Thursday, February 17, 2011

US Says American Human Life is Worth $ 9.1 Million

The US Department of Homeland Security assesses the value of an American human life lost to terrorism at double that of a death from any other cause.

The value of human life in America is periodically assessed by various US government departments and agencies as part of the effort to justify the cost of safety regulations. For example, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has used values of around $6 million per death to justify recent decisions to impose regulations that require stronger roofs on cars.



The values range from $7.9 million per victim at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to $ 9.1 million at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a report in NY Times.

The American government's concern for human life in America is quite laudable. But it raises another question: How do American policies and actions abroad value human lives in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen? Why are they focusing their energies on optimizing the methods and costs of killing people more efficiently in these places and not valuing innocent lives? Why the double standard? And why are the mainstream American media, like Newsweek which justifies these killings, complicit in this ongoing murder of the innocents?



Let's take the case of innocent victims who are dying in "targeted" assassinations by the American CIA Reaper and Predator drones in Pakistan.

Research by New America Foundation found that civilians made up 32 percent of deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan. This count is appears to be low, as its data is taken from major U.S. and English-language Pakistani news outlet reports and accepts their characterizations of "civilians" and "militants."

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) conducted an on-the ground investigation of American drone strikes (from 2009 and early 2010), and concluded that the nine attacks they surveyed produced a total of 30 civilian deaths (10/10). The CIVIC report points out that Pakistani media outlets, based on government figures, put the civilian death rate from drones at about 90 percent.

The increasing deaths of innocent civilians from American CIA drones are not helping enhance the security of the Americans or Pakistanis. On the contrary, such illegal and immoral tactics are fueling more revenge attacks by suicide bombers in Pakistan.

It is time for the US to cease such strikes and adequately compensate those innocent individuals and families who have suffered from the brutal attacks from the sky.

Here's a video clip of CIVIC report on innocent civilian victims of US drone hits:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Valuing Life in Afghanistan and Pakistan

$50 Million Per Dead Taliban

Obama's High-Tech Warfare

Newsweek Defends Drone Hits

Campaign For Innocent Victims in Conflict

38 comments:

gunam said...

Western countries always look upon third world countries as their laboratory.

The attitude still continues when those countries carry a big debt on every citizen.

However with regard to experience of pakistan, it is the price which the citizens are paying for the double game of the military where on one side they want to be friend of america and on other side they want to be with islamic fundamentalist.

Somehow the concept of double game is well played by the usa where it is the friend of isreal and also many of the gcc countries. But it is not working out well with pakistan.

Further every ruler knows that he has to have a country for political asylum as the next ruler is going to be behind is his head.

Anonymous said...

Somehow the concept of double game is well played by the usa where it is the friend of isreal and also many of the gcc countries. But it is not working out well with pakistan

Actually its more like the US is the friend of Israel and colonizer of the GCC where it basically follows the 'maharaja model' that the UK used to follow in India.

Nominate despots in princely states and protect them from their own people and then offer then a standard of living far in excess of anything else in the world.


Even India was successful in playing a double game throughout the cold far being a close ally of the USSR to the extent of the USSR sending nuclear submarines and the black sea fleet to protect us in 1971 BUT also the biggest single recepient of US foreign aid by using 'world's largest democracy' emotional blackmail...

gunam said...

@anon

If india is playing a double game, i am impressed. I feel at times, indian politicians and officials lack the courage and foresightedness to play double game.

India is the least receipient of aid on the basis of per person compared to any other country.

Today usa is loving india not for anything but as a market to dump its product. It is a not a rogue country which has done proliferation of nuclear technology.

I would say the greatness of the western is that their capability to corrupt anybody who comes to power and the readiness of those to get corrupt.

As far as the peope of gcc is concened, every liberator over a period of time becomes the aggressor and monarch whether it is libya or egypt.

For the islamic followers, the first things is to blame others. However there is an interesting concept on failures on nation building which is worth reading :

Following url throws insight in why there is no nation building among the islamic society.
http://www.isteve.com/cousin_marriage_conundrum.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage#Islam

http://www.prb.org/pdf05/marriageinarabworld_eng.pdf
“One distinctive feature of Arab families is the relatively high rate of marriage between relatives (in particular, between cousins), a practice known as consanguinity. Marriage between relatives is particularly high in Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, where 40 percent to 50 percent of ever- arried women ages 15 to 49 are wed to their first cousins. These consanguineous marriages are not necessarily arranged marriages; they may well reflect the wishes of the marrying partners. But marriage between close relatives can jeopardize the health of their offspring, as can marriage among families with a history of genetic diseases.”

When there is no faith within the society how can multiple soceity build trust to build a nation. So try to resolve fundamental issues rather than blaming others. In the same note you can look at the other religions practices on first cousin marriage as under :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage

Haseeb said...

Riaz, Another excellent article. It is time that all Pakistani-Americans raise their voices and tell our government to stop these atrocities immediately. And doing so is not illegal or non-patriotic.

Rashid said...

