Edging Toward Anarchy With Drones September 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in War, War on Terror.
Tags: civilian casualties, drone missiles, drones, hellfire missiles, obama administration, predator missiles, reaper missiles, roger hollander, targeted killings, toronto star, war, War Crimes, war on terror
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They are a lethal bolt out of the blue, and under U.S. President Barack Obama those bolts are coming with ever greater frequency.
Since 9/11, strikes by Predator and Reaper drone aircraft have killed as many as 2,000 Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants in Pakistan alone, the New America Foundation reports. They have also left as many as 500 innocent civilians dead, fanning anti-American hostility and debate about the legitimacy of such tactics.
Remotely controlled by American military and spy operators, drones can fly hundreds of kilometres and circle targets for hours before firing light but lethal Hellfire missiles. Under Obama, Washington has stepped up their use because it’s a cheap, low-risk way of taking out enemies. And Pakistan isn’t the only theatre of operations. Drones have seen combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and increasingly in Somalia and Yemen.
Indeed the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is negotiating a whole new web of secret bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to strike at Al Qaeda offshoots in the region.
Yet, as the United Nations has warned, drone strikes are at the heart of a contentious, clandestine American policy of “targeted killings” — including that of Osama bin Laden earlier this year by U.S. special forces — that would lead to anarchy if other countries were to claim the same sweeping authority to target people anywhere, at any time. That worry is feeding demands for agreed-on rules of the road.
It’s a concern that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government should share, given Canada’s role in founding the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and in shaping the landmine ban. The world can use some creative diplomacy on this issue.
Some guidelines were suggested by Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in a report last year. Countries that resort to targeted killings should publicly justify their actions under international law. They should also explain how and why individual targets are selected, and why they must be killed rather than captured. They should explain what efforts they make to avoid civilian casualties. And the countries involved should disclose whether they consented, and why. When civilians are killed, that too should be made known.
Bottom line? Countries that invoke self-defence to legitimize targeted killings should not throw such a veil of secrecy over operations that they can’t be held accountable for the results.
Tags: Afghanistan casualties, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, afghnaistan, al-Qaeda, arbitrary executions, assassination, Blackwater, cheney, cia, cia assassination, cia contractor, cia targets, civilian deaths, congress, congressional democrats, democrats, drone attacks, drone missiles, erik prince, extrajudicial executions, extrajudicial killings, Feinstein, hellfire missiles, Iraq, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, leon panetta, mercenaries, roger hollander, summary executions, vanity fair, war, xe, yana kunichoff
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by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | Report
December 4, 2009
The head of Blackwater revealed the details of his collaboration with the CIA to locate and assassinate top al Qaeda operatives as part of a covert antiterror operation Tuesday, and blamed Democrats for the leak that ended the program.
In an article published in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into “denied areas” to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.
Prince was one of a secret network of American citizens with special skills or access chosen to help the CIA access targets of interest. The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed to lawmakers in a closed session with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. During this meeting, CIA director Leon E. Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players.
Prince blames Congressional Democrats for the leak. “[W]hen it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus,” he said. “The left complained about how [CIA operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.”
According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al Qaeda leaders. Under an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the CIA was barred from carrying out assassinations. But President George W. Bush took the position shortly after 9/11 that killing al Qaeda members was comparable to killing enemy soldiers in battle, and therefore assassinations were permissible. Prince was hired in 2004.
A former Navy Seal, Prince said, “I’ve been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services.” In his role as a contractor for the covert CIA program, according to The New York Times, Prince’s Blackwater employees assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto remotely piloted aircraft – work previously performed by authorized and trained CIA employees.
Prince says he and a team of foreign nationals located a target for assassination in October 2008, but did not complete the job. He alleges two of these trips brought him and his team into Germany and Dubai – without the knowledge of their governments.
He further said that Blackwater resources were never used, but that he used his personal finances and was later reimbursed by the government. Prince has personally spent $45 million to finance a fleet of armored personnel carriers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater itself had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.
Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services for Xenon, the noncombustible gas, was founded in 1997 and has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. In 2004, coalition forces in Baghdad declared private contractors, which included Blackwater employees, immune from Iraqi law.
Largely assigned to act as bodyguards for American diplomats and provide security for military and intelligence stations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Prince’s employees have on more than one occasion been accused of wanton force, which has resulted in civilian deaths.
A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.
A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside, who later turned out to be a father of six, and a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq’s vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.
Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.
“We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the US government,” says Prince. “Now we pay lawyers.”
The company is also facing a grand jury investigation and bribery accusations along with the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007.
American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations , but many worry that the contracting out of the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for.”
Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan – President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.
Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, said that drone attacks also operate in “an accountability void.”
Prince said that until two months ago, he was still working on intelligence-gathering operations from an undisclosed location in America and coordinating the movements of spies who were working undercover in the Axis of Evil countries. However, Prince, who was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a position, now plans to curtail his work with Blackwater and teach economics and history in high school.
