on who can kill more of these guys.”

Under Obama, the program has grown to such an extent that, according to a Reuters tally, the nearly 60 missiles fired from the CIA’s drones in Pakistan in the first four months of this year roughly matched the number fired by all of the drones piloted by the U.S. military in neighboring Afghanistan — the recognized war zone — during the same time period.

In Pakistan, the pace has jumped to two or three strikes a week, up roughly fourfold from the Bush years.

Of the 500 militants the agency believes the drones have killed since the summer of 2008, about 14 are widely considered to be top tier militant targets, while another 25 are considered mid-to-high-level organizers.

Independent tallies based on news accounts from the region put the deathtoll from drones since mid-2008 much higher — at anywhere from nearly 700 to around 1,200.

In addition to authorizing the CIA to strike fighters and leaders linked to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, Obama’s National Security Council recently took the program in a new direction by adding an American citizen to the CIA’s hit list — Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki of Yemen’s al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Obama administration says it has safeguards in place for identifying what it calls “lawful targets.” A U.S. counterterrorism official said: “Targets are chosen with extreme care… There’s no such thing as a random strike.”

But some human rights groups question how robust those safeguards could be if the CIA is killing hundreds of militants whose identities are largely unknown. They also worry about civilians.

A Pakistani intelligence official dealing with South Waziristan said the vast majority of the deaths were just foot soldiers. “They hit whoever they get,” another intelligence official in North Waziristan said.

A former U.S. intelligence official said it was unclear what protocols the CIA was following for targeting foot-soldiers: “If it becomes a more generalized ‘kill anybody’ (approach), it degrades the notion we’re going after serious threats to the United States. It’s a slippery slope.”

According to U.S. intelligence estimates, no more than 30 non-combatants were killed alongside the 500 militants — the equivalent of a little more than 5 percent, or about one out of every 20. These mainly included family members who live and travel with the CIA’s targets.

The CIA won’t disclose how it verifies who’s who among the casualties, but former officials say drones will linger overhead, in some cases for hours after each strike so the CIA can literally count the bodies.

To determine who is a civilian, the CIA looks at a number of indicators, including gender. As a general rule, a woman is counted as a non-combatant, former officials said.

The Pakistani intelligence officer in North Waziristan said 20 percent of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants, or one in five.

But others put the figure much higher. “The ratio is getting better but based on my military experience, there’s simply no way” so few civilians have been killed, Jeffrey Addicott, who served as the senior legal adviser to the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, said of the U.S. tally.

“For one bad guy you kill, you’d expect 1.5 civilian deaths” because no matter how good the technology, “killing from that high above, there’s always the ‘oops’ factor,” he said.


To justify its extensive use of drones in targeted killings, Obama administration lawyers poured over reams of legal opinions and findings. They pointed to precedents as far back as World War Two, when a squadron of U.S. fighter planes tracked and shot down the airplane carrying the architect of Japan‘s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

“In a different time and place, that action might have been seen as unchivalrous or unsportsmanlike,” Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, said of the 1943 targeted killing.

Like technology, battlefield norms “change by year, change by culture,” Crane said. “But taking out enemy leaders is an important part of warfare and has been going on for millennia.”

In a recent speech outlining the Obama administration’s position publicly, Harold Hongju Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, said: “The United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law.”

Scholars say Obama’s targeted killing doctrine appears to be little different from Bush’s: Once someone has been deemed a lawful target, the CIA has no obligation to warn or seek to detain that person before attacking, said Kenneth Anderson, professor of law at American University.

Other human rights lawyers argue that even in an armed conflict zone, individuals may be targeted only if they take a direct part in fighting. Outside armed conflict zones, they say, international law permits lethal force to be used only as a last resort, and only to prevent imminent attacks.

The United States officially bans “assassination” under Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, but Koh said “the use of lawful weapons systems … for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.'”

Mary Ellen O’Connell of the University of Notre Dame Law School said: “We just don’t have the right to bomb people where there’s no armed conflict,” drawing a contrast between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are waging a nearly nine-year-old war.

Even if militants use Pakistan as a staging ground for Afghan attacks, O’Connell said the sovereign boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan must be respected.

“The United States is not fighting in self-defense against Pakistan. We do not hold Pakistan responsible for cross-border incursions into Afghanistan and may not, lawfully, use military force in Pakistan in response to those incursions,” she said.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Forces, disagrees: “The battlefield in the ‘war on terror’ is global and not restricted to a particular nation. As in World War Two, there are no national limitations or boundaries. This is war and we are entitled to kill them anywhere we find them.”

“We can kill them when they’re eating, we can kill them when they’re sleeping. They are enemy combatants, and as long as they’re not surrendering, we can kill them.”


Killing senior militants has its drawbacks. Chief among them is the loss of intelligence that could be gleaned by capturing and questioning them.

In secret documents from 2007 that were recently made public, then-CIA director Michael Hayden highlighted the value of capturing al Qaeda leaders. In an agency document, Hayden details how al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah became “one of our most important sources of intelligence on al Qaeda” after his March 2002 capture.

Among other things, he helped U.S. authorities identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, whose interrogation, in turn, led U.S. authorities to other high-value targets plotting attacks on U.S. soil.

“It is a balance, a difficult balance,” a U.S. military official said. “There’s no doubt about it, (targeted killing) impacts your ability to gather first person intelligence. But it has other beneficial effects like removing (leadership) capabilities.”

Riedel, the former CIA analyst now with the Brookings Institution, said drone strikes were effective at killing but “the real homerun is taking a senior leader prisoner who, in the course of debriefing, leads you to other senior people and opens the door to a greater insight into the enemy you’re facing.”

“It’s a Catch-22. What do you do with these guys? It’s a real policy dilemma which the Obama administration has yet to address,” a senior U.S. government official said.

In addition to the closing of Guantanamo, Obama has committed to transferring responsibility for detention facilities to the Afghan government.

Another senior U.S. government official cited the arrest in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as an example of the constraints on the CIA now that its secret “black site” prisons have been closed.

Though Baradar was nabbed in a joint operation with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, giving the CIA custody was never an option. Baradar has started talking but the U.S. government official said the information flow would be greater were he held in CIA custody.

U.S. military officials also cite an attack in September 2009 by helicopter-borne Special Operations Forces on a car in which one of east Africa’s most wanted al Qaeda militants, Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, was a passenger.

“We may have been able to capture the guy but the decision was made to kill him,” a U.S. defense official said of the Somali operation. A factor in the decision, the official said, was uncertainty about “what would we do with him” if he was captured alive.

In many instances, operations never get off the ground because of the risks.

A former U.S. intelligence official said there were discussions late in the Bush administration about the possibility of using armed drones to help Mexican fight narco-traffickers. But the idea of “shooting missiles on the outskirts of Mexico City” ran into opposition, he said.

The Pentagon also considered taking military action in Somalia as intelligence poured in early last year about pirates establishing large camps from which they could launch attacks on commercial ships, counterterrorism and defense officials told Reuters.

The Navy had gone so far as to draw up plans for “lethal strikes” on the camps but the idea was nixed in part because of concerns about civilian casualties and what the U.S. military would do with those who are injured or captured given the country’s lawless state. Some of the beachfront camps were set up in densely populated areas.

“The rhetorical question was: Should we go after the base camps,” one official said. “We didn’t go to their camps because of concerns about civilian casualties and about there not being a government there to turn them over to or to deal with the aftermath.”

NATO’s top commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, told Reuters there were “active discussions” now about “taking actions ashore,” from promoting development to discourage pirating to “burning skiffs, taking out camps.” He said drones were “part of our operational footprint wherever we go.”


An American diplomat tells a story about a meeting he had with Pakistani parliamentarians that offers a window into the tough position that nation is in when it comes to the drone attacks.

The message from each lawmaker seemed straightforward: CIA drone strikes against militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan cause terrible damage and must stop.

Then, in the middle of the session, according to an account provided to Reuters, one of the parliamentarians slipped the American guest, who specializes in the region, a handwritten note: “The people in the tribal areas support the drones. They cause very little collateral damage. But we cannot say so publicly for reasons you understand.”

U.S. officials say they go along with this “game” understanding that public acknowledgment of any Pakistani role in the U.S. targeted killings could have major implications for the government in Islamabad, already struggling in the face of militant accusations it is an American puppet.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the CIA was conducting the drone strikes instead of the U.S. military because the covert nature of the program gives Islamabad the “fig leaf of deniability.”

“They can’t stand up to their own people and say they’re in league with the U.S.,” the official said.

Anecdotal evidence cited by U.S. officials suggests that opposition to the drone strikes is stronger in major population centers, where the Taliban have less of a presence, than in the tribal areas, where the Taliban hold sway and the missiles rain down.

Significantly, U.S. and Pakistani officials say, there have been no major public protests against them, not even among the tribes being targeted.

Most of these attacks have targeted militant hideouts in remote mountainous areas, where there are few if any civilians. A tribal elder from North Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters: “People have chosen silence. They want to get rid of the Taliban and if the (Pakistani) army cannot do it now, then it (drone attacks) is fine with them.”

“As long as things are moving forward, people’s minds are changing. There is no anger against the strikes as long as civilians are safe. There have been civilian deaths but not in big numbers,” the elder told Reuters.

Another tribesman, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said: “We prefer drone strikes than army operations because in such operations, we also suffer. But drones hit militants and it is good for us.”

Brigadier Asad Munir, a retired ISI officer, said the drone attacks have become “routine” in the tribal areas. “If they find 10 targets a day, they will do it. It will not spark any fresh anger,” Munir said. “People have gotten used to it.”


The truth is the CIA would not be able to find the militants in many cases without the help of Pakistan’s spies and informants, officials say.

“You need guys on the ground to tell you who they (the targets) are and that isn’t coming from some white guy running around the FATA. That’s coming from the Pakistanis,” a U.S. official said, referring to the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border.

A Pakistan security expert, Ikram Sehgal, agreed. He said the intelligence underpinning the drone strikes has improved precisely because of increased Pakistani cooperation.

“The drone attacks after May last year have been very targeted and they have done a lot of good in terms of taking out the bad guys. And I think that has been possible because of the fact of Pakistan Army officers being in American camps in Afghanistan giving that actionable intelligence which is required,” he said.

As the raw intelligence from the drones pours in, Pakistani intelligence liaisons work directly with CIA and military teams in Pakistan and Afghanistan to avoid miscommunication with agents and informants in the field. “We have Pakistanis around to help with coordination,” a U.S. military official said.

But tension remains beneath the surface. While their leaders cooperate, many in the Pakistani military deeply resent the drone strikes, complicating efforts to bring Pakistan wholeheartedly on board in the battle against Islamist militants.

“This is a proud military and many hate the drone program because it is a constant reminder that they’re not in control,” a former U.S. intelligence official said.


U.S. intelligence officials proudly tout the drone campaign as the most precise and possibly humane targeted killing program in the “history of warfare.”

The target selection process is a secret but, according to the former intelligence official, individuals who are nominated to be “high-value targets” must be vetted by CIA lawyers to determine if they pose “a continuing and imminent threat.”

The agency often uses specially designed missiles that have a small blast field with minimal shrapnel to limit “collateral damage”, as unwanted casualties are known in military circles. Targets are often killed by the concussion created by the explosion.

Recent advances in drone technology also help to reduce civilian casualties. A U.S. official said: “Weapons can be steered away at the last moment if there’s any possibility whatsoever that a non-combatant may be at risk. That speaks to the extreme precision of this system.”

An official who has watched several drone strikes recalled the precision with which a CIA operator focused one of the drone’s cameras on its target, identifying the wanted man by his missing left arm. A lawyer is always present, he said.

A senior U.S. government official said the strikes themselves may be more precise than ever, but target selection was only as good as the underlying intelligence.

While improved, U.S. officials acknowledge their limited ability to get first-hand intelligence. They rely heavily on satellite and drone imagery, and cell phone intercepts.

Even the Pakistanis have had difficulties in the past ensuring a reliable supply of intelligence in a region where people are often executed as spies.

One intelligence official estimated that as many as 70 Pakistani agents had been killed in the tribal areas and, at one point, areas around Miranshah in North Waziristan, the main Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the area, had become a black hole in terms of intelligence collection.

For some, however, it’s not the technology or intelligence as much as the strategy that is flawed.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Operations Forces, asks: “Are we creating more enemies than we’re killing or capturing by our activities? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. These families have 10 sons each. You kill one son and you create 9 more enemies. You’re not winning over the population.”

“Drones don’t impress them,” Addicott added. “In the mind of the radicals we’re cowards, we won’t fight face-to-face. This is what they teach in the madrassas.”

He is referring to the pro-Taliban religious schools which help produce many of the movement’s anti-American foot-soldiers.

According to Sehgal, who is chairman of Pathfinder G4S, Pakistan’s largest private security firm, these madrassas turn out between 7,000 and 15,000 “hard-core” students each year, eclipsing the number being killed by CIA drones and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Within the intelligence community, the verdict is still out on whether the CIA’s targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud degraded the Pakistani Taliban’s capabilities — one of the main objectives in any targeted killing.

Since his death last August, there have been fewer attacks against civilians in Pakistan — 1,019 between August 6, 2009 and April 30, 2010, compared to 1,875 attacks between October 1, 2008 and August 5, 2009, according to a review of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s database.

But a U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the data said the change was likely the result of Pakistani military offensives against militants in the tribal areas, rather than Mehsud’s death, noting a downward trend in attacks prior to the August drone strike that killed him.

Baitullah’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, may be even more ruthless.

“Although the number of attacks is down compared to before his death, the lethality is higher resulting in more deaths than normal for that level of attacks. That might indicate the militants are trying to maximize causalities or have changed tactics,” the counterterrorism official said.

What is clear is that the issue of whether this military strategy is succeeding or not is not receiving very much attention in policy circles in Washington.

John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s top lawyer during the Bush administration, said he found it odd that while Bush-era interrogation methods like waterboarding came under sharp scrutiny, “all the while, of course, there were lethal operations going on, and think about it, there was never, as far as I could discern, ever, any debate, discussion, questioning … the United States targeting and killing terrorists.”

American University’s Anderson said that could change if human rights group seize on the issue. “It could be the whole interrogation and detention thing all over again,” he said.

Because of the sensitivities involved, the president himself has not brought up the drone controversy in public, with the exception of a joke at a black-tie dinner on May 1 attended by Washington journalists, politicians and celebrities.

Calling his two young daughters Sasha and Malia “huge fans” of the Jonas Brothers band, Obama cautioned the young pop stars: “Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you — Predator drones,” the president said to laughter.

“You will never see it coming.”

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Kamran Haider in Islamabad, Myra MacDonald in London and Phil Stewart and Caren Bohan in Washington; editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)


Pakistan’s drone dilemma

By Tayyab Siddiqui

Sunday, 18 Jul, 2010

<!– <! var myLink = document.location.href; document.write(”); // –> –> font-size small font-size largefont-sizeprint email // share //
The US must recognise that no matter what the volume of economic assistance given to Pakistan, it will never inspire any feelings of friendliness and partnership until the recurring drone attacks are stopped in accordance with the national milieu. — Photo by AFP

Strategic dialogue at the ministerial level between Islamabad and Washington, initiated during President Bush’s visit to Islamabad in 2006, has been revived with vigour. The last session was held in Washington in March and the next is due in July in Islamabad.

The dialogue is aimed at providing a wider and durable base and inter alia has focused on priority areas like the economy, energy, education, science and technology and agriculture.

The optimism associated with this process, however, has fallen short of the efforts. Official circles in Pakistan are wary of the assurances and commitments of the US administration. Several rounds of discussions in the two capitals over the last four years have failed to accomplish or craft the vision of a broad-based long-term and enduring partnership.

The reasons include not only time and resource constraints but also lack of mutual understanding and divergent interests. India is yet another factor that has frayed the mutual relationship. The US’s obvious tilt towards India in preference over Pakistan’s interest has denied strong public support, the bedrock for any sustainable and durable relationship.

Lack of meaningful action on the proposals and promises made for economic measures, such as establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and Free Trade Area Agreement (FTA), have frustrated Pakistan.

Similarly, bracketing Pakistan with Afghanistan has hurt the sensitivities of public opinion, entirely unhelpful for developing a strong foundation of a mutually supportive relationship. Long-lasting friendships can last only if the emotional and psychological make-up of the nation is reckoned with and policies designed in conformity with its ethos, culture and history.

The great sacrifices made by Pakistan and enormous suffering that the nation has endured over the last eight years of the war against terror have remained unappreciated and non-recompensed. To add insult to injury, the CIA based in Afghanistan has been conducting drone attacks in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and in total disregard of the government’s protests.

US media reports have, however, repeatedly alleged that the drone attacks have tacit understanding and approval of military authorities in Pakistan. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US indirectly confirmed this, in a press briefing on July 2: “Pakistan has never said that we do not like the elimination of terrorists through predator drones.” This duplicity primarily stems from the public reaction to Islamabad’s acquiescence to the drone attacks.

The drone attacks have been disproportionate to their objectives, causing avoidable loss of human life and resources. The drone strikes are counter to any move to bring the two partners together. They have remained a sad reminder of US’s lack of concern by a friend also claiming to be a strategic partner.

The US’s refusal to stop these attacks or to provide drone technology to Pakistan to meet its security interests and also to carry out attacks with moderation and where absolutely unavoidable, do not meet the spirit of President Obama’s assurance that “America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity, long after the guns have fallen silent.”

The US must recognise that no matter what the volume of economic assistance given to Pakistan, it will never inspire any feelings of friendliness and partnership until the recurring drone attacks are stopped in accordance with the national milieu.

Drone attacks are reprehensible not only in their violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty but also for the civilian deaths they cause and which are becoming increasingly frequent. So far, 144 drone strikes have been carried out in the tribal areas with 1,366 civilian casualties, according to the US National Counterterrorism Center.

These attacks are causing deep hatred of the US and their military value is also questionable. In May 2009, in a testimony to US Congress, US Advisor to Gen. David Kilmulllen, asked the Obama Administration to call off the drone attacks stating, “We have been able to kill only 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders since 2006 and in the same period, killed over 700 Pakistani civilians.” The unkindest cut of all was delivered by President Obama who dismissed Pakistan’s protests against drone attacks: “We cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.”

These attacks have proved counterproductive, both in military and emotional terms. A US think tank has assessed the impact stating, “Predator strikes have inflamed anti-American rage among Afghans and Pakistanis, including first and second generation immigrants in the West as well as elite members of the security services.”

Drone attacks are now broadening the area of concerns. Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council’s investigator, in a report to the UNGA has warned that “drone strikes employed to attack target executions may violate international law.

The onus is really on the government of the US to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions and extrajudicial executions are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons.”

The legal and juridical aspects of the drone strikes are not only becoming a subject of scrutiny and denunciation internationally, but domestically too the debate is extending to legal forums.

Tehrik-i-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan has moved the Supreme Court to declare the predator drone attacks a war crime and violation of sovereignty of Pakistan. The Lahore High Court, in another case, has asked the government to adopt measures to stop them.

Public resentment against these attacks, it is argued, is being exploited by rightist elements to maintain that the US does not wish to see any strong Muslim state and that the US and its strategic partner India are bent on destabilising Pakistan.

Whatever the impact of such feelings, there is no doubt that drone attacks have become a rallying cry for militants feeding the flow of volunteers as is evident from the terror strikes and suicide attacks in Pakistani cities.

Pakistan must raise the issue of drone attacks in the forthcoming round of the strategic dialogue and firmly state that Pakistan’s role in the war against terror would be in proportion to US compliance with Pakistan’s security interests. The drone issue will determine the future of relations with the US. The sooner the two sides comprehend, better for them.

The writer is a former ambassador.
If you want to follow news on your mobile, click on and download Pakistan’s first mobile news application. Currently this application is for Nokia phones only

Tags: US drones drone attacks Pakistan US relations North Waziristan South Waziristan


Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents August 14, 2010


This article is by Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth.

WASHINGTON — At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French and Mauritanian strike near the border between Mauritania and Mali. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.

Instead of “the hammer,” in the words of John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, America will rely on the “scalpel.” In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a “multigenerational” campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.

Yet such wars come with many risks: the potential for botched operations that fuel anti-American rage; a blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies that could put troops at risk of being denied Geneva Convention protections; a weakening of the Congressional oversight system put in place to prevent abuses by America’s secret operatives; and a reliance on authoritarian foreign leaders and surrogates with sometimes murky loyalties.

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

A Proving Ground

Yemen is a testing ground for the “scalpel” approach Mr. Brennan endorses. Administration officials warn of the growing strength of Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, citing as evidence its attempt on Dec. 25 to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner using a young Nigerian operative. Some American officials believe that militants in Yemen could now pose an even greater threat than Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.

The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

“Where we want to get is to much more small scale, preferably locally driven operations,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, who serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

“For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. “And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”

Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Still, it has astonished some old hands of the military and intelligence establishment. Jack Devine, a former top C.I.A. clandestine officer who helped run the covert war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said his record showed that he was “not exactly a cream puff” when it came to advocating secret operations.

But he warned that the safeguards introduced after Congressional investigations into clandestine wars of the past — from C.I.A. assassination attempts to the Iran-contra affair, in which money from secret arms dealings with Iran was funneled to right-wing rebels in Nicaragua known as the contras — were beginning to be weakened. “We got the covert action programs under well-defined rules after we had made mistakes and learned from them,” he said. “Now, we’re coming up with a new model, and I’m concerned there are not clear rules.”

Cooperation and Control

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

The accounts of the American strikes in Yemen, which include many details that have not previously been reported, are based on interviews with American and Yemeni officials who requested anonymity because the military campaign in Yemen is classified, as well as documents from Yemeni investigators.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

“Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you,” the Qaeda operative, standing amid angry Yemenis, declared. “There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!”

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

American officials cited strained resources for decisions about some of the Yemen strikes. With the C.I.A.’s armed drones tied up with the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the officials said, cruise missiles were all that was available at the time. Drones are favored by the White House for clandestine strikes because they can linger over targets for hours or days before unleashing Hellfire missiles, reducing the risk that women, children or other noncombatants will fall victim.

The Yemen operation has raised a broader question: who should be running the shadow war? White House officials are debating whether the C.I.A. should take over the Yemen campaign as a “covert action,” which would allow the United States to carry out operations even without the approval of Yemen’s government. By law, covert action programs require presidential authorization and formal notification to the Congressional intelligence committees. No such requirements apply to the military’s so-called Special Access Programs, like the Yemen strikes.

Obama administration officials defend their efforts in Yemen. The strikes have been “conducted very methodically,” and claims of innocent civilians being killed are “very much exaggerated,” said a senior counterterrorism official. He added that comparing the nascent Yemen campaign with American drone strikes in Pakistan was unfair, since the United States has had a decade to build an intelligence network in Pakistan that feeds the drone program.

In Yemen, officials said, there is a dearth of solid intelligence about Qaeda operations. “It will take time to develop and grow that capability,” the senior official said.

On Dec. 24, another cruise missile struck in a remote valley called Rafadh, about 400 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital and two hours from the nearest paved road. The Yemeni authorities said the strike killed dozens of Qaeda operatives, including the leader of the Qaeda branch in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his Saudi deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri. But officials later acknowledged that neither man was hit, and local witnesses say the missile killed five low-level Qaeda members.

The next known American strike, on March 14, was more successful, killing a Qaeda operative named Jamil al-Anbari and possibly another militant. Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch acknowledged Mr. Anbari’s death. On June 19, the group retaliated with a lethal attack on a government security compound in Aden that left 11 people dead and said the “brigade of the martyr Jamil al-Anbari” carried it out.

In part, the spotty record of the Yemen airstrikes may derive from another unavoidable risk of the new shadow war: the need to depend on local proxies who may be unreliable or corrupt, or whose agendas differ from that of the United States.

American officials have a troubled history with Mr. Saleh, a wily political survivor who cultivates radical clerics at election time and has a history of making deals with jihadists. Until recently, taking on Al Qaeda had not been a priority for his government, which has been fighting an intermittent armed rebellion since 2004.

And for all Mr. Saleh’s power — his portraits hang everywhere in the Yemeni capital — his government is deeply unpopular in the remote provinces where the militants have sought sanctuary. The tribes there tend to regularly switch sides, making it difficult to depend on them for information about Al Qaeda. “My state is anyone who fills my pocket with money,” goes one old tribal motto.

The Yemeni security services are similarly unreliable and have collaborated with jihadists at times. The United States has trained elite counterterrorism teams there in recent years, but the military still suffers from corruption and poor discipline.

It is still not clear why Mr. Shabwani, the Marib deputy governor, was killed. The day he died, he was planning to meet members of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch in Wadi Abeeda, a remote, lawless plain dotted with orange groves east of Yemen’s capital. The most widely accepted explanation is that Yemeni and American officials failed to fully communicate before the attack.

Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said the civilian deaths in the first strike and the killing of the deputy governor in May “had a devastating impact.” The mishaps, he said, “embarrassed the government and gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists,” he said, referring to adherents of the form of Islam embraced by militants.

American officials said President Saleh was angry about the strike in May, but not so angry as to call for a halt to the clandestine American operations. “At the end of the day, it’s not like he said, ‘No more,’ ” said one Obama administration official. “He didn’t kick us out of the country.”

Weighing Success

Despite the airstrike campaign, the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula survives, and there is little sign the group is much weaker.

Attacks by Qaeda militants in Yemen have picked up again, with several deadly assaults on Yemeni army convoys in recent weeks. Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has managed to put out its first English-language online magazine, Inspire, complete with bomb-making instructions. Intelligence officials believe that Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American who arrived from North Carolina last year, played a major role in producing the slick publication.

As a test case, the strikes have raised the classic trade-off of the post-Sept. 11 era: Do the selective hits make the United States safer by eliminating terrorists? Or do they help the terrorist network frame its violence as a heroic religious struggle against American aggression, recruiting new operatives for the enemy?

Al Qaeda has worked tirelessly to exploit the strikes, and in Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, the group has perhaps the most sophisticated ideological opponent the United States has faced since 2001.

“If George W. Bush is remembered by getting America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen,” the cleric said in a March Internet address that was almost gleeful about the American campaign.

Most Yemenis have little sympathy for Al Qaeda and have observed the American strikes with “passive indignation,” Mr. Eryani said. But, he added, “I think the strikes over all have been counterproductive.”

Edmund J. Hull, the United States ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004, cautioned that American policy must not be limited to using force against Al Qaeda.

“I think it’s both understandable and defensible for the Obama administration to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations,” Mr. Hull said. But he added: “I’m concerned that counterterrorism is defined as an intelligence and military program. To be successful in the long run, we have to take a far broader approach that emphasizes political, social and economic forces.”

Obama administration officials say that is exactly what they are doing — sharply increasing the foreign aid budget for Yemen and offering both money and advice to address the country’s crippling problems. They emphasized that the core of the American effort was not the strikes but training for elite Yemeni units, providing equipment and sharing intelligence to support Yemeni sweeps against Al Qaeda.

Still, the historical track record of limited military efforts like the Yemen strikes is not encouraging. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines in a forthcoming book what he has labeled “discrete military operations” from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war in 1991. He found that these operations seldom achieve either their military or political objectives.

But he said that over the years, military force had proved to be a seductive tool that tended to dominate “all the discussions and planning” and push more subtle solutions to the side.

When terrorists threaten Americans, Mr. Zenko said, “there is tremendous pressure from the National Security Council and the Congressional committees to, quote, ‘do something.’ ”

That is apparent to visitors at the American Embassy in Sana, who have noticed that it is increasingly crowded with military personnel and intelligence operatives. For now, the shadow warriors are taking the lead.

Muhammad al-Ahmadi contributed reporting from Yemen.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 22, 2010

An article last Sunday about the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies in roughly a dozen countries gave an outdated affiliation in some editions for Micah Zenko, who in a forthcoming book looks at what he calls “discrete military operations” from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war. Mr. Zenko is a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations; he is no longer a scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 29, 2010

An article on Aug. 15 about the Obama administration’s secret counterterrorism operations overseas described incorrectly a recent strike in northern Africa that was cited as an example of coordination with allies. The strike in question, on July 22, was carried out by French and Mauritanian troops near the border between Mauritania and Mali; it was not a French strike in Algeria.


View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War

in Afghanistan

Published: July 25, 2010

This article was written and reported by C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Andrew W. Lehren, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, and Eric Schmitt, with contributions from Jacob Harris and Alan McLean.

Readers’ Comments and Reaction

Share your thoughts about the classified documents on the At War blog, which is following the reaction to the War Logs report.

Talk to the Newsroom

Editors and reporters who worked on these articles will be answering questions about the coverage of the material.

A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.

The material comes to light as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.

The archive is a vivid reminder that the Afghan conflict until recently was a second-class war, with money, troops and attention lavished on Iraq while soldiers and Marines lamented that the Afghans they were training were not being paid.

The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

Over all, the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war. But in some cases the documents show that the American military made misleading public statements — attributing the downing of a helicopter to conventional weapons instead of heat-seeking missiles or giving Afghans credit for missions carried out by Special Operations commandos.

White House officials vigorously denied that the Obama administration had presented a misleading portrait of the war in Afghanistan.

“On Dec. 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on Al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” said Gen. James L. Jones, White House national security adviser, in a statement released Sunday.

“We know that serious challenges lie ahead, but if Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like Al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train,” the statement said.

General Jones also decried the decision by WikiLeaks to make the documents public, saying that the United States “strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.””

“WikiLeaks made no effort to contact us about these documents – the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted,” General Jones said.

The archive is clearly an incomplete record of the war. It is missing many references to seminal events and does not include more highly classified information. The documents also do not cover events in 2010, when the influx of more troops into Afghanistan began and a new counterinsurgency strategy took hold.

They suggest that the military’s internal assessments of the prospects for winning over the Afghan public, especially in the early days, were often optimistic, even naïve.

There are fleeting — even taunting — reminders of how the war began in the occasional references to the elusive Osama bin Laden. In some reports he is said to be attending meetings in Quetta, Pakistan. His money man is said to be flying from Iran to North Korea to buy weapons. Mr. bin Laden has supposedly ordered a suicide attack against the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. These reports all seem secondhand at best.

The reports portray a resilient, canny insurgency that has bled American forces through a war of small cuts. The insurgents set the war’s pace, usually fighting on ground of their own choosing and then slipping away.

Sabotage and trickery have been weapons every bit as potent as small arms, mortars or suicide bombers. So has Taliban intimidation of Afghan officials and civilians — applied with pinpoint pressure through threats, charm, violence, money, religious fervor and populist appeals.

FEB. 19, 2008 | ZABUL PROVINCE Intelligence Summary: Officer Threatened

An Afghan National Army brigade commander working in southern Afghanistan received a phone call from a Taliban mullah named Ezat, one brief report said. “Mullah Ezat told the ANA CDR to surrender and offered him $100,000(US) to quit working for the Afghan Army,” the report said. “Ezat also stated that he knows where the ANA CDR is from and knows his family.” Read the Document »

MAY 9, 2009 | KUNAR PROVINCE Intelligence Summary: Taliban Recruiter

A Taliban commander, Mullah Juma Khan, delivered a eulogy at the funeral of a slain insurgent. He played on the crowd’s emotions, according to the report: “Juma cried while telling the people an unnamed woman and her baby were killed while the woman was nursing the baby.” Finally he made his pitch: “Juma then told the people they needed to be angry at CF [Coalition Force] and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] for causing this tragedy” and “invited everyone who wants to fight to join the fighters who traveled with him.” Read the Document »

The insurgents use a network of spies, double agents, collaborators and informers — anything to undercut coalition forces and the effort to build a credible and effective Afghan government capable of delivering security and services.

The reports repeatedly describe instances when the insurgents have been seen wearing government uniforms, and other times when they have roamed the country or appeared for battle in the very Ford Ranger pickup trucks that the United States had provided the Afghan Army and police force.

NOV. 20, 2006 | KABUL Incident Report: Insurgent Subterfuge

After capturing four pickup trucks from the Afghan National Army, the Taliban took them to Kabul to be used in suicide bombings. “They intend to use the pick-up trucks to target ANA compounds, ISAF and GOA convoys, as well as ranking GOA and ISAF officials,” said a report, referring to coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan. “The four trucks were also accompanied by an unknown quantity of ANA uniforms to facilitate carrying out the attacks.” Read the Document »

The Taliban’s use of heat-seeking missiles has not been publicly disclosed — indeed, the military has issued statements that these internal records contradict.

In the form known as a Stinger, such weapons were provided to a previous generation of Afghan insurgents by the United States, and helped drive out the Soviets. The reports suggest that the Taliban’s use of these missiles has been neither common nor especially effective; usually the missiles missed.