Opposing viewpoint:
Raising of Pak-Am voices to the US Gov is not illegal nor unpatriotic.
However, such an action is hypocritcal and full of irony - not to forget futile and mis-directed.
Musharraf's complicity in drone attacks has been established. Was he not enabled by his army cohorts? Is it not the Pak component of drone attacks that is the prime mover? Is it not the old rivalries and sectarian splits that are responsible for identifying the drone targets? The collateral damages are inevitable.

I respect Wael, the Google guy - who did NOT raise his voice here. His actions and words were directed to Misr. The cannisters were Made in USA. The finger that pulled the trigger belonged to a Misri who was obeying the orders of another Misri. So - do we go about blaming the worker at some US chem plant for that cannister? Or how about picketing the Congressman in whose district the chem plant is located?

My point is that the fount of evil is not here in the US. Even if some part of this evil exists here - it is balanced by the opposite of evil. Such counter-balance is wholly missing in Pak.

I oppose raising of Pak-Am voices about a Pak problem in USA. I oppose spending US money to prop up evil people anywhere because US money was taken from me in the first place.

That $1.5 billion per year that was announced some years back - did you not make the connection that the money was for the establishment of a precision drone delivery system? Did you believe that the great $15 billion package would be used for getting engineering books into the hands of engineering students?
Regards,

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid,

Wael Ghonim is neither a US citizen nor does he live in the United States. He works from a Google office in UAE.

As US citizen, Pakistani-Americans have a responsibility to try to influence Washington's policy which serves US interests best.

And I sincerely believe that killing innocent people anywhere does not serve America's best interests.

Anonymous said...

I am actually surprised that neither Pakistani Govt. officials nor Pakistan citizens have used judicial means to address this. (Apparently Pak Govt is an accomplice in the strikes, but what stops people?) Pakistan's judiciary seems to be pretty active, and there is no reason why it cannot give a jurisdiction on the legality of these killings.

Also isn't killing without a fair trial against international laws? Shouldn't you Pakistani Americans be fighting a case in American courts?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "I am actually surprised that neither Pakistani Govt. officials nor Pakistan citizens have used judicial means to address this."

I believe there is case pending in Pakistani court that involved the CIA station chief as the accused.

And there are reports of plans to file in the International Court of Justice.

http://www.sananews.net/english/2011/02/01/waziristan-tribes-to-approach-icj-against-us-drone-attacks/

Hamid said...

riaz sahib,

.... it seems that in accordance with islamic law the government is trying to negotiate the right amount of blood money to make this raymond davis problem go away ......... how much do you think the nation's collective ghairat is worth? ..... i think one crore should be enough ... no?

sharia is a wonderful thing, isn't it!!!

Riaz Haq said...

Hamid: "how much do you think the nation's collective ghairat is worth? ..... i think one crore should be enough ... no?"

Going by the US standards applicable to human life of an American, the values range from $7.9 million per victim at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to $ 9.1 million at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And the values double for American victims of terror, according US Dept of Homeland Security.

Let's see what discount Uncle Sam applies to the lives of Pakistanis in this case.

Anonymous said...

There would be something wrong if a country didn't value the lives of its citizenry more than the lives of others. The 3rd world is unique (East Asian countries excluded) is not valuing the lives of its citizenry. Personally, if there is no personal contact or connection I have with an individual, I value the lives of high IQ, productive people more than the lives of low IQ, unproductive people (most of us do, just not consciously) and therefore value (without additional information) Jewish, White, and East Asian life more than I do Arab, Subcontinental, or African life.

Riaz Haq said...

The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time, according to The Guardian newspaper. Here are some excerpts:


Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. "It's beyond a shadow of a doubt," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against a pair of suspected robbers, who were both carrying guns.
-----------
The Pakistani government is aware of Davis's CIA status yet has kept quiet in the face of immense American pressure to free him under the Vienna convention. Last week President Barack Obama described Davis as "our diplomat" and dispatched his chief diplomatic troubleshooter, Senator John Kerry, to Islamabad. Kerry returned home empty-handed.
----------
A third man was crushed by an American vehicle as it rushed to Davis's aid. Pakistani officials believe its occupants were CIA because they came from the house where Davis lived and were armed.

The US refused Pakistani demands to interrogate the two men and on Sunday a senior Pakistani intelligence official said they had left the country. "They have flown the coop, they are already in America," he said.

ABC News reported that the men had the same diplomatic visas as Davis. It is not unusual for US intelligence officers, like their counterparts round the world, to carry diplomatic passports.
-------
But Washington's case is hobbled by its resounding silence on Davis's role. He served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis had worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

Pakistani suspicions about Davis's role were stoked by the equipment police confiscated from his car: an unlicensed pistol, a long-range radio, a GPS device, an infrared torch and a camera with pictures of buildings around Lahore.

"This is not the work of a diplomat. He was doing espionage and surveillance activities," said the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, adding he had "confirmation" that Davis was a CIA employee.

A number of US media outlets learned about Davis's CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration. A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, made a connection after speaking to Davis's wife. She referred its inquiries to a number in Washington which turned out to be the CIA. The station removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government.

