Monday, April 6, 2009

Valuing Life in Pakistan and Afghanistan


"This consistent pattern of readiness to inflict civilian casualties - often when striking targets that are not of vital military significance - suggests that Bush and other pro-life American leaders have less concern for the lives of innocent human beings in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, than they have for human embryos."

The preceding words, attributed to Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, condemned the hypocrisy of President George W. Bush's policy of finding "collateral damage" to civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq acceptable, while forbidding the use of embryos for stem cell research on moral grounds. Almost three years have passed since Singer issued this condemnation, President Barack Hussein Obama has now replaced George W. Bush in the While House and the ban on the use of human embryos in stem cell research has been lifted. But the drone attacks causing increasing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan have continued, even intensified recently.

In his new book "The Life You Can Save", Professor Singer continues with his theme of valuing life. Being a bioethicist, he begins his book by challenging the reader by quizzing about a situation involving the life of a child about to drown. He writes, "On your way to work, you pass a small pond. On hot days, children sometimes play in the pond, which is only about knee-deep. The weather's cool today, though, and the hour is early, so you are surprised to see a child splashing about in the pond. As you get closer, you see that it is a very young child, just a toddler, who is flailing about, unable to stay upright or walk out of the pond. You look for the parents or babysitter, but there is no one else around. The child is unable to keep his head above the water for more than a few seconds at a time. If you don't wade in and pull him out, he seems likely to drown. Wading in is easy and safe, but you will ruin the new shoes you bought only a few days ago, and get your suit wet and muddy. By the time you hand the child over to someone responsible for him, and change your clothes, you'll be late for work. What should you do?"

In a Princeton University course called Practical Ethics, the professor begins his class by talking about global poverty and asks his students what they think you should do in this situation. Predictably, they respond that you should save the child. "What about your shoes? And being late for work?" he asks them. They brush that aside. How could anyone consider a pair of shoes, or missing an hour or two at work, a good reason for not saving a child's life?

And yet, that's exactly what most of us are doing by ignoring the deaths of 27,000 poor children every day. Some die because they don't have enough to eat. More die from measles, malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia, conditions that either don't exist in developed nations, or, if they do, are almost never fatal. The children are vulnerable to these diseases because they have no safe drinking water, or no sanitation, and because when they do fall ill, their parents can't afford any medical treatment.

More than a billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. In Pakistan alone, 38.5 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 50.7 million people lack access to improved sanitation, according to published data. Pakistanis are facing unprecedented shortage of clean drinking water and electricity due to the lowest recorded levels of water in the country's dams, according to Pakistani Meteorological Department. The mortality rate for children under-five in Pakistan is 99 deaths per 1000 children, according to Global Health Council. About half of under-five deaths occur in six countries with large populations: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Pakistan and China. Water and sanitation related diseases are responsible for 60% of the total number of child mortality cases in Pakistan, with diarrheal diseases causing deaths of 200,000 under-five years’ children, every year. Unsafe drinking water is shown to lead to poverty through time spent by women and girls to fetch ‘drinkable’ water from long distances. The combination of unsafe water consumption and poor hygiene practices require treatments for water borne illnesses, decreased working days, and also contribute to lowering of educational achievement due to reduced school attendance by children.

Edhi Foundation, Hidaya Foundation, HDF, UNICEF, Oxfam, and many other organizations are working to reduce poverty and provide clean water and basic health care, and these efforts are reducing the toll. If the relief organizations had more money, they could do more, and more lives would be saved.

In addition to the charitable organizations, there are social entrepreneurs joining in the effort to try and alleviate the effects of poverty. Saafwater, Inc. is a startup helping people in Karachi, Pakistan with access to safe drinking water. The company founders, Sarah Bird, Saira Khwaja and Khalid Saiduddin, emerged as finalists in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 100k Entrepreneurship Competition in 2007, and received $10,000 to put the concept of SaafWater into practice.

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan is the force behind Orangi Pilot Project to help residents of Orangi Town, a katchi abadi (shanty town) in Karachi to help themselves. It has helped in a number of projects to build better low-cost housing, improve sanitation and establish schools with the participation of the community. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Acclaimed social scientist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan used to reference this well-known proverb (according to his son, Akbar Khan), as it quite fittingly represents his philosophy on community development.

Greg Mortenson, an American, has been working with the local villagers to help build schools and promote education in northern Pakistan. While he has raised funds from various sources, Mortenson has insisted on community involvement in his efforts. Because of community 'buy-in', which involves getting villages to donate free land, subsidized or free labor ('sweat equity'), free wood and resources, the schools have local support and have been able to avert retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls education.