MAY 30, 2007 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Downed Helicopter

An American CH-47 transport helicopter was struck by what witnesses described as a portable heat-seeking surface-to-air missile after taking off from a landing zone.

The helicopter, the initial report said, “was engaged and struck with a Missile … shortly after crossing over the Helmand River. The missile struck the aircraft in the left engine. The impact of the missile projected the aft end of the aircraft up as it burst into flames followed immediately by a nose dive into the crash site with no survivors.”

The crash killed seven soldiers: five Americans, a Briton and a Canadian.

Multiple witnesses saw a smoke trail behind the missile as it rushed toward the helicopter. The smoke trail was an important indicator. Rocket-propelled grenades do not leave them. Heat-seeking missiles do. The crew of other helicopters reported the downing as a surface-to-air missile strike. But that was not what a NATO spokesman told Reuters.

“Clearly, there were enemy fighters in the area,” said the spokesman, Maj. John Thomas. “It’s not impossible for small-arms fire to bring down a helicopter.”

The reports paint a disheartening picture of the Afghan police and soldiers at the center of the American exit strategy.

The Pentagon is spending billions to train the Afghan forces to secure the country. But the police have proved to be an especially risky investment and are often described as distrusted, even loathed, by Afghan civilians. The reports recount episodes of police brutality, corruption petty and large, extortion and kidnapping. Some police officers defect to the Taliban. Others are accused of collaborating with insurgents, arms smugglers and highway bandits. Afghan police officers defect with trucks or weapons, items captured during successful ambushes or raids.

MARCH 10, 2008 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Investigation Report: Extortion by the Police

This report captured the circular and frustrating effort by an American investigator to stop Afghan police officers at a checkpoint from extorting payments from motorists. After a line of drivers described how they were pressed to pay bribes, the American investigator and the local police detained the accused checkpoint police officers.

“While waiting,” the investigator wrote, “I asked the seven patrolmen we detained to sit and relax while we sorted through a problem without ever mentioning why they were being detained. Three of the patrolmen responded by saying that they had only taken money from the truck drivers to buy fuel for their generator.”

Two days later when the American followed up, he was told by police officers that the case had been dropped because the witness reports had all been lost. Read the Document »

One report documented the detention of a military base worker trying to leave the base with GPS units hidden under his clothes and taped to his leg. Another described the case of a police chief in Zurmat, in Paktia Province, who was accused of falsely reporting that his officers had been in a firefight so he could receive thousands of rounds of new ammunition, which he sold in a bazaar.

Coalition trainers report that episodes of cruelty by the Afghan police undermine the effort to build a credible security force to take over when the allies leave.

OCT. 11, 2009 | BALKH PROVINCE Incident Report: Brutal Police Chief

This report began with an account of Afghan soldiers and police officers harassing and beating local civilians for refusing to cooperate in a search. It then related the story of a district police commander who forced himself on a 16-year-old girl. When a civilian complained, the report continued, “The district commander ordered his bodyguard to open fire on the AC [Afghan civilian]. The bodyguard refused, at which time the district commander shot [the bodyguard] in front of the AC.”

Rivalries and friction between the largest Afghan security services — the police and the army — are evident in a number of reports. Sometimes the tensions erupted in outright clashes, as was recorded in the following report from last December that was described as an “enemy action.” The “enemy” in this case was the Afghan National Security Force.

DEC. 4, 2009 | ORUZGAN PROVINCE Incident Report: Police and Army Rivalry

A car accident turned deadly when an argument broke out between the police and the Afghan National Army. “The argument escalated and ANA & ANP started to shoot at each other,” a report said.

An Afghan soldier and three Afghan police officers were wounded in the shootout. One civilian was killed and six others were wounded by gunfire. Read the Document »

One sign of the weakness of the police is that in places they have been replaced by tribal warlords who are charged — informally but surely — with providing the security the government cannot. Often the warlords operate above the law.

NOV. 22, 2009 | KANDAHAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Illegal Checkpoint

A private security convoy, ferrying fuel from Kandahar to Oruzgan, was stopped by what was thought to be 100 insurgents armed with assault rifles and PK machine guns, a report said.

It turned out the convoy had been halted by “the local Chief of Police,” who was “demanding $2000-$3000 per truck” as a kind of toll. The chief, said the report, from NATO headquarters in Southern Afghanistan, “states he needs the money to run his operation.”

The chief was not actually a police chief. He was Matiullah Khan, a warlord and an American-backed ally of President Karzai who was arguably Oruzgan’s most powerful man. He had a contract, the Ministry of Interior said, to protect the road so NATO’s supply convoys could drive on it, but he had apparently decided to extort money from the convoys himself.

Late in the day, Mr. Matiullah, after many interventions, changed his mind. The report said that friendly forces “report that the COMPASS convoy is moving again and did not pay the fee required.”

The documents show how the best intentions of Americans to help rebuild Afghanistan through provincial reconstruction teams ran up against a bewildering array of problems — from corruption to cultural misunderstandings — as they tried to win over the public by helping repair dams and bridges, build schools and train local authorities.

A series of reports from 2005 to 2008 chart the frustrations of one of the first such teams, assigned to Gardez, in Paktia Province.

NOV. 28, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Orphanage Opens

An American civil affairs officer could barely contain her enthusiasm as she spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new orphanage, built with money from the American military.

The officer said a friend had given her a leather jacket to present to “someone special,” the report noted. She chose the orphanage’s director. “The commander stated that she could think of no one more deserving then someone who cared for orphans,” it said.

The civil affairs team handed out blankets, coats, scarves and toys. The governor even gave money from his own pocket. “All speeches were very positive,” the report concluded. Read the Document »

DEC. 20, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Not Many Orphans

The team dropped by to check on the orphanage. “We found very few orphans living there and could not find most of the HA [humanitarian assistance] we had given them,” the report noted.

The team raised the issue with the governor of Paktia, who said he was also concerned and suspected that the money he had donated had not reached the children. He visited the orphanage himself. Only 30 children were there; the director had claimed to have 102. Read the Document »

OCT. 16, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: An Empty Orphanage

Nearly a year after the opening of the orphanage, the Americans returned for a visit. “There are currently no orphans at the facility due to the Holiday. (Note: orphans are defined as having no father, but may still have mother and a family structure that will have them home for holidays.)” Read the Document »

FEB. 25, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE District Report: Lack of Resources

As the Taliban insurgency strengthened, the lack of a government presence in the more remote districts — and the government’s inability to provide security or resources even to its own officials — is evident in the reports.

An official from Dand Wa Patan, a small sliver of a district along the border with Pakistan, so urgently wanted to talk to the members of the American team that he traveled three and a half hours by taxi — he had no car — to meet them.

“He explained that the enemy had changed their tactics in the area and were no longer fighting from the mountains, no longer sending rockets toward his compound and other areas,” the report noted. “He stated that the enemy focus was on direct action and that his family was a primary target.”

Ten days earlier the Taliban crept up to the wall of his family compound and blew up one of the security towers, the report said. His son lost his legs in the explosion.

He pleaded for more police officers, weapons and ammunition. He also wanted a car so he could drive around the district he was supposed to oversee.

But the Americans’ situation was not much better. For months the reports show how a third — or even a half — of the team’s vehicles were out of service, awaiting spare parts.

NOV. 15, 2006 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: Local Corruption

For a while the civil affairs team worked closely with the provincial governor, described as “very charismatic.” Yet both he and the team are hampered by corrupt, negligent and antagonistic officials.

The provincial chief of police is described in one report as “the axel of corruption.”

“He makes every effort to openly and blatantly take money from the ANP troopers and the officers,” one sympathetic officer told the Americans.

Other officers are more clever. One forged rosters, to collect pay for imaginary police officers. A second set up illegal checkpoints to collects tolls around Gardez. Still another stole food and uniforms, leaving his soldiers underfed and ill equipped for the winter.

The governor, meanwhile, was all but trapped. Such animosity developed between him and a senior security official that the governor could not leave his office for weeks at a time, fearing for his life. Finally, the corrupt officials were replaced. But it took months.

SEPT. 24, 2007 | PAKTIA PROVINCE Civil Affairs Report: The Cost of Corruption

Their meetings with Afghan district officials gave the American civil affairs officers unique insights into local opinions. Sometimes, the Afghan officials were brutally honest in their assessments.

In one case, provincial council officials visited the Americans at their base in Gardez to report threats — the Taliban had tossed a grenade into their office compound and were prowling the hills. Then the officials began a tirade.

“The people of Afghanistan keep loosing their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials,” the report quoted them as saying. “The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst than the Taliban.”

“The corrupted government officials are a new concept brought to Afghanistan by the AMERICANS,” the oldest member of the group told the civil affairs team.

In conclusion, the civil affairs officer who wrote the report warned, “The people will support the Anti-Coalition forces and the security condition will degenerate.” He recommended a public information program to educate Afghans about democracy. Read the Document »

The reports also evoke the rivalries and tensions that swirl within the presidential palace between President Karzai’s circle and the warlords.

OCT. 16, 2006 | KABUL Intelligence Summary: Political Intrigue

In a short but heated meeting at the presidential palace, the Kabul police chief, Brig. Gen. Mir Amanullah Gozar, angrily refuted accusations made publicly by Jamil Karzai that he was corrupt and lacked professional experience. The report of the meeting identified Jamil Karzai as the president’s brother; he is in fact a cousin.

General Gozar “said that if Jamil were not the president’s Brother he would kidnap, torture, and kill him,” the report said. He added that he was aware of plans by the American-led coalition to remove him from his post.

He threatened the president, saying that if he were replaced he would reveal “allegations about Karzai having been a drug trader and supporter of the Pakistan-led insurgency in Afghanistan,” presumably a reference to Mr. Karzai’s former links with the Taliban.

Incident by incident, the reports resemble a police blotter of the myriad ways Afghan civilians were killed — not just in airstrikes but in ones and twos — in shootings on the roads or in the villages, in misunderstandings or in a cross-fire, or in chaotic moments when Afghan drivers ventured too close to convoys and checkpoints.

The dead, the reports repeatedly indicate, were not suicide bombers or insurgents, and many of the cases were not reported to the public at the time. The toll of the war — reflected in mounting civilian casualties — left the Americans seeking cooperation and support from an Afghan population that grew steadily more exhausted, resentful, fearful and alienated.

From the war’s outset, airstrikes that killed civilians in large numbers seized international attention, including the aerial bombardment of a convoy on its way to attend President Karzai’s inauguration in 2001. An airstrike in Azizabad, in western Afghanistan, killed as many as 92 people in August 2008. In May 2009, another strike killed 147 Afghan civilians.

SEPT. 3, 2009 | KUNDUZ PROVINCE Incident Report: Mistaken Airstrike

This report, filed about the activities of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller team, which is responsible for communication from the ground and guiding pilots during surveillance missions and airstrikes, offers a glimpse into one of the bloodiest mistakes in 2009.

It began with a report from the police command saying that “2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE STOLEN BY UNK NUMBER OF INS” and that the insurgents planned to cross the Kunduz River with their prizes. It was nighttime, and the river crossing was not illuminated. Soon, the report noted, the “JTAC OBSERVED KDZ RIVER AND REPORTED THAT IT DISCOVERED THE TRUCKS AS WELL AS UP TO 70 INS” at “THE FORD ON THE RIVER. THE TRUCKS WERE STUCK IN THE MUD.” How the JTAC team was observing the trucks was not clear, but many aircraft have infrared video cameras that can send a live feed to a computer monitor on the ground.

According to the report, a German commander of the provincial reconstruction team “LINKED UP WITH JTAC AND, AFTER ENSURING THAT NO CIVILIANS WERE IN THE VICINITY,” he “AUTHORIZED AN AIRSTRIKE.” An F-15 then dropped two 500-pound guided bombs. The initial report said that “56X INS KIA [insurgents killed in action] (CONFIRMED) AND 14X INS FLEEING IN NE DIRECTION. THE 2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE ALSO DESTROYED.”

The initial report was wrong. The trucks had been abandoned, and a crowd of civilians milled around them, removing fuel. How the commander and the JTAC had ensured “that no civilians were in the area,” as the report said, was not explained.

The first sign of the mistake documented in the initial report appeared the next day, when another report said that at “0900 hrs International Media reported that US airstrike had killed 60 civilians in Kunduz. The media are reporting that Taliban did steal the trucks and had invited civilians in the area to take fuel.” Read the Document »

The reports show that the smaller incidents were just as insidious and alienating, turning Afghans who had once welcomed Americans as liberators against the war.

MARCH 5, 2007 | GHAZNI PROVINCE Incident Report: Checkpoint Danger

Afghan police officers shot a local driver who tried to speed through their checkpoint on a country road in Ghazni Province south of Kabul. The police had set up a temporary checkpoint on the highway just outside the main town in the district of Ab Band.

“A car approached the check point at a high rate of speed,” the report said. All the police officers fled the checkpoint except one. As the car passed the checkpoint it knocked down the lone policeman. He fired at the vehicle, apparently thinking that it was a suicide car bomber.

“The driver of the vehicle was killed,” the report said. “No IED [improvised explosive device] was found and vehicle was destroyed.”

The police officer was detained in the provincial capital, Ghazni, and questioned. He was then released. The American mentoring the police concluded in his assessment that the policeman’s use of force was appropriate. Rather than acknowledging the public hostility such episodes often engender, the report found a benefit: it suggested that the shooting would make Afghans take greater care at checkpoints in the future.

“Effects on the populace clearly identify the importance of stopping at checkpoints,” the report concluded. Read the Document »

MARCH 21, 2007 | PAKTIKA PROVINCE Incident Report: A Deaf Man Is Shot

Members of a C.I.A. paramilitary unit moved into the village of Malekshay in Paktika Province close to the border with Pakistan when they saw an Afghan running away at the sight of their convoy, one report recounted. Members of the unit shot him in the ankle, and medics treated him at the scene. The unit had followed military procedure — first shouting at the man, then firing warning shots and only after that shooting to wound, the report said.

Yet elders in the village told the unit that the man, Shum Khan, was deaf and mute and that he had fled from the convoy out of nervousness. Mr. Khan was “unable to hear the warnings or warning shots. Ran out of fear and confusion,” the report concludes. The unit handed over supplies in compensation. Read the Document »

The reports reveal several instances of allied forces accidentally firing on one another or on Afghan forces in the fog of war, often with tragic consequences.

APRIL 6, 2006 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Friendly Fire

A British Army convoy driving at night in southern Afghanistan suddenly came under small-arms fire. One of the British trucks rolled over. The British troops split into two groups, pulled back from the clash and called in airstrikes from American A-10 attack planes. After several confusing minutes, commanders realized that the Afghan police had attacked the British troops, mistaking them for Taliban fighters. One Afghan police officer was killed and 12 others were wounded.

The shifting tactics of the Americans can be seen as well in the reports, as the war strategy veered from freely using force to trying to minimize civilian casualties. But as the documents make clear, each approach has its frustrations for the American effort.

Strict new rules of engagement, imposed in 2009, minimized the use of airstrikes after some had killed civilians and turned Afghans against the war. But the rules also prompted anger from American troops and their families. The troops felt that their lives were not sufficiently valued because they had to justify every request for air or artillery support, making it easier for the Taliban to fight.

OCT. 1, 2008 | KUNAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Barrage

In the days when field commanders had a freer hand, an infantry company commander observed an Afghan with a two-way radio who was monitoring the company’s activities. Warning of “IMMINENT THREAT,” the commander said he would “destroy” the man and his equipment — in other words, kill him. A short while later, a 155-millimeter artillery piece at a forward operating base in the nearby Pech Valley began firing high-explosive rounds — 24 in all.

NOV. 13, 2009 | HELMAND PROVINCE Incident Report: Escalation of Force

As the rules tightened, the reports picked up a tone that at times seemed lawyerly. Many make reference, even in pitched fights, to troops using weapons in accordance with “ROE Card A” — which guides actions of self-defense rather than attacks or offensive acts. This report described an Apache helicopter firing warning shots after coming under fire. Its reaction was described as “an escalation of force.”

The helicopter pilots reported that insurgents “engaged with SAF [surface-to-air fire]”and that “INTEL suggested they were going to be fired upon again during their extraction.”

The helicopters “fired 40x 30mm warning shots to deter any further engagement.”

The report included the information that now is common to incident reports in which Western forces fire. “The terrain was considered rurally open and there were no CIV PID IVO [civilians positively identified in the vicinity of ] the target within reasonable certainty. There was no damage to infrastructure. BDA [battle damage assessment] recording conducted by AH-64 Gun Tape. No follow up required. The next higher command was consulted. The enemy engaged presented, in the opinion of the ground forces, an imminent threat. Engagement is under ROE Card A. Higher HQ have been informed.” Read the Document »

The reports show in previously unknown detail the omnipresence of drones in Afghanistan, the Air Force’s missile-toting Predators and Reapers that hunt militants. The military’s use of drones in Afghanistan has rapidly expanded in the past few years; the United States Air Force now flies about 20 Predator and Reaper aircraft a day — nearly twice as many as a year ago — over vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory. Allies like Britain and Germany fly their own fleets.

The incident reports chronicle the wide variety of missions these aircraft carry out: taking photographs, scooping up electronic transmissions, relaying images of running battles to field headquarters, attacking militants with bombs and missiles. And they also reveal the extent that armed drones are being used to support American Special Operations missions.

Documents in the Afghan archive capture the strange nature of the drone war in Afghanistan: missile-firing robots killing shovel-wielding insurgents, a remote-controlled war against a low-tech but resilient insurgency.

DEC. 9, 2008 | KANDAHAR PROVINCE Incident Report: Predator Attack

Early one winter evening in southern Afghanistan, an Air Force Predator drone spotted a group of insurgents suspected of planting roadside bombs along a roadway less than two miles from Forward Operating Base Hutal, an American outpost.

Unlike the drones the C.I.A. operated covertly across the border in Pakistan, this aircraft was one of nearly a dozen military drones patrolling vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory on any given day.

Within minutes after identifying the militants, the Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile, all but evaporating one of the figures digging in the dark.

When ground troops reached the crater caused by the missile, costing $60,000, all that was left was a shovel and a crowbar. Read the Document »

SEPT. 13, 2009 | BADAKHSHAN PROVINCE Incident Report: A Lost Drone

Flying over southern Afghanistan on a combat mission, one of the Air Force’s premier armed drones, a Reaper, went rogue.

Equipped with advanced radar and sophisticated cameras, as well as Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs, the Reaper had lost its satellite link to a pilot who was remotely steering the drone from a base in the United States.

Again and again, the pilot struggled to regain control of the drone. Again and again, no response. The reports reveal that the military in Afghanistan lost many of the tiny five-pound surveillance drones with names like Raven and Desert Hawk that troops tossed out like model airplanes to peer around the next hill. But they had never before lost one of the Reapers, with its 66-foot wingspan.

As a last resort, commanders ordered an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet to shoot down the $13 million aircraft before it soared unguided into neighboring Tajikistan.

Ground controllers picked an unpopulated area over northern Afghanistan and the jet fired a Sidewinder missile, destroying the Reaper’s turbo-prop engine. Suddenly, the satellite link was restored, but it was too late to salvage the flight. At 5:30 a.m., controllers steered it into a remote mountainside for a final fiery landing. Read the Document »

As the Afghanistan war took priority under the Obama administration, more Special Operations forces were shifted from Iraq to conduct secret missions. The C.I.A.’s own paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan grew in tandem — as did the agency’s close collaboration with Afghanistan’s own spy agency.

Usually, such teams conducted night operations aimed at top Taliban commanders and militants on the “capture/kill” list. While individual commandos have displayed great courage, the missions can end in calamity as well as success. The expanding special operations have stoked particular resentment among Afghans — for their lack of coordination with local forces, the civilian casualties they frequently inflicted and the lack of accountability.


Shortly after five American rockets destroyed a compound in Paktika Province, helicopter-borne commandos from Task Force 373 — a classified Special Operations unit of Army Delta Force operatives and members of the Navy Seals — arrived to finish the job.

The mission was to capture or kill Abu Laith al-Libi, a top commander for Al Qaeda, who was believed to be hiding at the scene of the strike.

But Mr. Libi was not there. Instead, the Special Operations troops found a group of men suspected of being militants and their children. Seven of the children had been killed by the rocket attack.

Some of the men tried to flee the Americans, and six were quickly killed by encircling helicopters. After the rest were taken as detainees, the commandos found one child still alive in the rubble, and performed CPR for 20 minutes.

Word of the attack spread a wave of anger across the region, forcing the local governor to meet with village elders to defuse the situation.

American military officials drew up a list of “talking points” for the governor, pointing out that the target had been a senior Qaeda commander, that there had been no indications that women and children would be present and that a nearby mosque had not been damaged.

After the meeting, the governor reported that local residents were in shock, but that he had “pressed the Talking Points.” He even “added a few of his own that followed in line with our current story.”

The attack was caused by the “presence of hoodlums,” the governor told the people. It was a tragedy that children had been killed, he said, but “it could have been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”

He promised that the families would be compensated for their loss.

Mr. Libi was killed the following year by a C.I.A. drone strike. Read the Document »

APRIL 6, 2008 | NURISTAN PROVINCE Incident Report: A Raging Firefight

As they scrambled up the rocks toward a cluster of mud compounds perched high over the remote Shok Valley, a small group of American Green Berets and Afghan troops, known as Task Force Bushmaster, were confronted with a hail of gunfire from inside the insurgent stronghold.

They were there to capture senior members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militant group, part of a mission that the military had dubbed Operation Commando Wrath.

But what they soon discovered on that remote, snowy hilltop was that they were vastly outnumbered by a militant force of hundreds of fighters. Reinforcements were hours away.

A firefight raged for nearly seven hours, with sniper fire pinning down the Green Berets on a 60-foot rock ledge for much of that time.

Casualties mounted. By midmorning, nearly half of the Americans were wounded, but the militants directed their gunfire on the arriving medevac helicopters, preventing them from landing.

“TF Bushmaster reports they are combat ineffective and request reinforcement at this time.”

For a time, radio contact was lost.

Air Force jets arrived at the scene and began pummeling the compounds with 2,000-pound bombs, but the militants continued to advance down the mountain toward the pinned-down group.

The task force reported that there were “ 50-100 insurgents moving to reinforce against Bushmaster elements from the SW.”

Carrying wounded Americans shot in the pelvis, arm and legs — as well as two dead Afghans — the group made its way down toward the valley floor. Eventually, the helicopters were able to arrive to evacuate the dead and wounded.

Ten members of the Green Berets would receive Silver Stars for their actions during the battle, the highest number given to Special Forces soldiers for a single battle since the Vietnam War. By Army estimates, 150 to 200 militants were killed in the battle. Read the Document »

MARCH 8, 2008 | BAGRAM AIR BASE Meeting Report: A Plea for Help

Toward the end of a long meeting with top American military commanders, during which he delivered a briefing about the security situation in eastern Afghanistan, corruption in the government and Pakistan’s fecklessness in hunting down militants, Afghanistan’s top spy laid out his problem.

Amrullah Saleh, then director of the National Directorate of Security, told the Americans that the C.I.A. would no longer be handling his spy service’s budget. For years, the C.I.A. had essentially run the N.D.S. as a subsidiary, but by 2009 the Afghan government was preparing to take charge of the agency’s budget.

Mr. Saleh estimated that with the C.I.A. no longer bankrolling the Afghan spies, he could be facing a budget cut of 30 percent.

So he made a request. With the budget squeeze coming, Mr. Saleh asked the Americans for any AK-47s and ammunition they could spare.

If they had any spare boots, he would also take those, he said. Read the Document »


Drone revelations

September 26, 2010


Drone revelations

Published: September 26, 2010

It may not come as a surprise, but as confirmation, that the President of Pakistan himself gave the USA the go-ahead to go on carrying out its drone attacks; but it was still an unpleasant shock for this to be flagged abroad so definitively, as has been done by Bob Woodward in his latest book, Obama’s Wars, in which he quotes President Zardari as telling US CIA Director Michel Hayden, “Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.” The remarks are not confirmed, but, if true, would reflect the President’s lack of concern for the ordinary Pakistanis being killed in the drone attacks. It also shows his belief that the Americans are concerned, even though the phrase ‘collateral damage’ to mean the death of innocents was invented by them. Those killed in the drone attacks include mostly Pakistanis, including women and children, and the Americans do not care about them. However, their own government should, but the President is quoted as more or less egging on the Americans to do as much damage in the tribal areas as possible. If he did say what he is quoted as saying, it would be music to American ears, because their adventures in Vietnam caused the government there to raise protests, and if a government gives them carte blanche to kill as many of its own citizens as they want, the Americans would interpret that permission very broadly.

As thought, it was virtually unthinkable for the USA to make so many drone attacks over such an extended period of time without tacit permission from the Pakistan government. Whatever the involvement of the previous government of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, that of the present has been tied down to President Zardari’s meeting in New York in November 2008 with the then CIA chief. The consequences of killing citizens of Pakistan are horrific, and amount to no less than murder. Is the President willing to face those consequences in addition to the corruption charges that have dogged him for so long, and keep on doing so even though he has become head of his party and now holds the country’s highest office?

If he is not so willing, then the present revelations would prove very embarrassing. However, since the real masters that need to be pleased, going by this new evidence, are the Americans, the people of Pakistan, or their lives, probably do not matter. The only recourse open to the President is to prosecute the book’s author for libel, for to leave him unchallenged would be to admit the truth of what he has written, and thus serve as an admission before the people of Pakistan: those who are still alive so far, that is.



Help us build on Wikileaks’ drone revelations. Send us your drones news clips and videos!

Rethink Afghanistan skrifaði þann 27. júlí 2010 kl. 13:10

Please share this Note with your friends and invite them to join us at

Wikileaks’ “War Diaries” release revealed just one more way that the drone war over Afghanistan and Pakistan makes Americans less safe. From The New York Times:

The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

We’re working on new video that will discuss the danger of blowback from the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the horrible effects their use has had on the civilian populations of both countries. We need your help building this video! Please send any news clips or videos you have on this topic to Derrick Crowe.

Stay tuned for more on the progress of this piece.


CIA drones killed U.S. citizens in Pakistan, book says

CIA drones killed “many Westerners, including some U.S. passport holders” in Pakistan’s tribal area during the George W. Bush administration, the new book by Bob Woodward says.

Woodward,a longtime Washington Post journalist, writes in “Obama’s Wars” that then-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden disclosed the killings to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in New York on Nov. 12, 2008. Hayden was succeeded by Leon J. Panetta in 2009.

Hayden and his deputy, Stephen Kappes, had gone to meet with Zardari, elected only two months earlier, to gauge his reaction to the drone strikes, which were generating widespread protests in Pakistan.

According to Woodward’s unattributed account of the meeting, Zardari said, “Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”

Hayden had told Zardari that “many Westerners, including some U.S. passport holders, had been killed five days earlier on the Kam Sham training camp in the tribal area of North Warziristan,” Woodward writes. “But the CIA would not reveal the particulars due to the implications under American law.”

“A top secret CIA map detailing the attacks had been given to the Pakistanis,” Woodward continues. “Missing from it was the alarming fact about the American deaths … The CIA was not going to elaborate.”

The CIA declined to comment for the record or make Kappes, who resigned in April, available for comment. Hayden did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday the Justice Department faces a deadline to respond to a suit by two human rights groups challenging the Obama administration’s right to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical proselytizer based in Yemen.

correction: Deadline to respond was first erroneously reported as Thursday.


No-Name Terrorists Now C.I.A. Drone Targets as U.S. Set to Expand Airstrikes

Posted: 6 May 2010 by Editors in Af-Pak War, Political Science
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Noah Shachtman on the Obama Administration expansion to list of targets for extrajudicial assassinations—that routinely kills exponentially more civilians than militant leaders. The man behind the recently attempted Times Square bombing and Pakistan have both directly associated U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan with the attempted attack and the Administration is responding by granting approval to the C.I.A. to escalate the strikes.

by Noah Shachtman

6 May 2010 | Wired

Once upon a time, the C.I.A. had to know a militant’s name before putting him up for a robotic targeted killing. Now, if the guy acts like a guerrilla, it’s enough to call in a drone strike.

It’s another sign of that a once-limited, once-covert program to off senior terrorist leaders has morphed into a full-scale—if undeclared—war in Pakistan. And in a war, you don’t need to know the name of someone on the other side before you take a shot.

Across the border, in Afghanistan, the rules for launching an airstrike have become tighter than a balled fist. Dropping a bomb from above is now a tactic of last resort; even when U.S. troops are under fire, commanders are reluctant to authorize airstrikes. In Pakistan, however, the opposite has happened. Starting in the latter days of the Bush administration, and accelerating under the Obama presidency, drone pilots have become more and more free to launch their weapons.

You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes—precise and effective—have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN.

This official—like many other officials—insists that the drone strikes have torn up the ranks of militants.

“The enemy has lost not just operational leaders and facilitators—people whose names we know—but formations of fighters and other terrorists,” the official tells the Los Angeles Times. “We might not always have their names, but… these are people whose actions over time have made it obvious that they are a threat.”

National security law experts, inside the government and out, are in the middle of an intense debate over whether the remotely-piloted attacks are legal. One leading law professor told Congress last week that the drone operators could be tried for “war crimes,” under certain circumstances. The State Department’s top lawyer counters that the drone attacks are a legitimate act of self-defense.

The connection between the robotic strikes over there and our safety here appears to be growing, The Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed credit for the botched Times Square bombing, say the car bomb was in retaliation for drone strikes. But the robotic aircraft are only one component in the war in Pakistan. American troops are on the ground there, and getting into firefights. American contractors are operating a fleet of helicopters above. Higher in the sky are the American drones, flown by the U.S. Air Force and the C.I.A.

Noah Shachtman is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, and the editor of the “Danger Room” blog. He’s written for The New York Times, Slate, Salon, and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others.


Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.


Although no one wants to talk about it, 9/11 is still hurting America. That terrible day inflicted a wound of public fear that easily reopens with the smallest provocation, and it continues to bleed the United States of money, lives, and goodwill around the world. Indeed, America’s response to its fear has, in turn, made Americans less safe and has inspired more threats and attacks.

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist sanctuary (Pakistan), deployed thousands of Special Forces troops to numerous Muslim countries (Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), imprisoned hundreds of Muslims without recourse, and waged a massive war of ideas involving Muslim clerics to denounce violence and new institutions to bring Western norms to Muslim countries. Yet Americans still seem strangely mystified as to why some Muslims might be angry about this situation.

In a narrow sense, America is safer today than on 9/11. There has not been another attack on the same scale. U.S. defenses regarding immigration controls, airport security, and the disruption of potentially devastating domestic plots have all improved.

But in a broader sense, America has become perilously unsafe. Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined. From 1980 to 2003, there were 343 suicide attacks around the world, and at most 10 percent were anti-American inspired. Since 2004, there have been more than 2,000, over 91 percent against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.

Yes, these attacks are overseas and mostly focused on military and diplomatic targets. So too, however, were the anti-American suicide attacks before 2001. It is important to remember that the 1995 and 1996 bombings of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen were the crucial dots that showed the threat was rising prior to 9/11. Today, such dots are occurring by the dozens every month. So why is nobody connecting them?

U.S. military policies have not stopped the rising wave of extremism in the Muslim world. The reason has not been lack of effort, or lack of bipartisan support for aggressive military policies, or lack of funding, or lack of genuine patriotism.

No. Something else is creating the mismatch between America’s effort and the results.

For nearly a decade, Americans have been waging a long war against terrorism without much serious public debate about what is truly motivating terrorists to kill them. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this was perfectly explicable — the need to destroy al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan was too urgent to await sober analyses of root causes.

But, the absence of public debate did not stop the great need to know or, perhaps better to say, to “understand” the events of that terrible day. In the years before 9/11, few Americans gave much thought to what drives terrorism — a subject long relegated to the fringes of the media, government, and universities. And few were willing to wait for new studies, the collection of facts, and the dispassionate assessment of alternative causes. Terrorism produces fear and anger, and these emotions are not patient.

A simple narrative was readily available, and a powerful conventional wisdom began to exert its grip. Because the 9/11 hijackers were all Muslims, it was easy to presume that Islamic fundamentalism was the central motivating force driving the 19 hijackers to kill themselves in order to kill Americans. Within weeks after the 9/11 attacks, surveys of American attitudes show that this presumption was fast congealing into a hard reality in the public mind. Americans immediately wondered, “Why do they hate us?” and almost as immediately came to the conclusion that it was because of “who we are, not what we do.” As President George W. Bush said in his first address to Congress after the 9/11 attacks: “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

Thus was unleashed the “war on terror.”

