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US War Has Littered Afghanistan with World’s Deadly Garbage April 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I recall the ubiquitous chant from the days of Vietnam anti-war protests: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  Viet Nam still hasn’t recovered from Agent Orange and other toxins, but at least they didn’t have to face plutonium bullets, and they will recover much sooner than America’s more recent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.  The killing of children goes on, in the name of democracy and financed with U.S. citizens’ tax dollars.

 

Afghan children and poorest citizens most vulnerable to unexploded bombs and toxic materials of thirteen-year war

– Jon Queally, staff writer

A concrete wall marks the beginning of the Bagram air base firing range. Some of the firing ranges left behind by U.S. forces will be transferred to the Afghan army. About 40 ranges belonged to nations in the international coalition, and they will have to determine whether to clear them. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/For The Washington Post)

As in the abandoned battle fields and scarred countrysides of southeast Asia a generation ago, the U.S. military’s footprint in Afghanistan is leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded ordinances and toxic materials that will continue to kill and permanently harm the nation’s children and others for years to come.

According to the Washington Post on Thursday:

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, it is leaving behind a deadly legacy: about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells.

The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said.

Clearing the rest of the contaminated land — which in total is twice as big as New York City — could take two to five years. U.S. military officials say they intend to clean up the ranges. But because of a lack of planning, officials say, funding has not yet been approved for the monumental effort, which is expected to cost $250 million.

“If the Americans believe in human rights, how can they let this happen?” asked Sayed Sadeq, whose teenage son and his friend were both killed when one of them stepped on an unexploded grenade near a U.S. firing range in Ghazni province.

Spokespeople for the U.S. military confess that cleaning up the garbage of the U.S. military occupation has not been a priority.

“Unfortunately, the thinking was: ‘We’re at war and we don’t have time for this,’” Maj. Michael Fuller, the head of the U.S. Army’s Mine Action Center at Bagram Airfield, told the Post.

According to the UN, too little has been done to address the problem even as the statistics soar.

The Post reporting continues:

Even before the U.S. military arrived in 2001, Afghanistan was the most heavily mined country in the world. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989 after a 10-year occupation, they left about 20 million pieces of unexploded ordnance scattered nationwide. The munitions have killed and wounded thousands of children. The U.S. government has helped fund efforts to clear those devices, a massive project expected to be completed in 2023.

The firing ranges aren’t the only places where U.S. military explosives may be lying undetonated. There are 331 known sites of battles against the Taliban where some American ordnance probably remains, especially from airstrikes. U.S. officials say they will not attempt to clear those sites.

“We’re probably never going to be able to find those [munitions], because who knows where they landed,” said another U.S. official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The United Nations says a more robust effort to clear those sites is necessary.

“The battles happened in areas where people live, work and attempt to earn their livelihoods. The contamination needs to be addressed,” said [one UN official].

In response to reports of civilian casualties, the U.S. military has posted additional barricades around some firing ranges. But American officials have refused to construct fencing, which they said would be prohibitively expensive and probably ineffective.

____________________________________

Two familiar faces at the State of the Union told us everything February 1, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Here is a soldier’s eye’s view of what war is all about.  I cannot say how much this represents the feelings and beliefs of other soldiers.  But I do belief that this soldier has hit upon a truth of who benefits and who pays the price for the kinds of imperial wars that are being conducted by the American government and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

An Iraq war veteran’s reflection

January 29, 2014, By Mike Prysner
carlos-and-odierno

The author is a former U.S. Army Corporal who spent 12 months in Iraq, starting with the invasion in March 2003. He is a co-founder of March Forward! and a member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace.

odiernoq
Post-war life is good for Odierno, along with the other generals, politicians and CEOs in his circles.

Before President Obama even began the State of the Union address, two people I knew in the audience, from two defining points in my life, were much more significant to me. I thought their presence reflected the “State of the Union” better than anything the President could have said.

The first guest was General Ray Odierno, now the Chief of Staff of the Army. One of my most invasive memories is of my time on an outpost with his 4th Infantry Division, relentlessly attacked, in a rural farming area called Hawija. I would see him from time to time—in much safer places, of course. Long nights huddled in a smoke-filled bunker, feeling like nothing but target practice, was no place for a general.