Some reports, quoting Pakistani intelligence officials, have suggested that the men Davis killed, Faizan Haider, 21, and Muhammad Faheem, 19, were agents of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency (ISI) and had orders to shadow Davis because he crossed a "red line".
-------------
Tensions between the spy agencies have been growing. The CIA Islamabad station chief was forced to leave in December after being named in a civil lawsuit. The ISI was angered when its chief, General Shuja Pasha, was named in a New York lawsuit related to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Although the two spy services co-operate in the CIA's drone campaign along the Afghan border, there has not been a drone strike since 23 January – the longest lull since June 2009. Experts are unsure whether both events are linked.

Davis awaits his fate in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. Pakistani officials say they have taken exceptional measures to ensure his safety, including ringing the prison with paramilitary Punjab Rangers. The law minister, Sanaullah, said Davis was in a "high security zone" and was receiving food from visitors from the US consulate.

Riaz Haq said...

Following the story in The Guardian story yesterday, both NY Times and Washington Post are now confirming that the American operating as "Raymond Davis" is a US spy working under cover.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/world/asia/22pakistan.html?_r=1&hp

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022102801.html?hpid=topnews

Riaz Haq said...

Here's more on "Raymond Davis" case in today's Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—The American detained in Pakistan in the killing of two armed men was working secretly in the country for the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. officials say.

The disclosures about Raymond Davis, a former Army Special Forces soldier who worked as a contractor in Pakistan for the CIA, might complicate U.S. efforts to secure his release and exacerbate growing tensions between between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies. Pakistani intelligence officials say they weren't informed by the U.S. about Mr. Davis's role with the CIA and warned that ties may have been damaged beyond repair by the case.
---------------
A senior official with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, said Pakistan wasn't initially aware Mr. Davis was working for the CIA. The official said he believes the U.S. could be using other undeclared operatives like Mr. Davis as a way of circumventing visa restrictions imposed by Islamabad on the U.S. spy agency. The ISI's decision to reveal Mr. Davis's CIA ties reflect Pakistani anger over U.S. conduct in the case. Comments last week by CIA Director Leon Panetta that relations between the two agencies were among "the most complicated" he has ever seen also rankled the ISI.

"We didn't even know about him," the ISI official said. "We don't know how many Raymond Davises there could be running around."

The CIA has "acted with arrogance toward ISI which has resulted in weakening the relationship on which it is entirely dependent," the senior ISI official added. "Irrespective of the commonality of objectives in this war on terror, it is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode."
--------------
According to excerpts from a preliminary Pakistani police report obtained by U.S. officials and shared with The Wall Street Journal, the two dead Pakistani men were found with pistols, live rounds and five stolen cell phones. According to police documents, one of the dead Pakistani men had "cocked his pistol and pointed it towards [the] American."

Little is known about where Mr. Davis has traveled in Pakistan on behalf of the CIA. He arrived in Lahore as a short term contractor for the CIA in January 2010, but U.S. officials say he has done multiple tours as a security employee for the agency over the past four years.

Police in Lahore say eyewitnesses who recognize his photo remember seeing him late last year in a northern suburb of the city where Afghan refugees live.

Senior police officers in Lahore have said Mr. Davis is likely guilty of murder even though they have yet to formally charge him. They deny the men were planning to attack Mr. Davis and say they may have been armed because of a feud in which one of the men's elder brothers had recently been killed.

U.S. officials say such comments by police officials leading the investigation mean Mr. Davis is unlikely to get a fair hearing if the case goes to trial.

Mr. Obama, in his first comments on the incident last week, said Mr. Davis is covered by a 1961 treaty on diplomatic immunity to which the U.S. and Pakistan are both signatories. U.S. officials said Mr. Davis's status working with the CIA in no way diminishes his right to immunity.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a shocking report in The Express Tribune about the possible involvement of "Raymond Davis" with the terrorists of the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an EU Times report on serious allegations of nuclear proliferation against "Raymond Davis":

While all eyes in the West are currently trained on the ongoing revolution taking place in Egypt, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned “grave” as it appears open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States.

Fueling this crisis, that the SVR warns in their report has the potential to ignite a total Global War, was the apprehension by Pakistan of a 36-year-old American named Raymond Allen Davis (photo), whom the US claims is one of their diplomats, but Pakistani Intelligence Services (ISI) claim Raymond Davis is a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
---------
Most ominous in this SVR report, though, is Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’s possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to al Qaeda terrorists “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents” they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to reestablish the West’s hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse.
---------
Today, as the US Department of Homeland Security has just issued a grim warning that the threat of terror strike on America is at a higher level than it has been since September 11, 2001, and the WikiLeaks release of secret US government cables reveals that al Qaeda is on the brink of using a nuclear bomb, a new President stands between his people and the CIA warmongers with the only question being will he protect them like Kennedy did?

The answer to that question, sadly, appears to be “no” as new information recently obtained by US journalists show that not only has Obama failed to discipline those CIA officers who have led the United States to near total collapse, he has promoted them in numbers never before seen in history.