The narrative of Islamic fundamentalism did more than explain why America was attacked and encourage war against Iraq. It also pointed toward a simple, grand solution. If Islamic fundamentalism was driving the threat and if its roots grew from the culture of the Arab world, then America had a clear mission: To transform Arab societies — with Western political institutions and social norms as the ultimate antidote to the virus of Islamic extremism.

This narrative had a powerful effect on support for the invasion of Iraq. Opinion polls show that for years before the invasion, more than 90 percent of the U.S. public believed that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But this belief alone was not enough to push significant numbers to support war.

What really changed after 9/11 was the fear that anti-American Muslims desperately wanted to kill Americans and so any risk that such extremists would get weapons of mass destruction suddenly seemed too great. Although few Americans feared Islam before 9/11, by the spring of 2003, a near majority — 49 percent — strongly perceived that half or more of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims were deeply anti-American, and a similar fraction also believed that Islam itself promoted violence. No wonder there was little demand by congressional committees or the public at large for a detailed review of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD prior to the invasion.

The goal of transforming Arab societies into true Western democracies had powerful effects on U.S. commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Constitutions had to be written; elections held; national armies built; entire economies restructured. Traditional barriers against women had to be torn down. Most important, all these changes also required domestic security, which meant maintaining approximately 150,000 U.S. and coalition ground troops in Iraq for many years and increasing the number of U.S. and Western troops in Afghanistan each year from 2003 on.

Put differently, adopting the goal of transforming Muslim countries is what created the long-term military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the United States would almost surely have sought to create a stable order after toppling the regimes in these countries in any case. However, in both, America’s plans quickly went far beyond merely changing leaders or ruling parties; only by creating Western-style democracies in the Muslim world could Americans defeat terrorism once and for all.

There’s just one problem: We now know that this narrative is not true.

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.

Some have disputed the causal link between foreign occupation and suicide terrorism, pointing out that some occupations by foreign powers have not resulted in suicide bombings — for example, critics often cite post-World War II Japan and Germany. Our research provides sufficient evidence to address these criticisms by outlining the two factors that determine the likelihood of suicide terrorism being employed against an occupying force.

The first factor is social distance between the occupier and occupied. The wider the social distance, the more the occupied community may fear losing its way of life. Although other differences may matter, research shows that resistance to occupations is especially likely to escalate to suicide terrorism when there is a difference between the predominant religion of the occupier and the predominant religion of the occupied.

Religious difference matters not because some religions are predisposed to suicide attacks. Indeed, there are religious differences even in purely secular suicide attack campaigns, such as the LTTE (Hindu) against the Sinhalese (Buddhists).

Rather, religious difference matters because it enables terrorist leaders to claim that the occupier is motivated by a religious agenda that can scare both secular and religious members of a local community — this is why Osama bin Laden never misses an opportunity to describe U.S. occupiers as “crusaders” motivated by a Christian agenda to convert Muslims, steal their resources, and change the local population’s way of life.

The second factor is prior rebellion. Suicide terrorism is typically a strategy of last resort, often used by weak actors when other, non-suicidal methods of resistance to occupation fail. This is why we see suicide attack campaigns so often evolve from ordinary terrorist or guerrilla campaigns, as in the cases of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey, or the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

One of the most important findings from our research is that empowering local groups can reduce suicide terrorism. In Iraq, the surge’s success was not the result of increased U.S. military control of Anbar province, but the empowerment of Sunni tribes, commonly called the Anbar Awakening, which enabled Iraqis to provide for their own security. On the other hand, taking power away from local groups can escalate suicide terrorism. In Afghanistan, U.S. and Western forces began to exert more control over the country’s Pashtun regions starting in early 2006, and suicide attacks dramatically escalated from this point on.

The research suggests that U.S. interests would be better served through a policy of offshore balancing. Some scholars have taken issue with this approach, arguing that keeping boots on the ground in South Asia is essential for U.S. national security. Proponents of this strategy fail to realize how U.S. ground forces often inadvertently produce more anti-American terrorists than they kill. In 2000, before the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there were 20 suicide attacks around the world, and only one (against the USS Cole) was directed against Americans. In the last 12 months, by comparison, 300 suicide attacks have occurred, and over 270 were anti-American. We simply must face the reality that, no matter how well-intentioned, the current war on terror is not serving U.S. interests.

The United States has been great in large part because it respects understanding and discussion of important ideas and concepts, and because it is free to change course. Intelligent decisions require putting all the facts before us and considering new approaches. The first step is recognizing that occupations in the Muslim world don’t make Americans any safer — in fact, they are at the heart of the problem.

Eric J. Tilford/U.S. Navy/Getty Images

Robert A. Pape teaches at the University of Chicago and is co-author, with James K. Feldman, of Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.


Op-Ed Contributors

Death From Above, Outrage Down Below

Published: May 16, 2009

IN recent days, the Pentagon has made two major changes in its strategy to defeat the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. First came the announcement that Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal would take over as the top United States commander in Afghanistan. Next, Pentagon officials said that the United States was giving Pakistan more information on its drone attacks on terrorist targets, while news reports indicated that Pakistani officers would have significant future control over drone routes, targets and decisions to fire weapons (though the military has denied that).

While we agree with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that “fresh eyes were needed” to review our military strategy in the region, we feel that expanding or even just continuing the drone war is a mistake. In fact, it would be in our best interests, and those of the Pakistani people, to declare a moratorium on drone strikes into Pakistan.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, and following much internal debate, President George W. Bush authorized a broad expansion of drone strikes against a wide array of targets within Pakistan: Qaeda operatives, Pakistan-based members of the Afghan Taliban insurgency and — in some cases — other militants bent on destabilizing Pakistan.

The use of drones in military operations has steadily grown — we know from public documents that from last September to this March alone, C.I.A. operatives launched more than three dozen strikes.

The appeal of drone attacks for policy makers is clear. For one thing, their effects are measurable. Military commanders and intelligence officials point out that drone attacks have disrupted terrorist networks in Pakistan, killing key leaders and hampering operations. Drone attacks create a sense of insecurity among militants and constrain their interactions with suspected informers. And, because they kill remotely, drone strikes avoid American casualties.

But on balance, the costs outweigh these benefits for three reasons.

First, the drone war has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians. This is similar to what happened in Somalia in 2005 and 2006, when similar strikes were employed against the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts. While the strikes did kill individual militants who were the targets, public anger over the American show of force solidified the power of extremists. The Islamists’ popularity rose and the group became more extreme, leading eventually to a messy Ethiopian military intervention, the rise of a new regional insurgency and an increase in offshore piracy.

While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants.

Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly “precision.” American officials vehemently dispute these figures, and it is likely that more militants and fewer civilians have been killed than is reported by the press in Pakistan. Nevertheless, every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

Second, public outrage at the strikes is hardly limited to the region in which they take place — areas of northwestern Pakistan where ethnic Pashtuns predominate. Rather, the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. Covered extensively by the news media, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually the case. The persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government, and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.

David Kilcullen, the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla,” was a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008. Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.

More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on May 17, 2009, on page WK13 of the New York edition.

Death From Above, Outrage Down Below

Published: May 16, 2009

(Page 2 of 2)

Third, the use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic — or, more accurately, a piece of technology — substituting for a strategy. These attacks are now being carried out without a concerted information campaign directed at the Pakistani public or a real effort to understand the tribal dynamics of the local population, efforts that might make such attacks more effective.

To be sure, simply ending the drone strikes is no more a strategy than continuing them. Stabilizing Pakistan will require a focus on securing areas, principally in Punjab and Sindh, that are still under government control, while building up police and civil authorities and refocusing aid on economic development, security and governance. Suspending drone strikes won’t fix Pakistan’s problems — but continuing them makes these problems much harder to address.

Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do.

Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.

The drone strategy is similar to French aerial bombardment in rural Algeria in the 1950s, and to the “air control” methods employed by the British in what are now the Pakistani tribal areas in the 1920s. The historical resonance of the British effort encourages people in the tribal areas to see the drone attacks as a continuation of colonial-era policies.

The drone campaign is in fact part of a larger strategic error — our insistence on personalizing this conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Devoting time and resources toward killing or capturing “high-value” targets — not to mention the bounties placed on their heads — distracts us from larger problems, while turning figures like Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group, into Robin Hoods. Our experience in Iraq suggests that the capture or killing of high-value targets — Saddam Hussein or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — has only a slight and fleeting effect on levels of violence. Killing Mr. Zarqawi bought only 18 days of quiet before Al Qaeda returned to operations under new leadership.

This is not to suggest that killing terrorists is a bad thing — on the contrary. But it’s not the only thing that matters, and over-emphasizing it wastes resources. The operation that killed Mr. Zarqawi, for example, was not a one-day event. Thousands of hours of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were devoted to the elimination of one man, when units on the ground could have used this time to protect the people from the insurgency that was tearing Iraq apart.

Having Osama bin Laden in one’s sights is one thing. Devoting precious resources to his capture or death, rather than focusing on protecting the Afghan and Pakistani populations, is another. The goal should be to isolate extremists from the communities in which they live. The best way to do this is to adopt policies that build local partnerships. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies must be defeated by indigenous forces — not from the United States, and not even from Punjab, but from the parts of Pakistan in which they now hide. Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.

David Kilcullen, the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla,” was a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008. Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.


The Tortured Logic of Obama’s Drone War

Hillel Ofek

During the 2008 presidential campaign season, Barack Obama accused the Bush administration of not having “acted aggressively enough” in pursuing the leadership of the al Qaeda terrorist network. An Obama administration, he said, would more vigorously pursue top al Qaeda figures, even while “restoring the adherence to rule of law that helps us win the battle for hearts and minds.”

Restoring the rule of law, for President Obama, has meant reversing many of his predecessor’s most prominent domestic anti-terrorism policies. To be sure, there are exceptions — the president has quietly embraced the continuation of the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and military tribunals. But on the whole, the Obama administration has sought to scrap traditional domestic war powers, instead adopting a law-enforcement approach to dealing with America’s enemies. From promising to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities to threatening to prosecute Bush administration lawyers to seeking a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to granting terrorists Miranda protections, the Obama administration has largely rejected the Bush administration’s war on terror in favor of a law-enforcement paradigm.

Yet overseas, President Obama has expanded the CIA’s drone program, making it the centerpiece of his administration’s counterterrorism policy. The program is generally effective and, even with its costs, an important element of U.S. efforts against Islamic terrorism. But the CIA’s drone program runs counter to nearly every argument that President Obama has made against his predecessor’s anti-terrorism policies. President Obama and his allies claim that Bush-era policies like waterboarding and Gitmo undermined our security, were illegal, and were immoral — but the same criticisms can and have been leveled against Obama’s expanded drone program. In implementing his vision to “restor[e] the adherence to rule of law,” President Obama has, judged by his own standards, compensated abroad — strategically, legally, and morally.

What the Program Entails

The CIA’s drone program is distinct from the use of remotely-piloted aircraft (also called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) by the United States military. In military settings, small robotic planes are controlled by troops on the ground, and larger ones, like the Predators, are controlled by so-called “combat commuters” who go to work every day at an Air Force base in Nevada. The use of these UAVs by the military is overt, is governed by the laws of war and the official rules of engagement, and is relatively uncontroversial.

The CIA’s drone program, meanwhile, is controversial indeed. Using Predators equipped with video cameras and armed with Hellfire missiles, the program targets al Qaeda and Taliban commanders outside of combat zones, usually in the mountainous and lawless region of northwestern Pakistan, but also occasionally in Yemen and Somalia. This covert drone program, which the Bush administration used sporadically, has been expanded into a major policy under Obama. The first strike under the new administration occurred just three days after President Obama’s inauguration. Fifty-three drone attacks have been reported just in Pakistan in 2009 — more than during the entirety of the Bush presidency. And 2010 is likely to see a still greater number.

Although these targeted killings are part of a major Obama policy program with huge implications for American security and foreign relations, the administration has refused to talk about the program’s key aspects, including the CIA’s rules of engagement. We do know from press reports — including two illuminating National Journal reports and a widely cited article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker — that the unmanned planes usually depart from a secret base in Pakistan but are controlled by civilian officers at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Pakistani security agencies often aid in finding targets. The number of Predators operated by the CIA isn’t publicly known, and it is not even clear whether the agency owns its own Predators or whether it uses Predators owned by the U.S. Air Force. But we do know that the Air Force’s Predator fleet has grown from about fifty in 2001 to nearly two hundred today — and many more Predators (and their bigger cousins, the Reapers) are on the way.

There is no denying that the CIA program is achieving its central goal. Drones have killed scores of low-level al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and commanders, and many of the CIA’s twenty most-wanted “high-value targets.” During the last year of the Bush presidency, the program reportedly killed a major al Qaeda spokesman (Abu Laith al-Libi) and the suspected planners of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in East Africa (Osama al-Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan). During the Obama administration, the program has killed the eldest son of Osama bin Laden (Saad bin Laden); a notorious Taliban terrorist (Baitullah Mehsud) responsible for attacks in Pakistani cities, kidnapping soldiers, and (it is suspected) masterminding the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; and the al Qaeda trainer (Sadam Hussein Al Hussami) who helped oversee a suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan.

In November 2008, then-CIA director Michael Hayden testified that through Predator drone strikes, “We force [al Qaeda] to spend more time and resources on self-preservation, and that distracts them, at least partially and at least for a time, from laying the groundwork for the next attack.” Six months later, Hayden’s successor, Leon Panetta, went one step further, noting: “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.”

Strategic Concerns

The Obama administration has not been blind to the effectiveness of these targeted killings. And perhaps the administration’s opposition to Guantánamo and to enhanced interrogation has led it to see even more clearly the convenience of taking the fight to the enemies’ homes and hideouts and killing them before they come within the purview of the U.S. justice system. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that an al Qaeda-linked suspect named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed by a September 2009 helicopter attack in Somalia, rather than captured, because “officials had debated trying to take him alive but decided against doing so in part because of uncertainty over where to hold him.”

Targeted killing may be expedient for a president who disdains detention and interrogation, but as a matter of strategy, it is not costless. First, a dead terrorist isn’t always as good as a detained terrorist. As Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, put it in 2002: “If they’re dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs.” When possible, argues Daniel Byman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, “It’s almost always better to arrest terrorists than to kill them. You get intelligence then. Dead men tell no tales.”

Second, while U.S. drones have impressive surveillance and targeting capabilities, the intelligence they rely on is never infallible; many Predator strikes are planned in response to tips from local informants who have their own agendas. This can result in the deaths of innocent civilians. As Jane Mayer put it in The New Yorker, “The history of targeted killing is marked by errors.” According to a New America Foundation report assessing reliable press accounts of the strikes, the 123 reported drone attacks in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to March 29, 2010 have killed between 871 and 1,285 individuals, about a third of whom were civilians. The Long War Journal, a blog that tracks terrorist groups, calculates a much lower civilian casualty rate, with 1,114 militants and 94 civilians killed in Pakistan since 2006. (Of course, it should go without saying that the real blame for innocent deaths will, at bottom, always lie with terrorists, who refuse to follow the laws of war that require combatants to separate themselves from civilians.)

As David Kilcullen, the retired Australian soldier and author of The Accidental Guerrilla, and Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, have argued, when innocents are inadvertently killed, drone strikes can foment public anger and increase the popularity of militants. “Every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased,” they wrote in the New York Times in May 2009. At the same time, the benefits of killing the terrorist leaders are not always cut-and-dry, they argue, especially given the retiform structure of today’s terrorist groups. Killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, for instance, “bought only eighteen days of quiet before al Qaeda returned to operations under new leadership.”

Third, there is evidence that the Taliban and al Qaeda are quick to capitalize on drone strikes by highlighting the practice in their propaganda. Al Qaeda, for example, has called its December 2009 suicide bombing of the CIA base in Khost an act of “revenge” for the deaths of militants in drone attacks in Pakistan. Shortly after the al Qaeda trainer responsible for the Khost attack was killed in March 2010, his “martyrdom” was boasted on jihadist websites, according to Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution. Other propaganda sometimes claims that the victims of drone attacks were all innocent civilians.

For all these reasons, the CIA’s drone program has incited anger and anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani public. A July 2009 poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the drone strikes and 67 percent opposed them. And despite its private assistance in carrying out Predator attacks, the Pakistani government has publicly protested them. In January 2010, for instance, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told his country’s parliament that drone attacks could “undermine the war on terror.”

Of course, every tactic in combat operations — whether it involves infantry, special forces, fighter jets, or UAVs — has some strategic cost. And drones have obvious benefits over other tactics, especially in reducing the risk to American personnel. However, the strategic costs of the drone program are almost identical to the ones that President Obama has attributed to the Bush anti-terrorism policies that he has now countermanded. President Obama’s argument that Gitmo has “become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda” can also be said of his own CIA’s Predator operations. The same goes for his contention that waterboarding (in words he approvingly repeated from Senator John McCain) “serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.” President Obama and his allies criticized the Bush administration for policies that hurt America in “the battle for hearts and minds,” but the Obama drone war is itself such a policy.

Considerations of International Law

President Obama and officials in his administration have also criticized the legal rationales for some Bush administration anti-terrorism policies. For example, the president has stated that waterboarding is torture and therefore a violation of international law. But the CIA drone program violates international law too, at least according to a growing group of critics. Even as the Obama administration searched for a legal rationale for the policy, activists, lawyers, and U.N. officials began paving the way for a campaign to brand the CIA’s strikes as war crimes. On March 16, 2010, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the government to release details on the legal basis for the CIA’s operations. But it is not just activists who have opposed targeted killing. Before 9/11, the United States routinely denounced Israel’s use of targeted killing against Palestinian terrorists. In July 2001, Martin Indyk, then the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said, “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations…. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

American proponents of the drone program contend that it is lawful. In 2001, Congress authorized the use of force “against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States,” thus classifying terrorists as enemies, rather than criminals, and creating a domestic legal basis for targeting them. As for international law, proponents of the program argue that killing al Qaeda-linked terrorists is a legitimate response in an armed conflict that was initiated by the 9/11 attacks.

The reality is more complicated. According to customary international law and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a threshold of “armed conflict” must be met before killing in a war with non-state actors can be considered legal. But as Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., has argued, this threshold is only met through “sustained, persistent fighting occurring in a theater of conflict.” International law experts dispute whether the “war on terror” — a phrase that has, at any rate, been stripped from the Obama administration lexicon — meets that threshold in a way that justifies targeting militants in countries like Pakistan, which we are not at war with. Many international lawyers, particularly on the left, argue that absent sustained fighting on an active, recognizable battlefield, drone killings are illegal — especially when executed by CIA operatives, who are not members of the armed forces and who are not trained in the law of armed conflict.

Perhaps beginning to feel the heat, the Obama administration has attempted to respond to such objections. On March 25, 2010, U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh delivered a speech in which he stated that targeted killings “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Koh said that his review of the program led him to conclude that the CIA’s counterterrorism operations strictly adhere to the just war principles of distinction and proportionality, “to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.” Koh’s legal justification makes explicit what was implicit within the Bush administration: that using lethal force against, and denying legal process to, al Qaeda and the Taliban is lawful because we are in what international law would recognize as an armed conflict with them. Indeed, Koh arguably even went beyond the Bush administration and its “armed conflict” justification for the use of lethal force: his added “self-defense” justification is broader in that it does not require a threshold of sustained battlefield combat.

In embracing the war model for fighting terrorists, Koh now finds himself in unlikely company with defenders of the Bush administration’s constitutional war powers. These include John Yoo, the lawyer perhaps best known as the author of the so-called “torture memos.” In his new book Crisis and Command, Yoo notes that targeted killing would be illegal if the United States were not at war. Drone strikes, after all, are “a far greater deprivation of civil liberties than detention, interrogation, and trial by military” — precisely those legal policies Koh inveighed against during the Bush years.

Harold Koh’s stature in the human rights community will no doubt protect him from being pilloried as Yoo was, and it might even help allay some apprehension on the left about the drone program. But his words will not settle the legal debate. After Koh’s speech, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, said she remains unconvinced. “A global war on terror by any other name would smell as bad,” National Public Radio quoted her as saying. Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said Koh’s statement was “evasive.”

Here again it is worth revisiting the conflict between the Obama administration’s rhetoric and its action. President Obama has justified his reversal of the Bush policies of enhanced interrogation and Guantánamo detention as a restoration of the rule of law. But just as there is no consensus about the legality of those policies, the legality of targeted killing outside of combat zones is unsettled. In fact, as O’Connell has argued, “The same rules that govern the prohibition of coercive interrogation also prohibit killing by persons who are not members of the regular armed forces. These are rules of international humanitarian law found in the Geneva Conventions and other international law sources.” And as Matthew Waxman, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, has noted, “Drone attacks generally rest on similar legal premises as military detention, but detention has attracted much more legal controversy.”

Questions of Morality

Even if the CIA’s drone program violates international law, that does not necessarily mean that it is morally wrong — for while the structure of international law is informed by longstanding traditions and theories of morality, its practice and application are a much messier affair. Is the drone program more deserving of moral approbation than anti-terrorism policies like detainment and waterboarding?

Michael Walzer, author of the classic Just and Unjust Wars (1977), has said that the U.S. government’s refusal to divulge how many innocent people are dying in proportion to the legitimate targets is “a moral mistake.” Walzer argues that the government should release its list of targets and publicly defend it: “You’re using the coercive power of the state in a lethal way, and in a democracy — in a country committed to the rule of law — actions of that sort should be subject to some kind of public scrutiny.” Amos Guiora, a University of Utah law professor who was personally involved in targeted-killing decisions during service in the Israel Defense Forces, argues that “there is a fundamental difference between drone attacks as presently conducted and targeted killing, for the latter is person-specific whereas the former seems to result in not insignificant collateral damage” — a factor of immense moral import.

Meanwhile, some scholars have expressed concern about the facelessness of “virtual” warfare. Writing in these pages last year, Brookings Institution senior fellow P. W. Singer noted that, while every new military technology moves combatants “farther and farther from their foes,” unmanned systems like the CIA’s drones “have a more profound effect on ‛the impersonalization of battle,’ as military historian John Keegan has called it.” The great virtue of remote-controlled warfare — the physical distance between us and our enemies — is also a vice, in that it also creates “psychological distance and disconnection,” Singer argued. The literal distance of drone warfare can create in the minds of the operators, the policymakers who approve operations, and the public at large a psychological distance from the bloody reality and moral burden of dealing death.

Seen or unseen, those grim realities still exist. As Mayer noted in The New Yorker, it “appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes, and fourteen months, before the CIA succeeded” in killing Taliban terrorist Baitullah Mehsud. “During this hunt, between 207 and 321 additional people were killed” — many of whom were innocent, according to Pakistani and international news stories. Death by Hellfire missile, which can burn its victims alive, is no gentle way to leave this world.

The moral complexity of counterterrorism operations abroad and of anti-terrorism policies at home must not be minimized, and this sketch of the questions of morality and justice raised by the CIA’s drone program is necessarily incomplete. But on strictly moral grounds, it is difficult to see how the policies that President Obama and his supporters have rejected — subjecting known terrorists to indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay, for example, or simulating drowning under the supervision of a physician and psychologist — are more repugnant than the policy he has endorsed: incinerating suspected terrorists and knowing, as a matter of course, that innocents will be killed.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

All of the major justifications that President Obama has offered for terminating the anti-terrorism policies of his predecessor can be applied to the CIA drone program that he has made the centerpiece of his own policy against global terrorism. But the Obama administration insists that, in contrast to the Bush policies, its own approach is strategically sound, legally justified, and morally licit — and that we can, in the president’s words, “reject the false choice between our security and our ideals.”

In a sense, the drone program fits into the broader trend of pushing ugly and uncomfortable national security measures out of sight only to unleash even uglier unintended consequences. Consider interrogation: President Obama signed an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques, but his administration reaffirmed the U.S. extraordinary rendition program, which sends suspects to countries with dubious human rights records for interrogation. As a sop to his supporters, the president threw in a morsel of “monitoring mechanisms,” but many observers continue to consider the CIA’s rendition program, which was first approved by the Clinton administration, to be little more than a tacit torture policy. “Extremely disappointing,” was how the ACLU greeted the news of Obama’s rendition policy. With U.S. personnel disallowed from conducting enhanced interrogations, who can doubt that future suspects will undergo treatment more brutal at the hands of, say, Egypt’s interrogators?

Something similar has happened with detention policy. “A little-noticed consequence of elevating standards at Guantánamo is that the government has sent very few terrorist suspects there in recent years,” wrote Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, in a May 2009 Washington Post op-ed. “Instead, it holds more terrorists — without charge or trial, without habeas rights, and with less public scrutiny — at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Or it renders them to countries where interrogation and incarceration standards are often even lower.” There are about eight hundred prisoners at Bagram, and the Obama administration is apparently now considering whether to expand the detention facility, which exists outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts — a proposal that would seem to conflict with President Obama’s stated desire to reform American anti-terrorism institutions “with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability.” As the Los Angeles Times has reported, the proposal is meeting resistance from Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who worries that detaining more suspects in the facility would compromise military efforts in the country by serving the propaganda purposes of militants.

It is difficult to look at the results of the CIA drone program without concluding that, in terms of U.S. national security interests, its benefits outweigh its costs. Given the notorious fecklessness of other domestic anti-terrorism efforts — the perennially ridiculed Transportation Security Administration comes to mind — President Obama should be commended for deciding to expand what seems to be a largely successful offensive program.

But this expansion comes as the result of a kind of “balloon effect” in national security policymaking — that is to say, as the result of squeezing out what many experts (and most Americans) regard as effective wartime domestic policies, such as those permitting detention at Guantánamo and enhanced interrogation techniques. Yet the strategic, legal, and moral justification for elevating the drone program and rejecting wartime domestic efforts in fighting terrorism rests on the assumption that if a bellicose policy is less noticeable to Americans and exists outside our judicial purview, it is somehow more virtuous. The sooner President Obama recognizes this to be folly, the sooner he can begin to weigh honestly the difficult but very real compromises between our security and our ideals.

Hillel Ofek is an assistant editor of National Affairs.

Hillel Ofek, “The Tortured Logic of Obama’s Drone War,” The New Atlantis, Number 27, Spring 2010, pp. 35-44.


Stopping Pakistan Drone Strikes Suddenly Plausible

Thursday 07 May 2009

by: Robert Naiman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Predator drone attacks, by aircraft such as the one pictured here, have been an increasingly destabilizing force in Pakistan. (Photo: US Air Force)

Until this week, it seemed like the conventional wisdom in Washington was that stopping US drone strikes in Pakistan was outside the bounds of respectable discussion.

That just changed. Or it should have.

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus notes that counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen has told Congress that US drone strikes in Pakistan are backfiring and should be stopped. Until now, Congress has been reluctant to challenge the drone strikes, as they are reluctant in general to challenge “military strategy,” even when it appears to be causing terrible harm. But as McManus notes, Kilcullen has unimpeachable Pentagon credentials. He served as a top adviser in Iraq to General Petraeus on counterinsurgency, and is credited as having helped design the Iraq “surge.” Now, anyone in Washington who wants to challenge the drone strikes has all the political cover they could reasonably expect.

And what Kilcullen said leaves very little room for creative misinterpretation:

“Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. The drone strikes are highly unpopular. They are deeply aggravating to the population. And they’ve given rise to a feeling of anger that coalesces the population around the extremists and leads to spikes of extremism…. The current path that we are on is leading us to loss of Pakistani government control over its own population.”

Presumably, causing the Pakistani government to lose “control of its own population” is not an objective of United States foreign policy.

McManus says there’s no sign that the Obama administration is taking Kilcullen’s advice and the Obama administration is unlikely to abandon “one of the few strategies that has produced results.” But a Washington Post report suggests otherwise:

Although the missile attacks are privately approved by the Pakistani government, despite its public denunciations, they are highly unpopular among the public. As Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s domestic problems have grown, the Obama administration last month cut the frequency of the attacks. Some senior US officials think they have reached the point of diminishing returns and the administration is debating the rate at which they should continue.

Since it is manifestly apparent that 1) the drone strikes are causing civilian casualties, 2) they are turning Pakistani public opinion against their government and against the US, 3) they are recruiting more support for insurgents and 4) even military experts think the strikes are doing more harm than good, even from the point of view of US officials, why shouldn’t they stop? Why not at least a time-out?

Why shouldn’t members of Congress ask for some justification for the continuation of these strikes? The Pentagon is asking for more money. It’s time for Congress to ask some questions.

Creative Commons License
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Support Truthout’s work with a $10/month tax-deductible donation today!

Share 0diggsdigg


Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy.


This forum is moderated by software. Please allow up to 15 minutes for your comments to go live and avoid posting the same comment multiple times.

Can you say “illegal”? The

Thu, 05/07/2009 – 17:36 — NYCartist (not verified)

Can you say “illegal”? The drones/missiles strikes are ILLEGAL, war crimes. Why is so much framed as “war efficiency”?

It’s high time-long

Thu, 05/07/2009 – 18:08 — Anonymous (not verified)

It’s high time-long overdue-for Congress to ORDER an end to these strikes. Stop treating presidents like elected royalty and make them do the right thing. What cowards in Congress. “Political cover”… can’t these people think for themselves? See how fast they’ll run if there is a future terrorist attack caused by this stupid policy.

For a classical reference,

Thu, 05/07/2009 – 19:27 — RepubAnon (not verified)

For a classical reference, try Hercules versus the hydra. Every time Hercules cut off one of the Hydra’s heads, he caused it damage – but two more grew in its place. So, too, with unmanned drone strikes – they show “results” (another al Qaeda head removed) – but result in a number of new al Qaeda heads popping up.

“Presumably, causing the

Thu, 05/07/2009 – 19:32 — JJ (not verified)

“Presumably, causing the Pakistani government to lose control of its own population is not an objective of US foreign policy”… Assume makes an ass of u and me.

How wrong can you all get.

Thu, 05/07/2009 – 20:53 — Anonymous (not verified)

How wrong can you all get. What do you want? Just to sit by and let the terrorists invade Pakistan and take control? Remember the sign on a monkey’s cage: “THIS ANIMAL IS VICIOUS, WHEN ATTACKED, IT FIGHTS BACK”. This also true of people and the use of drones.

Drones cost 53 million $

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 02:09 — urdog (not verified)

Drones cost 53 million $ each and the new military budget asks for 2 billion $ for 80 of them. So they are a great weapon–keep the taxpayer dollars flowing with a perfect justification–saving pilot’s lives. Totally bogus, since US forces have virtual uncontested control of the airspace over their middle eastern battlefields.

The strikes are legal if the

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 03:28 — Anonymous (not verified)

The strikes are legal if the country being struck gives the OK which Pakistan must have since many of the drones fly from Pakistan territory. If we pull our punches in fear of future terrorist attacks we actually encourage them. I think this all began when Reagan pulled the marines out of Lebanon in 1983 after 241 troops were slaughtered there in a suicide terrorist attack. The simple message was that a single terrorist event could cause a superpower to fold. Thousands of US citizens have now died since 1983 because we cut and ran that one time. The Taliban is complaining about drones for a reason. They have been very effective in killing those who normally feel very safe, the leaders who send off the suicide bombers. One Taliban interviewed in the New York Times this week says that, contrary to the Kilcullen 14 senior personel killed by drones, he alone has lost 29 friends. Doesn’t it seem fishy that drones are only able to pick out senior Al Qaeda leaders and innocent civilians? It is possible that many of that 700 were indeed all levels of active terrorist, their sympathizers and those who supported them. Innocents certainly died in our air strikes but innocents are dieing everyday at the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and will continue to die for an untold number of years if they are not stopped. If we abandon the fight there we may face Pakistani nuclear weapons in our cities in the near future. Not one or a very bad dirty bomb, how about ten in ten major US cities delivered over our porous border with Mexico? All possible if Mr. Khan and a few friends and their families are all captured by a righteous religious Taliban and their Al Qaeda along with the weapons. Or do you think the Marines who pulled out of Lebanon after their barracks were bombed and Somalia after Blackhawk down will be able to go into a Pakistan of 175 million people, find the weapons, all of them, and get back out?

WAR CRIMES – drones/missiles

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 12:35 — NYCartist (not verified)

WAR CRIMES – drones/missiles by US in Pakistan villages according to US law, international law.

Air attacks, whether by

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 14:21 — Anonymous (not verified)

Air attacks, whether by drone or piloted aircraft are going to result in the same negative outcome in targeting. The advantage of the drone is it’s ability to “hang around” long enough to ascertain the target and be there at the exact time needed. The alternative is ground troops and the impossible situation of fighting in the highest mountains in the world against a foe maintaining the high ground. I don’t see a solution except to withdraw from any offensive action, and defend against constant attacks forever. Is there another way?

