Obama Confirms US Drone Program in Pakistan ‘US Drones Very Precise’ January 31, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
Tags: cia drones, civilian casualties, drone missiles, georbe monbiot, john brennan, Obama, pakistan, predator, roger hollander, tariz aziz, war
In frank admission, Obama argues he has authority to bomb sovereign nations and that ‘drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties’
On Monday, as President Obama was answering questions during an interview conducted by several Americans through a Google+’s “hangout” group video chat feature, he acknowledged publicly the use of US drones and airstrikes inside Pakistan.
In answering, Obama argued that “first of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties.” A claim that belies evidence. The question came from a young man named, Evan, from Brooklyn, New York, who said: “Mr. President, since you took office you’ve ordered more drone attacks in your first year than your predecessor did in his entire term. These drone attacks cause a lot of civilian casualties. I’m curious to know how you feel they help the nation and whether you think they’re worth it.”
In answering, Obama first argued that “first of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates. We have been very careful in how it’s been applied.” He goes on to say that the drone program is “kept on a very tight leash” and that it’s not “just a bunch of folks in a room some where making decisions.”
In a follow up question regarding the degree to which US drone incursions might be “perceived” as interference in other countries, Obama responded that even in “sovereign nations” its better to have pinpoint capabalities, suggesting airstrike accuracy lessens the infringment of sovereignty in those nations, and, in fact, are helpful to those countries because they could not otherwise apprehend (or annihilate) these targets.
Subsequently, Obama confirmed that “a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas].”
Pakistan Calls Drone Use, Missile Strikes ‘Unlawful’ and ‘Counterproductive’
The controversial drone programme run by the CIA has often been met with protests in Pakistan amid concerns of civilian casualties. The Pakistani government publicly protests the operations, but is believed to support them.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry reiterated the government’s public protest in response to Obama’s comments.
“Notwithstanding tactical advantages of drone strikes, we are of the firm view that these are unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable,” Abdul Basit said.
The New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years.
The New America Foundation report, Year of the Drone, which studied drone attacks and civilian casualties, strongly refutes Obama’s claim that drones “have not caused a great number of civilian casualties.” According to the report:
Our study shows that the 283 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 70 in 2011, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 1,717 and 2,680 individuals, of whom around 1,424 to 2,209 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 17 percent. In 2010, it was more like five percent.*
We have also constructed a map, based on the same reliable press accounts and publicly available maps, of the estimated location of each drone strike. Click each pin in the online version to see the details of a reported strike. And while we are not professional cartographers, and Google Maps is at times incomplete or imperfect, this map gives our best approximations of the locations and details of each reported drone strike since 2004.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 by The Guardian/UK
With Its Deadly Drones, the US is Fighting a Coward’s War
As technology allows machines to make their own decisions, warfare will become bloodier – and less accountable
The ancient Greeks, unlike the Jews or the Christians, invested their gods with human failings. Divine judgment, they believed, was neither flawless nor dispassionate; it was warped by lust, vengeance and self-interest. In the hands of Zeus, the thunderbolt was both an instrument of justice and a weapon of jealousy and revenge.
(Illustration by Daniel Pudles)
Those now dispensing judgment from on high are not gods, though they must feel like it. The people striking mortals down with drones are doubtless as capable as anyone else of self-deception, denial and cognitive illusions. More so, perhaps, as the eminent fictions of the Bush years and the growing delusions of the current president suggest.
Barack Obama began last week’s state of the union address by claiming that the troops who had fought the Iraq war had “made the United States safer and more respected around the world”. Like Bush, like the gods, he has begun to create the world he wants to inhabit.
These power-damaged people have been granted the chance to fulfill one of humankind’s abiding fantasies: to vaporize their enemies, as if with a curse or a prayer, effortlessly and from a safe distance. That these powers are already being abused is suggested by the mendacity of those who are deploying them. The CIA, which is running the undeclared and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan, insists that there have been no recent civilian casualties. So does Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan. It is a blatant whitewash.
As a report last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed, of some 2,300 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2011, between 392 and 781 appear to have been civilians; 175 were children. In the period about which the CIA and Brennan made their claims, at least 45 civilians have been killed. As soon as an agency claims “we never make mistakes”, you know that it has lost its moorings, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested in his story of that title. Feeling no obligation to apologize or explain, count bodies or answer for its crimes, it becomes a danger to humanity.
It may be true, as the US air force says, that because a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes, its missiles are less likely to kill civilians than those launched from a piloted plane. (The air force has yet to explain how it reconciles this with its boast that drones “greatly shorten decision time”.) But it must also be true that the easier and less risky a deployment is, the more likely it is to happen.
This danger is acknowledged in a remarkably candid assessment published by the UK’s Ministry of Defense, which also deploys drones, and has also used them to kill civilians. It maintains that the undeclared air war in Pakistan and Yemen “is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability – it is unlikely a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available”. Citing the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, it warns that the brutality of war seldom escalates to its absolute form, partly because of the risk faced by one’s own forces. Without risk, there’s less restraint. With these unmanned craft, governments can fight a coward’s war, a god’s war, harming only the unnamed.
The danger is likely to escalate as drone warfare becomes more automated and the lines of accountability less clear. Last week the US navy unveiled a drone that can land on an aircraft carrier without even a remote pilot. The Los Angeles Times warned that “it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently“. The British assessment suggests that within a few years drones assisted by artificial intelligence could make their own decisions about whom to kill and whom to spare. Sorry sir, computer says yes.
“Some would say one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist,” George HW Bush opined on when he was vice-president. “I reject this notion. The philosophical differences are stark and fundamental.” Perhaps they are, but no US administration has convincingly defined them or consistently recognized them. In Latin America, south-east Asia, Africa and the Middle East, successive presidents have thwarted freedom and assisted state terrorism. Drones grant governments new opportunities to snuff out opposition of any kind, terrorist or democrat. The US might already be making use of them.
In October last year, a 16-year-old called Tariq Aziz was traveling through North Waziristan in Pakistan with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. Their car was hit by a missile from a US drone. As always, their deaths made them guilty: if we killed them, they must be terrorists. But they weren’t. Tariq was about to start work with the human rights group Reprieve, taking pictures of the aftermath of drone strikes. A mistake? Possibly. But it is also possible that he was murdered out of self-interest. If you have such powers, if you are not held to account by Congress, the media or the American people, why not use them?
The danger to democracy, and not just in Pakistan but one day perhaps everywhere, should be evident. Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide.© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.comhttp://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?action=like&api_key=136747246350953&channel_url=https%3A%2F%2Fs-static.ak.fbcdn.net%2Fconnect%2Fxd_proxy.php%3Fversion%3D3%23cb%3Df2c06f236b5108e%26origin%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.commondreams.org%252Ff3173f5c77dacf8%26relation%3Dparent.parent%26transport%3Dpostmessage&colorscheme=light&extended_social_context=false&font=arial&href=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fview%2F2012%2F01%2F31-1&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&node_type=link&sdk=joey&show_faces=false&width=90