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...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Jack Hunter titled "Peter King's Radical Ignorance" in The American Conservative magazine:

This is not unlike when we are told that terrorists simply “hate our freedom,” as President Bush and his Republican supporters like Rep. King have always considered a satisfactory explanation for our problems with radical Islam. Yet using two of the very examples cited at King’s hearings—Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad—what can we deduce about what actually causes domestic Islamic terrorism? If virtually every would-be domestic Islamic terrorist cites the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as their primary motivation—which virtually all of them do including Hasan and Shahzad—and yet we are still fighting wars in both countries allegedly in the name of fighting terrorists… might it be time to reexamine and perhaps reassess our foreign policy? Are we attacking the problem of radical Islam or helping to create it? Has the War on Terror actually become a war for it?

Yet few dare raise these most pertinent questions. When longtime DC-based tax activist Grover Norquist suggested in January that conservatives should begin to have a conversation about the wisdom of our war in Afghanistan, he was swiftly denounced by many on the Right for even daring to discuss the matter. Norquist defended his suggestion: “I’m confident about where that conversation would go. And I think the people who are against that conversation know where it would go, too.” Addressing some of his harsher critics, Norquist shot back: “Shut up is not an argument… Many of the people who want us to stay in Afghanistan are smart people. There are good arguments for their position. So let’s hear them.”

But hearing any serious cost/benefit analysis about our current foreign policy is about as likely to happen as Washington leaders addressing and correcting our reckless domestic policy of trillion dollar deficits and debt. It is simply assumed that the status quo, whatever it may be, is somehow beneficial and necessary by its own volition. Or perhaps worse, politicians fear that the many special interests involved could potentially be jeopardized by any substantive examination of the way Washington conducts its business.

This characteristic intellectual laziness among the political class is particularly troubling when it comes to the threat of terrorism, domestic or otherwise. We continue to fret over the Islamic terror effect while steadfastly refusing to even consider the cause of Islamic terrorism, making King’s hearings last week little more than another example of Washington’s typical grandstanding buffoonery. Yes, King and his allies on this issue are indeed right that the problem of domestic Islamic terrorism is a concern—but their ongoing blindness toward the primary cause of their concern prevents them from even attempting to examine this issue comprehensively. Peter King might as well have called for congressional hearings on the problem of teenage sex while leaving raging hormones completely out of the equation. And let us hear no more from Washington leaders who want to “keep us safe” until they are first willing to look at the policies of their own making that continue to endanger us the most.

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...

US CIA drones have struck a day after Raymond Davis's release, killing 40 Pakistanis believed to be innocent civilians, and eliciting strong condemnation from Pakistani political and military leaders.

Here's a BBC report:

Pakistan's army chief has condemned the latest raid by US unmanned drones as "intolerable and unjustified".

In a strongly worded statement, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the attack, which killed about 40 people, was "in complete violation of human rights".

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

Tension has been growing in recent weeks between the US and Pakistan.

The US drone attacks are a long-running source of bad feeling, but the acquittal of CIA contractor Raymond Davis of murder has sparked protests across Pakistan.

The Pakistani military often makes statements regretting the loss of life in such incidents, but rarely criticises the attacks themselves.

Gen Kayani, however, said such "acts of violence" make it harder to fight terrorism.

"It is highly regrettable that a jirga [meeting] of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life," he said.

"It has been highlighted clearly that such aggression against people of Pakistan is unjustified and intolerable under any circumstances."

Pakistan's intelligence agency is often accused of complicity in the raids, either by supporting them or allowing them to happen.

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 open-air meeting, or jirga.

Our correspondent says the car was moving close to the jirga, and the missiles hit the vehicle as well as the jirga.

According to the tribesmen, the meeting was being held to discuss a local land dispute over the ownership of chromite deposits in the area. They say that no militants were present at the time.

Officials said the drones were targeting militants linked to Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. One of his commanders, identified as Sharabat Khan, was in the vehicle hit in the attack and was killed, one local official told the BBC.

The US military and the CIA do not routinely confirm that they have launched drone operations, and Gen Kayani did not specifically name the US or mention drones.

But analysts say only American forces could deploy such aircraft in the region.

The attacks have escalated in the region since US President Barack Obama took office. More than 100 raids were reported in the area last year.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12779232

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of US-Pakistan relations as published on Reuters Blog:

...One of the more interesting explanations lies in the statement itself:

“Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, strongly condemns the Predator Strike carried out today in North Waziristan Agency resulting into loss of innocent lives. It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life. In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”

His criticism of the United States putting tactical gains ahead of the longer-term needs of battling terrorism goes to the heart of the mismatch between U.S. and Pakistani priorities. The United States, keen to end the war in Afghanistan, needs Pakistan’s help quickly in fighting militants on its side of the border. Pakistan says it can’t fight all militant groups at once and that moving too fast would unleash fresh instability in Pakistan itself.
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Now put these comments into the context of the strains in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The United States has a short-term priority – to end the war in Afghanistan and bring its troops home by 2014. Pakistan has a long-term challenge in rolling back militant groups — and the mindset that accompanies them — something that could take a generation to achieve. And while the U.S. focus is on Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army’s priority (at risk of stating the obvious) is stability in Pakistan.