To 3:28: this is the perfect

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 14:46 — Anonymous (not verified)

To 3:28: this is the perfect Bush/Cheneyite “national security” mentality. The US military had no business in Lebanon or Somalia during these periods. The US government has funded the Pakistani military extensively in the past. Members of this military, supported by US money, helped to build the jihadist movement in the 1980’s. It’s possible that some of this money also helped to fund Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The point is that US meddling was and is disastrous. The “strategy” of US interference is making the situation worse. These nuclear weapons ARE potentially dangerous; that’s why you need a more hands-off approach. It’s imperative to respect other people. 3:28: how would YOU feel if your town were attacked like this? THINK.

As I keep saying, this is

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 15:45 — Anonymous (not verified)

As I keep saying, this is too lucrative to the military industrial complex and the war profiteers. Plus with people buying into the neocon mantra of “fight them over there instead of here”, you get this continuing to escalate with no end in sight. So dream on about pulling out.

But if we stop killing

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 19:24 — maninwarren (not verified)

But if we stop killing civilians ==> enraging the survivors ==> making “terrorism” a more attractive prospect, since it’s the only way they can fight back ==> increasing the numbers of “terrorists”… then how will the military-industrial complex justify its existence?

“Why shouldn’t members of

Fri, 05/08/2009 – 23:42 — Jill in Laos (not verified)

“Why shouldn’t members of Congress ask for some justification for the continuation of these strikes? The Pentagon is asking for more money. It’s time for Congress to ask some questions.” –(Robert Naiman) Please, let’s dispense with the näiveté here. The U.S. Congress is so full to the brim with war criminals and state terrorists to make dead Nazi’s stir in their graves. The Pentagon and their procurer’s call the shots in America; all congress does is stage a ‘dog and pony show’ of deceit. There is no ‘justification’ for the use of terror drones, just as their is no justification for torture. That is why both will continue unabated. America does not do “justification.” The chances of ending the depravity of the Predator drone is analogous to the chances of imprisoning Dick Cheney, or even John Yoo. However, the most grotesque obscenity would be what now passes for business as usual in the Obama lie fest: Blame it on the Republicans and George Bush; announce you will stop the savagery; then at the optimum moment of political expediency, resume the terror. Mollify the Liberals? That isn’t necessary.

To 14:46 – even better: by

Sun, 05/10/2009 – 13:30 — Anonymous (not verified)

To 14:46 – even better: by supporting the Ethiopian army invading Somalia so as to remove the islamic courts just because they indeed are “islamic”, the US helped create the legal void which allowed both the lawless dumping on waste in Somali national waters by western entities (e.g. italian mafias) and the festering of piracy, in part in reaction to the dumping…


Contention (1) Rise of the Machines

Drone use in Afghanistan has exploded

Press TV noted in 10

US deploys 1000s drones in Afghanistan d.a. 7-27-10

The US is deploying thousands of drones in Afghanistan, raising suspicions as to whether the move is aimed at monitoring militants or targeting another country. Regional defense analysts believe that the unmanned aerial vehicles could be brought into play against regional countries in the wake of mounting tensions with Iran over its nuclear activities, the Pakistan Observer newspaper reported on Tuesday.   Deputy Director for Resources and Acquisition for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Glenn Walters, recently said that the American military has sent a host of its 6,500 drones to the Middle East region.

The drones based in Afghanistan are used to target and kill militants throughout the region

Turse 10

Nick Turse is a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction d.a. 7-27-10

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the George W Bush years have become commonplace under the Barack Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30 suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a Central Intelligence Agency forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the AfPak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes – which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike – have led to more fear, anger and outrage in the tribal areas, as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with help from the United States Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times. In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Today’s surge Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review – a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats – is already known to reflect this focus. As the Washington Post recently reported, “The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.”   The MQ-9 Reaper The MQ-1 Predator – first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s – and its newer, larger and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace. In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 US drone attacks as part of the CIA’s covert war in Pakistan. In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes. In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the US Air Force has instituted a much-publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy. At the same time, however, air UAS attacks have increased to record levels. The air force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well). Evidence of this can be found at high-tech US bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them. These sites include a converted medical warehouse at al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the air force secretly oversees its ongoing drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad air fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada’s Creech air base, where the air force’s “pilots” fly drones by remote control from thousands of kilometers away; and – perhaps most importantly – at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile (32 square kilometers) facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903.

Drones create a unique military presence in the air that cannot be provided by any other aircraft

Deutscher 10

Nadav Deutscher   Defense Professional News  5-12-10 d.a. 7-22-10

Looking ahead to the future, Maj. Gen. Nechushtan spoke of the function of the Air Force’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), saying that they do not replace other air operations, but rather represent a complementary force: “UAVs belong to a whole aerial niche which did not exist before, because they enable new capabilities on the battlefield. Planes in general do not remain on the battlefield; they go and come back, and to that end they need very precise planning, as opposed to ground forces that go to the field and only then finalize operational plans. UAVs work in a different way – they go to the battlefield and spend a lot of time there. They can help and accomplish a lot in both air and ground missions”. “UAVs allow us presence in the air, and this is a revolution that the Air Force is entering by using them. This is expressed when considering the total flight hours of the IAF during Operation Cast Lead, where UAVs made up for about half of the total flight hours. Their contribution to the battlefield is considerableand they constitute a complementary and crucial tool to the IAF”, he added.

They give the U.S. military an extensive aerial presence in parts of Afghanistan where we have no other presence

Mulrine 08

Anna, reporter for U.S. News & World Report  Drones Fill the Troops Gap in Afghanistan

U.S. News & World Report 145 no6 30 S 15-22 2008

The demand for unmanned planes is higher than ever
It’s been a rough year in Afghanistan. U.S. troops’ deaths have hit record levels, and growing violence is forcing the Pentagon to dispatch 12,000 additional troops to take on a dangerous mix of insurgents and militants. The manpower shortages have also created an insatiable demand for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and the pilots who fly them remotely, sometimes from halfway across the globe.
Commanders on the ground have come to rely on a fleet of drones and their high-tech “targeting pods,” which stream video intelligence and deliver it to troops fighting militant groups throughout the country. UAVs help to search the seemingly endless mountain terrain for insurgents and provide what is known as “armed overwatch” for soldiers in battle. “We could certainly use more,” says Gen. David McKiernan, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. “The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan runs 2,500 kilometers [1,500 miles]. That’s a huge area to maintain surveillance on.”
The UAVs have also helped expand America’s combat reach into the most remote parts of Afghanistan. The main workhorses are the Predator and its new cousin, the Reaper. While the Predator carries two laser-guided Hellfire missiles and can travel 135 mph, the Reaper can fly twice as high, at 50,000 feet, and three times as fast. It can also carry eight times more weaponry and has a range of over 1,800 miles, versus 450 for the Predator.

Drones contextually increase our military presence because they give us a permanent above ground presence

Space Express 06

St. Louis MO (SPX) Nov 28, 2006
The Boeing Automated Aerial Refueling (AAR) program successfully completed flight tests in August that demonstrated for the first time an unmanned air vehicle’s ability to autonomously maintain a steady refueling station behind a tanker aircraft. “With autonomous air refueling capabilities, unmanned aircraft will have greater combat radius and loiter time,” said David Riley, Boeing Phantom Works AAR program manager.

“This can enable a quicker response for time-critical targets and will reduce the need for forward-staging refueling areas. Another benefit is increased in-theater military presence with fewer military assets.”

Afghanistan is the key test ground for drone technologies

Pae 01

PETER PAE Times Staff Writer  Los Angeles Times October 3, 2001

Newest U.S. Weapons Built to Swiftly Find and Destroy

Military: The technology acknowledges warfare’s new reality of terrorists, and not superpowers, as the primary threat. d.a. 7-25-10

Military sources said the unmanned aerial vehicle is in operation over Afghanistan, and analysts said that the Predator may have been the vehicle that the Taliban claimed to have shot down last week.  In what could be a prelude to deployment of combat-flying drones, a Predator recently launched several Hellfire antitank missiles at a test range, hitting all three targets.  Although Pentagon officials have steadfastly refused to comment on any programs and weapons out of fear of compromising operations, the U.S. has already asked defense contractors to speed up development of a host of technologies that just a few months ago were years away from deployment.  The Army and the Air Force have established programs to provide seed money to speed up development of certain technologies that the Pentagon believes will provide “quick solutions to current needs”–a low-profile effort known as Warfighter Rapid Acquisition Process.  A Pentagon spokeswoman said the process is in place but declined to provide further details.  One of the high-profile programs that the Pentagon wants to accelerate is Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Global Hawk, a long-endurance, high-altitude unmanned spy plane that is eventually scheduled to replace the U-2 spy jet.  The plane, larger and more costly than the Predator, is equipped with a variety of sensors, including a hyper-spectral imaging device that can distinguish between camouflage and vegetation, as well as a synthetic aperture radar that can see through clouds and darkness. Because it has no pilot, the plane can hover over an area for 24 hours or more, a distinct advantage over satellites that fly over an area at specific, predictable intervals. A test plane recently set an aviation endurance record for flight without refueling.  The Air Force has four Global Hawks that it has been testing, and is scheduled to take delivery of two more shortly. Military analysts said that the test vehicles could easily be refitted for deployment.  “Unless [Bin Laden] wants to be totally out of contact and hide in a cave indefinitely, we’ll find him,” Thompson said. “If he does decide to go underground for a long time to keep from getting discovered, then that would serve our purpose.”  Gravity Bombs Turned Into Precision Weapons  To military planners, Afghanistan is expected to provide a rich test bed for the type of warfare that the U.S. is likely to face in the 21st century. Boeing Co., for instance, has been supplying the Air Force with global positioning system kits that could be mounted on gravity bombs and turning them into precision weapons capable of being directed to within 30 feet of a target.  The weapons would allow the military to launch more precise, surgical strikes within minutes of knowing the whereabouts of a target, compared to the days or weeks it took to launch massive campaigns like the Persian Gulf War.


The United States federal government should renounce and eliminate the presence of militarized drones in Afghanistan.

Advantage I.  The Terminator

The distancing built into drone operations creates space for surveillance and destruction that devalue life

Graham 06

STEPHEN GRAHAM,  Centre for the Study of Cities and Regions, Department of Geography, University of Durham, Cities and the ‘War on Terror’nWiley interscience International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 255-276

In the ‘target’ cities and spaces of the Middle East, on the other hand, Huber and Mills stress that superficially similar, automated systems of sensing and surveillance must also be seamlessly integrated into the high-tech US military machine. Rather than pinpointing and reducing threats, however, the purpose of these systems is to continuously and automatically project death and destruction to pinpointed locations in the cities and spaces that have discursively been constructed as targets for US military power in the ‘war on terror’. ‘We really do want an Orwellian future’, they write, ‘not in Manhattan, but in Kabul’ (ibid.: 29). Their prognosis is stark and dualistic. It renders the ideology of ‘New Normalcy’ and the Pentagon’s ‘long war’ into a binaried splitting of geography overlain by, and facilitated through, globe-spanning US military sensor and targeting systems. ‘Terrorist wars will continue, in one form or another, for as long as we live’, they write: We are destined to fight a never-ending succession of micro-scale battles, which will require us to spread military resources across vast expanses of empty land and penetrate deep into the shadows of lives lived at the margins of human existence. Their conscripts dwell in those expanses and shadows. Our soldiers don’t, and can’t for any extended period of time. What we have instead is micro-scale technology that is both smarter and more expendable than their fanatics, that is more easily concealed and more mobile, that requires no food and sleep, and that can endure even harsher conditions (ibid.: 29). Saturating adversary cities and territories with millions of ‘loitering’ surveillance and targeting devices, intimately linked into global and ‘network-centric’ surveillance and targeting systems, thus becomes the invisible and unreported shadow of the high-profile, technologically similar ‘homeland’ security systems erected within and between the cities of the US mainland. To Huber and Mills, the United State’s ‘longer-term objective must be to infiltrate their homelands electronically, to the point where we can listen to and track anything that moves’, where the ‘their’ refers to the ‘terrorists’ inhabiting the targeted cities (ibid.: 30). Then, when purported ‘targets’ are detected, US forces: can then project destructive power precisely, judiciously, and from a safe distance week after week, year after year, for as long as may be necessary. . . . Properly deployed at home, as they can be, these technologies of freedom will guarantee the physical security on which all our civil liberties ultimately depend. Properly deployed abroad, they will destroy privacy everywhere we need to destroy it . . . At home and abroad, it will end up as their sons against our silicon. Our silicon will win (ibid.: 31–34).       Technophiliac unveilings of ‘homeland’ and ‘target’ cities Strikingly, in Huber and Mills’s scenario, political judgements about the (lack of) value of human life in the demonized cities and spaces that have been so powerfully (re)constructed in ‘war on terror’ discourses, is actually maintained and policed through automated surveillance and killing systems. For here the apparent disposability of life in such ‘target’ cities is maintained continuously by the ongoing presence of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (or UCAVs) armed with ‘Hellfire’ missiles. These weapons can be launched at short notice, sometimes from operators sited at transoceanic distances, once the surveillance webs that saturate the ‘target cities’ detect some notional ‘target’. Far from being some fanciful military futurology from Huber and Mills’ technophiliac fantasies, then, these principles are actually directly shaping the design of new US military systems which are already under development or even deployment as part of the new Pentagon strategy of ‘long war’ in which the number of unmanned and armed drones is to be more than doubled by 2010 (US Department of Defense, 2006). Thus, on the one hand, as already mentioned, the cities and urban corridors within US national borders are being wired up with a large range of automated sensors which are designed to detect and locate a whole spectrum of potentially ‘terrorist’ threats. On the other, the Pentagon’s research and development outfit, DARPA (the Defense Applications Research and Projects Agency), is now developing the sorts of large-scale, ‘loitering’ surveillance grids to try and ‘unveil’ the supposedly impenetrable and labyrinthine landscapes of closely built Middle Eastern cities. In a new programme tellingly titled Combat Zones That See (or CTS), DARPA (2003) is developing systems of micro-cameras and sensors that can be scattered discretely across built urban landscapes and that automatically scan millions of vehicles and human faces for ‘known targets’ and record any event deemed to be ‘unusual’. ‘The ability to track vehicles across extended distances is the key to providing actionable intelligence for military operations in urban terrain’, the brief for the programme argues. ‘Combat Zones that See will advance the state of the art for multiple-camera video tracking to the point where expected tracking length reaches city-sized distances’ (DARPA, 2003). Befitting the definition of Middle Eastern ‘target’ cities within US military doctrine as zones where human life warrants little protection or ornamentation, ‘actionable’ here is most likely to be translated in practice — Israeli style — as automated or near-automated aerial attempts at killing the ‘targeted’ person(s). Because urban density in target cities is seen to render ‘stand-off sensing from airborne and space-borne platforms ineffective’ (ibid.), CTS’ main role will be to hold even targets within densely urbanized spaces continuously ‘at risk’ from near-instant targeting and destruction from weapons guided by the Global Positioning System. In US military jargon this is termed ‘compressing the kill chain’— a process which ‘closes the time delay between sensor and shooter’ to an extent that brings ‘persistent area dominance’ (or PAD) even over and within dense megacities like Baghdad (Hebert, 2003: 36).

Drones deployed to sustain a presence over the “other” construct Afghanistan as a permanent target that entrenches racist colonization and violence

Graham 06

STEPHEN GRAHAM,  Centre for the Study of Cities and Regions, Department of Geography, University of Durham, Cities and the ‘War on Terror’nWiley interscience International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 255-276

Importantly, then, this complex of discourses and representations — themselves the product of increasingly militarized popular and political cultures — work, on the one hand, to problematize urban cosmopolitanism in ‘homeland cities’ and, on the other, to essentialize and reify the social ecologies of ‘target’ cities in profoundly racist ways. From such symbolic violence real violence only too easily follows. Second, this article has demonstrated that the production of this highly charged dialectic — the forging of exclusionary, nationalist, imagined communities and the Othering of both those deemed ‘terroristic’ within US cities and whole swathes of our urbanizing planet — has been a fundamental prerequisite for the legitimization of the entire ‘war on terror’. The truly striking thing here is how such fundamentalist and racist constructions of urban place have their almost exact shadow in the charged representations of cities routinely disseminated by fundamentalist Islamist networks like al-Qaeda (Zulaika, 2003). Here, however, the ‘targets’ are the ‘infidel’, ‘Christian’ or ‘Zionist’ cities of the West or Israel. The theological mandate is invoked from a different source. And the sentimentalized cities and spaces of the Islamic ‘homeland’ are to be violently ‘purified’ of ‘Western’ presence in order to forcibly create a transnational Islamic space or umma which systematically excludes all diversity and Otherness through continuous, murderous force. The real tragedy of the ‘war on terror’, then, is that it has closely paralleled al-Qaeda in invoking homogeneous and profoundly exclusionary notions of ‘community’ as a way of legitimizing massive violence against innocent civilians. Strikingly, the strategies and discourses of both the Bush administration and al-Qaeda have both been based on charged, and mutually reinforcing, dialectics and imaginative geographies of place construction. Both have relied heavily on promulgating hyper-masculine notions of (asymmetric) war, invocations of some absolute theological mandate, and absolutist notions of violence to finally exterminate the enemy without limits in space or time. Both have also relied heavily on the use of transnational media systems to repeatedly project good versus evil rhetorics and spectacles of victimhood, demonization, dehumanization and revenge (Gilroy, 2003; Zulaika, 2003; Boal et al., 2005). Third, the reliance of the ‘war on terror’s’ imaginative geographies on projections of absolute difference, distance and disconnection are overlaid by, and potentially usurped through, the manifold flows and connections that link urban life in Arab cities intimately to urban life in the cosmopolitan urban centers of the USA. The binaried urban and global imaginative geographies underpinning the ‘war on terror’ are inevitably undermined by such contradictions as rapidly as they are projected. Thus, a revivified Orientalism is used to remake imaginative geographies of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, just as a wide range of processes demonstrate how incendiary such binaries now are. On the one hand, the construction of ‘homeland cities’ as endlessly vulnerable spaces open without warning to an almost infinite range of technologized threats, actually works to underline the necessary integration of US and Western cities into the manifold flows and processes that sustain the rescaling political economies and state processes of neoliberal globalization. Similarly, the attempt to discursively demarcate the everyday urban life of US citizens from Arab ones denies the transnational and increasingly globalized geographies of media flow, migration, mobility, neocolonial governance, resource geopolitics, social repression and incarceration, and the predatory capital flows surrounding neoliberal ‘reconstruction’ that, paradoxically, are serving to connect US cities ever more closely with Arab cities. Thus — especially in the more cosmopolitan cities of the US — the representations and discourses stressing disconnection and difference analysed in this article are continuously contradicted by the proliferation of moments and processes involving connection, linkage and similarity. Many of these, of course, are shaped by the geographies of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey, 2003), ‘primitive accumulation’ (Boal et al., 2005), and resource wars, that so dominate the neoconservative geopolitical strategy of the Bush Administration (Harvey, 2003; Boal et al., 2005). A key task, then, is to understand how the urban imaginative geographies and military technologies considered here help to constitute broader territorial configurations of a hyper-militarized US Empire (Kipfer and Goonewardena, 2005). A critical question emerges here for further research: how might the various acts of urban denial, erasure, securitization, targeting and ‘reconstruction’ that are so foundational to the ‘war on terror’ help to constitute and sustain the US empire’s changing territorial colonial configurations, core-periphery geographies and economic dynamics? Our final conclusion derives from this article’s third focus: the treatment of US and Arab cities within emerging US military technology for ‘persistent surveillance’. Here, we see colonial military technologies and militarized urban planning practices emerging which stress the connection and integration of cities within both the US and in targeted nations within a single, urbanizing ‘battlespace’. Such examples remind us that — whilst usually ignored — military geographies and technologies are actually themselves key drivers of neoliberal globalization (Shamar and Kumar, 2003). They also underline that, throughout the history of empires, military, social control and planning innovations, tried and tested in ‘colonized’ cities, have been used as exemplars on which to try and re-model practices of attempted social control in cities of the ‘homeland’ (Misselwitz and Weizman, 2003). It should be no surprise, however, that an ultimate ‘colonial splitting of reality’ lurks within this apparent, technologized (albeit highly militarized) integration. Here the colonialist imaginative geographies are being hard-wired into code, servers, surveillance complexes and increasingly automated weapons systems. For the ways in which judgements about the value of the human subjects are being embedded into the high-tech war-fighting, surveillance, and software systems now being developed to expose all urban citizens to scrutiny, in both US and Arab cities, could not be more different. In ‘homeland’ cities, to be sure, there is a radical ratcheting-up of surveillance and (attempted) social control, the endless ‘terror talk’, highly problematic clampdowns, the ‘hardening’ of urban ‘targets’, and potentially indefinite incarcerations, sometimes within extra-legal or extra-territorial camps, for those people deemed to display the signifiers of real or ‘dormant’ terrorists. In the ‘targeted’ urban spaces of worlds within Barnett’s ‘non-integrating gap’, meanwhile, weapons systems are currently being designed which are emerging as systems of automated, continuous (attempted) assassination. Here, chillingly, software code is being invested with the sovereign power to kill. Such systems are being brought into being within legal and geographical states of exception that are now increasingly being normalized and universalized as global strategy. This trend is backed by neoconservative ideologies and geopolitical scripts. These justify continuous, pre-emptive US military aggression against sources of ‘terrorism’ as a central platform of Dick Cheney’s ‘New Normalcy’, or the Pentagon’s ‘long war’. Such a strategy is also being fuelled by the great temptation, in the light of the horrors of street fighting during the Iraq insurgency, and the 2000+ US military dead, for the US state and military to deploy autonomous and robotized US weapons against purported enemies who are always likely to remain all-too human (Graham, 2006b). ‘The enemy, are they going to give up blood and guts to kill machines?’ wondered Gordon Johnson, head of a US army robot weapons team, in 2003. ‘I’m guessing not’ (cited in Lawlor, 2004: 3). The main worry here is that these systems will be deployed stealthily by the US state to ‘loiter’ more or less permanently above and within cities and regions deemed to be the ‘war on terror’s’ main targets. They might then produce realms of automated, stealthy and continuous violence. Let loose from both the spatial and temporal limits, and the legal norms, of war, as traditionally understood (i.e. in its declared and demarcated state-vs-state guises), this violence is likely to largely escape the selective and capricious gaze of mainstream Western media (see Blackmore, 2005). This shift to robotized war, and militaristic paradigms which see cities as mere battlespace, and their inhabitants as mere targets, is far from uncontested. Even within the US military — especially the infantry in the US Army — many are deeply sceptical of any military ‘silver bullets’ emerging from the think tanks, research complexes and weapons manufacturers of the US military-industrial-entertainment complex. Nonetheless, the latest 2006 Pentagon Defense Review suggests that the widespread deployment of autonomous, armed drones across large swathes of our urbanizing world is already being planned and undertaken. The links explored here between urban imaginative geographies, high-tech weaponry, and the urbanizing geopolitics of insurgency against the transnational colonial and military power of the US empire, thus look set to deepen further.

Warfighting through drones creates a process of dehumanization that makes war and extinction inevitable

Lafferty 09

Patrick Lafferty Combat Without Cognizance – or Murder by Joystick?  April 7, 2009  D.a. 7-25-10

What needs to be said here is war and conflict regardless of means is tragic, heartbreaking and often criminal. There is a distinction to made between the technique of Operation Cast Lead and the use of Drones. If we must as a species continue to kill each other for any reason under the Military, LOAC and RoE, I think we should continue to operate with face to face annihilation of our supposed enemies. The use of UCAV’s may seem to some as a means to prevent the death of ones forces or manpower, but it leaves the personal intercourse, witnesses, testimonies, human reaction that may avoid a deadly encounter and most important accountability.

Who bears the responsibility for an autonomous attack when things go wrong? Can a computer determine proportional response? Can the computer mimick humanity? Can this technology weigh casualties against advantage anticipated? Can an autonomous system differentiate between unnecessary suffering or injury? Sanitizing and dehumanizing these factors will open the doors to what I believe will be unspeakable disregard for humanity and the necessary processes of distinction.

I apologize to the families who have lost love ones but I stand fast on this point. If you enlist to fight for your country, you enlist to kill for your country and you risk dying for your country as well. How you deal with these in your time of service are what will progress our hopeful enlightenment to an end to war and armed conflict and an avoidance of assured mutual destruction.

It is foolish for the public to be aghast at the tragedies such as Israel’s possible crimes or the matter of Lt. Calley in the Mei Lei massacre in Vietnam. It is the harsh realities and bitter pills that we must swallow until we address the real issues of leadership, our military agendas, the industrial military corporations and the men who wear the star clad shoulder bars and ribbons, for they are the ones who back and support the technology of killing without faces, without feeling and without accountability. This is another slippery slope that if we do not consider the inevitable desensitizing effect of this kind of combat and the long war mentality, then powers behind the creations of these conflicts will be happy to run drone and joystick wars in the backrooms of their stores for years to come while ringing their cash registers.

The dehumanization created by reliance on drones will lead to nuclear extinction

Chester 09

Mitchell A. Chester, an attorney and civic activist Failsafe Revisited…Psychology and Robotic Delivery of the Bomb 12/26/2009  d.a. 7-25-10

As nations assess future military capabilities, it is not surprising that strategic use of drones (including such devices with tactical nuclear weapons) is on mankind’s doorstep. But crossing the tactical/strategic nuclear boundary when considering robotic air warfare is a threshold that we dare not cross. Before it gets too late, this technology should be arrested, contained and outlawed on a planetary scale. Recent open discussion in the military press has centered on whether strategic bombers should be replaced by nuclear-armed drones. In the June, 2009 issue of Armed Forces Journal, Air Force Research Institute Professor Adam Lowther pondered “whether it’s time to pursue a long-range, unmanned and nuclear armed bomber.” published a November, 2009 article by Col. James Jinnette, warning the “defense establishment has become seduced by the idea of unmanned airpower,” some of which may be controlled by artificial intelligence. He points out that judgment and “creative capacity” may be pushed aside by such technology. With these voices, future militarization takes on a most serious debate, as the world is embarking into uncharted intellectual killing territory. According to PW Singer in his TED talk of February, 2009, robotic war “changes the experience of the warrior, and even the identity of the warrior.” (See video). The easier and faster it is to initiate a tactical nuclear attack, without endangering crew lives, the more we hide behind robotics to accomplish our human instinct to kill. According to Singer, “Another way of putting this is that mankind’s 5000 year old monopoly on the fighting of war is breaking down in our lifetime.” The more we rely on machines, computer programs and remote control technology, the closer we approach the point of no return by (ironically) further dehumanizing war. Tactical military robotics with conventional weapons can save lives, but nuclear equipped robotics can help end all life. Much of 20th Century nuclear policy was based on the psychology of “mutual assured destruction.” Human emotions controlled the threats. It is that mindset that has helped us reach 2010. Another reason we have survived is that humans have instincts, and, at the personal level, the desire to survive. It is those qualities that helped avoid an accidental nuclear exchange in 1995 when Russian Rocket Forces mistook a scientific missile launch for an ICBM attack. It is the exercise of reason and intuition that spared America during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The more we encumber the exercise of human judgment (despite it’s frailties) by relying on highly complex but remote technology via nuclear delivery systems, the more inhumane, mechanical and likely nuclear war actually becomes. Machines lack consciousness, and if programmed improperly, they can be subverted to misunderstand logic.

We are at a Zeitgeist moment–Unless the U.S. restrains the use of drones there will be a global proliferation of drone technology leading to the globalization of death

Engelhardt 10

Tom Engelhardt Tom Engelhardt is a graduate of Yale University and one of the country’s most eminent book editorsEditor of   d.a. 7-25-10

America Detached from War: Bush’s Pilotless Dream, Smoking Drones, and Other Strange Tales From the Crypt

Smoking Drones, not a single smoking drone is in sight. Now it’s the United States whose UAVs are ever more powerfully weaponized.  It’s the U.S. which is developing a 22-ton tail-less drone 20 times larger than a Predator that can fly at Mach 7 and (theoretically) land on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier.  It’s the Pentagon which is planning to increase the funding of drone development by 700% over the next decade. Admittedly, there is a modest counter-narrative to all this enthusiasm for our robotic prowess, “precision,” and “valor.”  It involves legal types like Philip Alston, the United Nations special representative on extrajudicial executions.  He recently issued a 29-page report criticizing Washington’s “ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe.”  Unless limits are put on such claims, and especially on the CIA’s drone war over Pakistan, he suggests, soon enough a plethora of states will follow in America’s footprints, attacking people in other lands “labeled as terrorists by one group or another.” Such mechanized, long-distance warfare, he also suggests, will breach what respect remains for the laws of war.  “Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield,” he wrote, “and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘PlayStation’ mentality to killing.” Similarly, the ACLU has filed a freedom of information lawsuit against the U.S. government, demanding that it “disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas, as well as the ground rules regarding when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and the number of civilian casualties they have caused.” But pay no mind to all this.  The arguments may be legally compelling, but not in Washington, which has mounted a half-hearted claim of legitimate “self-defense,” but senses that it’s already well past the point where legalities matter.  The die is cast, the money committed.  The momentum for drone war and yet more drone war is overwhelming.  It’s a done deal.  Drone war is, and will be, us. A Pilotless Military If there are zeitgeist moments for products, movie stars, and even politicians, then such moments can exist for weaponry as well.  The robotic drone is the Lady Gaga of this Pentagon moment.   It’s a moment that could, of course, be presented as an apocalyptic nightmare in the style of the Terminator movies (with the U.S. as the soul-crushing Skynet), or as a remarkable tale of how “networking technology is expanding a homefront that is increasingly relevant to day-to-day warfare” (as Christopher Drew recently put it in the New York Times).  It could be described as the arrival of a dystopian fantasy world of one-way slaughter verging on entertainment, or as the coming of a generation of homegrown video warriors who work “in camouflage uniforms, complete with combat boots, on open floors, with four computer monitors on each desk… and coffee and Red Bull help[ing] them get through the 12-hour shifts.” It could be presented as the ultimate in cowardice — the killing of people in a world you know nothing about from thousands of miles away — or (as Col. Mathewson would prefer) a new form of valor. The drones — their use expanding exponentially, with ever newer generations on the drawing boards, and the planes even heading for “the homeland” — could certainly be considered a demon spawn of modern warfare, or (as is generally the case in the U.S.) a remarkable example of American technological ingenuity, a problem-solver of the first order at a time when few American problems seem capable of solution.  Thanks to our technological prowess, it’s claimed that we can now kill them, wherever they may be lurking, at absolutely no cost to ourselves, other than the odd malfunctioning drone.  Not that even all CIA operatives involved in the drone wars agree with that one.  Some of them understand perfectly well that there’s a price to be paid. As it happens, the enthusiasm for drones is as much a fever dream as the one President Bush and his associates offered back in 2002, but it’s also distinctly us.  In fact, drone warfare fits the America of 2010 tighter than a glove.  With its consoles, chat rooms, and “single shooter” death machines, it certainly fits the skills of a generation raised on the computer, Facebook, and video games.  That our valorous warriors, their day of battle done, can increasingly leave war behind and head home to the barbecue (or, given American life, the foreclosure) also fits an American mood of the moment. The Air Force “detachments” that “manage” the drone war from places like Creech Air Force Base in Nevada are “detached” from war in a way that even an artillery unit significantly behind the battle lines or an American pilot in an F-16 over Afghanistan (who could, at least, experience engine failure) isn’t.  If the drone presents the most extreme version thus far of the detachment of human beings from the battlefield (on only one side, of course) and so launches a basic redefinition of what war is all about, it also catches something important about the American way of war. After all, while this country garrisons the world, invests its wealth in its military, and fights unending, unwinnable frontier wars and skirmishes, most Americans are remarkably detached from all this.  If anything, since Vietnam when an increasingly rebellious citizens’ army proved disastrous for Washington’s global aims, such detachment has been the goal of American war-making. As a start, with no draft and so no citizen’s army, war and the toll it takes is now the professional business of a tiny percentage of Americans (and their families).  It occurs thousands of miles away and, in the Bush years, also became a heavily privatized, for-profit activity.  As Pratap Chatterjee reported recently, “[E]very US soldier deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq is matched by at least one civilian working for a private company. All told, about 239,451 contractors work for the Pentagon in battle zones around the world.”  And a majority of those contractors aren’t even U.S. citizens. If drones have entered our world as media celebrities, they have done so largely without debate among that detached populace.  In a sense, our wars abroad could be thought of as the equivalent of so many drones.  We send our troops off and then go home for dinner and put them out of mind.  The question is: Have we redefined our detachment as a new version of citizenly valor (and covered it over by a constant drumbeat of “support for our troops”)? Under these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that a “pilotless” force should, in turn, develop the sort of contempt for civilians that can be seen in the recent flap over the derogatory comments of Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal and his aides about Obama administration officials. The Globalization of Death Maybe what we need is the return of George W. Bush’s fever dream from the American oblivion in which it’s now interred.  He was beyond wrong, of course, when it came to Saddam Hussein and Iraqi drones, but he wasn’t completely wrong about the dystopian Drone World to come.  There are now reportedly more than 40 countries developing versions of those pilot-less planes.  Earlier this year, the Iranians announced that they were starting up production lines for both armed and unarmed drones.  Hezbollah used them against Israel in the 2006 summer war, years after Israel began pioneering their use in targeted killings of Palestinians. Right now, in what still remains largely a post-Cold War arms race of one, the U.S. is racing to produce ever more advanced drones to fight our wars, with few competitors in sight.  In the process, we’re also obliterating classic ideas of national sovereignty, and of who can be killed by whom under what circumstances.  In the process, we may not just be obliterating enemies, but creating them wherever our drones buzz overhead and our missiles strike. We are also creating the (il)legal framework for future war on a frontier where we won’t long be flying solo.  And when the first Iranian, or Russian, or Chinese missile-armed drones start knocking off their chosen sets of “terrorists,” we won’t like it one bit.  When the first “suicide drones” appear, we’ll like it even less.  And if drones with the ability to spray chemical or biological weapons finally do make the scene, we’ll be truly unnerved. In the 1990s, we were said to be in an era of “globalization” which was widely hailed as good news.  Now, the U.S. and its detached populace are pioneering a new era of killing that respects no boundaries, relies on the self-definitions of whoever owns the nearest drone, and establishes planetary free-fire zones.  It’s a nasty combination, this globalization of death.