To deal with ongoing water and electricity crises, a number of community-based micro hydro projects are being executed with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation in Pakistan's Northern Areas and NWFP. Within this region, out of a total of 137 micro-hydro plants, the AKRSP has established 28 micro-hydros with an installed capacity of 619kW. Initially, in 1986, these plants started as research and demonstration units. These projects were extended to Village Organizations (VOs) and became participatory projects. A Village Organization (VO) is a body of villagers who have organized themselves around a common interest.

After formation, each village organization signed a partnership with AKRSP to abide by all terms and conditions necessary for the village development. The entire responsibility of implementation was passed on to the VOs. AKRSP provided the negotiated cost of the plants and technical input required during the construction period. All the VOs completed the civil work of the plants. They purchased and transported machinery from other parts of Pakistan. The VO members provided subsidized or free unskilled labor and locally produced building material.

While the problems faced by Pakistan are huge, I believe that a serious and organized initiative by a tiny percentage of Pakistan's large middle class of at least 40-50m people can begin to make a difference with their time, effort and money. Pakistanis owe it to themselves and their poor brethren to step up and take responsibility for improving the situation of the most vulnerable citizens of their country. By practically demonstrating that they value life, the people of the region can hope to reduce the extreme violence and terrorism in the future when today's children will become tomorrow's adults. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But we must persevere by taking one step after another until we see results.

We must learn to value life at home by our words and our deeds and then expect others to do the same.

Here's a video of Dr. Singer's interview with Riz Khan:



Related Links:

Plight of Pakistan's Children

Can Slumdog's Success Improve Poor Children's Lives?

India's Innovative Social Entrepreneurs

Youth Engagement Services (YES) Network in Pakistan

Water Shortage in Pakistan

United Nations World Water Development Report

Water Resource Management in Pakistan

Water Supply and Sanitation in Pakistan

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

China Profile

Safe Drinking water and Hygiene Promotion in Pakistan

UN Millennium Development Goals in Pakistani Village

Orangi Pilot Project

Three Cups of Tea

Volunteerism in America

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision

Volunteerism in America

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking truthfull article. But why must the world bother about pakistan when the country and its country men are not bothered about the same.

Inspite of being an indian who is tempted to taunt pakistan using the fact given in the article, i am not, as honestly i know that india is also in the same boat and something needs to be done to assist the millions of poors.

However what is the action that pakistan as a country is doing :

What are the intellectual doing to reform the society with education ?

For example india has atleast law in place against identified issue of society /hindus like reservation, untouchability as cognizable offence, legislation against female killing / dowry, equal rights for woman, education for woman/ alimony. HOnest truth is that inspite of all there for being last 60 years there are sizable population which requires assistance.

But what i found is there is no such starting and the only purpose for pakistan existence is the hatred for india.

Whereas india has moved further with its own agenda of education across caste creed and religion.

I understand that modi had given the complete egovernace of gujarat government to wipro a company 80% owned by a muslim. Separate business from politics / religion.

What are the expats doing in ploughing back their assets in pakistan to start enterprise which can give employment and development ?

Not as a point of taunt, proabably pakistan could take few good things of india :

INcrease remittance
Return to start business

What i have seen is that most of the educated pakistani tends to go middle east or to canada, australia or newzealand.

If pakistan expect the western world to assist they have become so greedy that they are not concerned about their own people. [ average american income has not incrased for last thirty year. Divide between rich and poor is increasing there ]

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "But why must the world bother about pakistan when the country and its country men are not bothered about the same."

You have reinforced my point here. We must learn to value life at home by our words and our deeds and then expect others to do the same.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a USA Today report about US looking for Wikileaks founder for leaking secret videos about alleged misconduct by US personnel resulting in civilian deaths in Afghanistan (and probably Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere):

More intrigue involving the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks and "secret" documents and combat video allegedly passed by Army Spc. Bradley Manning, who was arrested at his base in Iraq three weeks ago. (On Deadline flagged this story earlier in the week.)

The Daily Beast reports that Pentagon investigators are trying to track down Julian Assange, the elusive Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks, who they believe is preparing to publish several years of State Department cables allegedly passed by the 22- year-old Manning, now being detained in Kuwait. The cables contain "information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq," and they could do "serious damage to national security" if made public, government officials told the Beast.

But even if they find him, it's not clear what they could do to stop publication.

Daniel Ellsberg says Assange "is in danger." And he should know: Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the government's secret plans for the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration called him "the most dangerous man in America." (Ellsberg was hunted, arrested, tried and convicted, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in a landmark ruling against government secrecy.)