CIA Can Expand Using Drones in Pakistan: Report December 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
Tags: aerial drones, al-Qaeda, cia drones, civilian casualties, drone attackes, drone missiles, drones, extrajudicial executions, hellfire missiles, International law, Obama policy, pakistan, pakistan war, Taliban, un-manned drones, us war, war
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WASHINGTON – The White House has authorized the CIA to expand the use of unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan to track down and strike suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members, the New York Times reported Friday.
The Times, citing unnamed sources, said that authorization to expand CIA drone usage in Pakistan’s tribal areas came this week, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s announcement Tuesday of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.
Washington is also talking with Pakistani officials about using the drones to strike in Baluchistan — a vast region outside of the tribal areas that borders Afghanistan and Iran — where Afghan Taliban leaders are reportedly hiding, the Times reported.
Analysts, intelligence agents and foreign officials have widely reported that Taliban fighters use Baluchistan as a base, crossing over the border into Afghanistan to and from the Taliban’s spiritual capital of Kandahar.
The northwest Pakistan tribal region has seen a surge in the US strikes, which fan anti-Americanism in the nuclear-armed Muslim country, since Obama took office.
While the drone program began under former president George W. Bush, the Obama administration has continued and expanded it.
Drones, usually armed with Hellfire missiles, are launched in the region and frequently controlled remotely from sites in the United States.
As a rule, the US military does not confirm drone attacks, which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants.
Islamabad publicly opposes their use as a violation of its sovereignty, but analysts say that Pakistani officials give their use tacit support.
Criticism of the strikes in Pakistan has lessened in public since a US drone attack killed Pakistan’s much-feared Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud on August 5.
In late October, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston said that drone usage could be breaking international laws.
“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.
Alston said he had presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.
Since August 2008, at least 65 such strikes have killed around 625 people, although it is difficult to confirm the precise identity of many of those who die given that the remote regions targeted are largely closed to outsiders.
© 2009 Agence France-Press
Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza February 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Amnesty International, apache helicopters, arms embargo, boeing, bush administration, civilian casualties, f-16 warplanes, gaza, gaza massacre, geneva conventions, grad missiles, hamas, hellfire missiles, human rights, International law, israel, israeli military, lockhed martin, military aid, military aid israel, Palestine, pine bluff arsenal, qassam rockets, Raytheon, roger hollander, rory mccarthy, us weaponry, War Crimes, white phosphorus, white phosphorus artillery
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Relatives mourn a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, last month. Photograph: Eyad Baba/APRory McCarthy
www.guardian.co.uk, February 23, 2009
White phosphorus shells traced back to America
Activists call for arms embargoes on both sides
In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.
The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.”
For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with “unsophisticated weapons” including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China and bought from “clandestine sources”, it said. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 4,000 injured during the three-week conflict. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, including three civilians. Amnesty said Israel’s armed forces carried out “direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate”. The Israeli military declined to comment yesterday.
Palestinian militants also fired “indiscriminate rockets” at civilians, Amnesty said. It called for an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.
Amnesty researchers in Gaza found several weapon fragments after the fighting. One came from a 500lb (227kg) Mark-82 fin guided bomb, which had markings indicating parts were made by the US company Raytheon. They also found fragments of US-made white phosphorus artillery shells, marked M825 A1.
On 15 January, several white phosphorus shells fired by the Israeli military hit the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, destroying medicine, food and aid. One fragment found at the scene had markings indicating it was made by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, based in Arkansas, in October 1991.
The human rights group said the Israeli military had used white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, which it said was an indiscriminate form of attack and a war crime. Its researchers found white phosphorus still burning in residential areas days after the ceasefire.
At the scene of an Israeli attack that killed three Palestinian paramedics and a boy in Gaza City on 4 January, Amnesty found fragments of an AGM114 Hellfire missile, made by Hellfire Systems of Orlando, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The missile is often fired from Apache helicopters.
Amnesty said it also found evidence of a new type of missile, apparently fired from unmanned drones, which exploded into many pieces of shrapnel that were “tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2 and 4mm square in size”.
“They appear designed to cause maximum injury,” Amnesty said. Many civilians were killed by this weapon, including several children, it said.
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants were either 122mm Grad missiles or short-range Qassam rockets, a locally made, improvised artillery weapon. Warheads were either smuggled in or made from fertiliser.
The arsenal of weapons was on a “very small scale compared to Israel”, it said, adding that the scale of rocket arsenal deployed by Hizbullah in the 2006 Lebanese war was “beyond the reach of Palestinian militant groups”.
Armed for war
Israelis Missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned drones, including 20mm cannon and Hellfire missiles. Larger laser-guided and other bombs dropped by F-16 warplanes. Extensive use of US-made 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells and Israeli-made 155mm illuminating shells that eject phosphorus canisters by parachute. Several deaths caused by flechettes, 4cm-long metal darts packed into 120mm tank shells, and fragments of US-made 120mm tank shells.
Palestinians Militants fired rockets into southern Israel including 122mm Grad rockets of either Russian, Chinese or Iranian manufacture, and smaller, improvised Qassam rockets often made inside Gaza and usually holding 5kg of explosives and shrapnel.