I remember him as the happiest (and highest-ranking) person I encountered in country, always jovial and excited. I remember thinking then, at age 19, that he was so happy because he knew that deployment could make his career. And he was right; commanding an armored division during the biggest invasion and occupation of a country since Vietnam would certainly do that; especially when your soldiers end up capturing Saddam Hussein. The future was looking bright for Odierno in 2003.

Odierno even slept in Saddam Hussein’s main palace in Tikrit. Far away, his soldiers bled all over his outposts and drove over IEDs, earning him his “glory.” Iraqi civilians in his area of operations experienced what would lead to major criticism of the “belligerence” of his tactics as a commander.

arredondo
Carlos took this striking memorial to his son all over the country, for years, trying to end the war by sharing his pain.

The other guest was Carlos Arredondo, the “cowboy hat wearing hero” of the Boston bombing, famously photographed rushing a victim with severed legs to safety.

The first time I ever spoke publicly at an anti-war event, back in 2006, it was sharing a panel with Carlos. His first of two sons, Alexander Arredondo, was killed in Iraq in 2004, in a different part of the country from Odierno and me.  He was just 20 years old. I didn’t say much that day, but just sitting there with him and his partner, Melida, was a source of strength and inspiration that would never leave me.

Carlos—at the time an undocumented immigrant—reacted to the death of Alexander by dedicating his entire life to anti-war activism, touring the country with a striking visual memorial to his son, talking to everybody he encountered along the way about opposing the war. He became a definitive icon of the Iraq war—a shattered, mourning father, pulling a flag-draped coffin with his son’s photo in front of the White House.

Odierno’s career had been made. He shot up to Four-Star General by 2008. Like all general officers, especially of his privileged West Point-graduate variety, very lucrative post-retirement “advisor” positions in the defense industry have opened up. He got the top staff position in the Army under Obama in 2011.

Carlos’s only surviving son, Brian, committed suicide that same year. It was just days before Christmas. He was only 24 years old. Suicide—another hallmark of the misery caused by that war for both veterans and families—became another cause Carlos would dedicate his life to.

Millions of lives were torn apart by the Iraq war. But not equally.

It was working-class and immigrant families who had to bear the hair-pulling horror of seeing their children come home in coffins. It was idealistic, college- and career-aspiring youth who were sent to be blown apart in those flimsy Humvees. It was Iraqi teachers, nurses, farmers, hotel workers—and their children, babies and grandparents—who were the so-called “collateral damage.”

It wasn’t the general officers who built their careers on having the most aggressive strategy, which they watched from computer screens in palaces while their soldiers were blown to pieces. It wasn’t the families of the CEOs of the defense and energy industry giants, bursting with profits from Pentagon contracts, or the families of the politicians they take to dinner.

Some got promotions and career boosts. Some got bonus checks and fat dividends. But most are shredded, in body and mind. Most will spend the rest of their lives overwhelmed with trying to recover; many on crutches and canes, many with pills. Most will forever struggle to choke back tears whenever a reminder of those years enters their minds.

Carlos and Odierno may have been guests at the same speech, but they live in two very different worlds.

Whatever Obama said in his address, from employment and immigration to foreign policy, it was all about fixing things within a world like that—where only one class (which constitutes the majority of us) is made to make the biggest, hardest sacrifices, and another class—a much smaller one—is the supreme leader and benefactor.

A system set up like this can only replicate the same heart-wrenching tragedies for people like us.

No need to watch the State of the Union—we need a revolution.

This article was originally published by MarchForward.org

I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On December 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Heather Linebaugh

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter: @hllinebaugh

“Really Good At Killing People” Sez Obama Article Cites Grandma Killed, Too. Still Love the Dude? December 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Roger’s note: There is no hard evidence that Obama said that he is good at killing people, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong (watch the video below).  Of course, it doesn’t matter what he says, it is what he does, which is to use his unfettered powers to authorize the murder of innocent civilians, including American citizens, with neither transparency or due judicial process.  This is known quaintly as collateral damage.  The Fog of War?  Just Wars?  War is Hell?

Try instead War is a Racquet.  Here is the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket).  Better yet, read the book.

