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Obama Confirms US Drone Program in Pakistan ‘US Drones Very Precise’ January 31, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Roger’s note: President Obama: sending missiles into sovereign nations?  No problem.  Killing innocent bystanders?  Not that many, no problem.
Published on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 by Common Dreams

In frank admission, Obama argues he has authority to bomb sovereign nations and that ‘drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties’

  – Common Dreams staff

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’

Al-Jazeera reports:

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

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.com

24 Comments so far

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Posted by secretarybird
Jan 31 2012 – 10:20am

“a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes”

Only because the people down below lack anti-aircraft weapons (a pretty good sign that they are actually civilians).

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 12:47pm

Or, if not civilians, then no threat whatsoever to US citizens minding their own business within their borders.

Posted by Thalidomide
Jan 31 2012 – 10:42am

The Americans have been fighting cowardly wars ever since the end of world war 11. They only go after poor third world countries dropping their bombs from on high on innocent civilians. I remember their massive slaughter of the Vietnamese using napalm and cluster bombs. They are so vicious and dumb that killing poor people that have done nothing against them makes them feel good and they hate foreigners so much they don’t even bother to count the number they kill because it might remind people how uneven their wars are.

Posted by tiozapata
Jan 31 2012 – 11:34am

Amerikans/ Europeans have been slaughtering/ carrying out terrorist atrocities, aka wars; since 1492 ! Manifest Destiny, amerikan imperialism, terrorism, all deadly semantics; all have come Full Circle…..the fascist amerikan empire IS sliding into the abyss !!!

Posted by hummingbird
Jan 31 2012 – 12:37pm

“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.”–George Monbiot ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “unlike the jews or christians”? i find that curious, george, because somewhere in the old testament we learn that g_d is a jealous g_d.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide.”–George Monbiot ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

good point! i find it amazing that people continue to expect the elect of mount olympus d.c. to solve all problems. we might blame that “faith” in the ruling class on the greeks, too. plato, realising that certain humans among us have such extraordinary qualities of leadership, intellectually wise and morally superior that they most naturally should be entrusted to manage all our affairs. why to even the landed gentry,  is tantamount to questioning the gods themselves!

plato went on to say that these most exalted ones know best which sciences a government supports and which sciences waste time and money. the sciences which lead to more magnificent weaponry should get the lion’s share for should another society attempt to wrest the g_d given (*see divine right of kings) land always makes weaponry top priority. we immoral, mortal commoners who glory in our leader’s success must see their altruism for what it is. they protect and manage the wealth for all of us.

Posted by Rainborowe
Jan 31 2012 – 2:09pm

The first, the original, meaning of “jealous” was “watchful” or “careful.”  This is the sense in which the translators of the King James Bible used it.

Posted by Obedient Servant
Jan 31 2012 – 3:10pm

Since you raise the point, Rainborowe, I’ve often wondered why the term “jealous” has gotten muddled in popular usage.

In addition to the synonyms you present, the original pejorative sense of jealous meant, and still sometimes means, “protective” or “possessive” (to a fault).  But in modern usage it’s also a synonym for “envious” or “covetous”,  which isn’t really the same thing.

‘Tis a semantic puzzle.

Posted by hummingbird
Jan 31 2012 – 11:04am

“god bless america…..and nobody else!”

“patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels!” –dr. samuel johnson

Posted by onemorethought
Jan 31 2012 – 11:19am

When was the last time the U.S. actually won a war?

Posted by DogStarMan69
Jan 31 2012 – 11:51am

Reminds me of the late Bill Hicks’ view on the first Gulf slaughter;

“War? Well, a war is when *two* armies are fighting.”

Posted by raydelcamino
Jan 31 2012 – 7:17pm

When a war “ends”, so does the revenue stream for the banksters and their military industrial complex. No US war will ever end as long as the banksters own the US Government.

Posted by craigdp
Jan 31 2012 – 12:11pm

This is drivel, for two reasons:

Using drones is no more dastardly than using suicide bombers – both are indiscriminate and presume ‘collateral’ damage.

In the larger picture, all war is a crime. attempting to parse discrete levels of culpability is absurd prima facie.

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 1:14pm

Except suicide-bombing arises only as a desperate measure by a vastly out-gunned people trying futilely to defend themselves against an invader and occupier.  Stop the invasions and occupations and the suicide-bombings will stop.  Alternatvely, if the defenders were given the same advanced weaponry as the invader, they would discard their inaccurate suicide bombs too.

Also, with all the atrocities being done in our name by our governent, which are precipitating the suicide bombings to begin with, and all the work to be done resisting them, I frankly don’t have the indignation left to invest in the suicide bomber’s actions.  So, the symmetry you are trying to draw is no quite correct.  There is no symmetry between effect and casue – at the macroscopic non-quantum level anyway.