U.S. drone attacks will incite international, uncontrolled drone use and risks the spread of new weapons tech—

Savage ’10 [Charlie, columnist for the New York Times, New York Times, “U.N. Report Highly Critical of American Drone Attacks, Warning of Use by Others”, June 6th, 2010, 03drones.html, Academic Search Premier]

A senior United Nations official said on Wednesday that the growing use of armed drones by the United States to kill terrorism suspects was undermining global constraints on the use of military force. He warned that the American example would lead to a chaotic world as the new weapons technology inevitably spread.

In a world of proliferating drones every international crisis is likely to lead to war

Singer 09

P. W. Singer is director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Singer.

Winter 2009   Robots at War: The New Battlefield  D.a. 7-25-10

James Der Derian is an expert at Brown University on new modes of war. He believes that the combination of these factors means that robotics will “lower the threshold for violence.” The result is a dangerous mixture: leaders unchecked by a public veto now gone missing, combined with technologies that seem to offer spectacular results with few lives lost. It’s a brew that could prove very seductive to decision makers. “If one can argue that such new technologies will offer less harm to us and them, then it is more likely that we’ll reach for them early, rather than spending weeks and months slogging at diplomacy.”

When faced with a dispute or crisis, policymakers have typically regarded the use of force as the “option of last resort.” Unmanned systems might now help that option move up the list, with each upward step making war more likely. That returns us to Korb’s scenario of “more Kosovos, less Iraqs.”

While avoiding the mistakes of Iraq certainly sounds like a positive result, the other side of the tradeoff would not be without problems. The 1990s were not the halcyon days some recall. Lowering the bar to allow for more unmanned strikes from afar would lead to an approach resembling the “cruise missile diplomacy” of that period. Such a strategy may leave fewer troops stuck on the ground, but, as shown by the strikes against Al Qaeda camps in Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, the Kosovo war in 1999, and perhaps now the drone strikes in Pakistan, it produces military action without any true sense of a commitment,lash-outs that yield incomplete victories at best. As one U.S. Army report notes, such operations “feel good for a time, but accomplish little.” They involve the country in a problem, but do not resolveit.

Even worse, Korb may be wrong, and the dynamic may yield not fewer Iraqs but more of them. It was the lure of an easy preemptive action that helped get the United States into such trouble in Iraq in the first place. As one robotics scientist says of the new technology he is building, “The military thinks that it will allow them to nip things in the bud, deal with the bad guys earlier and easier, rather than having to get into a big-ass war. But the most likely thing that will happen is that we’ll be throwing a bunch of high tech against the usual urban guerillas. . . . It will stem the tide [of U.S. casualties], but it won’t give us some asymmetric advantage.”

Thus, robots may entail a dark irony. By appearing to lower the human costs of war, they may seduce us into more wars.

The result will be termination of the planet

Engelhardt, ‘9  [Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, Drone Wars: Your Future has Arrived, 4/7/09,

If you want to read the single most chilling line yet uttered about drone warfare American-style, it comes at the end of Christopher Drew’s piece. He quotes Brookings Institution analyst Peter Singer saying of our Predators and Reapers: “[T]hese systems today are very much Model T Fords. These things will only get more advanced.”  In other words, our drone wars are being fought with the airborne equivalent of cars with cranks, but the “race” to the horizon is already underway. By next year, some Reapers will have a far more sophisticated sensor system with 12 cameras capable of filming a two-and-a-half mile round area from 12 different angles. That program has been dubbed “Gorgon Stare”, but it doesn’t compare to the future 92-camera Argus program whose initial development is being funded by the Pentagon’s blue-skies outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Soon enough, a single pilot may be capable of handling not one but perhaps three drones, and drone armaments will undoubtedly grow progressively more powerful and “precise.” In the meantime, BAE Systems already has a drone four years into development, the Taranis, that should someday be “completely autonomous”; that is, it theoretically will do without human pilots. Initial trials of a prototype are scheduled for 2010.  By 2020, so claim UAV enthusiasts, drones could be engaging in aerial battle and choosing their victims themselves. As Robert S. Boyd of McClatchy reported recently, “The Defense Department is financing studies of autonomous, or self-governing, armed robots that could find and destroy targets on their own. On-board computer programs, not flesh-and-blood people, would decide whether to fire their weapons.”  It’s a particular sadness of our world that, in Washington, only the military can dream about the future in this way, and then fund the “arms race” of 2018 or 2035. Rest assured that no one with a governmental red cent is researching the health care system of 2018 or 2035, or the public education system of those years.  In the meantime, the skies of our world are filling with round-the-clock assassins. They will only evolve and proliferate. Of course, when we check ourselves out in the movies, we like to identify with John Connor, the human resister, the good guy of this planet, against the evil machines. Elsewhere, however, as we fight our drone wars ever more openly, as we field mechanical techno-terminators with all-seeing eyes and loose our missiles from thousands of miles away (“Hasta la Vista, Baby!”), we undoubtedly look like something other than a nation of John Connors to those living under the Predators. It may not matter if the joysticks and consoles on those advanced machines are somewhat antiquated; to others, we are now the terminators of the planet, implacable machine assassins.  True, we can’t send our drones into the past to wipe out the young Ayman al-Zawahiri in Cairo or the teenage Osama bin Laden speeding down some Saudi road in his gray Mercedes sedan. True, the UAV enthusiasts, who are already imagining all-drone wars run by “ethical” machines, may never see anything like their fantasies come to pass. Still, the fact that without the help of a single advanced cyborg we are already in the process of creating a Terminator planet should give us pause for thought… or not.

The plan is essential to checking the spread of the drone wars

McGrath 10



The concept of “at risk” must be weighed now and with future warfare advances. While not advocating the U.S. secede its overwhelming advantage in the field of battle, knowingly expanding the battlefield to U.S. soil transfers an additional enduring risk to the civilian populace similar to nuclear warfare retaliation and is unacceptable. The U.S. Air Force also advocates evaluating strategic risks before moving forward, “Ethical discussions and policy decisions must take place in the near term in order to guide the development of future UAS capabilities, rather than allowing the development to take its own path apart from this critical guidance.”113 Unfortunately those words were not put into a doctrinal document until less than a year ago…over seven years after the first time death was delivered from nearly 7,500 miles away. To retain true world superpower legitimacy, the U.S. must lead the effort to limit the use of “distant warfare” and lead meaningful legal, moral, and ethical debates. The world is watching to follow the lead of the U.S. as robotic warfare rapidly advances forward. Hopefully the guiding voice of General Robert E. Lee who witnessed great death on the battlefield is heard, “It is good that we find war so horrible, or else we would become found of it.”114

Advantage II.  Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Militarized drone attacks in and from Afghanistan risk blowback against the United States

Payne 09

Michael, author and foreign policy analyst  Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia. Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children. Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama ��” Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything? President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage. This appears to be one of those situations in which the use of napalm, white phosphorus weapons and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War enraged the population and resulted in a tremendous blowback. At that time, our military was under the impression that such shock and awe administered on the nation of Vietnam would bring them to their knees. In fact, the result was exactly the opposite when, after 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives, our military was forced to quickly exit that war when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.

Since the drones are “piloted” from the U.S. they create a risk of retaliatory counter strikes against the U.S. itself

McGrath 10



Aided by rapid technological advances, operators of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) can now carry out lethal combat actions from perceived safe sanctuaries in the United States (U.S.), 7,500 miles from the enemy. However, this thesis challenges the U.S. assumption that such tactical successes using armed RPAs to engage the enemy with “risk-less distant warfare” will result in strategic victory. This is particularly true when used to engage the enemy outside of direct force-on-force engagements. The very nature of this use negates America’s own goal of decreasing the threat to its civilian populace from enduring enemy counter action. The enduring threat will grow from a deficient U.S. assessment of the environment in which the enemy’s ability to attract support for its historically based strategy is aided by instantaneous and ubiquitous global interconnectivity. The lack of clarity in legal, moral, and ethical policies guiding the employment of such robotic warfare highlights the current strategic misstep by prolonging the Long War from increased anti-U.S. sentiment and an enduring legitimate counter attack threat to RPA operators. The persistent threat will not only hold the operators at risk, but also those around them in suburban America.

Drone attacks operated from the U.S. will justify strikes against the U.S. and the risks are linear

McGrath 10



Leaders in the RPA community voice concerns of a risk to attacks. The U.S. Air Force Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Innovations commented that, “We are taking very seriously in the United States the notion of insurgency teams coming surreptitiously in the states and trying to attack our bases.”104Such warnings have not prompted policy changes to RPA employment. The analysis is also deficient, as military bases pose a greater challenge to attack than a suburban home. The enemy and unfortunately many around the world would likely view an attack in suburban America against RPA operators as justified by a comparison to the U.S. targeting of individuals outside of direct force-on-force combat action.  The reported expansion of the use of armed RPAs over the past year in current conflicts illuminates additional strategic concerns. While officially acknowledged use of RPA strikes dates back to 2002, the most alarming expansion may not be the actual reported use, but more so in the prolific world-wide reporting and discussion of their use in Congressional testimony and mainstream media. A 60-Minutes special aired in May, 2009 clearly outlines the operational concept of RPA employment. 105 Again a feature story in the March, 2010 Popular Mechanics magazine details the operations and insights to the future.106The incredible growing quantity of unofficial or alleged reports of attacks in areas outside of coalition force-on-force engagements should also be of great concern in the expansion of robotic warfare. By now it is crystal clear around the world, who, where, and how the U.S. operationally employs this distant lethal weapon.  Reported RPA strikes in the future, fully corroborated or not, will continue to lead enemies to assume operators 7,500 miles or more from the point of death conducted the “risk-less” attacks. That assumption greatly increases the reality of risk to enemy  counter attacks being held by combatants and those around them on U.S. soil. Recent “interpretive guidance” offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and arguments by U.S. lawyers attempt to classify non-state militants and terrorists into the Westphalian definitions of “combatant” and further to justify actions against them.107 These attempts lend justification for the U.S. and others to authorize RPA operator attacks on individuals outside of direct force-on-force combat, but in doing so may unwittingly unravel a strategy that seeks to minimize long term attack on home soil. In a not so complimentary irony, these clarifications potentially open the door to the international eye viewing these enemy counter attacks on U.S. soil as legitimate combatant versus combatant actions and would be tantamount to a great reversal of strategy. However, in a great “Catch-22,” the failure to classify and justify the actors and actions of 21 stCentury conflict risks the targeted killings by RPA operators being viewed as illegal acts of war.  Regardless of these debates’ outcome, RPA warfare will continue to gain the front line press and scrutiny it deserves. Reminiscent of enduring thoughts of the nuclear age, any hopes of completely “putting the genie back in the bottle” are false. The risk to RPA operators will increase with every Hellfire missile fired or bomb dropped that is not in direct support of force-on-force combat. The risk unfortunately will not be theirs alone to hold when they most vulnerable during breaks between “combat.”  Unless the U.S. engages in decisive action soon, the allure of technological prowess that spurred a rush to embrace tactical success as a key to strategic victory, will instead begin to weaken its own desired strategic outcome.

Unlike normal military operations, drones create a unique risk of retaliation against the U.S. homeland—The risk outweigh any benefits to operating the drones

McGrath 10



Expanding “risk-less or risk-free” capabilities to the battlefield became a stated goal of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2001. 48 This direction from Congress and the events of 9/11 expedited the era of the 7,500 mile “risk-less” and perceived immortal combatant to the battlefield. The first claimed U.S. use of an RPA assisting in an HVI strike in Afghanistan occurred in November, 2001.49 The strike assisted Navy F/A-18 fighters in successfully killing the highest ranking violent extremist group member in Afghanistan to date.50 Less than two months later, on February 12, History demonstrated that second order effects from “risk-less” attacks are clear. The third order effect did occur in a time and place away from the initial battlefield. The first enemy counter action was not on U.S. soil against non-combatants, but against military combatants in their naval vessel. The attacks on 9/11 were clearly against non-combatants in the eyes of the international community and law. Unlike the swift retaliation for 9/11, no retributive attacks for the USS Cole were conducted. 17  2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld commented in a press conference on those new battlefield armed RPA weapon operations in Afghanistan.  The overwhelming bulk of all activity in Afghanistan since the first U.S. forces went in have been basically under the control of the Central Command. And that’s particularly true after the first month. The one exception has been the armed Predators — I shouldn’t say “the one exception.” An exception has been the armed Predators, which are CIA-operated. It’s just a historical fact that they were operating these things over recent years, and they were in Afghanistan prior to the involvement of CENTCOM.51 Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, both former members of the National Security Council, contend that George Tenet, the director of the CIA raised his objection in a Principals meeting on September 4, 2001 to the agency taking the lead in transforming the Predator reconnaissance platform to one capable of armed strikes.52 However, events seven days later likely resolved the impasse. With retribution on the mind of the U.S. and the 107th Congress signing Public Law 107-40 (Authorization for Use of Military Force) on September 18th, this tactical move made initial strategic sense. 53Fast removal of key extremist organization leaders responsible for the devastation was paramount. But few strategies are timeless and fewer survive in times of rapid change.  Eight years later, RPAs are a true force multiplier ensuring tactical success when blended into the fog of direct force-on-force combat action. When applied to broad spectrum conflict, using RPAs for targeting outside of direct force-on-force action, especially against individuals, builds anything but a clear path to strategic success. Tactical success continues to cloud critical or more rounded assessments of the strategic implications in protracted global conflicts. The allure of tactics that appear to mitigate immediate risk might very well create greater risks to combatants and civilians on U.S. soil, as well as risk breaking legitimate U.S. strategy. Notwithstanding  continued violent extremist organization rhetoric, history and Pashtun tribal code provide additional powerful reminders to realistic strategists of the duration of threat the U.S. faces. In the Long War, the strategic peril increases with every expanded use of RPAs as a perceived panacea for engaging a broad spectrum of HVT/HVIs. Particular concern of their use is warranted if leaders consider engaging a greater list of “kill or capture” individuals involved in support, but not direct combat action.54 Utilizing RPAs in “challenged access” areas of the world should magnify concerns, not alleviate them. In these areas, the “risk-less” tactical ease of an RPA strike may compel their use, but opens the U.S. to long term strategic challenges outweighing the short term gain. The U.S. must carefully consider the certain increases to second and third order effects before expanding or authorizing such strikes. Today, those debates are waged in press reports and blogs, but rarely are readily apparent dialogues engaged in by high level officials to mitigate these effects by resolving legal, moral or ethical issues. 55 Recognized counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen and U.S. politicians already highlight an increase to second order effects and risks from RPA activity.56

Drone attacks in Afghanistan create a unique danger of retaliation against the U.S. homeland

McGrath 10



Century through perceived crusades today appears to resonate well in the extremist’s recruits. Those recruits susceptible to radicalization are inculcated to see retribution not only as necessary, but mandated.

The need for “revenge” is not historically unique to any one specific culture, but more pronounced and even prescribed by some. History is replete with examples of revenge fueled by fear as a means to compel a call to action and recruitment. In a second fatwa 18 issued in 1998 by a now well known extremist terrorist leader, fear is the theme.19 Historically inspired fear combined with the Pashtun tribal heritage and culture that spans the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders creates a virulent mix of revenge based enemy counter actions. A 2008 Naval Postgraduate School thesis on “The Evolution of Taliban” notes an intrinsic link between the Taliban and a predominantly Pashtun heritage. “While it would be incorrect to refer to the Taliban insurrection or resurrection as merely a Pashtun affair, it would not be far from the mark.”20

Pashtuns also hold a long tribal heritage predating Islam. Pashtuns are expected to live in accordance to Pashtunwali code. Violators of the code are subject to a Jirga (a tribal assembly of elders). Two key aspects of the code are nang (honor) and badal (revenge). 21 Nang refers to family honor and badal to the “revenge killing,” required to restore honor. The revenge “can be immediate or occur generations later if the family whose honor was violated is in a weak position at the time of infraction.”22

Both Sun Tzu’s advice to know one’s enemy and Churchill’s sage advice to explore history provide insight. The insight illuminates a threat of enduring revenge from enemy counter actions to current “risk-less” U.S. attacks. Accordingly, the U.S. must recognize the strategic dangers percolating from the expansion of remotely piloted aircraft kinetic power being applied to individual killings outside of direct force-on-force combat action. This is also more clearly pronounced when such strikes are against targets not perceived as clearly linked to imminent vital national interests.

If the U.S. does not provide the link, then not only will the enemy seek retribution, but fewer in the world may be compelled to partner with the U.S. to prevent those counter attacks. General McCrystal’s revised strategy for less kinetic operations in Afghanistan ground combat is clearly prudent based on history and the appreciation of immediate second order effects. The “distant risk-less warfare” provides an invitation for the enemy to bring the third order effects to U.S. soil. History and culture must inform over-all U.S. strategy, but an appreciation of the convergence of local and global environments further shapes and molds such strategy in the 21stcentury.

Ubiquitous Revolutions in Information

This is the greatest risk of a nuclear or biological attack on the U.S.

Bohon, 10

6/15 [Dave Bohon, Government Panel Predicts WMD Attack by 2013, New American, 6/ 15/10,

The official report from a blue-ribbon panel warns that terrorists with weapons of massive destruction (WMD) are likely to attack somewhere in the world in the next three years, and the United States could be a prime target.  According to the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, the likelihood is high that by 2013 terrorists will use WMDs in an attack somewhere in the world, and while several nations with terrorist ties are now in a race to produce nuclear weapons, the commission’s report says that an attack using biological weapons is the more likely scenario, with potentially devastating consequences.  Among its recommendations, the commission said it believes that “the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively to limit the proliferation of biological weapons and reduce the prospect of a bio-terror attack.”  The commission, co-chaired by former U.S. Senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), originally reported its findings in December 2008. During a June 10 press conference to announce legislation aimed at addressing dangers from terrorism, members of the commission joined with members of the House Homeland Security Committee to address the commission’s findings.  “The consequences of a biological attack are almost beyond comprehension,” said former Senator Graham. “It would be 9/11 times ten or a hundred in terms of the number of people who would be killed. Noting the millions of Americans who died as a result of the epidemic flu virus of 1918, Graham predicted that a lab-generated biological agent in the hands of terrorists could prove far worse. “Today it is still in the laboratory,” he said, “but if it should get out and into the hands of scientists who knew how to use it for a violent purpose, we could have multiple times the 40 million people who were killed 100 years ago.”  In December 2008, at the same time the commission presented its findings, former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell offered a similar assessment of the likelihood of a biological attack, telling a Harvard University audience, “With weapons of mass destruction that could result in the death of many people — chemical, biological, nuclear — we assess biological as the more likely,” adding that “it’s better than an even chance in the next five years that an attack by one of those weapons systems will be conducted in some place on the globe.”  While emphasizing the likely scenario of a biological attack, the commission also warned of the danger that exists of nuclear attacks, and cited efforts by both Iran and North Korea to produce a nuclear weapon. It also cited the specific danger that Pakistan poses to the United States, warning that while the country is officially an ally of the United States, “the next terrorist attack against the United States is likely to originate from within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas” of Pakistan, which has been identified as a haven for terrorists. “Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan,” the report stated. Said Graham, “We think time is not our ally,” warning that the United States “needs to move with a sense of urgency.”

The US will retaliate to a terror attack, causing extinction

Speice 06 [Patrick F., Jr. “Negligence and nuclear nonproliferation: eliminating the current liability barrier to bilateral U.S.-Russian nonproliferation assistance programs.” William and Mary Law Review 47.4 (Feb 2006): 1427(59). Expanded Academic ASAP]

The potential consequences of the unchecked spread of nuclear knowledge and material to terrorist groups that seek to cause mass destruction in the United States are truly horrifying. A terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon would be devastating in terms of immediate human and economic losses. (49) Moreover, there would be immense political pressure in the United States to discover the perpetrators and retaliate with nuclear weapons, massively increasing the number of casualties and potentially triggering a full-scale nuclear conflict. (50) In addition to the threat posed by terrorists, leakage of nuclear knowledge and material from Russia will reduce the barriers that states with nuclear ambitions face and may trigger widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. (51) This proliferation will increase the risk of nuclear attacks against the United States or its allies by hostile states, (52) as well as increase the likelihood that regional conflicts will draw in the United States and escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. (53)

Stopping drone attacks is key to solvency

Siddiqui 10

Tayyab Siddiqui- former Pakistani Ambassador  Pakistan’s drone dilemma 7-18-10  d.a. 7-25-10

The US must recognise that no matter what the volume of economic assistance given to Pakistan, it will never inspire any feelings of friendliness and partnership until the recurring drone attacks are stopped in accordance with the national milieu.  Drone attacks are reprehensible not only in their violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty but also for the civilian deaths they cause and which are becoming increasingly frequent. So far, 144 drone strikes have been carried out in the tribal areas with 1,366 civilian casualties, according to the US National Counterterrorism Center.  These attacks are causing deep hatred of the US and their military value is also questionable. In May 2009, in a testimony to US Congress, US Advisor to Gen. David Kilmulllen, asked the Obama Administration to call off the drone attacks stating, “We have been able to kill only 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders since 2006 and in the same period, killed over 700 Pakistani civilians.” The unkindest cut of all was delivered by President Obama who dismissed Pakistan’s protests against drone attacks: “We cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.”  These attacks have proved counterproductive, both in military and emotional terms. A US think tank has assessed the impact stating, “Predator strikes have inflamed anti-American rage among Afghans and Pakistanis, including first and second generation immigrants in the West as well as elite members of the security services.”  Drone attacks are now broadening the area of concerns. Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council’s investigator, in a report to the UNGA has warned that “drone strikes employed to attack target executions may violate international law.  The onus is really on the government of the US to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions and extrajudicial executions are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons.”  The legal and juridical aspects of the drone strikes are not only becoming a subject of scrutiny and denunciation internationally, but domestically too the debate is extending to legal forums.  Tehrik-i-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan has moved the Supreme Court to declare the predator drone attacks a war crime and violation of sovereignty of Pakistan. The Lahore High Court, in another case, has asked the government to adopt measures to stop them.  Public resentment against these attacks, it is argued, is being exploited by rightist elements to maintain that the US does not wish to see any strong Muslim state and that the US and its strategic partner India are bent on destabilising Pakistan.  Whatever the impact of such feelings, there is no doubt that drone attacks have become a rallying cry for militants feeding the flow of volunteers as is evident from the terror strikes and suicide attacks in Pakistani cities.

An end to drone attacks solves

Satia 09

PRIYA SATIA Assistant Professor of Modern British History at Stanford University

From Colonial Air Attacks to Drones in Pakistan
New Perspectives Quarterly 26 no3 34-7 Summ 2009

As Pakistan spirals out of its grasp, the Obama administration is at last hearing criticism of drone attacks in the country. Influential military officials such as Col. David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, have testified that, despite damaging the Taliban leadership and protecting United States pilots, the strategy is backfiring. The Taliban’s recent gains come on the heels of President Barack Obama’s intensification of remotely piloted air strikes-16 strikes in the first four months of 2009 compared with 36 in all of 2008.
The belated skepticism about drones is well placed but a halt is not enough. Only a permanent end to the strategy will win Pakistani hearts and minds back to their government and its US ally. They, like Afghans and Iraqis, are struck less by the strategy’s futuristic qualities than by its uncanny echo of the past: Aerial counterinsurgency was invented in precisely these two regions — Iraq and the Pakistani-Afghan borderland — in the 1920s by the British.

Soft Power add on

Drone strikes destroy U.S. global credibility and soft power

Ezzatyar & Kabraji 10

Ali Ezzatyar is an American lawyer and consultant on geopolitical issues, mostly relating to the Middle East. Shahpur Kabraji, the first Pakistani president of the Cambridge Union, is a lawyer based in London, and a part-time journalist d.a. 7-25-10

The Obama administration’s decision to continue – and increase – the use of Predator drones generally isn’t considered. But it should be.  There are two major, unresolved legal problems with these strikes. In some cases they violate the sovereignty of independent countries. And in all cases, they result in assassinations that have no apparent legal basis, clearly violating the human rights of their victims. Illegal, immoral and strategically flawed, the strikes do significant damage to America’s image across the globe and its ability to address terrorism at its root, societal level.  Due to a long-standing US executive order banning assassinations, the US government has done its best to dance around that description, all the while refusing to make available for examination the intelligence that prompts lethal attacks on suspected terrorists. But without the presentation of evidence or the opportunity of trial for the targeted, we should call these attacks what they are: extrajudicial assassinations.  The US government has not distinguished the use of Predator drones from the general context of fighting “combatants” in an armed conflict. The reality is that the targeted individuals do not fit, legally or logically, in the category of combatants in a sustained conflict. Drones do not seek assassination of individuals engaged in active combat; those it kills are generally far removed from the war zone and disconnected from any chain of command – so the context of armed conflict does not apply.  The only potential basis for killing militants outside of the war zone is the customary law of self-defense. In other words where there is an imminent threat of future attack. Killing a terrorist mastermind who planned a prior attack would not qualify as self-defense. So far, eyewitness and investigative accounts suggest there is no evidence to support that those assassinated were involved in planning imminent attacks, even if the term “imminent” were to be interpreted liberally. To be clear, the US government has never tried to justify its use of Predator drones on a legal basis. The fact that the CIA, a civilian agency, and not the military is the party pulling the trigger in many of these cases also complicates matters.  These assassinations are shortcuts with a cavalier disregard for legality. If the intelligence does not ultimately establish that these individuals are legal targets, as it appears it does not, responsible officials would be committing war crimes. What does that mean for the America?  The killings themselves, when taking place on foreign soil that is not occupied by the US, are also part of another layer of legal complexity involving sovereignty. These strikes by the CIA against individuals in sovereign countries represent the use of force by one nation state against the civilians of another – a use of force proscribed by the United Nations Charter. One rebuttal advanced by the United States is that the national government concerned has consented to such action. However, for example in the case of Pakistan, the national government regularly denies giving such consent. Drone attacks in countries not occupied by the US and with which the US is not at war are violations of the sovereignty of these nations and are illegal according to the international treaties the US has ratified.  The use of drones to carry out missile strikes against individuals in another country, if carried out by Iran, North Korea or Yemen would cause international outrage. The fact that these attacks are carried out by the CIA does not change the rule of law to which the United States and all other signatories to the UN Charter are subject.    The strikes also allow extreme but nevertheless popular elements of civil society in the target country to argue that their supine government has once again abrogated all responsibility in the face of American pressure. This lends further credence to sentiments in certain portions of that country’s local media, as we see in Pakistan, that American actions are a war on Muslims, on the tribal way of life, and on Pakistan’s culture and traditions under the guise of a war on terrorism. This becomes all the more convincing when the remoteness and clinical nature of the attacks harms civilians.  We know that elements of the civilian population in Pakistan and Afghanistan are harboring militants. It is equally undeniable that this civilian population is unlikely to feel any sympathy whatsoever for the political aims of Washington when the only face of those aims they see is the business end of a Hellfire missile. These populations must be convinced that by harboring terrorists within their community they undermine their own chances for peace and prosperity. The numbers of innocents killed by terrorists should demonstrate this without question, but when hundreds are also killed as “collateral damage,” it is not surprising that the message is lost. Kill one innocent farmer, create a village of anti-Americans.  However, the most important problem relating to these assassinations is not a legal one at all. It is one that is morally significant for America as a nation and that will continue to pose practical problems for its ongoing struggle against terrorism in the Muslim world. Individuals are being sentenced to death from on high by non-judicial bodies with no inherent authority to carry out such acts. This perpetuates the image that America is an insincere hegemon that devalues the lives of people in the region.  The war against Islamic extremists is framed, by both sides to the conflict, as a war of the free against the oppressive, and the fair against the unfair. The US claims a moral high ground over terrorists who employ the murder of innocents as a means to an end. It is no surprise that in societies in which suspected terrorists reside, there is no sympathy for the argument that the US can kill as it deems fit while its opponents cannot. Either the US believes in universal human rights, even for terrorists, or it does not. Drone strikes are sending a signal to the world that the US believes itself to be subject to a different standard in its ability to determine right from wrong. In addition to being antithetical to the notion of fairness, it is precisely the opposite message that the US has an interest in sending. At the moment, very few outside of the United States, including in Europe, are buying it. In the broader Middle East, if people are asked to choose between Americans and fellow Muslims as to who has more of a right to carry out arbitrary attacks, the US will doubtless lose what remaining support it still enjoys. Why then should we be surprised, or outraged, when terrorists use unconventional and murderous techniques to advance their causes?


WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones

Black Friday has passed, but the holidays are upon us and shopping days are increasingly few. Having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that tiny emirate hoping to psych out Iran or the large NATO ally looking to fight terrorism in Iraq? Fortunately for you, WikiLeaks has revealed the number one item atop seemingly everybody’s wish list: drones.

Only a select few close American allies have the export-restricted Predator B (a.k.a. MQ-9 Reaper) armed drones, but that hasn’t stopped countries from the United Arab Emirates to Turkey from pestering & pleading with America to sell them the shiniest new toy, the WikiLeaks document show.

The United Arab Emirates, a tiny nation of 5 million already protected by a U.S. military presence in the country, has been looking to purchase only the latest and greatest military technology for a while now, outbuying Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan to become the American military’s top buyer last fiscal year. The WikiLeaks documents show that in 2007, UAE officials pressed then Air Force chief of staff General Michael Moseley and then Central Command chief General John Abizaid during official visits to sell them the armed Predator B drone as part of their shopping spree.

When told they might have to wait for a review of the Missile Technology Control Regime’s (MTCR) control list, the voluntary international agreement the United States uses to restrict the sale of missile technologies, including armed drones, the UAE demanded to be the first kid on the block with a Predator B. Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, warned that Iran doesn’t have to wait for any damned MTCR because it’s making its own drones. ”That’s why we need it first . . . give me Predator B,” Zayed told Gen. Abizaid.

Ever since Turkey began attacking terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) across the border in  Iraq, the United States has been keen to keep Turkey from taking matters into its own hands and outright invading Iraq.  To do that, the military has been providing the Turks with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from its drones in northern Iraq — and got the Turks hooked on them. In a meeting with Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Turkish Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Ilker Basbug cited the American drone assistance as key to their fight against the PKK and needled Gates about Turkey’s outstanding and “urgent” request for the armed Predator B drone to make up for the decreasing U.S. presence in Iraq.

Gates has told the Turks that the administration supports the sale of armed Predator drones to Turkey, in addition to other unarmed surveilance drones. But, again, there’s a waiting list. With growing concerns in Congress about Turkey’s orientation towards political Islam, its relatively warmer relationship with Iran and colder relationship with Israel following the Turkish flotilla incident, the State Department has warned that the purchasing process promises to be “long and complex.”

Whether it’s Tickle Me Elmo or the first Nintendo Wiis, there’s always a waiting list for the newest toys, drones included.


See Also:


Previous post
Next post

U.S. Military Joins CIA’s Drone War in Pakistan

The headquarters for the American military’s air war in Central Asia and the Middle East is located in a converted medical warehouse on an undisclosed base in a country the U.S. Air Force would rather not name. The lights are turned down low, so the troops can clearly see the giant screen at the far end of the in this cavernous, classified facility.