With some care and attention, these two different but overlapping priorities, and two different but overlapping timescales, can in theory be reconciled. But the area of overlap is narrow – a bit like a Venn diagram which is also constantly moving, as it is buffeted by volatility of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and the unpredictability of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Imagined this way, you can see why — at least from Pakistan’s point of view – Kayani would argue that, “this critical objective (of the fight against terrorism) can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's piece by Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings recommending closer US ties with Pakistan, including free trade deal and nuclear cooperation similar to US-India nuclear deal:

Under these circumstances, part of the right policy is to keep doing more of what the Obama administration has been doing with Pakistan -- building trust, as with last month's strategic dialogue in Washington; increasing aid incrementally, as with the new five-year $2 billion aid package announced during that dialogue; and coordinating militarily across the border region. But Obama also needs to think bigger.

First, he needs to make clear America's commitment to South Asia, to wean Pakistan away from its current hedging strategy. Obama has frequently used general language to try to reassure listeners in the region that there will be no precipitous U.S. withdrawal next summer. But few fully believe him. Hearing stories like Bob Woodward's accounts of how the vice president and White House advisors have generally opposed a robust counterinsurgency strategy in favor of a counterterrorism-oriented operation with far fewer U.S. troops, they worry that next summer's withdrawal will be fast. Obama needs to explain that he will not revert to such a minimalist "Plan B" approach under any imaginable circumstances. More appropriate would be a "Plan A-minus" that involves a gradual NATO troop drawdown as Afghan forces grow in number and capability, without necessarily first stabilizing the entire south and east, should the current strategy not turn around the violence by next summer or so. This would represent a modification to the current plan rather than a radical departure. The president can find a way to signal that this is in fact his own thinking, sooner rather than later -- ideally before the year is out.

Second, Obama should offer Islamabad a much more expansive U.S.-Pakistani relationship if it helps win this war. Two major incentives would have particular appeal to Pakistan. One is a civilian nuclear energy deal like that being provided to India; Pakistan's progress on export controls in the wake of the A.Q. Khan debacle has been good enough so far to allow a provisional approval of such a deal if other things fall into place as well. Second is a free trade accord. Struggling economically, Pakistan needs such a shot in the arm, and a trade deal could arguably do even more than aid at this point.

But the key point is this: Pakistan should be told that these deals will only be possible if the United States and its allies prevail in Afghanistan. Small gestures of greater helpfulness are not adequate; bottom-line results are what count and what are needed. If Afghanistan turns around in a year or two, the deals can be set in motion and implemented over a longer period that will allow the United States to continually monitor subsequent Pakistani cooperation in the war.

It may seem harsh to Pakistan that America would put things in such stark terms -- but in fact, it is not realistic that any U.S. president or Congress would carry out such deals if the United States loses the war in Afghanistan partly due to Pakistani perfidy. As such, these terms are really just common sense, and they are based on political realism about America's domestic politics as well as its strategic interests.

America's current strategy for the war in Afghanistan is much improved. But it is not yet sound enough to point clearly toward victory. The most crucial problem is the role of Pakistan in the war, and so far, the Obama administration is not thinking creatively enough about how to fix it.

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's a BBC report quoting Pakistan Human Rights Commission claiming 2500 deaths in militant violence in 2010:

More than 2,500 people were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in 2010, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Nearly half of victims were civilians killed in suicide blasts. There were 67 such attacks last year, the group said.

The report also said at least 900 people had been killed in US drone strikes during the same period.

The number of people killed by the army is not mentioned, but it estimated to be in the region of 600-700.

Pakistani troops are battling insurgents across the north-west. Many of those it has killed are believed to be militants, but civilian lives have been lost too.

The HRCP is the main human rights watchdog in the country. Its findings are often disputed by the authorities, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says.

The group's findings show a rise in the numbers being killed in Pakistan's conflict.

BBC research published last July suggested 1,713 people had been killed by militants over the preceding 18 months, while 746 people had died in drone attacks during the same period.
'Increasing intolerance'

The HRCP released its data in its annual report on the state of human rights and security in Pakistan between January and December 2010.

"Pakistan's biggest problem continues to be violence carried out militants," HRCP chairman Mehdi Hasan said.

"In 2010, 67 suicide attacks were carried out across the country in which 1,169 people were killed," he said. "At least 1,000 of those were civilians."

Dr Hasan said that in all 2,542 people had been killed in militant attacks in the country last year.

He said the most glaring example of government oversight had been in Balochistan province, where targeted killings shot up rapidly with 118 people being killed in 2010.

Dr Hasan said the figure was set to increase in 2011, as the government seemed unconcerned about the unravelling of the law and order situation in Balochistan.

The HRCP report also spoke about increasing intolerance against religious minorities in the country.

It said 99 members of the Ahmedi (Qadiani) sect had been killed in attacks in 2010, while 64 people had been charged under the country's blasphemy law.

There was no immediate response to the report from the Pakistani authorities, nor was there any word from militant groups.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a News Op Ed by Najam Sethi:

Who could have imagined that a serving commander of the Pakistan Army in the Waziristan badlands would have consciously knocked the popular myth that American drone strikes in Fata are part of the problem and not part of the solution of terrorism? But that’s exactly what happened on March 8.

Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmud, GOC 7th Div North Waziristan, did not mince words in his printed brief ‘“Myths and Rumours about US Predator Strikes” handed out to journalists from his command post in the area. He made two main points: (1) A majority of those killed by drone strikes are “hardcore Taliban or Al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few”. (2) But by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national “solution” strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimised because it creates local “problems” of a tactical nature.