Meanwhile, Wired's Threat Level blog, which broke the Manning story, is reporting that Assange, who has no permanent home, is arranging Manning's legal defense and says Manning is no spy.

Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, canceled an appearance today at an International Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas.

Keep an eye on this fascinating story.

Riaz Haq said...

Even if most Americans choose to assign no value to the lives of many poor Afghan and Pakistani civilians killed as "collateral", here is an analysis by a blogger at kabulpress.org of the exorbitant financial cost of the US war in Afghanistan to the American taxpayers:

The estimated cost to kill each Taliban is as high as $100 million, with a conservative estimate being $50 million.

1. Taliban Field Strength: 35,000 troops

2. Taliban Killed Per Year by Coalition forces: 2,000 (best available information)

3. Pentagon Direct Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

4. Pentagon Indirect Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

Using the fact that 2,000 Taliban are being killed each year and that the Pentagon spends $200 billion per year on the war in Afghanistan, one simply has to divide one number into the other. That calculation reveals that $100 million is being spent to kill each Taliban soldier. In order to be conservative, the author decided to double the number of Taliban being killed each year by U.S. and NATO forces (although the likelihood of such being true is unlikely). This reduces the cost to kill each Taliban to $50 million, which is the title of this article. The final number is outrageously high regardless of how one calculates it.

To put this information another way, using the conservative estimate of $50 million to kill each Taliban:

It costs the American taxpayers $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban

As the U.S. military estimates there to be 35,000 hard-core Taliban and assuming that no reinforcements and replacements will arrive from Pakistan and Iran:

Just killing the existing Taliban would cost $1.75 Trillion, not including the growing numbers of new Taliban recruits joining every day.

The reason for these exorbitant costs is that United States has the world’s most mechanized, computerized, weaponized and synchronized military, not to mention the most pampered (at least at Forward Operating Bases). An estimated 150,000 civilian contractors support, protect, feed and cater to the American personnel in Afghanistan, which is an astonishing number. The Americans enjoy such perks and distinctions in part because no other country is willing to pay (waste) so much money on their military.

The ponderous American war machine is a logistics nightmare and a maintenance train wreck. It is also part-myth. This author served at a senior level within the U.S. Air Force. Air Force “smart” bombs are no way near as consistently accurate as the Pentagon boasts; Army mortars remain inaccurate; even standard American field rifles are frequently outmatched by Taliban weapons, which have a longer range. The American public would pale if it actually learned the full story about the poor quality of the weapons and equipment that are being purchased with its tax dollars. The Taliban’s best ally within the United States may be the Pentagon, whose contempt for fiscal responsibility and accountability may force a premature U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Americans cannot continue to fund these Pentagon excesses.

If President Obama refuses to drastically reform the Pentagon’s inefficient way of making war, he may conclude that the Taliban is simply too expensive an enemy to fight. He would then have little choice but to abandon the Afghan people to the Taliban’s “Super-Soldiers.” That would be an intolerable disgrace.

http://kabulpress.org/my/spip.php?article32304

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post report on the futility of killing al Qaeda foot soldiers by drone attacks:

CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two.

Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased.

Even more generous counts - which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 "high-value targets" - suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.

...
Senior Pakistani officials recently asked the Obama administration to put new restraints on a targeted-killing program that the government in Islamabad has secretly authorized for years.

The CIA is increasingly killing "mere foot soldiers," a senior Pakistani official said, adding that the issue has come up in discussions in Washington involving President Asif Ali Zardari. The official said Pakistan has pressed the Americans "to find better targets, do it more sparingly and be a little less gung-ho."
...
The intensity of the strikes has caused an increase in the number of fatalities. The New America Foundation estimates that at least 607 people were killed in 2010, which would mean that a single year has accounted for nearly half of the number of deaths since 2004, when the program began.
Overall, the foundation estimates that 32 of those killed could be considered "militant leaders" of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or about 2 percent.
...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on Afghan anger against US and NATO for children's deaths in air strikes:

President Hamid Karzai has told the US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan that his apology for the deaths of nine children in an air strike is "not enough".

"On behalf of the people of Afghanistan I want you to stop the killings of civilians," Mr Karzai said at a cabinet meeting attended by Gen David Petraeus.

The children were killed in a Nato strike on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people rallied on Sunday to denounce the killing of civilians.

The issue of civilian casualties is a source of widespread public anger and of tension between the Afghan government and the US, the BBC's Jill McGivering reports.

Washington is well aware of the strength of feeling and has worked hard to reduce casualties, she adds, though Nato says most civilian casualties last year were caused by Taliban insurgents, not the security forces.