On that glowing screen is a digital map of Afghanistan, showing the position of every U.S. Air Force drone, every fighter jet, every bomber and every tanker aircraft with a teal dot. Most of the dots are positioned near the hotspots of the Afghanistan war — places like Kandahar, Helmand and Nangarhar provinces. But there are three dots, representing Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles, that aren’t above Afghanistan at all. These dots have moved to the east of the Afghan border; these drones are flying missions over Pakistan.

Over the past year and a half, the United States has stepped up drone strikes against militants in Pakistan — killing as many as a thousand people, by some estimates. Press accounts have largely credited the Central Intelligence Agency with running these missions. Government officials have refused to speak in public about drone attacks, just as they routinely rebuff any attempt to probe into the CIA’s operations. “I’m not going to comment on any particular tactic or technology,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told a group of Pakistani journalists.

But the U.S. Air Force also plays an important role in the drone missions over Pakistan, according to current and former American military officials, and judging from what I saw at that undisclosed location. The military supplies the aircraft. It monitors the flights in and out of Pakistan. And, on occasion, Air Force pilots remotely fly their own drone missions over Pakistan. On that digital map are the far end of the warehouse, there’s a note reminding troops exactly how much notice they must give before U.S. military planes enter Pakistani airspace.

U.S. military drones began flying over Pakistan soon after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. “I dealt with the Pakistani air chief from the beginning,” says a former senior military officer. “At times, we operated a bit out of Pakistan.”

Today, those missions have become a regular occurrence. The U.S. Air Force has a fleet of Predator and heavily-armed Reaper drones, stationed at Kandahar and Jalalabad Air Fields in Afghanistan. All of these robotic aircraft are allowed to venture occasionally into Pakistani airspace to pursue militants. The government in Islamabad just has to be notified first. Some of the Predators also fly into Pakistan on operations in conjunction with or in support of Islamabad’s military.

These missions are remotely flown by U.S. Air Force pilots at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada; the footage is shared with the Pakistani government, including at joint coordination centers on the border.

In addition, some of the Predators and Reapers are placed under the operational control of the CIA, which uses them to conduct their own strike and surveillance missions. Some of those drones take off from Jalalabad, others from within Pakistan itself, at a remote base called Shamshi. According to the New York Times, those aircraft are operated out of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The private security firm Blackwater, now known as “Xe,” provides local security for the robotic aircraft, and helps assemble the drones’ arrays of Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs. Those munitions are then unleashed during strikes on suspected militants, targeted by a combination of informants’ tips, radio intercepts and overhead surveillance. Al Qaeda claims that cheap, battery-sized infrared beacons are handed out to local agents, who then use them to signal for drones to attack.

From what I can tell, these CIA missions comprise the bulk of the drone flights over Pakistan. And the military has, at times, encouraged the notion that operating the unmanned aircraft was the spy agency’s job. “The overwhelming bulk of all activity in Afghanistan since the first U.S. forces went in have been basically under the control of the Central Command,” then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in 2002. “An exception has been the armed Predators, which are CIA-operated.”

But while the CIA’s drone flights are kept largely compartmentalized from the U.S. military’s efforts in Afghanistan, there is overlap between the two. The Air Force has a total of 39 “orbits,” or air patrols, currently operating in Central Asia and the Middle East. The CIA draws its Predators and Reapers from this pool of military drones. “There are 39 orbits, that’s it. No wink, wink,” a military officer says.

No matter who controls the mission, some airmen at the undisclosed base’s warehouse-turned-war-room are aware of every flight, at least in general terms. The officers there at the Combined Air & Space Operations Center, or CAOC, need to have a basic idea of where every aircraft is, to keep them from crashing into one another in mid-air. That’s simple air traffic control, just like in the civilian world.

Because the drones can fire missiles and bombs from miles away, there needs to be an added layer of monitoring. “You have to know where every bomb went, and where every bomb is supposed to go,” a former senior military official says. “No one is just gonna allow the expenditure of ordnance out of the wild blue yonder.” It’s one of the many ways in which the air wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are linked.

Ironically, these two connected air campaigns are almost mirror images of one another. On one side of the border, there’s an influx of tens of thousands of U.S. troops; on the other, American boots on the ground have been largely forbidden, except for a handful of trainers from special forces. So instead, America uses a fleet of robotic aircraft, to avoid the prohibition against flesh-and-blood troops.

In Afghanistan, airstrikes have been strictly limited, to minimize casualties. In Pakistan — if news accounts about those assaults are even remotely accurate — the attacks are far, far more deadly. According to an analysis of public reports by the New America Foundation, 82 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006 “have killed between 750 and 1,000 people.” Up to 320 of those may have been civilians. The Long War Journal, examining the same records, calculates that 447 people have been killed in 42 reported drone strikes during the first nine months of 2009. The website estimates that only 10 percent of those deaths have been innocents.

But since the Pakistani government bans reporters and aid organizations from the tribal lands, where the majority of drone strikes have been reported, no one can say for sure how many have really been killed by the unmanned attackers.

The drone strikes in Pakistan have been widely credited with taking out senior leaders of both the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. But they’ve also come under increasing criticism, as a secret extension of the war in Central Asia fought under uncertain authority and with questionable morality.

It wasn’t long ago that the United States condemned Israel for its “targeted killings” of Palestinian terrorists. Now, the U.S. pursues a similar tactic in its campaign against Al Qaeda. “The things we were complaining about from Israel a few years ago we now embrace,” Georgetown University Law Center professor Gary Solis recently told the New Yorker. A week before the 9/11 attacks, then-CIA chief George Tenet argued that it would be “a terrible mistake” for “the Director of Central Intelligence to fire a weapon” like the Predator. Seven years later, current CIA director Leon Panetta says the drones are “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the Al Qaeda leadership.”

Recently, President Obama authorized a widening of the drone war in Pakistan. “Even more operations targeting terrorism safe havens,” one American official tells the New York Times. “More people, more places, more operations.”

It’s not clear if the U.S. military will join the CIA in this expanded campaign.

Photo: Noah Shachtman



Previous post
Next post

Afghan Ultraviolence: Petraeus Triples Air War

November is ordinarily the month when the air war in Afghanistan — and really, the whole American-led campaign — ratchets down for the winter. This November, with Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the war effort, things have been different. Radically different.

NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.

It’s another sign of the bloody turn the Afghan conflict has taken since Petraeus took over. Petraeus unleashed special operations forces, who have killed or captured thousands of militants.

His generals relied on massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar, and ordered tanks to help crush opponents in Helmand province.

And then there’s the metastasizing air war.

In the last three months, NATO aircraft have fired their weapons on 2,550 sorties, according to U.S. Air Force statistics provided to Danger Room. During the same period last year, there were less than half the number of violent sorties — just 1,188.

But that was under a different general, who had a very different attitude about airstrikes — and about the utility of violent coercion in the Afghan campaign.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal famously corralled the use of air power as he tried to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that put winning the locals’ allegiance as the primary goal. Even troops under enemy attack found it tough to call in a strike from above. Better to expose U.S. forces to some danger than risk alienating the population.

In public, Petraeus and his generals said that there would be no major changes to the so-called “rules of engagement,” which govern the use of force. Strikes from the sky were still considered a “choice of last resort,” as Brig. Gen. Jack Briggs II told Danger Room in August.

NATO officials tried to explain the uptick in these air attacks and other “kinetic” events as a function of increased troop numbers, or of those soldiers pushing into previously uncontested territory.

But with each passing month under Petraeus’ leadership, the shift to a more violent strategy becomes more apparent. By November, one U.S. military official was boasting about America’s “awe, shock and firepower.”

“The COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy is balanced by a counterterrorism strategy,” vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright recently told reporters. “When we started, we probably were more aligned with counterinsurgency. The emphasis is shifting.”

Taliban and other insurgent groups have responded in kind. Their bombs killed or wounded a thousand more troops in 2010 than they did in the previous year. The militants’ small-arms attacks on NATO forces nearly doubled.

President Obama and his national security team are meeting this morning, just before a review of the war’s strategy is set to be released. That review is not expected to suggest any major shifts in Petraeus’ approach.

As White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, “the president feels confident that we are on track.”

Photo: USAF

See Also:


U.S. intelligence reports cast doubt on war progress in Afghanistan

The assessments contradict defense officials’ optimistic outlook. They contend that large swaths of the country remain at risk of falling to the Taliban and that Pakistan is still supporting militants, officials say.

By Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud, Los Angeles TimesDecember 15, 2010

Reporting from Washington —

Two new assessments by the U.S. intelligence community present a gloomy picture of the Afghanistan war, contradicting a more upbeat view expressed by military officials as the White House prepares to release a progress report on the 9-year-old conflict.

The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which represent the collective view of more than a dozen intelligence agencies.

Get dispatches from Times correspondents around the globe delivered to your inbox with our daily World newsletter. Sign up »

The reports, the subject of a recent closed hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee, also say Pakistan’s government remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against U.S. troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring nation. The officials declined to be named because they were discussing classified data.The intelligence community’s analysis contrasts sharply with remarks last week by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said after visiting the region that he is convinced the administration’s strategy is turning around the Afghanistan war.

On Tuesday, military officers hotly contested the intelligence estimates, saying they are “dated” because the review period ended in September, as the last of additional American forces were arriving in Afghanistan. The defense officials said the assessments did not reflect recent gains.

“You are missing at least 2 1/2 months of intensive operations with the full complement of surge forces,” said a senior defense official, who added that intelligence analysts lack the “proximity and perspective that our forces have who are on the ground living this every single day.”

A senior intelligence official countered that claim, saying, “The notion that intelligence officers aren’t on the ground in Afghanistan and on the front lines in the fight against terrorism is preposterous. Our people are working side by side with the United States military and our foreign partners to thwart our common enemies.”

National Intelligence Estimates make use of analysis and information from all the intelligence agencies, including those that are part of the Pentagon.

The contrasting assessments illustrate the difficulty in making accurate predictions or gauging progress in Afghanistan. High-profile military operations in southern Afghanistan this year have gone much slower than initially expected. Military officials have said that a key measure of the Taliban’s strength will become clear only in the spring, when the traditional winter lull in fighting comes to an end.

President Obama on Tuesday signed off on a draft of the White House progress report after meeting with his top security advisors, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The White House review, to be released Thursday, will say that “there has been some important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Gibbs said, and that “we’ve seen greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months with the Pakistani government.”

It also will point to problems, including “the ongoing challenge and threat of safe havens in Pakistan,” he said.

Obama, who sent 30,000 additional troops to support his counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, has pledged that military withdrawals would start in July 2011, contingent on conditions there. But Obama told members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last month that 2014 is the date by which the U.S. hopes to cede full control to Afghan forces, an indication that any 2011 drawdown is likely to be small.

The latter announcement was meant in part to emphasize to Pakistan that the U.S. intended to remain heavily engaged in the region, increasing pressure on the South Asian nation to cut its ties to Afghan Islamist insurgents, one U.S. official said.

It’s unclear to what extent the intelligence estimates examined the effect of the CIA‘s increased use of Predator drone strikes against militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas — the main tool at American disposal in a country largely off limits to U.S. troops. But in concluding that the Taliban sanctuaries in those areas remain intact, the reports suggest that drone strikes have not been sufficient to stop militants from staging attacks against NATO forces.

A U.S. official regularly briefed on the program maintained that CIA operations in Pakistan — a euphemism for drone strikes— have greatly degraded militant havens over the last two years. “They’re making a hell of a difference” and “have saved numerous American lives,” he said.

The CIA has primary responsibility for counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan, with technical and human resources that afford a continual stream of information about events there.

Military commanders acknowledge that a failure to destroy the Taliban’s sanctuary in Pakistan could further delay the success of the Obama strategy. The intelligence estimates conclude that Pakistan is unwilling and unable to stop harboring and supporting the

Taliban, one U.S. official said.

Pakistan, which is due to receive $7.5 billion in U.S. civilian aid over three years, denies secretly backing the Taliban. However, intelligence gathered by the U.S. continues to suggest that elements of Pakistan’s security services arm, train and fund extremist militants, according to military and State Department documents disclosed this year by WikiLeaks.

Unless the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are closed, “it’s going to take a lot longer” to achieve stability and hand over security responsibilities to Afghan troops, Army Maj. Gen. John C. Campbell, the senior commander in eastern Afghanistan, told reporters last week.

Campbell has been planning to close some of the remaining U.S. outposts near the Afghan-Pakistani border and consolidate his forces in areas where more Afghans live, in keeping with the U.S. strategy of protecting the population. But senior commanders are wary about decreasing the U.S. presence near the border, for fear that it would give insurgents an even larger sanctuary, officials said.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top NATO commander, is especially worried that U.S. gains in stabilizing southern Afghanistan will be at risk next year unless there is progress in curtailing the Taliban presence in and around the city of Quetta, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, several U.S. military officers said. The Pakistani army has troops in Baluchistan but has conducted no major combat operations there.

A senior U.S. military official said he remains hopeful that Pakistan will move against Taliban sanctuaries.

At some point, the officer said, “the Pakistan government will find it difficult to protect [or] ignore the snakes who they believe

will only bite the neighbor’s kids, and realize that these same snakes are part of the larger problem of an existential threat to their homeland.”

Last year Pakistan’s army retook the Swat Valley, a region that had fallen to militants. But the army has not moved into North Waziristan, the tribal area used by many insurgents to mount cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

Petraeus told reporters last week that Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff, promised recently to conduct operations in North Waziristan. Petraeus acknowledged, though, that Kayani said he would do so “when the timing is right for Pakistani forces.”

The area is a stronghold for the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group that has stepped up attacks across the border over the last year. The group, named for its leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been the frequent target of CIA drone strikes in recent months.

Privately, a senior military official acknowledged that “there are no guarantees as to how Pakistan will ultimately address the sanctuary problem.”

Key members of Congress are watching the Obama strategy warily.

“Our political and diplomatic efforts are not in line with our military efforts,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who is under consideration as the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “It may be time to consider a smaller troop footprint.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has not reached that conclusion but said, “From my point of view, we’ve got lots of unanswered questions in all three areas: security, governance and development.”

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times


CIA’s Drone Wars Blur Distinction Between Military and Civilian Combatants

Conn Hallinan

Sun 09 Oct 2011

| Share

Lost in the debate over whether the Obama administration had the right to carry out the extra-legal execution of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemeni cleric and al-Qaeda member, is who pulled the trigger? It is not a minor question, and it lies at the heart of the 1907 Hague Convention, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and the 1977 additions to the ’49 agreement: civilians cannot engage in war.

In the main, laws of war focus on the protection of civilians. For instance, Article 48, the “Basic Rule” of Part IV of the 1977 Geneva Conventions, states, “In order to ensure respect for and protection of civilian populations and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between civilian populations and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

What follows in the 1977 Conventions are nine articles specifying what the general rule means, ranging from prohibitions against attacking power plants and water sources and spreading “terror among civilian populations” to destroying the “natural environment.” There are many civilian-related sections in other parts of the Conventions, but the 10 articles that make up Chapter I, Section I, Part IV on “Civilian Population” are the clearest guidelines about what is allowed when civilians are caught up in war.

The Conventions were mainly a response to the horrors of World War II, where civilian deaths were more than twice those on the military side. Of the approximate 80 million people who died in WW II, 55 million of them were civilians. In comparison, out of some 17 million who died in World War I, seven million were civilians.

The logic behind Article IV of the Conventions is that civilians are innocent bystanders, with no ability to defend themselves or inflict damage on an antagonist. However, if civilians take part in hostilities, they lose their protected status. If the warring parties have an obligation to protect non-combatants, civilians also have obligations, the most important of which is that they do not act as soldiers.

In short, if someone takes a pot shot at you, it is irrelevant if he or she is a civilian, by their actions they are no longer innocent bystanders.  Members of a resistance movement may not wear uniforms or be part of a military organization, but if they blow up your Humvee or ambush your patrol, they are combatants.

Which is why the question of who killed Anwar al-Awlaki (and over 2,000 people in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen killed by drones) is relevant. If the cleric was killed as part of a military operation—as with, for instance the assassination of Osama bin-Laden—then the arguments are around issues like whether we have the right to execute enemies without a trial (the Conventions say we don’t), or violate another nation’s sovereignty.

But al-Awlaki was not taken out by Navy Seals, he was assassinated by a member of the Central Intelligence Agency, the organization that runs the drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. CIA members are civilians. Indeed, the new director, David Petraeus, formally resigned his Army commission to make that point. Even if he had not, however, the CIA is not a military organization and is not under the control of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Why is this important?  Because if civilians in the U.S. are killing combatants in another country, then those civilians lose their protection under the Conventions. Worse, it means all U.S. civilians become potential targets. If a CIA employee based in Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, or Djibouti in Africa kills a Pakistani, Somalian, or Afghan with a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone, one can hardly complain if everyday U.S. citizens are targeted for retaliation.

One could argue that, since al-Awlaki was an American citizen, the hit didn’t really contravene the Conventions and the arguments should be over whether you can order the killing of an American citizen without due process. However, others targeted by the drone war—like members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Group, and the Somali Shabaab—do not fall in this category.

According to the CIA, the drone wars have killed no civilians. “There hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop,” John O’Brennan, the Obama administration’s counterterrorism advisor told the New York Times.

That assertion is almost beyond ridiculous. Even a supporter of the drone war like Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, says the claim is “absurd.” The United Kingdom based Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that out of the 2,292 people killed by drones in Pakistan, 775 of them were civilians. Pakistan journalist Noor Behram puts the total much higher, telling  The Guardian (UK), “For every 10 to 15 people killed [by drones], maybe they get one militant.”

The U.S. claim, however false, allows the drone war to continue. There is nothing in the Conventions that bars lying.

The Obama administration (and the previous Bush administration) argue that drone war is part of the “war on terror” that Congress mandated after the 9/11 attacks: hence we are at “war” with at least the Taliban and its allies, the Shabaab, and al-Qaeda. But the CIA still has no authority to execute a war. The last two run by the organization—the war in Laos and the Contra war against Nicaragua—were not only unmitigated disasters, they were illegal.

Many countries have already stretched the Geneva Conventions to the breaking point with regards to civilians and the treatment of prisoners. For instance, by using the term “collateral” to describe civilian deaths, a country sidesteps the Convention’s stricture against “deliberate targeting” of civilians by claiming the damage was “inadvertent.” By calling insurgents “combatants” rather than “soldiers,” the U.S. has waterboarded people, thus finessing both the Conventions and the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture.

One could get cynical about this—aren’t civilians always the victims of war?—but in their own uneven way, the Geneva Conventions have protected civilians. Indeed, it was the Conventions that led to what is now an almost worldwide ban on landmines and may end up eliminating cluster weapons in the future. The fact that laws don’t always work, or that people of ill will figure how to contravene them, is an argument for greater adherence to the rules, not ignoring or contravening them.

The danger is that the U.S. is blurring the difference between civilian and military, and that is a dangerously slippery slope. We already have a former general running the CIA, and former CIA Director Leon Panetta heads up the Defense Department. If we reach a point where there is nothing to distinguish our military institutions from our civilian ones, then all of us are fair game.

For more of Conn Hallinan’s essays visit Dispatches From the Edge. Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle Empire Series.

October 06, 2011, FPIF


US drone strikes in Pakistan claiming many civilian victims, says campaigner

One man in Waziristan is documenting casualties – and says destruction has been radicalising locals


Pakistani protesters burn a representation of an American flag

US drone strikes in Pakistan are condemned by protesters at a rally in Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. Photograph: Khalid Tanveer/AP

For the past three years, Noor Behram has hurried to the site of drone strikes in his native Waziristan. His purpose: to photograph and document the impact of missiles controlled by a joystick thousands of miles away, on US air force bases in Nevada and elsewhere. The drones are America’s only weapon for hunting al-Qaida and the Taliban in what is supposed to be the most dangerous place in the world.

Sometimes arriving on the scene just minutes after the explosion, he first has to put his camera aside and start digging through the debris to see if there are any survivors. It’s dangerous, unpleasant work. The drones frequently hit the same place again, a few minutes after the first strike, so looking for the injured is risky. There are other dangers too: militants and locals are suspicious of anyone with a camera. After all, it is a local network of spies working for the CIA that are directing the drone strikes.

But Noor Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important – and unreported – truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan‘s tribal region: that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. The world’s media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each strike. But reporters don’t go to the spot, relying on unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Noor Behram believes you have to go to the spot to figure out whether those killed were really extremists or ordinary people living in Waziristan. And he’s in no doubt.

“For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” he said. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.”

The drone strikes are a secret programme run by the CIA to assassinate al-Qaida and Taliban extremists using remote, wild Waziristan as a refuge. The CIA does not comment on drones, but privately claims civilian casualties are rare.

The Guardian was unable to independently verify the photographs. Noor Behram’s account of taking the pictures appeared detailed and consistent however. Other anecdotal evidence from Waziristan is conflicting: some insist the drones are accurate, while others strongly disagree.

According to Noor Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.

“The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they’re doing is far greater.”

Even when the drones hit the right compound, the force of the blast is such that neighbours’ houses, often made of baked mud, are also demolished, crushing those inside, said Noor Behram. One of the photographs shows a tangle of debris he said were the remains of five houses blitzed together.

The photographs make for difficult viewing and leave no doubt about the destructive power of the Hellfire missiles unleashed: a boy with the top of his head missing, a severed hand, flattened houses, the parents of children killed in a strike. The chassis is all that remains of a car in one photo, another shows the funeral of a seven-year-old child. There are pictures, too, of the cheap rubber flip-flops worn by children and adults, which often survive: signs that life once existed there. A 10-year-old boy’s body, prepared for burial, shows lipstick on him and flowers in his hair – a mother’s last loving touch.

There are photos of burned and battered Qur’ans – but no pictures of women: the conservative culture in Waziristan will not allow Noor Behram to photograph the women, even dead and dismembered. So he makes do with documenting shredded pieces of women’s clothing.

The jagged terrain, the often isolated location of strikes, curfews and the presence of Taliban, all mean that it is a major challenge to get to the site of a drone strike. Noor Behram has managed to reach 60, in both North and South Waziristan, in which he estimates more than 600 people were killed. An exhibition of his work, at London’s Beaconsfield gallery opening on Tuesday, features pictures from 27 different drone strikes. Clive Stafford Smith, head of Reprieve, the campaigning group, has launched a lawsuit along with a Pakistani lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, seeking to bring to justice those responsible for civilian deaths from drones. “I think these pictures are deeply important evidence,” said Stafford Smith. “They put a human face [on the drone strike campaign] that is in marked contrast to what the US is suggesting its operators in Nevada and elsewhere are doing. “They show the reality of ordinary people being killed and losing their homes, not senior al-Qaida members.”

The programme of drone strikes was ramped up under the Obama administration. Last year saw the greatest number of attacks, 118, while there have been 45 so far in 2011, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation, a thinktank based in Washington.Gaming in Waziristan, an exhibition including images of the aftermath of drone strikes in North Waziristan, opens at Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY

One victim’s story

Sadaullah, a 15-year-old, lost one eye and both legs in a drone strike on 7 September 2009, during the month of Ramadan, near Mir Ali town in North Waziristan. Three family members died, including an uncle who used a wheelchair. It was reported at the time that three Taliban commanders – rather than his three relatives – were killed in the strike.

“It struck after Iftar,” says the shy Sadaullah, referring to the breaking of the fast in the evening during Ramadan.

It had been a happy day for Sadaullah, who was looking forward to the evening when a feast was going to be served at his house, as his grandfather and uncles were visiting to break their fast.

After saying his prayer, Sadaullah, was entering the room where the other guests had already taken their place for the evening feast when the missile hit. Something heavy fell on his legs, requiring them both to be later amputated.

He also lost his uncle Mautullah Jan, who was in a wheelchair for the past decade, and two his cousins, Kadaanullah Jan and Sabir-ud-Din.

Now Sadaullah does not go to school and gets only a religious education in a madrasa – Islamic seminary – in his village. Sadaullah sees no hope for the future but says that the madrasa “is good for me, as it keeps me busy”.

Sadaullah is one of the victims on whose behalf British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith is to launch a lawsuit against the CIA’s former legal chief, John Rizzo, who approved dozens of drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal region.


C.I.A. Is Disputed on Civilian Toll in Drone Strikes

Ijaz Muhammad/Associated Press

Pakistani villagers in late 2010 carried the coffin of a person who was said to have been killed by an American drone attack near the Afghan border. Since May 2010, C.I.A. officers believe, drones have killed more than 600 militants.

Published: August 11, 2011

WASHINGTON — On May 6, a Central Intelligence Agency drone fired a volley of missiles at a pickup truck carrying nine militants and bomb materials through a desolate stretch of Pakistan near the Afghan border. It killed all the militants — a clean strike with no civilian casualties, extending what is now a yearlong perfect record of avoiding collateral deaths.

At War

Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog »

The New York Times

The region of North Waziristan is where most strikes occur.

Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser.

Msgt. Scott Reed/U.S. Air Force, Via Associated Press

An MQ-1 Predator. There is still a margin of error in drone strikes, even if it is far smaller than in traditional strikes, an Air Force pilot said.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.

The civilian toll of the C.I.A.’s drone campaign, which is widely credited with disrupting Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s tribal area, has been in bitter dispute since the strikes were accelerated in 2008. Accounts of strike after strike from official and unofficial sources are so at odds that they often seem to describe different events.

The debate has intensified since President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, clearly referring to the classified drone program, said in June that for almost a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Other officials say that extraordinary claim still holds: since May 2010, C.I.A. officers believe, the drones have killed more than 600 militants — including at least 20 in a strike reported Wednesday — and not a single noncombatant.

Cutting through the fog of the drone war is important in part because the drone aircraft deployed in Pakistan are the leading edge of a revolution in robotic warfare that has already expanded to Yemen and Somalia, and that military experts expect to sweep the world.

“It’s urgent to answer this question, because this technology is so attractive to the U.S. and other governments that it’s going to proliferate very rapidly,” said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or Civic, a Washington nonprofit that tracks civilian deaths.

The government’s assertion of zero collateral deaths meets with deep skepticism from many independent experts. And a new report from the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which conducted interviews in Pakistan’s tribal area, concluded that at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes during the last year.

Others who question the C.I.A. claim include strong supporters of the drone program like Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, who closely tracks the strikes.

“The Taliban don’t go to a military base to build bombs or do training,” Mr. Roggio said. “There are families and neighbors around. I believe the people conducting the strikes work hard to reduce civilian casualties. They could be 20 percent. They could be 5 percent. But I think the C.I.A.’s claim of zero civilian casualties in a year is absurd.”

A closer look at the competing claims, including interviews with American officials and their critics, discloses new details about how the C.I.A. tracks the results of the drone strikes. It also suggests reasons to doubt the precision and certainty of the agency’s civilian death count.

In a statement on Tuesday for this article, Mr. Brennan adjusted the wording of his earlier comment on civilian casualties, saying American officials could not confirm any such deaths.

“Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq, and we will continue to do our best to keep it that way,” Mr. Brennan said.

If there are doubts about the C.I.A. claim, there are also questions about the reliability of critics’ reports of noncombatant deaths. Reporters in North Waziristan, where most strikes occur, operate in a dangerous and politically charged environment. Many informants have their own agendas: militants use civilian deaths as a recruiting tool, and Pakistani officials rally public opinion against the drones as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

“Waziristan is a black hole of information,” acknowledged Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is suing the C.I.A. on behalf of civilians who say they have lost family members in the strikes. American officials accuse Mr. Akbar of working to discredit the drone program at the behest of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the Pakistani spy service. Mr. Akbar and others who know him strongly deny the accusation.

American officials, who will speak about the classified drone program only on the condition of anonymity, say it has killed more than 2,000 militants and about 50 noncombatants since 2001 — a stunningly low collateral death rate by the standards of traditional airstrikes.

The officials say C.I.A. drone operators view their targets for hours or days beforehand, analyzing what they call a “pattern of life” and distinguishing militants from others. They use software to model the blast area of each proposed strike. Then they watch the strike, see the killed and wounded pulled from the rubble, and track the funerals that follow.

The video is supplemented, officials say, by informants on the ground who sometimes plant homing devices at a compound or a car. The C.I.A. and National Security Agency intercept cellphone calls and e-mails discussing who was killed.

“Because our coverage has improved so much since the beginning of this program, it really defies logic that now we would start missing all these alleged noncombatant casualties,” said an American official familiar with the program.

In one recent strike, the official said, after the drone operator fired a missile at militants in a car and a noncombatant suddenly appeared nearby, the operator was able to divert the missile harmlessly into open territory, hitting the car minutes later when the civilian was gone.

“Nobody is arguing that this weapon is perfect, but it remains the most precise system we’ve ever had in our arsenal,” the official said.

The agency’s critics counter that an intelligence officer watching a video screen thousands of miles away can hardly be certain of the identity of everyone killed in a strike. In a tribal society where men commonly carry weapons and a single family compound can include a militant fighter, an enlistee in the Pakistani government’s Frontier Corps, and a shopkeeper, even villagers may be uncertain about the affiliations of their neighbors.

Skeptics likewise say that militants can commandeer a car or a compound from neighbors who cannot safely refuse the demands. And civilians may be present among militants: the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for example, found that one strike that killed about two dozen militants also killed two civilians, a prisoner of the militants and a visitor negotiating the release of relatives held elsewhere.

The standard drone weapons, Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs, like other ordnance, are not absolutely predictable. A strike last Oct. 18, all reports agree, hit a militant compound and killed a number of fighters. But Mr. Akbar, the lawyer, said the family next door to the compound had told his investigators their 10-year-old son, Naeem Ullah, was hit by shrapnel and died an hour after being taken to the hospital in nearby Miram Shah. Neighbors confirmed the account, Mr. Akbar said.

The C.I.A. declines to publicly discuss the drone program, so it was not possible to talk to an agency drone pilot. But Col. David M. Sullivan, an Air Force pilot with extensive experience with both traditional and drone airstrikes from Kosovo to Afghanistan, said remotely piloted craft offered far greater opportunities to study a target and avoid hitting civilians.

An F-117 fighter or a Reaper drone each carries the same 500-pound bombs, “but the Reaper has been sitting for hours on target,” allowing the operator time to study who will be hit by a strike, said Colonel Sullivan, who is on the staff of the secretary of defense.

Still, he said, there is still a margin of error in drone strikes, even if it is far smaller than in traditional strikes.

“Zero innocent civilians having lost their lives does not sound to me like reality,” Colonel Sullivan said. “Never in the history of combat operations has every airborne strike been 100 percent successful.”

American officials said the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report was suspect because it relied in part on information supplied by Mr. Akbar, who publicly named the C.I.A.’s undercover Pakistan station chief in December when announcing his legal campaign against the drones. But Mr. Akbar, a former prosecutor, denied he had ever received money or instructions from the ISI, which he said he had often faced off against as a lawyer. He said that in July two ISI agents visited him to ask, “who do you work for?”

Christopher Rogers, an American human rights lawyer who lived in Pakistan in 2009 and 2010, said that he had helped interest Mr. Akbar in the drone strikes and their legal implications. “The idea that ISI was the puppeteer here is not credible at all,” said Mr. Rogers, now at the Open Society Institute in New York.

Though Pakistani officials often denounce the drone program, even as they have at times quietly assisted it, skeptics about its overall impact include American officials as well. The former director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, said at a public forum in Aspen, Colo., last month that he thought unilateral American strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia should end.

“Pull back on unilateral actions by the United States except in extraordinary circumstances,” said Mr. Blair, who headed national intelligence from January 2009 until May 2010.

C. Christine Fair, an expert on Pakistan at Georgetown University, said that getting full cooperation with Pakistan on drone strikes might be impossible. But Ms. Fair, who said she began as a skeptic but has come to believe that the drones are highly effective and civilian casualties are very low, said the semisecrecy surrounding the program fuels suspicion and allows propaganda to thrive.

The C.I.A. should make public its strikes and their results — even to the point of posting video of the strikes online, she said.

“This is the least indiscriminate, least inhumane tool we have,” Ms. Fair said. “But until there is complete transparency, the public will not believe that.”

Pir Zubair Shah contributed reporting from New York.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 12, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: C.I.A. Is Disputed On Civilian Toll In Drone Strikes.


Full size



Oct 7, 2011 2:34 PM

14,853 71

Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don’t know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they’re sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.

Drones have become America’s tool of choice in both its conventional and shadow wars, allowing U.S. forces to attack targets and spy on its foes without risking American lives. Since President Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times; all told, these drones have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and civilians, according to the Washington Post. More than 150 additional Predator and Reaper drones, under U.S. Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. American military drones struck 92 times in Libya between mid-April and late August. And late last month, an American drone killed top terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki – part of an escalating unmanned air assault in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabian peninsula.