Gen Mehmud hasn’t been fired or reprimanded. This means he had the green signal from the GHQ to make his brief. His statement explains the consciously nurtured “duality” of official policy versus popular position on drone strikes and confirms the Wikileaks summary that both secret authorisation and popular criticism go hand in hand in Pakistan where both civilian and military leaders are on the same page.
---------
A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, a pro-US establishment paper, sums up the American position bluntly. It is titled: The Pakistan Ultimatum: choose whose side it is on. “Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation... Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India... After 9/11 Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.

So it’s time for Pakistan’s military leaders to make up their minds and deal with its consequences. They must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial “friend” to have and a deadly “enemy” to make – and honest with Pakistanis – because they’re not stupid and can eventually see through duplicity, as they did in the Raymond Davis case.

The military cannot forever hunt with America and run with an anti-American Pakistani public they have helped to create. They cannot instruct the DG-ISPR in Islamabad to convey the impression of tough talking in Langley while asking the GOC 7 Division in Waziristan to give a realistic brief to the media about the critical benefits of drone strikes amidst all the “myths and rumours” of their negativity. This double-dealing confuses the public, annoys a strategic partner, and discredits the military all round when it is exposed.
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The duality or contradiction in the military’s private and public position vis a vis its relationship with civilians in Pakistan and its relationship with America is a direct consequence of two inter-related factors: First, the military’s threat perception of India’s rising military capability, and second, its fear of losing control over India-centred national security policy to the civilians who are keen to start the process of building permanent peace in the region, thereby diluting the military’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan’s polity.----------

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.
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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...

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.
..

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's a NY Times story on Obama's "kill list":

Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.

In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers.

The administration’s failure to forge a clear detention policy has created the impression among some members of Congress of a take-no-prisoners policy. And Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said.
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Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.

Mr. Blair’s criticism, dismissed by White House officials as personal pique, nonetheless resonates inside the government.

William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff in 2011, said the president and his advisers understood that they could not keep adding new names to a kill list, from ever lower on the Qaeda totem pole. What remains unanswered is how much killing will be enough.

“One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20?” Mr. Daley said, describing the internal discussion. “At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece from WSW on Jimmy Carter's NY Times Op Ed:

Ex-US president indicts Obama as assassin
27 June 2012

A column published Monday in the New York Times by Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, constitutes an extraordinary indictment of the Obama administration for engaging in assassinations and other criminal violations of international law and the US Constitution.

Titling his column “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” Carter writes: “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.”

Referring to the infamous provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by Obama on December 31 of last year, Carter writes: “Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or ‘associated forces,’ a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress.” He goes on to refer to “unprecedented violations of our rights” through warrantless wiretapping and electronic data mining.

Elaborating on the US drone strikes, the former president adds, “Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable… We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.”

Carter’s column appeared on the same day that Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations testified before the UN Human Rights Commission, denouncing US drone attacks on his country in which “thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have been murdered.” He said that in 2010 alone, 957 Pakistanis were killed.

Carter goes on to indict the administration for the continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where, he notes, out of 169 prisoners “half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom,” and others “have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.”

In the few cases where prisoners have been brought before military tribunals, he notes, the defendants “have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers.” He continues: “Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of ‘national security.’”
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Twelve years after the stolen presidential election of 2000, the central lesson of that crucial episode in American political life has been driven home ever more forcefully: there exists within the US corporate and political establishment no significant constituency for the defense of democratic rights and constitutional methods.

The unprecedented gulf between a ruling financial oligarchy and the masses of working people—which has grown uninterruptedly throughout this period—is wholly incompatible with such rights and such methods.

Carter’s words are a warning. The threat of an American police state and the use of the murderous methods employed by US imperialism abroad against the working class at home is real and growing. The working class must prepare accordingly, mobilizing its independent political power against the capitalist profit system from which these threats arise.



http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/jun2012/pers-j27.shtml

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 NY Times on Pak civilian victims of US drone strikes:

A new report on targeted killing by C.I.A. drones in Pakistan’s tribal area concludes that the strikes have killed more civilians than American officials have acknowledged, alienated Pakistani public opinion and set a dangerous precedent under international law.

The report, by human rights researchers at the Stanford and New York University law schools, urges the United States to “conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices” including “short- and long-term costs and benefits.” It also calls on the administration to make public still-secret legal opinions justifying the strikes.

Human rights groups have previously reached similar conclusions, and the report draws heavily on previous reporting, notably by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism in London. But the study is among the most thorough on the subject to date and is based on interviews with people injured by drone-fired missiles, their family members, Pakistani officials, lawyers and journalists.

Research is difficult on the ground in Pakistan’s dangerous tribal regions, where militant groups are situated and most drone strikes occur, and the law school teams did not visit them. They did, however, meet in Pakistani cities with 69 people who had been injured in strikes, witnessed strikes or surveillance drones, or had relatives who were witnesses. The report includes excerpts from interviews with a dozen witnesses.