On Sunday, at least 12 civilians, including five children, were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan.
'Stop the killings'

"President Karzai said that David Petraeus's apology is not enough," a statement from the Afghan presidency said.

"The civilian casualties are a main cause of worsening the relationships between Afghanistan and the US," President Karzai was quoted as saying.

"The people are tired of these things and apologies and condemnations are not healing any pain."

On Wednesday, Gen David Petraeus said he was "deeply sorry" for the air strike in which the boys, aged 12 and under, were mistaken for insurgents by Nato helicopters as they gathered firewood.

Sunday's rally in Kabul condemned both Nato and the Taliban for killing civilians.

Riaz Haq said...

US CIA drones have struck a day after Raymond Davis's release, killing 40 Pakistanis believed to be innocent civilians, according to the BBC:

At least 40 people have died in a US drone strike in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, local officials say.

Most of the victims were believed to be civilians attending a tribal meeting near the regional capital, Miranshah.

Earlier reports had said militants were among the dead. The area is an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold and US drones regularly target the region.

The latest deaths come amid rising anti-US anger in Pakistan after a CIA contractor was acquitted of murder.

The freeing of Raymond Davis has sparked protests across Pakistan.

Many people are angered that so-called "blood money" reported to amount to more than $2m (£1.24m) was paid to the families of the two men he killed in Lahore. The relatives then pardoned him under Sharia law and the court freed him.
Militants not 'present'

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Thursday's drone strike is the deadliest such attack since 2006 when 80 people were killed in the tribal region of Bajaur.

Officials say two drones were involved in the latest attack, in the Datta Khel area 40km (25 miles) west of Miranshah.

One missile was fired at a car carrying suspected militants. Local tribesmen say the drones then fired another three missiles at their meeting, or jirga.

Riaz Haq said...

More civilian casualties reported in NATO strikes, according to the BBC:

Western forces have accidentally killed seven civilians in an air attack in the Afghan province of Helmand, the governor's office there has said.

Nato said it ordered the attack on Friday after hearing that a Taliban leader and several of his subordinates were travelling in two vehicles.

The car that was targeted had exploded next to another carrying the civilians. Three children were among those killed.

The air strike took place in the Naw Zad district.

Two men, two women and three children were killed in the attack, the office of the provincial governor said.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said it was targeting a Taliban leader and other militants, but Isaf spokesman Major Tim James could not confirm whether the Taliban chief was present.

Helmand is one of the biggest flashpoints in the Taliban insurgency, which began after a US-led invasion brought down their regime in 2001.

Nine children died in another Nato air strike in eastern Kunar province earlier this month.

That led the US troop commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, to make a public apology.

The issue of civilian deaths has severely strained relations with Afghan authorities.

President Hamid Karzai told Gen Petraeus his apology for the deaths of the nine children was "not enough".

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian Op Ed by an Afghan on grisly photos of dead Afghan civilians along with grinning US soldiers who killed them:

The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published last week in the German media, and more recently in Rolling Stone magazine, are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public. All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with the pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians.

I must report that Afghans do not believe this to be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We believe that the brutal actions of these "kill teams" reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. While these photos are new, the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-American sentiment among ordinary Afghans.
----

The "kill team" images will come as a shock to many outside Afghanistan but not to us. We have seen countless incidents of American and Nato forces killing innocent people like birds. For instance, they recently killed nine children in Kunar Province who were collecting firewood. In February this year they killed 65 innocent villagers, most of them women and children. In this case, as in many others, Nato claimed that they had only killed insurgents, even though local authorities acknowledged that the victims were civilians. To prevent the facts coming out they even arrested two journalists from al-Jazeera who attempted to visit and report from the site of the massacre.

Successive US officials have said that they will safeguard civilians and that they will be more careful, but in fact they are only more careful in their efforts to cover up their crimes and suppress reporting of them. The US and Nato, along with the office of the UN's assistance mission in Afghanistan, usually give statistics about civilian deaths that underestimate the numbers. The reality is that President Obama's so-called surge has only led to a surge of violence from all sides, and civilian deaths have increased.

The occupying armies have tried to buy off the families of their victims, offering $2,000 for each one killed. Afghans' lives are cheap for the US and Nato, but no matter how much they offer, we don't want their blood money.

Once you know all this, and once you have seen the "kill team" photos, you will understand more clearly why Afghans have turned against this occupation. The Karzai regime is more hated than ever: it only rules through intimidation, corruption, and with the help of the occupying armies. Afghans deserve much better than this.

However, this does not mean more Afghans are supporting the reactionary so-called resistance of the Taliban. Instead we are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest against the massacre of civilians and to demand an end to the war. Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Marzar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Farah.