But despite their widespread use, the drone systems are known to have security flaws. Many Reapers and Predators don’t encrypt the video they transmit to  American troops on the ground. In the summer of 2009, U.S. forces discovered “days and days and hours and hours” of the drone footage on the laptops of Iraqi insurgents. A $26 piece of software allowed the militants to capture the video.

The lion’s share of U.S. drone missions are flown by Air Force pilots stationed at Creech, a tiny outpost in the barren Nevada desert, 20 miles north of a state prison and adjacent to a one-story casino. In a nondescript building, down a largely unmarked hallway, is a series of rooms, each with a rack of servers and a “ground control station,” or GCS. There, a drone pilot and a sensor operator sit in their flight suits in front of a series of screens. In the pilot’s hand is the joystick, guiding the drone as it soars above Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other battlefield.

Some of the GCSs are classified secret, and used for conventional warzone surveillance duty. The GCSs handling more exotic operations are top secret. None of the remote cockpits are supposed to be connected to the public internet. Which means they are supposed to be largely immune to viruses and other network security threats.

But time and time again, the so-called “air gaps” between classified and public networks have been bridged, largely through the use of discs and removable drives. In late 2008, for example, the drives helped introduce the agent.btz worm to hundreds of thousands of Defense Department computers. The Pentagon is still disinfecting machines, three years later.

Use of the drives is now severely restricted throughout the military. But the base at Creech was one of the exceptions, until the virus hit. Predator and Reaper crews use removable hard drives to load map updates and transport mission videos from one computer to another. The virus is believed to have spread through these removable drives. Drone units at other Air Force bases worldwide have now been ordered to stop their use.

In the meantime, technicians at Creech are trying to get the virus off the GCS machines. It has not been easy. At first, they followed removal instructions posted on the website of the Kaspersky security firm. “But the virus kept coming back,” a source familiar with the infection says. Eventually, the technicians had to use a software tool called BCWipe to completely erase the GCS’ internal hard drives. “That meant rebuilding them from scratch” – a time-consuming effort.

The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”

However, insiders say that senior officers at Creech are being briefed daily on the virus.

“It’s getting a lot of attention,” the source says. “But no one’s panicking. Yet




Take 5 Days of ACTIONS Against the DRONES
At Creech AFB with Cindy Sheehan

Take FIVE days from your life-as-usual to PROTEST DRONES: anti-human ASSASSINS!

Cindy Sheehan, CodePINK, and many others call on you to JOIN US for one day, some days, or every day the end of this month at Creech AFB, as we raise public awareness and STAND against our military’s use of DRONES.

DRONES are the most horrific ‘war toy’ since nuclear weapons. They are unmanned aircraft that soldiers sitting at computer consoles in Creech AFB, Indian Springs, Nevada, operate – ordering DRONES to kill people 7000 miles away in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq.

DRONES are now ‘patrolling’ the waters of Somalia, the US borders of Mexico and Canada – and who knows where else?

Fly, caravan, take the bus – but just BE THERE! There is a Goddess Temple for womyn activists to stay at FREE 2 miles from Creech; there is camping next to Creech for $10/night per camp site; and there’s a hotel right next to Creech for $15/nite for 4 to a room!

Just decide to go! The rest of the details will work out!

Check out the calendar at here or – or call 510-540-7007!


The Verdict: Guilty of Protesting the Drones

Sunday 24 April 2011
by: John Dear, Truthout | News Analysis

A MQ-1B Predator unmanned aircraft system takes off for a training mission at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.(Photo: Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr. / US Air Force)

On Thursday, 13 of us stood in a Las Vegas courtroom to hear the verdict from Judge Jansen regarding our September trial for trespassing on April 9, 2009, at Creech Air Force Base (AFB), headquarters of the US drone operations. Last September, the judge had dramatically announced that he would need at least three months to “think” about the case.

After telling us how “nice” it was to see us, the judge presented each of us with a 20-page legal ruling explaining why he found us guilty. “You argued a defense of necessity,” he said, “when an inherent danger is present and immediate action must be taken, such as breaking a no-trespassing law to uphold a higher law and save life. In this case, no inherent danger was present, and so I find you guilty.”

Guilty! My friends and I have tried every legal means possible to stop our government from its terrorist, drone bombing attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, and so we journeyed to the drone headquarters at Creech AFB near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday to kneel in prayer and beg for an end to the bombings. This nonviolent intervention is determined to be criminal – not the regular drone bombing attacks on children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I expected this ruling, but it was sad nonetheless. The judge missed a great opportunity to take a stand for justice and peace, to do the right thing, to help end terrorism. Instead, he sided with the war machine. Worse, he dismissed the loss of life caused by our drone attacks. “It does not matter that civilians are being killed by our drones,” he said in effect. His ruling indicated that some lives are not worth as much as others.

Before he sentenced us, we each spoke briefly about our action and why we crossed the line. This testimony was the best, most moving part of our ordeal, so I thought I would share excerpts from my co-defendants remarks.

Brian Terrell of the Catholic Worker told the judge that the evil work of Creech AFB does involve immediate, present danger – to the children and people ofAfghanistan. He cited a recent interview with a young drone operator, who sits in front of a computer screen at Creech. “The war is 7,000 miles away andthe war is 18 inches away,” the Air Force operator said. “7,000 miles, the distance from Creech to Afghanistan,” Brian explained. “Eighteen inches, thedistance from his face to the screen. This distance is an illusion. And it’s a very dangerous illusion. The purpose behind our action was to dispel that illusion because it is very close and the danger we were addressing was and is imminent.”

Brian should know. He and Kathy Kelly were just back from a three-week trip to Afghanistan where they met victims of US drone attacks.

“In Afghanistan, I met a family displaced by a drone attack in the Helmand Province,” Kathy told the judge. “One man showed me the photos of his children’s bloodied corpses. The drone attack killed his spouse and his five children. In the Charahi Qambar refugee camp, I sat next to Juma Gul, a nine year old girl whose arm was amputated by the same drone attack. She was punished horribly even though she committed no crime. We want to be in solidarity with her.

“It’s criminal for the US to spend 2 billion dollars per week for war in Afghanistan that maims, kills and displaces innocent civilians who’ve meant us no harm,” she said.

“I deplore the high tech technology used for mass killing which destroys and pollutes this sacred planet,” Sister Megan Rice said. “I had to enter the base in order to obey higher orders. I have listened to the voice of the victims of drone warfare. These weapons are aptly named drones, predators, reapers.”

“We each have a responsibility to work for justice and to act in defense of human life,” Libby Pappalardo said. “The use of drones has increased hatred and violence in our world. I have tried to work through the system, but it isn’t enough. This is an emergency situation. Our country is worse off because ofthe violence of war and militarism. It’s necessary to take this next step. I will continue to struggle for human rights and nonviolence so that all the world’s children can feel safe and embraced by peace and hope.”

“I went to Creech to express my deep sorrow and outrage over the fact that my country was engaged in what I believe were acts of terrorism in the use ofdrones against my brothers and sisters,” Eve Tetaz said. “I cannot remain silent. I think of Moses’ words: ‘I set before you this day life and death, good and evil. Therefore, choose life that you and your family may live.’ It is my prayer that you will be with us in speaking this truth to justice, that one day our nation will lead the world in the attempt to turn swords into plowshares and learn war no more so that the God of peace, mercy, justice and compassion will bring about law and justice. I invite you and all those who are present in the court to join us.”

“As a veteran, I care about our guys over there,” Dennis DuVall said. “Every time there’s a drone strike, most of the victims are innocent women and children and old men like me. The younger men are considered militants. Each attack results in revenge attacks.”

“Last Spring I was in New York City during the nuclear disarmament march in Times Square when a car bomb was almost detonated. It’s ironic that I wasprotesting drone warfare at Creech AFB where they’re directing drone attacks and a year later I was almost an unwitting victim of a revenge car bomb attempt in Times Square. The young man who built the bomb, Faisal Shazad, said he was motivated by drone attacks against Pakistan. There is a greater harm. If this isn’t necessity, what the hell is? We cannot run from the consequences of our drone air war 7000 miles away. Eventually, it’s going to come home to us. We’re going to be the victims.”

“We are attacking people in an Islamic country,” Brad Lyttle said. “We are shooting missiles and killing them in an arbitrary manner. It is generating great hatred, and these people have the means to access weapons to cause us tremendous harm. We need to establish peaceful, just ways to resolve disputes. This is the message I would like to have people examine and think about. We have to develop non-military means for achieving justice and therefore peace.”

“I’ve been hearing about the Afghan youth peace volunteers who work for peace and nonviolence in their land,” said Mariah Klusmire. “As long as they’re working for peace in their country, I will too, and no punishment can stop me from working for peace.”

“Through our presence, we were trying to make the imminent danger posed by drone warfare less remote,” Steve Kelly said. “Our presence there was making the connection that would otherwise seem remote. We weren’t there to do civil disobedience. We were there to make an intervention. Our intention was lawful. I’m disappointed and saddened that you came to the wrong conclusion.”

“As a follower of Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I take seriously his second commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'” Judy Homanich said. “As themother of two wonderful children – my precious daughter, Sarah, who is just starting her adult life and my gone but not forgotten son, David, whose faith, courage and compassion continue to inspire me – I prayerfully acted in solidarity with all mothers, daughters, wives and sisters here and around the world who suffer loss due to war. My son David’s death, at age 21, was due to cancer not war, but I understand the heart-wrenching, life-changing pain of losing a child, a loved one. The US government kills countless innocents in drone attacks and calls it collateral damage.”

“President Obama should heed his own words, spoken in October, 2010, while in India,” Judy continued. “He said nothing ever justifies the slaughter ofinnocent civilians. But the US drone attacks continue. This criminal long distance killing makes us all less human and less safe. I have a duty to bear witness against this killing and I will continue to do so.”

“We are all one family,” Fr. Jerry Zawada said. “The huge numbers of innocent people being killed by drones is something I have to stand up against. We think of people on the other side of the border or the ocean as being different from ourselves. They’re not. That’s my family and your family too. We are one family. We have to take risks for one another.”

For my two cents, I named these drones as illegal, immoral and impractical, and said they are bad for us politically, economically, socially and spiritually. I said that crossing the line onto Creech was an act of prayer for an end to these terrorist drones, and for an end to war itself, for new nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. We were obeying a higher law, taking our case to a Higher Power.

In the end, the judge sentenced us to time served. We didn’t go to jail, and meanwhile, our drones continue to drop bombs. A new report says unauthorized US drone strikes last year claimed nearly 1,200 lives. According to Pakistani sources, our drone attacks kill almost 50 civilians for every “militant” we target.

Together, through our action and our courtroom testimony, we argued that we can do better than drop bombs through these drone machines. As we left, we pledged to continue to speak out against the drones, to try to wake one another up about the US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to stir theembers of the peace movement to speak out and take action for a new world of nonviolence. We give thanks for the opportunity to witness to peace, and we go forward determined to promote peace with everyone.

As Father Jerry said, we are all one family.

Creative Commons License


Covert Drone War

Covert Drone War

July 27th, 2011 | by Bureau Reporter | Published in All Stories, Covert Drone War

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has embarked on a detailed study of civilian deaths caused by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Our analysis comes less than a month after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan publicly stated: ‘…that nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop’.
‘…that nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop’.
John Brennan, Chief US counter-terrorism adviser

The Bureau’s Investigation
The US military’s emphasis has shifted dramatically towards covert operations in recent years. Special Forces troops on the ground and unmanned CIA planes in the air, are now key instruments in the US military arsenal.  The killing of Osama bin Laden and the use of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are evidence of this new warfare.

As the ‘War on Terror’ enters its second decade, public scrutiny and accountability remain critical.  The first ten years saw significant military excess uncovered by journalists: Abu Ghraib; rendition; torture and secret prisons; and financial scandal.  Some of these were the work of covert forces, others by the regular military.

As the war becomes more covert, so scrutiny becomes ever more necessary – and more complex. The Bureau intends to examine aspects of the covert global war on terror – and will be directed by the evidence, and not by doctrine.

Our analysis and what is has revealed

The Bureau’s analysis of 116 drone strikes that took place between August 2010 and Brennan’s speech on June 29 reveals:

– 10 drone strikes in which a total of at least 45 civilians have been killed.

– Six named children killed by these strikes.

– At least 15 additional strikes are likely to have killed many more civilians.

– US drone strikes in Pakistan have risen from one a year in 2004 to one every four days under President Obama.

– The US continues to insist that drone strikes are ‘the most accurate weapon in history’.

The Bureau’s major assessment of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan is an ongoing project. If you would like to be kept informed on this issue click here to sign up to our newsletter.


Drones and their (legal) discontents

Tom Engelhardt


Tom Engelhardt,


A U.S. Air Force RQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle from the 432nd Wing out of Creech Air Force Base, Nev., takes off from the Rafael Hernandez Airport outside Aguadilla, Puerto Rico for a mission. (Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr./USAF)


In the world of weaponry, they are the sexiest things around.  Others countries are desperate to have them.  Almost anyone who writes about them becomes a groupie.  Reporters exploring their onrushing future swoon at their potentially wondrous techno-talents.  They are, of course, the pilotless drones, our grimly named Predators and Reapers.

As CIA Director, Leon Panetta called them “the only game in town.”  As Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates pushed hard to up their numbers and increase their funding drastically.  The U.S. Air Force is already training more personnel to become drone “pilots” than to pilot actual planes.  You don’t need it in skywriting to know that, as icons of American-style war, they are clearly in our future — and they’re even heading for the homeland as police departments clamor for them.

They are relatively cheap.  When they “hunt,” no one dies (at least on our side).  They are capable of roaming the world.  Someday, they will land on the decks of aircraft carriers or, tiny as hummingbirds, drop onto a windowsill, maybe even yours, or in their hundreds, the size of bees, swarm to targets and, if all goes well, coordinate their actions using the artificial intelligence version of “hive minds.”

Al Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen
Who was Anwar al-Awlaki?

“The drone,” writes Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, “has increasingly become the [Obama] administration’s ‘weapon of choice’ in its efforts to subdue al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”  In hundreds of attacks over the last years in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, they have killed thousands, including al-Qaeda figures, Taliban militants, and civilians.  They have played a significant and growing role in the skies over Afghanistan.  They are now loosing their missiles ever more often over Yemen, sometimes over Libya, and less often over Somalia.  Their bases are spreading.  No one in Congress will be able to resist them.  They are defining the new world of war for the twenty-first century — and many of the humans who theoretically command and control them can hardly keep up.

Reach for your dictionaries

On September 15th, the New York Times front-paged a piece by the estimable Charlie Savage, based on leaks from inside the administration.  It was headlined “At White House, Weighing Limits of Terror Fight,” and started this way:

“The Obama administration’s legal team is split over how much latitude the United States has to kill Islamist militants in Yemen and Somalia, a question that could define the limits of the war against al-Qaeda and its allies, according to administration and Congressional officials.”

Lawyers for the Pentagon and the State Department, Savage reported, were debating whether, outside of hot-war zones, the Obama administration could call in the drones (as well as special operations forces) not just to go after top al-Qaeda figures planning attacks on the United States, but al-Qaeda’s foot soldiers (and vaguely allied groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al-Shabab in Somalia).

That those lawyers are arguing fiercely over such a matter is certainly a curiosity.  As presented, the issue behind their disagreement is how to square modern realities with outmoded rules of war written for another age (which also, by the way, had its terrorists).  And yet such debates, front-paged or not, fierce or not, will one day undoubtedly be seen as analogous to supposed ancient clerical arguments over just how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.  In fact, their import lies mainly in the fascinating pattern they reveal about the way forces that could care less about questions of legality are driving developments in American-style war.

After all, this fierce “argument” about what constraints should be applied to modern robotic war was first played out in the air over Pakistan’s tribal borderlands.  There, the CIA’s drone air campaign began with small numbers of missions targeting a few highly placed al-Qaeda leaders (not terribly successfully).  Rather than declare its latest wonder weapons a failure, however, the CIA, already deeply invested in drone operations, simply pushed ever harder to expand the targeting to play to the technological strengths of the planes.

In 2007, CIA director Michael Hayden began lobbying the White House for “permission to carry out strikes against houses or cars merely on the basis of behavior that matched a ‘pattern of life’ associated with al-Qaeda or other groups.”  And next thing you knew, they were moving from a few attempted targeted assassinations toward a larger air war of annihilation against types and “behaviors.”

Here’s another curiosity.  The day after Charlie Savage’s piece appeared in the Times, the president’s top advisor on counterterror operations, John O. Brennan, gave a speech at a conference at Harvard Law School on “Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws,” and seemed to settle the “debate,” part of which he defined this way:

“Others in the international community — including some of our closest allies and partners — take a different view of the geographic scope of the conflict, limiting it only to the ‘hot’ battlefields.  As such, they argue that, outside of these two active theatres, the United States can only act in self-defense against al-Qaeda when they are planning, engaging in, or threatening an armed attack against U.S. interests if it amounts to an ‘imminent’ threat.”

He then added this little twist: “Practically speaking, then, the question turns principally on how you define ‘imminence.'”

If there’s one thing we should have learned from the Bush years, it was this: when government officials reach for their dictionaries, duck!

Then, the crucial word at stake was “torture,” and faced with it — and what top administration officials actually wanted done in the world — Justice Department lawyers quite literally reached for their dictionaries.  In their infamous torture memos, they so pretzled, abused, and redefined the word “torture” that, by the time they were through, whether acts of torture even occurred was left to the torturer, to what had he had in mind when he was “interrogating” someone. (“[I]f a defendant [interrogator] has a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture.”)

As a result, “torture” was essentially drummed out of the dictionary (except when committed by heinous evil doers in places like Iran) and “enhanced interrogation techniques” welcomed into our world.  The Bush administration and the CIA then proceeded to fill the “black sites” they set up from Poland to Thailand and the torture chambers of chummy regimes like Mubarak’s Egypt and Gaddafi’s Libya with “terror suspects,” and then tortured away with impunity.

Now, it seems, the Obama crowd is reaching for its dictionaries, which means that it’s undoubtedly time to duck again.  As befits a more intellectual crowd, we’re no longer talking about relatively simple words like “torture” whose meaning everyone knows (or at least once knew).  If “imminence” is now the standard for when robotic war is really war, don’t you yearn for the good old days when the White House focused on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” and all that was at stake was presidential sex, not presidential killing?

When legalisms take center stage in a situation like this, think of magicians.  Their skill is to focus your attention on the space where nothing that matters is happening — the wrong hand, the wrong face, the wrong part of the stage — while they perform their “magic” elsewhere.  Similarly, pay attention to the law right now and you’re likely to miss the plot line of our world.

It’s true that, at the moment, articles are pouring out focused on how to define the limits of future drone warfare.  My advice: skip the law, skip the definitions, skip the arguments, and focus your attention on the drones and the people developing them instead.

Put another way, in the last decade, there was only one definition that truly mattered.  From it everything else followed: the almost instantaneous post-9/11 insistence that we were “at war,” and not even in a specific war or set of wars, but in an all-encompassing one that, within two weeks of the collapse of the World Trade Center, President Bush was already calling “the war on terror.”  That single demonic definition of our state of existence rose to mind so quickly that no lawyers were needed and no one had to reach for a dictionary.

Addressing a joint session of Congress, the president typically said: “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there.” And that open-endedness was soon codified in an official name that told all: “the Global War on Terror,” or GWOT.  (For all we know, the phrase itself was the invention of a speechwriter mainlining into the zeitgeist.)  Suddenly, “sovereignty” had next to no meaning (if you weren’t a superpower); the U.S. was ready to take out after terrorists in up to 80 countries; and the planet, by definition, had become a global free-fire zone.

By the end of September 2001, as the invasion of Afghanistan was being prepared, it was already a carte-blanche world and, as it happened, pilotless surveillance drones were there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for a moment like this, yearning (you might say) to be weaponized.

If GWOT preceded much thought of drones, it paved the way for their crash weaponization, development, and deployment.  It was no mistake that, a bare two weeks after 9/11, a prescient Noah Shachtman (who would go on to found the Danger Room website at Wired) led off a piece for that magazine this way: “Unmanned, almost disposable spy planes are being groomed for a major role in the coming conflict against terrorism, defense analysts say.”

Talk about “imminence” or “constraints” all you want, but as long as we are “at war,” not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but on a world scale with something known as “terror,” there will never be any limits, other than self-imposed ones.

And it remains so today, even though the Obama administration has long avoided the term “Global War on Terror.”  As Brennan made utterly clear in his speech, President Obama considers us “at war” anywhere that al-Qaeda, its minions, wannabes, or simply groups of irregulars we don’t much care for may be located.  Given this mentality, there is little reason to believe that, on September 11, 2021, we won’t still be “at war.”

So pay no attention to the legalisms.  Put away those dictionaries.  Ignore the “debates” between the White House and Congress, or State and Defense.  Otherwise you’ll miss the predatory magic.

Beyond words

Within days after the news about the “debate” over the limits on global war was leaked to the Times, unnamed government officials were leaking away to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal on an allied subject of interest.  Both papers broke the news that, as Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller of the Post put it, the U.S. military and the CIA were creating “a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.”

A new base, it seems, is being constructed in Ethiopia, another somewhere in the vicinity of Yemen (possibly in Saudi Arabia), and a third reopened on the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean — all clearly intended for the escalating drone wars in Yemen and Somalia, and perhaps drone wars to come elsewhere in eastern or northern Africa.

These preparations are meant to deal not just with Washington’s present preoccupations, but with its future fears and phantasms.  In this way, they fit well with the now decade-old war on terror’s campaign against will-o-the-wisps.  Julian Barnes of the Wall Street Journal, for example, quotes an unnamed “senior U.S. official” as saying: “We do not know enough about the leaders of the al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa.  Is there a guy out there saying, ‘I am the future of al-Qaeda’? Who is the next Osama bin Laden?”  We don’t yet know, but wherever he is, our drones will be ready for him.

All of this, in turn, fits well with the Pentagon’s “legal” position, mentioned by the Times’ Savage, of “trying to maintain maximum theoretical flexibility.”  It’s a kind of Field-of-Dreams argument: if you build them, they will come.

It’s simple enough.  The machines (and their creators and supporters in the military-industrial complex) are decades ahead of the government officials who theoretically direct and oversee them.  “A Future for Drones: Automated Killing,” an enthusiastic article that appeared in the Post the very same week as that paper’s base-expansion piece, caught the spirit of the moment.  In it, Peter Finn reported on the way three pilotless drones over Fort Benning, Georgia, worked together to identify a target without human guidance. It may, he wrote, “presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify, and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. Imagine aerial ‘Terminators,’ minus beefcake and time travel.”

In a New York Review of Books piece with a similarly admiring edge (and who wouldn’t admire such staggering technological advances), Christian Caryl writes:

“Researchers are now testing UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] that mimic hummingbirds or seagulls; one model under development can fit on a pencil eraser. There is much speculation about linking small drones or robots together into ‘swarms’ — clouds or crowds of machines that would share their intelligence, like a hive mind, and have the capability to converge instantly on identified targets. This might seem like science fiction, but it is probably not that far away.”

Admittedly, drones still can’t have sex.  Not yet anyway.  And they can’t choose which humans they are sent to kill.  Not so far.  But sex and the single drone aside, all of this and more may, in the coming decades, become — if you don’t mind my using the word — imminent.  It may be the reality in the skies over all our heads.

It’s true that the machines of war the Obama administration is now rushing headlong to deploy cannot yet operate themselves, but they are already — in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words — “in the saddle, and ride mankind.”  Their “desire” to be deployed and used is driving policy in Washington — and increasingly elsewhere as well.  Think of this as the Drone Imperative.

If you want to fight over definitions, there’s only one worth fighting over: not the phrase “the Global War on Terror,” which the Obama administration tossed aside to no effect whatsoever, but the concept behind it.  Once the idea took hold that the United States was, and had no choice but to be, in a state of permanent global war, the game was afoot.  From then on, the planet was — conceptually speaking — a free-fire zone, and even before robotic weaponry developed to its present level, it was already a drone-eat-drone world to the horizon.

As long as global war remains the essence of “foreign policy,” the drones — and the military-industrial companies and lobbying groups behind them, as well as the military and CIA careers being built on them — will prove expansive.  They will go where, and as far as, the technology takes them.

In reality, it’s not the drones, but our leaders who are remarkably constrained.  Out of permanent war and terrorism, they have built a house with no doors and no exits.  It’s easy enough to imagine them as beleaguered masters of the universe atop the globe’s military superpower, but in terms of what they can actually do, it would be more practical to think of them as so many drones, piloted by others.  In truth, our present leaders, or rather managers, are small people operating on autopilot in a big-machine world.

As they definitionally twitch and turn, we can just begin to glimpse — like an old-fashioned photo developing in a tray of chemicals — the outlines of a new form of American imperial war emerging before our eyes.  It involves guarding the empire on the cheap, as well as on the sly, via the CIA, which has, in recent years, developed into a full-scale, drone-heavy paramilitary outfit, via a growing secret army of special operations forces that has been incubating inside the military these last years, and of course via those missile- and bomb-armed robotic assassins of the sky.

The appeal is obvious: the cost (in U.S. lives) is low; in the case of the drones, nonexistent.  There is no need for large counterinsurgency armies of occupation of the sort that have bogged down on the mainland of the Greater Middle East these last years.

In an increasingly cash-strapped and anxious Washington, it must look like a literal godsend.  How could it go wrong?

Of course, that’s a thought you can only hang onto as long as you’re looking down on a planet filled with potential targets scurrying below you.  The minute you look up, the minute you leave your joystick and screen behind and begin to imagine yourself on the ground, it’s obvious how things could go so very, very wrong — how, in fact, in Pakistan, to take but one example, they are going so very, very wrong.

Just think about the last time you went to a Terminator film: Who did you identify with? John and Sarah Connor, or the implacable Terminators chasing them?  And you don’t need artificial intelligence to grasp why in a nanosecond.

In a country now struggling simply to guarantee help to its own citizens struck by natural disasters, Washington is preparing distinctly unnatural disasters in the imperium.  In this way, both at home and abroad, the American dream is turning into the American scream.

So when we build those bases on that global field of screams, when we send our armadas of drones out to kill, don’t be surprised if the rest of the world doesn’t see us as the good guys or the heroes, but as terminators.  It’s not the best way to make friends and influence people, but once your mindset is permanent war, that’s no longer a priority.  It’s a scream, and there’s nothing funny about it.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), will be published in November. This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.



Article from Middle East Policy Council

Washington, DC, entitled

Drone Warfare: Blowback from the New American Way of War



“…drone warfare has created five distinct, yet overlapping, forms of blowback:

(1) the purposeful retaliation against the United States,

(2) the creation of new insurgents, referred to as the “accidental guerrilla” syndrome,

(3) the further complication of U.S. strategic coordination and interests in what the Bush and Obama administrations have designated the Afghan/Pakistan (Af/Pak) theatre,

 (4) the further destabilization of Pakistan and

(5) the deterioration of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. As the drone policy is adapted for use in post-Saleh Yemen, it is important to address these forms of blowback.


Drone Warfare Blowback from the New American Way of War

Leila Hudson, Colin S. Owens, Matt Flannes

Middle East Policy Council

Journal Essay

Targeted killing by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, has become the central element of U.S. counterterror operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Over nearly a decade, drone-attack frequency and death rates have increased dramatically. Rather than calming the region through the precise elimination of terrorist leaders, however, the accelerating counterterror program has compounded violence and instability. These consequences need to be addressed, since the summer of 2011 has seen the dramatic expansion of the drone program into Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

Drone warfare has complicated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sisyphean counterinsurgency and nation-building project, by provoking militant attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.1 At the strategic level, fragmented U.S. intelligence and military policies are working at cross purposes, eroding trust through “covert” drone warfare on the Pakistani side of the Durand line while trying tardily to build trust on the Afghan side.2 The growing outrage of Pakistani society came to a head in spring 2011 over the Raymond Davis incident and the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These events put great stress on relations between the United States and the world’s most volatile nuclear state.

Although its proponents promote drone warfare as more precise and effective than traditional counterterror measures, the death toll from drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004 hovers imprecisely between 1,500 and 2,500 people.3 The public is routinely assured that a high percentage of those extrajudicially killed are militants, but victims are often unnamed and deaths rarely investigated.4 The few successful drone attacks on high-profile targets seem to have mobilized existing networks of followers to conduct symbolic revenge attacks of comparable magnitude, like the December 2009 Khost bombing, which sought to avenge the drone killing of Beitullah Mehsud in Waziristan earlier that year. By extension, non-militants victimized by drone attacks directly or indirectly far outnumber targeted militants. Thus, a stream of new adversaries is produced in what is called the “accidental guerrilla” phenomenon.5

On a different level, the erosion of trust and lack of clarity in drone policy produces strategic and tactical confusion within the U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. This confusion proves unhelpful as exit strategies for the Afghan war are debated and continuing evaluation of U.S.-Pakistani relations are assessed behind closed doors. By the same token, the ongoing ambivalence of the Pakistani civilian and military leadership on the topic of U.S. drone strikes has fanned the flames of popular discontent in the country’s fragile political system, revealing the infrastructure of contradictions in the roles of its military-intelligence sectors that simultaneously work with the United States and promote militant organizations. All these forms of blowback — the unintended consequences of policies not subjected to the scrutiny of the American public — complicate U.S. policy in the region and should be considered before drone warfare is expanded into the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.6

In total, we argue that drone warfare has created five distinct, yet overlapping, forms of blowback: (1) the purposeful retaliation against the United States, (2) the creation of new insurgents, referred to as the “accidental guerrilla” syndrome, (3) the further complication of U.S. strategic coordination and interests in what the Bush and Obama administrations have designated the Afghan/Pakistan (Af/Pak) theatre, (4) the further destabilization of Pakistan and (5) the deterioration of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. As the drone policy is adapted for use in post-Saleh Yemen, it is important to address these forms of blowback.


Drones were first used for battlefield reconnaissance, but over the last 10 years have evolved into America’s preferred killing machines for locations where the U.S. military does not operate openly on the ground. The evolution of drone technology has been quick, with new developments allowing for longer flight, heavier payloads, vertical takeoff from ships, and deployment to more areas of the world. While the Predator MQ-1 and Predator B (Reaper) MQ-9 have carried out most surveillance and attacks, new platforms have been deployed that will likely be engaging targets in the near future. The most recent evolution of UAVs are the RQ-4 Global Hawk (designed and used for surveillance only) and the MQ-8B Fire Scout. The latter is currently deployed on ships off the Horn of Africa and in the Caribbean.7 With basic models starting at $4.5 million, these aircraft are cost efficient and carry little risk burden, especially since human pilots are removed from the equation.

Figure 1: Types of Drones8

Make Model/Name Use Payload (approx.)
General Atomics Predator/MQ-1 Surveillance/Armed Strikes 450 lbs.
General Atomics Predator B/Reaper/MQ-9 Surveillance/Armed Strikes 850 lbs.
Northrop Grumman Global Hawk Surveillance 2,000 lbs.
Northrop Grumman Fire Scout MQ-8B Surveillance/Armed Strikes 800 lbs.

The use of armed drones by the United States has developed over nearly a decade. The program’s evolution can be broken into four phases. Phase one, roughly 2002-04, served as a testing period of limited strikes on high-value targets. The first use of remotely piloted drones for missile attacks outside identified war zones took place in 2002. This attack, in northeastern Yemen, killed al-Qaeda member Salim Sinan al-Harethi, who was suspected of masterminding the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Aden. The next attack, in 2004, targeted Nek Mohammad, a former mujahed who became an influential member of the Taliban and fled to Pakistan after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. 9

The second phase, 2005-07, consisted of a slight increase in strikes but retained the same target set: high-value terrorist suspects. These attacks were conducted exclusively in Pakistan and followed the initial success of the program, defined by eliminating high-value targets. In 2005, the United States claimed it killed al-Qaeda’s number three, Hamza Rabia, but conflicting reports cast doubts on Rabia’s actual position and foreshadowed the ambiguity involved in targeting and identifying high-value targets.10

The third phase of drone warfare took place during the end of the Bush administration and consisted of an acceleration of attack frequency: 37 during 2008, compared to a total of nine in the first two periods.11 The success of the drone program during its infancy, as defined by the ability to kill high-value targets like Harethi and Nek Mohammad, gave the Bush administration the impression that if limited drone strikes were successful, more strikes would be even better.

The Bush administration’s increased reliance on the program started in 2008; however, it is with the Obama administration that we see the most rapid proliferation of attacks. The final phase of the drone program is characterized by an even greater increase in attack frequency and an expansion of the target list to include targets of opportunity and unidentified militants of dubious rank — and funerals.12 As of May 2011, the CIA under the Obama administration has conducted nearly 200 drone strikes. This suggests that the drone target list now includes targets of opportunity, likely including some selected in consultation with the Pakistani authorities in order to facilitate the increasingly unpopular program. This development, in turn, has now decreased the effectiveness of the program when assessed in terms of the ratio of high-value to accidental kills.