Sarah Knuckey, a veteran human rights investigator who led the N.Y.U. team, said she was particularly struck by the pervasive anxiety that residents of the tribal area described as a result of hearing drones buzzing overhead and knowing that a strike could come at any time. She said Pakistani journalists and humanitarian workers who work in the area described the same fear.

She also noted the pattern of second drone strikes after initial strikes, evidently targeting rescuers and relatives responding to a site. One humanitarian organization, which she said the authors agreed not to name for security reasons, told them its policy is to wait at least six hours after a drone strike before visiting the site.

American officials, including President Obama, have strongly defended the drone strikes, arguing that the remotely piloted aircraft are by far the most precise weapon for eliminating terrorists. They have said that both militants and Pakistani officials have exaggerated the number of civilian deaths.

Many experts on Al Qaeda believe that the strikes have hugely weakened the core Qaeda organization in Pakistan, though some believe that the backlash against the strikes has probably drawn some new recruits to the terrorist network. Many military experts support the government’s claim that using conventional airstrikes or troops on the ground to attack terrorist compounds would be likely to kill far more civilians than the drones have.

The full report, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan,” whose main authors are Ms. Knuckey, from N.Y.U., and James Cavallaro and Stephan Sonnenberg, of Stanford, and an accompanying video by the filmmaker Robert Greenwald, can be found here: livingunderdrones.org/.


http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/report-cites-high-civilian-toll-in-pakistan-drone-strikes/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Globe and Mail story on support for drone attacks in Pakistan:

..do they make Pakistan safer?

The markets of Lahore were thronged with people in the days before Eid al-Adha last month, with families buying clothes for the children and knickknacks for their homes. In Islamabad, there are new cafés and boutiques in every neighbourhood; red-velvet cupcakes are trendy.

Two years ago, when the Taliban were sending suicide bombers into crowded public places in these cities every week or two, the markets and the coffee shops were deserted and people were afraid even to go to mosques.

That terror campaign has been checked – either because the Taliban have changed tactics or, as many analysts here suggest, because the intensified drone campaign has weakened them.

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Lieutenant-General Talat Masood, who is retired from a top position in the army, has a kinder interpretation. In an interview in his cozy Islamabad living room, he says it is simply unrealistic to think that the Pakistani military, equipped as it is, can fight a fleet-footed insurgency in some of the world’s harshest terrain.
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Given that, the drones do not look so bad: That is the politically incorrect sentiment one hears in private conversations across the political and socio-economic spectrum, in marked contrast to the anti-drone arguments that fill the editorial pages.

Drones are also, some argue, preferable to having the United States deploy soldiers in Pakistan – which the U.S. government would be unlikely to do in any case.

Drones are also better than risking the lives of even more Pakistani soldiers to the near-constant Taliban attacks in the tribal areas, this argument runs.

“A lot of high-profile targets are eliminated, and who would do this job if Americans boots are not on the ground and the Pakistan army won’t?” says Arif Nizami, editor-in-chief of the daily Pakistan Today.

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“Drones are a very hard choice for a pacifist to make,” says Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear scientist turned peace activist who is the best-known advocate for non-violence in Pakistan.

Is it better to kill Islamists than to have them killing people? That’s the debate, he says, burying his face in his hands at the thought of the moral quandary his country faces.

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Many Pakistanis believe the military actively feeds the drone program intelligence about insurgent activity even today, because it, too, perceives the campaign as more effective than other options, Mr. Nizami says.

The army spokesman’s office declined repeated requests for an interview.

The last person who would ever give up the fight against drones is an erudite lawyer named Shahzad Akbar, who runs an organization called the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in a leafy neighbourhood in the capital, where he works to make heard the voices of victims from the tribal areas.

While he understands that the killings may make someone sitting in Islamabad feel safer, he says, he finds it ethically abhorrent to conclude that drones are a boon to the country.

“The whole burden of proof has been reversed by the U.S. in the public narrative: You are killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, so you are a militant until you come out of your coffin and say otherwise,” Mr. Akbar says. “We have to have rule of law to have a civilized society. We have to agree that illegal killing is illegal killing – whether the Taliban or the Pakistan army or the U.S. army is doing it.”

He also noted that the drone campaign has been under way since 2004, with no overall decline in attacks.
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Yet Mr. Nizami says he believes that there is considerable support for the drones in many parts of the Taliban-plagued northern region of Khyber Pakthunkwha.


http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/a-taboo-thought-in-pakistan-what-if-us-drones-work/article5378628/?service=mobile

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Daily Beast piece on former US Ambassador Munter:

....What Munter did want, however, was a more selective use of drones, coupled with more outreach to the Pakistani government—in short, a bigger emphasis on diplomacy and less reliance on force. “What they’re trying to portray is I’m shocked and horrified, and that’s not my perspective,” he said, referring to The New York Times article. “The use of drones is a good way to fight the war. But you’re going to kill drones if you’re not using them judiciously.” Munter thought the strikes should be carried out in a measured way. “The problem is the political fallout,” he says. “Do you want to win a few battles and lose the war?”