This resistance is inspired by the movements in other countries like Egypt and Tunisia – we want to see "people power" in Afghanistan as well. And we need the support and solidarity of people in the Nato countries.

Many new voices are speaking up against this expensive and hypocritical war in Afghanistan, including soldiers from the Nato armies. When I last visited the UK I had the honour of meeting Joe Glenton, a conscientious objector who spent months in jail for his resistance to the war in Afghanistan. Of his time in prison, Glenton said: "In the current climate I consider it a badge of honour to have served a prison sentence."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a CNN report on the closure of Shamsi airfield in Pakistan used by the CIA to launch drone strikes in FATA region:

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

It is the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan's Balochistan Province, from which drones are said to take off and where they are refueled for operations against Islamic militants.

The development 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. This came after another strike on March 17 killed 44 people, most of them civilians.
---------
The departure of American personnel -- if confirmed -- would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the continuing drone attacks and by 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 the Friday 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 the alleged move will affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.

That's because many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said the Pakistanis could be making the alleged 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, which he said "very specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they're killing Americans."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian Op Ed by Geoff Simons, author of Drone Diplomacy, on expanding use of drones for target killings from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Libya:

President Obama's authorisation of the use of missile-armed drones is a further escalation of the Libya conflict that is sure to result in yet more civilian casualties (Obama sends in Predator drones to help Misrata, 22 April). The evidence is overwhelming that drone usage in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere massively increases "collateral damage". On 6 May 2002 a drone killed 10 Afghan civilians in a car convoy. On 5 January 2006 a drone targeting al-Qaida's Ayman al-Zawahiri blew up a house in Pakistan. He wasn't there and eight civilians were killed. A week later a Predator ordered into action from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, destroyed three houses in Demadola, Pakistan, killing 22 civilians, including five women and five children.

On 19 May 2009 a drone attacked homes of villagers in North Waziristan thought to be aiding insurgents, killing 14 women and children. On 2 December 2010, Conflict Monitoring Centre in Islamabad issued a report charging that the US was deliberately ignoring Pakistani civilian deaths (2,043 over five years) caused by drones. On 23 January 2011, after 13 more civilians were killed, 2,000 tribesmen in North Waziristan held a protest against drone missile strikes.

In May 2010 Philip Alston, UN special representative on extrajudicial executions, highlighted the prevalence of a "PlayStation" mentality among drone operators in the US, in effect playing video games with distant and depersonalised targets. Alston, a professor of law at New York University, said: "I'm particularly concerned that the US asserts an ever-expanding entitlement to target individuals across the globe ... an ill-defined licence to kill without accountability."

Riaz Haq said...

There is a split in the Obama admin on CIA's drone attack campaign in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone program targeting militants in Pakistan, with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency's aggressive pace of strikes.

Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a program that President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the U.S.'s main weapons against the Pakistan-based militants fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The program has angered Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Mr. Davis's release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.

The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA's targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.

Another official, who supports a slowdown, said the discussions about revamping the program would continue, alongside talks with Pakistan, which is lobbying to rein in the drone strikes.

Most U.S. officials, including those urging a slowdown, agree the CIA strikes using the pilotless aircraft have been one of Washington's most effective tools in the fight against militants hiding out in Pakistan. The weapons have killed some top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and left militants off balance in a swath of mountainous territory along the Afghan border with Pakistan where they once operated with near impunity. No one in the administration is advocating an outright halt to the program.
-----------
The pushback by some U.S. officials against the drone program comes as U.S. diplomats and officials serving in Pakistan express dissatisfaction with what they see as the generally hostile tenor of the U.S.'s policy toward Pakistan.

These diplomats and officials say the deep vein of anti-Americanism that runs through Pakistani society forces its elected and military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to distance themselves from Washington to avoid a popular backlash.

"What's worrying a lot of us is whether we're turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries," said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

A senior U.S. official said the key is figuring out what level of drone strikes can satisfy U.S. security needs and at the same be tolerated by the Pakistanis. "I think we underestimate the importance of public opinion in Pakistan to our detriment," the official said. The Pakistanis have "a legitimate concern."

Islamabad has proposed narrowing the scope of the CIA program to target militants that have been agreed to by both sides, a Pakistani official said.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576363812217915914.html

Riaz Haq said...

In a humanitarian gesture, Pakistan helped secure the release of 6 Indian sailors among 22 sailors including 4 Pakistanis and 1 Sri Lankan.

Here's a report from Hindustan Times:

Six Indian sailors, held captive by Somali pirates for over 10 months, have been released and they will return home in the coming days, their family members said on Tuesday.