 

Cindy Casella

 

 

http://www.dailykos.com, December 13, 2013

 

Yesterday, I was flamed for writing a diary that juxtaposed Obama’s alleged statement to aides that he’s “really good at killing people” with the story of a Pakistani family who came to Washington to testify about how drones killed their mother/grandmother.  Among the pies tossed my way was the accusation I was deliberately flame baiting by pairing these two concepts side by side in the title of my diary: Son Told Truant Congress Drones Killed His Mom; Obama: “I’m good at killing people”.

When I wrote my diary, my intention wasn’t fishing for flames as one commenter kept accusing me.  Obama’s comment popped into my head when I read this article, Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother, written by Rafiq ur Rehman, the son of the 67 year old midwife, Momina Bibi, who was targeted by the bright lights of a drone and blown up while picking okra with her 9 grandchildren, who witnessed the “dum dum” sound of the drone hovering overhead and then smelled the “weird” scent of their grandmother being blown up by a hellfire missile as their world before them darkened.  I thought this dreadful statement is the only explanation that Obama has even remotely given the grief stricken family so far about the death of their mother and grandmother, albeit indirectly.

I recommend reading this Huffington Post article: Obama Told Aides He’s ‘Really Good At Killing People,’ New Book ‘Double Down’ Claims by Mollie Reilly and urge you to watch the video, in which the reporter says the following:

“The quote, the relish that he seems to take in the taking of human life is sort of unseemly, I’d say, and not the best thing for a politician to say.””Pretty nasty stuff.”

 

Will the detractors who changed the subject away from a Pakistani family traveling 7000 miles to testify before Congress, most of whom didn’t bother to show up and listen to the innocent drone victims, who according to the REAL LIARS don’t even exist, libel the Huffington Post reporter’s integrity, too, for finding Obama’s statement “unseemly,” “pretty nasty stuff,” and noting “the relish that he seems to take in the taking of human life”?

Just using the phrase “being good at killing” in and of itself, whether or not it was said quietly, is creepy to most people with any shred of humanity or even a modicum of social acumen.  But when it is said by the world leader who gave his OK for drone strikes that killed and maimed hundreds of innocent victims, including this grandmother, whose families’ suffering he ignores and does not compensate, it is beyond unseemly to anyone with even half a conscience.

The MSM reported that instead of a grandmother being droned in a field alongside her 9 grandchildren, 3-5 militants were droned in their car/house.

Now, that’s what I call a lie.

Ms. Reilly also included in her article the story about the Pakistani family losing their grandmother as an example of one of the many civilians Obama has killed with drones.  So, I was not alone in pairing Obama’s statement about “being good at killing people” with the sweet grandmother droned to death.

The claim that Obama is remorseful about the grandmother’s death rings hollow since he has never apologized for it or given any compensation to her family for her loss or the medical expenses to remove hellfire missile shrapnel from her 11 year old grandson’s, Zubair’s, leg or treating her 9 year old granddaughter’s, Nabila’s, hand wounds, who awoke in a hospital after running and running away from the explosion.  Not only that, but the very next day after the family voiced their sad testimony in our Nation’s Capitol, Obama was scheduled to meet, not with them, but with the very company that manufactured the hellfire missile that killed their grandmother and two companies that manufacture drones.  He never met the grieving school teacher or his two injured children while they were in Washington.  This snub alone says it all.

If these angry Kossacks believe Obama feels rueful about “being good at killing” and maiming innocent people by the softness of his voice, why do they accept the fact that he isn’t apologizing to the innocent victims, helping them, or even acknowledging that they exist?  Why are they accepting his continuance of a drone program considered a war crime by many legal minds?

As I commented yesterday:

I was trying to show the horrible reality of who Obama was really good at killing…many of whom are innocent people.

A commenter wisely made this point about Obama’s explanation on drones:

He doesn’t need words or legal construct….He can either reduce or stop their use, he can explain to these families WHY they were targeted, as was the case with al-Awlaki’s 16 year old, American citizen son, whose family members still have not heard why the strike that killed him was ordered. He can set up a system where targets can somehow contest the evidence against them…

But I don’t accept the current system, where secret evidence is gathered secretly, where the approval for strikes is done in secrecy, and where the government refuses to even allow an assassination target to see the evidence against him or contest any of it, because again, secrecy. These are not the policies of an enlightened, transparent, and peaceful country.