As Figure 2 shows, the steady increase in drone attacks conducted in Pakistan between 2004 and 2010 has resulted in a far higher number of deaths overall, but a lower rate of successful killings of high-value militant leaders who command, control and inspire organizations. If we define a high-value target as an organizational leader known to intelligence sources and the international media prior to attack and not someone whose death is justified with a posthumous militant status, we see fewer and fewer such hits — the alleged killing of al-Qaeda commander Ilyas al-Kashmiri in 2009 and again in June 2011 notwithstanding.13

Figure 2: Drone Strikes by Phase16

Phase Strikes High Value Targets Killed Total Deaths HVT-to-Total Deaths Ratio
1 (2002-2004) 2 2 11 1:5
2 (2005-2007) 6 2 53 1:26
3 (2008-2009)
End of Bush’s Term
48 5 333 1:66
4 (2009-2010)
Obama Administration
161 7 1029 1:147

Data analysis shows that at the beginning of the drone program (2002-04), five or six people were killed for each defined high-value target. As part of that high-value target’s immediate entourage, they were much more likely to be militants than civilians. By 2010, one high-value target was killed per 147 total deaths. The increased lethality of each attack is due to larger payloads, broader target sets such as funeral processions, and probable new targeting guidelines (including targets of opportunity).14

Over time, these more deadly drone attacks have failed to effectively decapitate the leadership of anti-U.S. organizations but have killed hundreds of other people subsequently alleged to be militants; many were civilians.15 The rapidly growing population of survivors and witnesses of these brutal attacks have emotional and social needs and incentives to join the ranks of groups that access and attack U.S. targets in Afghanistan across the porous border.

Drone attacks themselves deliver a politically satisfying short-term “bang for the buck” for U.S. constituencies ignorant of and indifferent to those affected by drone warfare or the phenomenon of blowback. In the Pakistani and Afghan contexts, they inflame the populations and destabilize the institutions that drive regional development. In addition to taking on an unacceptable and extrajudicial toll in human life, the drone strikes in unintended ways complicate the U.S. strategic mission in Afghanistan, as well as the fragile relationship with Pakistan. As a result, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency project in Afghanistan becomes a victim of the first two forms of blowback.


The Khost Bombing, December 2009

The Khost bombing exemplifies the dynamic of drone provocation in Pakistan and terrorist retaliation in Afghanistan. In late December 2009, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national, entered the CIA compound within Camp Chapman, located just outside of Khost, Afghanistan. Shortly after entering the compound, al-Balawi detonated an explosive vest, killing himself, seven CIA officers including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. Before this incident, U.S. and Jordanian intelligence services had recruited al-Balawi, a medical doctor, to gather information on al-Qaeda’s then number two, Ayman al-Zawahri. In a video released after the bombing at Camp Chapman, al-Balawi states, “This attack will be the first of revenge operations against the Americans and their drone teams outside the Pakistani borders.”17

Al-Balawi’s video testimony makes clear that he was motivated to avenge the death of Beitullah Mehsud, killed in August 2009 by a drone strike in Zengara, South Waziristan. Ironically, in the case of the Khost bombing, it was the United States that was subject to a decapitation attack aimed at a strategic intelligence center.


Radicalization and Recruitment

Between 2004 and 2009, our research and databases compiled by others document a dramatic spike in deaths by suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan.18 While it is impossible to prove direct causality from data analysis alone, it is probable that drone strikes provide motivation for retaliation, and that there is a substantive relationship between the increasing number of drone strikes and the increasing number of retaliation attacks.

For every high-profile, purposeful attack like the Khost bombing, many more low-profile attacks take place. These types of attacks can be explained by what military strategist David Kilcullen calls the accidental-guerrilla phenomenon, a local rejection of external forces.19 By using drone warfare as the only policy tool in the FATA without any local political engagement, the United States is almost certainly creating accidental guerrillas. These new combatants, unable to retaliate against the United States within FATA, will likely cross the border into Afghanistan, where U.S. troops and NATO and Afghan security forces are concentrated and present easily identifiable targets. Or they may join the ranks of groups like the Pakistani Taliban, whose attacks within Pakistan destabilize the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. The last days of June 2011 illustrated the worst extremes of this phenomenon: a married couple carrying out a suicide attack in Pakistan, and an eight-year-old duped (not recruited) into an Afghan suicide attack.20

It should be emphasized that only a small minority of those affected by drone attacks become the kinds of radicals envisioned by Kilcullen. However, with the average frequency of a drone strike every three days in 2010, this would be enough to provide a steady stream of new recruits and destabilize the region through direct violence. The less direct effect of steady drone attacks and militant counterattacks is a smoldering dissatisfaction with dead-end policy. On the U.S. military, intelligence and policy side, this results in division in the ranks, preventing a unified effort.21 In Afghanistan and Pakistan, this cycle results in anti-government agitation and anti-American sentiment, which may force sudden policy adjustments by political and military actors.


Strategic Confusion

In Afghanistan, the U.S. military is using newly codified counterinsurgency doctrine distilled from Iraq. It focuses on diminishing the political, social and economic conditions that create and bolster the armed resistance seen as insurgency. The rules governing the use of force in U.S. counterinsurgency theory have been designed to reduce deaths generally and thus prevent creating new insurgents.22 This type of strategy was long sidelined in favor of a counterterrorism policy targeting militants. However, the U.S. military has been forced to acknowledge the centrality of this strategy in stabilizing Iraq, as indicated by the massive decrease in civilian and coalition casualties.

Ironically, the initial success of drone killings in disrupting strategic organizations has bred its own downfall. The further down the militant hierarchy drone strikes aim and hit, the fewer the high-value targets and the less critical the disruption to the organization. On the other hand, due to counterinsurgency policy across the border in Afghanistan — which relies on “hearts and minds” and troops living on the ground side by side with civilians — the damage to the high-cost campaign is even more palpable.

The strategic disconnect between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism is only exacerbated by the remote-control nature of the covert drone program, which allows the U.S. public to turn a blind eye. Drone strikes, launched from bases within Pakistan but directed from sites as far away as the American Southwest, are popular with their proponents for several reasons. They are cheaper, less risky to U.S. personnel and easy to run with minimal accountability.23 The same lack of accountability that makes them a favorite of covert intelligence programs disguises the long-term and local effects of regularly, but unpredictably, unleashing violence from the skies. However, if and when a high-value target is killed, the death is celebrated in Western media. The first example of this was Harethi’s death in 2002, which has been followed by a handful of successful attacks, such as the alleged but unproven killing of Ilyas al-Kashmiri in 2011.

Debate over the drone program continues within the U.S. policy and strategic community. The CIA wants to continue its mission in Pakistan unabated; the Department of State and the Pentagon would like more restrictions on the program. No one is willing to argue that the program needs be cut completely, but many within State and the Pentagon believe that the current pace of drone strikes risks destabilizing a nuclear-armed ally and makes the task of U.S. diplomats more difficult.24


Exposing the Contradictions

Loss of life from drone strikes is an emotional and enormously volatile public issue in Pakistan. Drone attacks on Pakistani territory killing Pakistani citizens every two to three days are a constant challenge to established ideas of sovereignty by a putative ally and patron. The notion of attack from the skies, without direct agency or accountability, may in theory be an attractive vehicle for U.S. counterterrorism, but it comes at a high price. Drone attacks compound the feeling of those on the ground in the target area of their asymmetrical vulnerability and the necessity of fighting back smartly.25

In a country whose political structure is ambiguous, Pakistanis who hope to petition their government with grievances regarding the drone program, or report critically on Islamabad’s relationship with the United States and militants, are met with stiff resistance and sometimes violence. A recent attack resulted in the death of the prominent Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, bureau chief for The Asia Times. Shahzad was reporting on links between al-Qaeda and the Pakistani security apparatus, which may have facilitated the attack on Pakistan’s Mehran Naval Base late in May 2011. Internal reporting on the Pakistani military and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is often self-censored because of its inherent dangers; those bold enough to report on it often face physical danger. Shahzad’s body was found in a ditch south of Islamabad two days after he missed a scheduled television appearance. The ISI claims no knowledge of, and takes no responsibility for, the abduction and death of Shahzad, but other journalists reject that claim.26 In sum, the drone program serves to further destabilize an already fragile system by deepening divides between a citizenry that abhors the attacks and government institutions that tolerate or facilitate them and brook no critical oversight.


U.S.-Pakistani Tensions

On January 27, 2011, American citizen Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistanis in the streets of Lahore. Davis, a CIA contract employee gathering intelligence on the Lashkar-e-Taiba, claimed the two men were attempting to rob him when he fired upon them. Davis spent a total of seven weeks incarcerated while the United States and Pakistan worked on the conditions of his release, ultimately secured through traditional blood-money payments.27 During the first half of Davis’s imprisonment through February 20, drone strikes within Pakistan stopped altogether. As a deal between the two governments took shape, drone strikes resumed, as if the incident had never occurred. While negotiations were taking place, Pakistan was able to call for a reduction of actions by the CIA and U.S. Special Operations within their territory and for a reduction of drone strikes, but this demand was not permanently realized.28 The incident illustrates the precarious position of the Pakistani government, torn between local popular opposition and its overbearing U.S. patron.

While Pakistanis have protested drone strikes in the past, most of these protests have gone unnoticed in the U.S. media. It took what was presented in the Western press as a human-interest story about an American citizen engaging in self-defense to remind the U.S. population what the Obama administration is doing in Pakistan and bring Washington’s strategy to the forefront. But what, if anything, has been learned from the Raymond Davis incident? The United States continues to conduct drone attacks without apparent regard for even the acute anger created in the wake of the Davis negotiations.

In the early hours of May 2, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs raided a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden. The fact that soldiers, not drones, conducted the raid is telling. It is clear that the U.S. administration and military command at least recognize that the use of drones is not a silver bullet, and that human discretion and judgment are needed when combating an elusive and fluid network. Again, it took a sensational U.S. media story — the story of the decade, no less — to focus American public opinion and congressional oversight briefly on the decline of U.S.-Pakistani relations. These two incidents, the Raymond Davis negotiations and the Bin Laden raid, reveal that drone warfare has brought the U.S.-Pakistani marriage to a volatile nadir. And yet the drone policy, like the drones themselves, remains out of the limelight.


Lessons for the Future

The first lethal drone strike outside a war zone took place in Yemen in 2002; and in 2011, the Obama administration announced plans to begin an aggressive new drone-warfare campaign in Yemen directed against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).29 Yemen is currently in turmoil as the various opposition movements to strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh jostle against remnants of the regime and one another after months of a long and inconclusive Arab Spring uprising.30

The new Yemeni drone campaign comes at the very moment former CIA director Leon Panetta replaces Robert Gates as secretary of defense and General David Petraeus, former CENTCOM and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Afghanistan commander and a counterinsurgency proponent transitions into a civilian role: head of the CIA. During 2010, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was central to the design of the new Yemeni drone program and this year has brought about increased cooperation.31 In June 2011, the CIA returned to the Horn of Africa to work with JSOC on the drone program, and outside observers have noted that the strategic confusion of divided command (drone counterterror in Pakistan vs. boots-on-the-ground counterinsurgency in Afghanistan) is an issue that may be mitigated by the high-level reshuffle.32

It is possible that the exchange of personnel among the military, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense will clear up the confusion over command and targeting, though this is far from given. The more serious forms of blowback stemming directly from the effects of extrajudicial killing, however, do not seem to have been addressed. If the Pakistani campaign spawned purposeful vengeance, like the Khost bombing, and opportunities for recruitment of noncombatants for retaliatory attacks, then the same purposeful and accidental escalation will most likely occur in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, compounding Yemen’s and Somalia’s volatility.

In many ways, Yemen resembles both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the undeclared drone war there will share the most dysfunctional characteristics of both sides of the Af/Pak theatre. Like Afghanistan, Yemen is a fragmented tribal society ideally suited for harboring pockets of militancy in a de-centered system with strong social ties.33 Like Pakistan, Yemen’s military and the other institutions of a failing state may still function well enough to both channel counterterror funds from the United States and apply them according to its own interests and criteria.34 Another whisky-swilling military steeped in hypocrisy and addicted to counterterror as a way to make a living is hardly the ideal local spotter for U.S. attacks from the skies.35 Drone warfare as it has evolved in the Af/Pak theatre is not the answer to Yemen’s unrest.

The lessons of drone warfare in Pakistan are clear. First, if extrajudicial dispatching of high-value targets is a goal, such targets are best dealt with as Osama bin Laden was — through face-to-face assaults by crack JSOC troops based on reliable intelligence. Second, chronic testing of national sovereignty through an undeclared war of drone attacks puts fragile governing structures in the target country under enormous pressure while exacerbating social volatility, a recipe for unpredictable outcomes.36 Third, the complacency engendered in the American public, which is largely blind to the costs and consequences of, and anesthetized to, the legal and moral issues of drone warfare, precludes recognition, let alone discussion of this new form of warfare. Finally, a trend in increasing “collateral damage” ­— in which thousands of noncombatants may be extrajudicially killed, traumatized and materially damaged — fuels instability and escalates violent retaliation against convenient targets. With Yemen and Somalia as the east-west axis of a maritime system that unites South Asia with the Horn of Africa through one of the world’s most sensitive and pirate-infested shipping channels, counterterror measures must be both precise and well-reasoned. The Pakistani model is neither. Drone strikes leave little scope for the civic reform that the Arab Spring in Yemen demands.37

1 In his address to the nation on June 22, 2011, President Obama announced a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. Only 10,000 troops are slated for withdrawal by the end of 2011 and another 23,000 by the end of 2012. “President Obama on the Way Forward in Afghanistan,” accessed June 26, 2011,; and “Obama to Cut Afghanistan ‘Surge’ Troops,” Al Jazeera, June 23, 2011, accessed June 26, 2011,

2 Drone strikes are announced in the media, but neither the United States nor the Pakistani governments admit their roles in conducting these strikes. The covert nature of the drone program refers to the inability to clearly identify the agencies responsible for the missions.

3 Muhammad Idress Ahmad, “The Magical Realism of Body Counts,” Al Jazeera, June 13, 2011, accessed June 15, 2011,

4 Ronald Sokol, “Can the U.S. Assassinate an American Citizen Living in Yemen?” The Christian Science Monitor, September 29, 2010, accessed June 10, 2011,; and “A Better Way to Get Awlaki,” Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2010, accessed June 10, 2011,

5 David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Oxford University Press, 2009).

6 Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Metropolitan Books, 2000).

7 Nathan Hodge, “Robo-Copters Eye Enemies,” The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011, accessed May 12, 2011,; and “Unmanned Fire Scout Helicopter to Begin Military Service,” The Telegraph, August 29, 2009, accessed May 13, 2011,

8 “MQ-1 Predator,” General Atomics Aeronautical, accessed January 17, 2011,; “Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper,” General Atomics Aeronautical, accessed January 17, 2011,; “RQ-4 Global Hawk,” Northrop Grumman, accessed May 15, 2011,; and “MQ-8B Fire Scout,” Northrop Grumman, accessed May 28, 2011,

9 Syed Saleem Shahzad, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 (Pluto, 2011); Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, 2nd Edition (Yale University Press, 2010).

10 Gretchen Peters, “Drone Said to Have Killed Al Qaeda’s No. 3,” The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 2005, accessed February 20, 2011,

11 The Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle Eastern Conflicts (SISMEC), housed in the School of Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Arizona, has compiled a drone database to track all U.S. drone attacks outside identified war zones.

12 “‘U.S. Drone’ Hits Pakistan Funeral,” Al Jazeera, June 24, 2009, accessed December 12, 2010,; and Pir Zubair Shah and, Salman Masood, “U.S. Drone Strike Said to Kill 60 in Pakistan,” The New York Times, June 23, 2009, accessed December 12, 2010,

13 Daud Khattak, “The Mysterious Death of Ilyas Kashmiri,” Foreign Policy, June 8, 2011, accessed June 10, 2011,

14 Saeed Shah, “U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Claiming Many Civilian Victims, Says Campaigner,” The Guardian, July 17, 2011, accessed July 20, 2011,

15 Ahmad, “The Magical Realism of Body Counts.”

16 The numbers of deaths in Figure 2 have been taken from the SISMEC’s drone database and represents the most conservative death toll. We have used the lowest death toll reported in any newspaper. We chose to use the lowest numbers to highlight the increasingly inaccurate nature of the drone program without embellishment.

17 Balawi believed the CIA used Camp Chapman to locate targets in the FATA for drone assassination. For more on al-Balawi, see: “CIA Bomber Vowing Revenge for Baitullah Mehsud’s Death,” YouTube, January 9, 2010, accessed May 10, 2011,; and Joby Warrick, The Triple Agent: The Al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA (Random House, 2011).

18 “Suicide Attack Database,” Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), University of Chicago, accessed January 12, 2011,; and “Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents,” The RAND Corporation, accessed January 14, 2011,

19 Kilcullen divides the accidental guerrilla syndrome into four phases: infection, contagion, intervention, and rejection. Infection is aided by lack of governance in a specific region or country (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia) and allows violent movements the space to establish themselves. Contagion takes place when the movement spreads their ideals and increases violence to continue growing. Intervention is spurred by local or international forces trying to curb the movement, which leads to rejection. During the rejection phase the local population reacts negatively to the intervention, often bolstering recruitment and popularity of the movement.

20 Declan Walsh, “Taliban Use Girl, 8, as Bomb Mule in Attack on Afghan Police Post,” The Guardian, June 26, 2011, accessed June 26, 2011,

21 Warren Chin, “Examining the Application of British Counterinsurgency Doctrine by the American Army in Iraq,” Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2007): 1.

22 The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

23 “Pakistan Tells U.S. to Leave Secret Base,” Press TV, June 29, 2011, accessed June 29, 2011,; and “Shamsi Air Base under UAE Control: Air Chief,” The Nation, May 13, 2011, accessed June 30, 2011,

24 Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, and Matthew Rosenberg, “Drone Attacks Split U.S. Officials,” The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2011, accessed June 10, 2011,

25 “Protest against American Drone Attacks in Northern Pakistan,” The Telegraph, June 28, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,; and “Pakistanis Protest against U.S. Drone Strikes,” Al Jazeera, May 22, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,

26 Huma Imtiaz, “Angels of Death,” Foreign Policy, May 31, 2011, accessed June 1, 2011,

27 Carotta Gall and Mark Mazzetti, “Hushed Deal Frees C.I.A. Contractor in Pakistan,” The New York Times, March 16, 2011, accessed March 20, 2011,

28 Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan, “Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut CIA Activities,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011, accessed May 12, 2011,; and Mark Hosenball, “U.S. Rejects Demands to Vacate Pakistan Drone Base,” Reuters, June 30, 2011, accessed June 30, 2011,

29 Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes,” The New York Times, June 8, 2011, accessed June 10, 2011,; and Jeb Boone, “Yemen’s Trouble with Drones,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2011, accessed June 20, 2011,

30 At the time of writing this article, Saleh was still in Saudi Arabia undergoing treatment for injuries received in a palace attack in early June 2011. Leila Hudson, and Dylan Baun, “The Arab Spring’s Second Wave,” Al Jazeera, May 16, 2011, accessed May 16, 2011,

31 Con Coughlin and Philip Sherwell, “Americans Drones Deployed to Target Yemeni Terrorist,” The Telegraph, May 02, 2010, accessed June 26, 2011,

32 Felicia Sonmez, “Leon Panetta, CIA Director, Unanimously Confirmed by Senate as Defense Secretary,” The Washington Post, June 21, 2011, accessed June 22, 2011,; Glenn Greenwald, “The War on Terror, Now Starring Yemen and Somalia,” Salon, July 18, 2011, accessed July 20, 2011,; Greg Miller, “CIA to Operate Drones over Yemen,” The Washington Post, June 13, 2011 accessed June 21, 2011,

33 Robert F. Worth, “Chaos in Yemen Creates Opening for Islamist Gangs,” The New York Times, June 26, 2011, accessed June 27, 2011,; and “Militants Enforce Strict Islamic Law in Yemeni City,” The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,

34 Hakim Almasmari, “U.S. Drone Attacks in Yemen Ignore Al Qaeda for Local Militants,” The National, June 21, 2011, accessed June 23, 2011,

35 Nick Allen, “WikiLeaks: Yemen Covered Up U.S. Drone Strikes,” The Telegraph, June 28, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,

36 Boone, “Yemen’s Trouble with Drones.”

37 Mohammed Al-Qadhi, “Tens of Thousands in Yemen’s Streets Call for Transitional Presidential Council,” The Washington Post, June 26, 2011, accessed June 26, 2011,

© 2011 Middle East Policy Council

I want to contribute:
$  .00 USD  to
($10 USD minimum)
Middle East Policy Council
1730 M St Nw Suite 512
Washington, DC
View Full Report on this organization

Middle East Policy Council

Drone Warfare: Blowback from the New American Way of War

Leila Hudson, Colin S. Owens, Matt Flannes

Leila Hudson is associate professor of anthropology and history in the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies at the University of Arizona and director of the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC). Colin Owens and Matt Flannes are graduate students in the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies and the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. Both work as research associates for the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC).

Other Essays in this Journal

Arab and Israeli Peace Initiatives: A Last Chance for Negotiations?

Israel’s Energy Security: Regional Implications

Egypt’s Spring: Causes of the Revolution

The Arab Spring: U.S. Democracy Promotion in Egypt

The Egyptian Military, Part One: From the Ottomans through Sadat

Yemen: A Social Intifada in a Republic of Sheikhs

The Turkish Example: A Model for Change In the Middle East?

Not Your Parents’ Political Party: Young Sunnis and the New Iraqi Democracy

Sudan’s Islamists and the Post-Oil Era: Washington’s Role after Southern Secession

U.S. Economic Sanctions against Iran: Undermined by External Factors

Jefferson’s Dialogue with the Contemporary World: Education and Diplomacy

Targeted killing by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, has become the central element of U.S. counterterror operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Over nearly a decade, drone-attack frequency and death rates have increased dramatically. Rather than calming the region through the precise elimination of terrorist leaders, however, the accelerating counterterror program has compounded violence and instability. These consequences need to be addressed, since the summer of 2011 has seen the dramatic expansion of the drone program into Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

Drone warfare has complicated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sisyphean counterinsurgency and nation-building project, by provoking militant attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.1 At the strategic level, fragmented U.S. intelligence and military policies are working at cross purposes, eroding trust through “covert” drone warfare on the Pakistani side of the Durand line while trying tardily to build trust on the Afghan side.2 The growing outrage of Pakistani society came to a head in spring 2011 over the Raymond Davis incident and the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These events put great stress on relations between the United States and the world’s most volatile nuclear state.

Although its proponents promote drone warfare as more precise and effective than traditional counterterror measures, the death toll from drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004 hovers imprecisely between 1,500 and 2,500 people.3 The public is routinely assured that a high percentage of those extrajudicially killed are militants, but victims are often unnamed and deaths rarely investigated.4 The few successful drone attacks on high-profile targets seem to have mobilized existing networks of followers to conduct symbolic revenge attacks of comparable magnitude, like the December 2009 Khost bombing, which sought to avenge the drone killing of Beitullah Mehsud in Waziristan earlier that year. By extension, non-militants victimized by drone attacks directly or indirectly far outnumber targeted militants. Thus, a stream of new adversaries is produced in what is called the “accidental guerrilla” phenomenon.5

On a different level, the erosion of trust and lack of clarity in drone policy produces strategic and tactical confusion within the U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. This confusion proves unhelpful as exit strategies for the Afghan war are debated and continuing evaluation of U.S.-Pakistani relations are assessed behind closed doors. By the same token, the ongoing ambivalence of the Pakistani civilian and military leadership on the topic of U.S. drone strikes has fanned the flames of popular discontent in the country’s fragile political system, revealing the infrastructure of contradictions in the roles of its military-intelligence sectors that simultaneously work with the United States and promote militant organizations. All these forms of blowback — the unintended consequences of policies not subjected to the scrutiny of the American public — complicate U.S. policy in the region and should be considered before drone warfare is expanded into the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.6

In total, we argue that drone warfare has created five distinct, yet overlapping, forms of blowback: (1) the purposeful retaliation against the United States, (2) the creation of new insurgents, referred to as the “accidental guerrilla” syndrome, (3) the further complication of U.S. strategic coordination and interests in what the Bush and Obama administrations have designated the Afghan/Pakistan (Af/Pak) theatre, (4) the further destabilization of Pakistan and (5) the deterioration of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. As the drone policy is adapted for use in post-Saleh Yemen, it is important to address these forms of blowback.


Drones were first used for battlefield reconnaissance, but over the last 10 years have evolved into America’s preferred killing machines for locations where the U.S. military does not operate openly on the ground. The evolution of drone technology has been quick, with new developments allowing for longer flight, heavier payloads, vertical takeoff from ships, and deployment to more areas of the world. While the Predator MQ-1 and Predator B (Reaper) MQ-9 have carried out most surveillance and attacks, new platforms have been deployed that will likely be engaging targets in the near future. The most recent evolution of UAVs are the RQ-4 Global Hawk (designed and used for surveillance only) and the MQ-8B Fire Scout. The latter is currently deployed on ships off the Horn of Africa and in the Caribbean.7 With basic models starting at $4.5 million, these aircraft are cost efficient and carry little risk burden, especially since human pilots are removed from the equation.

Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next


The drone-war blowback

Paul Rogers, 29 September 2011


A greater focus on pilotless armed drones as an instrument of war by the United States and its allies raises questions of political cost as well as law and morality.

About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 28 September 2001, and writes an international-security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers

An analysis of recent developments in the use of armed-drones was the subject of the preceding column in this series (see “America’s wars: the logic of escalation“, 22 September 2011). It raised two issues: the United States’s expansion of drone-specific bases, from where operations are directed at Somalia and Yemen from Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and even the Seychelles; and the debate within the Barack Obama administration over the extent of targeting by drones, especially their use to eliminate individuals or as part of a generalised counter-paramilitary warfare (see Craig Whitlock & Greg Miller, “U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say”, Washington Post, 21 September 2011).

The former is controversial because it can be regarded as assassination without the possibility of trial and punishment, but the latter carries even greater implications because of the escalation involved. Moreover, this type of campaign is being conducted with a range of tools that includes special-forces raids and cruise-missile attacks as well as drones. The current division of opinion in Washington essentially pits the state department’s argument for a degree of caution against the Pentagon’s emphasis on the need for wider action against small and dispersed yet potentially dangerous paramilitary groups (see Charlie Savage, “At White House, Weighing Limits of Terror Fight“, New York Times, 15 September 2011).

The debate can also be regarded as largely theoretical in that the administration is primarily concerned with high-value targets and not yet spread drone-warfare too far. But this situation could change. Pakistan shows the way, for here tactics have already moved beyond the specific targeting of individuals towards “signature strikes”: that is, attacks aimed at “killing clusters of people whose identities are not known, but who are deemed likely members of a militant group based on patterns like training in terrorist camps”.

Such attacks can on occasion kill significant leaders. This was the case with the death on 3 June 2011 of Ilyas Kashmiri, who was presumed to have been the leader of the group that planned the attack on Pakistan’s naval base at Mehran; though he had not been specifically identified before the attack that killed him (see Dexter Filkins, “The Journalist and the Spies“, New Yorker, 19 September 2011).

This kind of “signature strike” may be attractive to the CIA and other parts of the US security industry, but it can also be singularly indiscriminate. An attack by four drone-fired missiles on a marketplace in the village of Datta Khel in North Waziristan on 17 March 2011, for example, killed as many as forty-four people, quite probably including some members of Pakistan’s elite Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Many attacks of this type have fuelled a bitter anti-Americanism that now stretches across large sectors of Pakistani society, yet the counsels in Washington include active consideration of whether to extend the “signature raid” concept to other current theatres of war such as Yemen and Somalia – with a possible extension in future to the likes of Libya and Nigeria.

So if the use of drones in individual assassinations directed at individuals is already problematic, the trend in Pakistan and potentially elsewhere is more of a generic phenomenon whereby profiling that identifies a group of people with the characteristics of active paramilitaries is regarded as sufficient legitimacy for them to be attacked and killed.

The reverse lens

Here too, the implications in terms of the laws of war are substantial. But there is also a political aspect to consider. As the United States finds drone-warfare ever more attractive and moves further away from placing large numbers of “boots on the ground” and the use of drones becomes more attractive, the likelihood of greater civilian deaths among the target population increases. Such “collateral damage” assuredly will provoke intense anger and resentment among survivors, and empower those who can best weave the experience into a convincing political narrative (see “Drone warfare: cost and challenge“, 23 June 2011).

US drones are “piloted” principally from bases in the American mid-west. The Royal Air Forces’s Reaper drones are also managed from there, though the operational centre is moving to RAF Waddington near Lincoln in eastern England. For the radical groups and their sympathisers on the receiving end, the distant bases from where the drones are flown are very much part of the frontline of their war. At some stage in the months or years to come, there will be retaliation: perhaps not against the heavily protected bases themselves, but much more likely against “soft” targets such as a local bowling-alley or fast-food outlet.

There is still a disconnect in the western public mind between those distant wars and what happens at home. True, there may be rare if appalling attacks such as those in Madrid (2004) or London (2005), but for the most part the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan count mainly in terms of fallen young soldiers or particularly deadly bombs in Kabul or Peshawar.

That could change. As and when “remote war” becomes routine, not least in the increasing use of drones, a real prospect exists of “remote war” in reverse.

Showing 2 comments

Sort by   Subscribe by email   Subscribe by RSS

Cumulo Nimbus Today 08:31 AM
  • While the rest of the world demands clarity on precisely the Pakistani secret state’s relationship to those who travel over the Afghan border in order to murder the likes of Rabbani and whatever civilians get in the way, Paul Rogers stands alone as labelling them ‘the elite ISI.’When this column take a holistic view and look at factorsother than drone strikes? When will this column tot up the deaths caused deliberately by Pakistani backed groups?
  • 1 person liked this.
Mark Warren Today 02:08 PM
  • Very good. One comment
    before addressing Prof. Rogers excellent article. For American
    soldiers and veterans the number of attempted suicides is now 1,000:
    per month! What does this tell us? Well, that America’s bloody wars
    are now fought in a blood-splatted madhouse of a vacuum reserved for
    the military. Most Americans outside the military (and that goes for
    the British too) live in their own entertainment world of iPhones,
    and flat screens, isolated from the slaughter. And what has the
    killing of old Afghan men women and children, together with Iraqis
    and Libyans and soon Iranians got to do with the near total collapse
    of our greed based capitalist system? Actually a lot. Slaughtering
    Third World people takes our mind off the fact that we are too stupid
    to responsibly regulate our own banks and speculators. I will make a
    prediction, as our capitalist system disintegrates so will our wars
    increase, actually they already have. Well, we made a mess of our
    finances but hay look, we have all these shiny weapons – lets use
    them. On the wogs, as the British Colonel Blimps used to say. The
    American term “rag-head” is a little more respectable. But I
    digress.The great thing about
    using drones is that killing has itself become almost like
    entertainment. Its a computer game. You zap the “bad guy” from a
    distance. Well okay, the odd wedding party, shit happens. But the
    worst thing that can happen to an operator is that in the excitement
    of the hunt a fingernail may get broken on the keyboard. And saving
    the already damaged American psyche is now of the utmost importance.
    Its obvious that the American generals and CIA operatives involved in
    this new entertainment warfare are NOT interested in the morality of
    what they are doing. That would be clear to a moron. But: leaving
    ethical questions to one side, as Prof. Rogers states, is this
    militarily speaking in their own best interest? In other words, will
    using drones work? Is there no possibility of blow-back? Please
    forgive the comparison but the whole thing reminds me of Hitler’s
    desperation towards the end of his war in using wonder weapons, his
    V-1, buzz bombs, remember them? Scared the hell out of people but
    ultimately they failed. Now one would assume that American generals
    have I.Q.’s that go into double figures, but sometimes one wonders.
    Yes, intelligence and morality do seem to be linked.Like the speculators and
    bankers, the military have come to believe in magic.


Blowback 101

September 14, 2011 by Daniel Nichols

Why is it so hard to understand that every time some innocent is caught in the crossfire of counterinsurgency warfare a whole family of new enemies is born? Drone warfare is only the latest stupid, counterproductive tool of American imperialism:

“In total, we argue that drone warfare has created five distinct, yet overlapping, forms of blowback: (1) the purposeful retaliation against the United States, (2) the creation of new insurgents, referred to as the “accidental guerrilla” syndrome, (3) the further complication of U.S. strategic coordination and interests in