The release materialised after the continuous efforts of Pakistan-based Ansar Burney Trust, which is run by Pakistan's former federal minister for human rights, Ansar Burney.

The Indians were among the 22 crew members of MV Suez, an Egyptian cargo vessel which was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden Aug 2, 2010.

"We are very thankful to Ansar Burney and Pakistan government for their help. They have paid a ransom of 2.1 million dollars to the pirates to make this release possible. Burney was negotiating with the pirates for the last few months," Sampa Arya, wife of Ravinder Gulia (30), one of the hostages and resident of Haryana's Rohtak town, told IANS Tuesday.

"I have talked to my husband over the phone. He said that they have been released and all of them are in good health. They will reach India in the next few days," she added.

Apart from the six Indians, the 22 hostages comprised 11 Egyptians, four Pakistanis and one Sri Lankan. The Indians include two from Haryana and one each from Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir. One of the Indians is from Mumbai.

The family members of the hostages had met many senior Indian politicians to secure their release but all their efforts went in vain.

Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in this matter but nothing fruitful worked out.

"Burney had raised funds with the help of the Pakistan government. Here, the Indian government has let us down. We met many leaders but nobody helped us. They said paying ransom is not the right way. I have lost all my faith in Indian politicians," stated Arya.

Rajender Gulia, father of Ravinder, said, "Pakistan has helped us like an elder brother in this matter. We had lost all hopes as no Indian politician was ready to help us. Saving a human life was not important for them. But Pakistan emerged as a saviour for us."


http://www.hindustantimes.com/Pirates-release-6-Indian-sailors/Article1-709226.aspx

Riaz Haq said...

US designing new creatures to join predator drones, according to NY Times:

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Two miles from the cow pasture where the Wright Brothers learned to fly the first airplanes, 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.

The base’s indoor flight lab is called the “microaviary,” and for good reason. The drones in development here are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill.

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From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less widely known are the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.

The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.

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A Tsunami of Data

The future world of drones is here inside the Air Force headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., where hundreds of flat-screen TVs hang from industrial metal skeletons in a cavernous room, a scene vaguely reminiscent of a rave club. In fact, this is one of the most sensitive installations for processing, exploiting and disseminating a tsunami of information from a global network of flying sensors.

The numbers are overwhelming: Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the hours the Air Force devotes to flying missions for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance have gone up 3,100 percent, most of that from increased operations of drones. Every day, the Air Force must process almost 1,500 hours of full-motion video and another 1,500 still images, much of it from Predators and Reapers on around-the-clock combat air patrols.
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Large or small, drones raise questions about the growing disconnect between the American public and its wars. Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts. Drones have also created a crisis of information for analysts on the end of a daily video deluge. Not least, the Federal Aviation Administration has qualms about expanding their test flights at home, as the Pentagon would like. Last summer, fighter jets were almost scrambled after a rogue Fire Scout drone, the size of a small helicopter, wandered into Washington’s restricted airspace.
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The pressures on humans will only increase as the military moves from the limited “soda straw” views of today’s sensors to new “Gorgon Stare” technology that can capture live video of an entire city — but that requires 2,000 analysts to process the data feeds from a single drone, compared with 19 analysts per drone today.
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Riaz Haq said...

Pakistanis seek prosecution of CIA legal counsel for authorizing drone strikes, according to The Guardian:

Campaigners against US drone strikes in Pakistan are calling for the CIA's former legal chief to be arrested and charged with murder for approving attacks that killed hundreds of people.

Amid growing concern around the world over the use of drones, lawyers and relatives of some of those killed are seeking an international arrest warrant for John Rizzo, until recently acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency.

Opponents of drones say the unmanned aircraft are responsible for the deaths of up to 2,500 Pakistanis in 260 attacks since 2004. US officials say the vast majority of those killed are "militants". Earlier this week 48 people were killed in two strikes on tribal regions of Pakistan. The American definition of "militant" has been disputed by relatives and campaigners.

The attempt to seek an international arrest warrant for Rizzo is being led by the British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of the campaign group Reprieve, and lawyers in Pakistan. The lawyers are also building cases against other individuals, including drone operators interviewed or photographed during organised press facilities.

A first information report, the first step in seeking a prosecution of Rizzo in Pakistan, will be formally lodged early next week at a police station in the capital, Islamabad, on behalf of relatives of two people killed in drone strikes in 2009. The report will also allege Rizzo should be charged with conspiracy to murder a large number of Pakistani citizens.

Now retired, Rizzo, 63, is being pursued after admitting in an interview with the magazine Newsweek that since 2004 he had approved one drone attack order a month on targets in Pakistan, even though the US is not at war with the country.