Posted by RV
Jan 31 2012 – 1:31pm

What is really absurd is failure to distinguish between the culpability of those who seek to impose imperial tyranny and those who attempt to defend their homes and families against it.

Posted by Lingum
Jan 31 2012 – 2:22pm

As some Palestinian once said, give us planes and tanks so we don’t have to use suicide/human bombers.

Posted by Siouxrose
Jan 31 2012 – 12:50pm

I appreciate Mr. Monbiot’s use of Greek mythology. His initial point was to show that the deities of Olympus have critical flaws unlike the premise of a more perfect God, one alone who is flawless, and governs our world as the sovereign ruler.

I take issue, however, with Mr. Monbiot’s conclusion:

“Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide. ”

The MIC acts like a stand-in for Divine authority as it sees no need to take input from citizens. It is this Luciferic force, masquerading as a god of indiscriminate death, that makes the decisions that eliminate all debate. It is not the citizenry, particularly those who advocate FOR world peace and see through the law-defying rationales of the “War on Terror,” who choose these outcomes!

WE is a dangerous notion when decisions are taken by a few (very damaged souls) on alleged behalf of all others.

Posted by medmedude
Jan 31 2012 – 1:09pm

this guy monbiot is an odd guy – i saw him last month “debating” helen calddicott about nuclear energy – he was shilling for the industry and his disrespect for this world renown expert was offensive

he’s one of these guys who says a little radiation is “good” for you – it ain’t

as far as the drones go – trying to make this sound like a man up situation is very macho on his part but i’ll bet 20 bucks he has never been under fire

as much as i hate our current military situation around the world i don’t want to see another one of our men or women injured or killed, not even one more

4800 dead – hundreds of thousands wounded emotionally and physically is quite enough

we need to stand down the war machine manned and unmanned and stop all this killing

our soldiers are not cowards but the likes of obummer, cheney, bush baby and mittens oromney who put them in harm’s way – they are truly cowards and when it was time for them to serve they had “other priorities” as cowards often do…

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 1:25pm

I really think you need some lessons in civility in the way you write your posts.  You write like an arrogant asshole.

Monbiot, as I do, regard the catastrophic consequences of AGW to be a far more dire issue than nuclear power plant safety issues – which are manifestly exaggerated by oppnents compared to any other industrial process – especially the mining and burning of coal.  The facts are, when a nuclear power plant is closed, it is replaced with a coal-burning one.  And even if it were replaced with renewables, it means that a coal power plant somewhere could have, but will not, be replaced with renewables.  As Monbiot has noted, this is madness.

Posted by medmedude
Jan 31 2012 – 1:53pm

i think that shilling for nuclear power exposes your ignorance of the dangers of nuclear energy its either willful ignorance or you work in the industry

go and live near one and count the days until your tumors arrive

death count from chernobyl – 1 million

fuskushima: well that is being written – the prefecture where that monstrosity sits is now uninhabitable for the half life of the isotopes being released – around 30,000 years or so

3 mile island – oh yeah we didn’t even measure that one

shill on bro – ignorant one – each to his own

If nuclear power plants are safe, let the commerical insurance industry insure them – they don’t and won’t and for good reason

shill on bro shill on

Posted by Lingum
Jan 31 2012 – 2:17pm

Regarding  Mr. Monbiot, I believe he was against nuclear power before he was for it. He now displays the passion of a convert.

Posted by justbreath
Jan 31 2012 – 7:24pm

Man, If you don’t wear metaphorical boots while posting on this site, one is likely to step in a pile of dung. PJD is lecturing med on civility at the same time calling him or her an “arrogant asshole.” (Pot calling the Kettle black.)

Since when did CD establish etiquette laws?

Posted by Cynthia
Jan 31 2012 – 2:20pm

But having a bunch of limp-wristed gays in the military now makes it okay for us to be cowardly and wimpish in the way we fight our manly wars of aggression. ;~)

Posted by ctrl-z
Jan 31 2012 – 2:53pm


n. 2. Archaic A line separating two political or geographical areas, esp. countries.

Posted by Obedient Servant
Jan 31 2012 – 3:20pm

“With Its Deadly Drones, the US is Fighting a Coward’s War”

“With these unmanned craft, governments can fight a coward’s war, a god’s war, harming only the unnamed.” ________________________

I get the point, but I think conceptualizing technobarbaric warfare as “cowardly” is unfortunate in one respect:  it’s susceptible to the inference that manunkind was better off when warmongers initiated good old-fashioned brave, heroic, glorious wars– wars against “named” targets, give or take a bunch of innocent bystanders.

You know, a MANLY war.



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