“What is the definition of someone who can be targeted?” I asked. “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” Munter replied. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s—well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

Munter wanted the ability to sign off on drone strikes—and, when necessary, block them. Then-CIA director Leon Panetta saw things differently. Munter remembers one particular meeting where they clashed. “He said, ‘I don’t work for you,’ and I said, ‘I don’t work for you,’” the former ambassador recalls. (George Little, a former CIA spokesman who is now at the Pentagon—where Panetta is currently serving as Defense secretary—disputed this account. “I’ve heard these rumors before,” he said. “That’s exactly what this is: rumor. [Panetta] has had productive relationships with Ambassador Munter and other ambassadors with whom he has worked.”)
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That made what happened in March 2011 all the more extraordinary. That month, the CIA ordered a drone strike against militants in North Waziristan. Munter tried to stop the strike before it happened, but, according to the Associated Press, Panetta “dismissed” Munter’s request.

The timing of the strike was noteworthy: it was the day after CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who had shot two Pakistani men, was released from a Lahore jail. The fact that Davis had been detained for weeks reportedly angered the CIA. “It was in retaliation for Davis,” a former aide to Munter told the Associated Press, referring to the strike. (The CIA did not respond to my request for comment.) In the end, the strike killed at least 10 militants, and reportedly 19 or more civilians. And Munter wasn’t the only one who was upset. So were the Pakistanis: Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Army chief, said the men had been “callously targeted.” Rumors circulated that some of them were spies for the military, risking their lives to help fight the Taliban.

Following the strike, President Obama set up a more formal process by which diplomats could have input into these strikes. “I have a yellow card,” Munter recalled, describing the new policy. “I can say ‘no.’ That ‘no’ goes back to the CIA director. Then he has to go to Hillary. If Hillary says ‘no,’ he can still do it, but he has to explain the next day in writing why.”
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...Vali Nasr, who served as a senior adviser to Holbrooke and is now at Johns Hopkins University. “The real issue was that he was not on the same page as Washington.”

During our interview, Munter criticized the way White House officials approached Pakistan. “They say, ‘Why don’t we kick their ass?’ Do we want to get mad at them? Take their car keys away? Or look at the larger picture?” He leaned back in his chair and recalled his last National Security Council meeting: “The president says, ‘It’s an hour meeting, and we’re going to talk about Afghanistan for 30 minutes and then Pakistan for 30 minutes.’ Seventy-five minutes later, we still haven’t talked about Pakistan. Why? Because Pakistan is too fucking hard.”


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/20/a-former-ambassador-to-pakistan-speaks-out.html

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...

Here's a Dawn report on Munter talking about US-Pak ties:

WASHINGTON: Former US ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Munter on Wednesday criticised Washington’s “callousness” over the killing of Pakistani troops as he called for both nations to rethink how they see each other.

Munter served as ambassador during some of the most difficult times of the turbulent US-Pakistan relationship including the slaying of Osama bin Laden and a US border raid that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November 2011.

Cameron Munter, who resigned last year, said that the United States had shown a lack of generosity over the deaths of the 24 troops. Pakistan shut down Nato supply routes into Afghanistan until the United States apologized seven months later.

“The fact that we were unable to say that we were sorry until July cost our country literally billions of dollars,” Munter said, pointing to the costly shift to sending supplies for the Afghan war via Central Asia.

“But worse than that, it showed a kind of callousness that makes it so difficult simply to begin to talk about those things, that I’ve always tried to stress, that we have in common,” he said at the Atlantic Council, a think tank.

Munter steadfastly denied conspiracy theories and said the deaths near the Afghan border were a case of mistaken identity. Munter said that US-led forces “obliterated” the soldiers by firing from an AC-130, a powerful gunship.

“If you don’t have that in common — that you’re sorry when there is nothing left of the bodies of 24 of your boys — then it’s very hard for many people, especially those who want a relationship with us… to defend us to their peers,” Munter said.

The border attack took place as Mitt Romney and other Republicans seeking the White House were attacking President Barack Obama for allegedly being too apologetic about the United States.

Munter pointed to comments by then candidate Newt Gingrich. In 2011, the former House speaker berated Pakistan over the presence of bin Laden despite the billions of dollars in US aid to Islamabad, saying: “How stupid do you think we are?”

“If we have that kind of dismissive attitude — that we can give people money and they’re going to love us… and somehow that means they’re going to think the way we think — that’s equally stupid,” Munter said.

He called for the United States to change its way of thinking but was also critical of Pakistan.

Munter said that Pakistanis, who in opinion polls voice widespread dislike for the United States, were wrong to take for granted that Washington simply wanted to use the country for its own interests and then discard it.

“It’s a bigotry, it’s a lazy way of thinking, and as long as Pakistanis do it, they’re going to cripple the relationship,” he said.

Munter also called for a reconsideration of “very ambitious” US aid projects, saying that such largesse was ineffective and may even be counterproductive unless Pakistan reforms its feudal-based economy.

The nation’s elites “need to stop blaming America for its perceived failure to fix Pakistan,” he said.

In a 2009 law spearheaded by now Secretary of State John Kerry, Congress authorized $7.5 billion over five years in aid to Pakistan for education, infrastructure and other projects in hopes of boosting civilian rule.


http://dawn.com/2013/02/13/cameron-munter-blasts-us-callousness-on-pakistan/