Rizzo, who was by his own admission "up to my eyeballs" in approving CIA use of "enhanced interrogation techniques", said in the interview that the CIA operated "a hit list". He also asked: "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?"

Rizzo has also admitted being present while civilian operators conducted drone strikes from their terminals at the CIA headquarters in Virginia.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/15/cia-usa

Riaz Haq said...

Former US Intelligence Chief Blair calls for end to drone strikes, according to The Washington Post:

For months officials in Pakistan have been demanding an end to CIA drone strikes in the country, and the brokering of a new relationship that would make them equal partners in the pursuit of terrorist groups.

Now they have an unlikely ally in their demands: the former director of U.S. intelligence agencies, Dennis C. Blair.

Speaking at a conference in Aspen, Colo., this week, Blair said the Obama administration should suspend the drone campaign, and resume firing missiles only in cases when there is agreement from Pakistan.

“We should offer to the Pakistanis to put two hands on the trigger,” Blair said, arguing that unilateral attacks have undermined American standing abroad and badly damaged the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

Blair’s prescription comes at a time when many senior U.S. intelligence officials credit the sustained drone campaign, as well as the killing of Osama bin Laden, with bringing al-Qaeda to the brink of collapse.

But Blair said his view is based in part on a belief that the United States is at a turning point in the fight against al-Qaeda and like-minded groups.

The drone strikes and other counter-terror measures have effectively stripped al-Qaeda and its affiliates of their ability to execute out large-scale plots.

But “by having that [drone] campaign dominate our overall relationship…we are following a policy that cannot take us from that second layer of small attacks down to no attacks,” Blair said. Only deeper cooperation with Pakistan and other countries can do that, he said.

Blair didn’t say whether he had advocated such a position while still serving as Director of National Intelligence, before he was abruptly fired by President Obama last year.

Blair also offered a sobering bit of intelligence budget math. Given the swollen state of intelligence spending, and the relatively small membership of al-Qaeda and other groups, Blair said the United States is spending $20 billion a year to go after an enemy that has about 4,000 people in its ranks.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/former-intelligence-chief-dennis-blair-us-should-suspend-unilateral-drone-strikes-in-pakistan/2011/07/29/gIQAX1rOhI_blog.html

Riaz Haq said...

Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Here's an excerpt from an AP report on Blair opposing drone attacks in Pakistan:

He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the US by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.

http://hosted2.ap.org/COGRA/e109e277e48c4e219e07a1d4710177b3/Article_2011-07-29-Terrorism-Blair/id-556a7eb8f7be40749ca87b9f0491a89a

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times piece on "who reviews the kill list" for US drone strikes:

When it comes to national security, Michael V. Haydenis no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.

But the retired air force general admits to being a little squeamish about the Obama administration's expanding use of pilotless drones to kill suspected terrorists around the world — including, occasionally, U.S. citizens.

"Right now, there isn't a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel," Hayden told me recently.

As an example of the problem, he cites the example of Anwar Awlaki, the New Mexico-born member of Al Qaeda who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen last September. "We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him," Hayden notes, "but we didn't need a court order to kill him. Isn't that something?"

Hayden isn't the only one who has qualms about the "targeted killing" program. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been pressing the administration to explain its rules for months.

In a written statement, Feinstein said she thinks Awlaki was "a lawful target" but added that she still thinks the administration should explain its reasoning more openly "to maintain public support of secret operations."

As Hayden puts it: "This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that's dangerous."

There has been remarkably little public debate about the drone strikes, which have killed at least 1,300 people in Pakistan alone since President Obama came to office. Little debate inside the United States, that is. But overseas, the operations have prompted increasing opposition and could turn into a foreign policy headache.

It's odd that the Obama administration, which came into office promising to be more open and more attentive to civil liberties than the previous one, has been so reluctant to explain its policies in this area. Obama and his aides have refused to answer questions about drone strikes because they are part of a covert program, yet they have repeatedly taken credit for their victories in public. After months of negotiations, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. won approval from the White House to spell out some of the administration's legal thinking in the Awlaki case. But his statement, originally promised for last month, has been delayed by continued internal wrangling.

When it is issued, officials said, the statement is likely to add a few details to the bare-bones rationale the administration has offered in a handful of public statements and court proceedings. The administration has said that strikes against suspected terrorists are justified for two reasons: First, that Al Qaeda is at war with the United States, which makes any participant in Al Qaeda operations an enemy combatant; and second, that anyone directly involved in terrorist plots against Americans poses an "imminent danger" to U.S. security....


http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-drones-and-the-law-20120205,0,876903.column

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts og a Guardian story on US drones targeting rescuers in Pakistan's FATA region:

attacking rescuers (and arguably worse, bombing funerals of America's drone victims) is now a tactic routinely used by the US in Pakistan. In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that "the CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals." Specifically: "at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims." That initial FBI report detailed numerous civilians killed by such follow-up strikes on rescuers, and established precisely the terror effect which the US government has long warned are sown by such attacks:

"Yusufzai, who reported on the attack, says those killed in the follow-up strike 'were trying to pull out the bodies, to help clear the rubble, and take people to hospital.' The impact of drone attacks on rescuers has been to scare people off, he says: 'They've learnt that something will happen. No one wants to go close to these damaged building anymore.'"

Since that first bureau report, there have been numerous other documented cases of the use by the US of this tactic: "On [4 June], US drones attacked rescuers in Waziristan in western Pakistan minutes after an initial strike, killing 16 people in total according to the BBC. On 28 May, drones were also reported to have returned to the attack in Khassokhel near Mir Ali." Moreover, "between May 2009 and June 2011, at least 15 attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, ABC News and Al Jazeera."

In June, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, said that if "there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime." There is no doubt that there have been.

(A different UN official, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, this weekend demanded that the US "must open itself to an independent investigation into its use of drone strikes or the United Nations will be forced to step in", and warned that the demand "will remain at the top of the UN political agenda until some consensus and transparency has been achieved". For many American progressives, caring about what the UN thinks is so very 2003.)


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/us-drones-strikes-target-rescuers-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wired magazine story on CIA drone strikes in FATA, Pakistan:

The sixth U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in 2013 has killed at least eight people, as if to announce the impending arrival at the CIA of the drone campaign’s chief advocate.

About 19 miles east of Mirin Shah, the main city in the tribal province of North Waziristan, at least one missile fired by a U.S. Predator or Reaper hit a compound Monday night, killing an alleged, unnamed “foreign tactical trainer” for al-Qaida, according to Pakistani intelligence sources talking to Reuters. Another strike hit the nearby village of Eissu Khel, the Long War Journal reports. In addition to the alleged al-Qaida member, at least seven others were killed and three more were injured.

While the statistical sample is small, it’s starting to sound like the drone campaign over Pakistan is ticking back up after a recent decline. A trio of drone-fired missile strikes between Wednesday and Thursday killed a Pakistani Taliban commander and at least 19 others. Another on Sunday reportedly killed another 17 people, bringing the estimated death toll in this young year to 35.

The U.S. launched 43 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012, according to the tally kept by the New America Foundation, reflecting a two-year downward trend from 2010′s high of 122 strikes. The average time in between strikes last year was 7.7 days. But eight days into 2013, there have already been six deadly drone strikes, for reasons that remain unclear. It’s worth noting that senior Obama administration officials recently reversed their earlier rhetoric that the U.S. was on the verge of defeating al-Qaida and have returned to describing a protracted shadow campaign.

The drone strikes are likely to play a central role in the Senate confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism official whom President Obama nominated Monday to lead the CIA. Brennan, a CIA veteran, has been at the center of the drone campaign in Obama’s first term, even providing Obama with the names of suspected militants marked for a robotic death.

But even if the White House doesn’t know a target’s name, he can still be marked for death. Obama has provided the CIA with authority to kill not only suspected militants, but unknown individuals it believes follow a pattern of militant activity, in what it terms “signature strikes.” The drone program has killed an undisclosed number of civilians. A recent study conducted by Center for Civilians in Conflict and Columbia Law School’s human-rights branch explored how they’ve torn the broader social fabric in tribal Pakistan, creating paranoia that neighbors are informing on each other and traumatizing those who live under the buzz of Predator and Reaper engines. Those traumas are raising alarm bells from some of the U.S.’ most experienced counterterrorists.

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former chief of the Joint Special Operations Command and the NATO war in Afghanistan, has been publicly ambivalent on the drones for months. In July, he told an elite audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival about how a drone spotted an Afghan man “digging in the ground” at night, leading his forces to order a deadly helicopter attack on the presumption the man was burying a bomb. McChrystal later learned that tilling soil at night is a tradition among Afghan farmers, and the dead man posed no threat.

The retired general went further in a Monday interview with Reuters’ David Alexander. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates,” McChrystal said. “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Brennan’s nomination is renewing the national discussion about drone strikes. ....


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/01/pakistan-strike/

Riaz Haq said...

Legitimizing of double standards is the West's idea of the "new liberal imperialism" in post-modern world as proposed by British diplomat Robert cooper....It's ok to play by different rules in developing world than at home.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/07/1