And the truth is, none of us have any idea as to how Obama actually feels about these strikes….

How anyone could attack someone for pointing out the obvious about a statement that is truly horrible coming from a world leader, instead of demanding the world leader STOP KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE is WHY he is getting away with secretly killing grandmothers without a trial, without any apology, without any compensation, and without any acknowledgment.To quote Bill Clinton about his indiscretion that pales in comparison to droning a grandmother, Obama can answer Momina Bibi’s grieving son, “I did it, because I could.”

Yes, he can.

John Brennan vs. a Sixteen-Year-Old Boy January 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

by Medea Benjamin

In October 2011, 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attended a gathering in Islamabad where he was taught how to use a video camera so he could document the drones that were constantly circling over his Pakistani village, terrorizing and killing his family and neighbors. Two days later, when Aziz was driving with his 12-year-old cousin to a village near his home in Waziristan to pick up his aunt, his car was struck by a Hellfire missile. With the push of a button by a pilot at a US base thousands of miles away, both boys were instantly vaporized—only a few chunks of flesh remained.Tariq Aziz (circled) at the Grand Jirga in Islamabad just days before he was killed by a US drone hellfire missile.

Afterwards, the US government refused to acknowledge the boys’ deaths or explain why they were targeted. Why should they? This is a covert program where no one is held accountable for their actions.

The main architect of this drone policy that has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents, including 176 children in Pakistan alone, is President Obama’s counterterrorism chief and his pick for the next director of the CIA: John Brennan.

On my recent trip to Pakistan, I met with people whose loved ones had been blown to bits by drone attacks, people who have been maimed for life, young victims with no hope for the future and aching for revenge. For all of them, there has been no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.

That’s why when John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC last April and described our policies as ethical, wise and in compliance with international law,  I felt compelled to stand up and speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz and so many others. As they dragged me out of the room, my parting words were: “I love the rule of law and I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people. Shame on you, John Brennan.”

Rather than expressing remorse for any civilian deaths, John Brennan made the extraordinary statement in 2011 that during the preceding year, there hadn’t been a single collateral death “because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Brennan later adjusted his statement somewhat, saying, “Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq.” We later learned why Brennan’s count was so low: the administration had come up with a semantic solution of simply counting all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.

The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented over 350 drones strikes in Pakistan that have killed 2,600-3,400 people since 2004. Drone strikes in Yemen have been on the rise, with at least 42 strikes carried out in 2012, including one just hours after President Obama’s reelection. The first strike in 2013 took place just four days into the new year.

A May 29, 2011 New York Times exposé showed John Brennan as President Obama’s top advisor in formulating a “kill list” for drone strikes. The people Brennan recommends for the hit list are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law. The kind of intelligence Brennan uses to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

In addition to kill lists, Brennan pushed for the CIA to have the authority to kill with even greater ease using “signature strikes,” also known as “crowd killing,” which are strikes based solely on suspicious behavior.

When President Obama announced his nomination of John Brennan, he talked about Brennan’s integrity and commitment to the values that define us as Americans.  He said Brennan has worked to “embed our efforts in a strong legal framework” and that he “understands we are a nation of laws.”

A nation of laws? Really? Going around the world killing anyone we want, whenever we want, based on secret information? Just think of the precedent John Brennan is setting for a world of lawlessness and chaos, now that 76 countries have drones—mostly surveillance drones but many in the process of weaponizing them. Why shouldn’t China declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an “enemy combatant” and send a missile into Manhattan, or Russia launch a drone attack against a Chechen living in London? Or why shouldn’t a relative of a drone victim retaliate against us here at home? It’s not so far-fetched. In 2011, 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus, a Massachusetts-based graduate with a degree in physics, was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison for plotting to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol with small drones filled with explosives.

In his search for a new CIA chief, Obama said he looked at who is going to do the best job in securing America. Yet the blowback from Brennan’s drone attacks is creating enemies far faster than we can kill them. Three out of four Pakistanis now see the US as their enemy—that’s about 133 million people, which certainly can’t be good for US security. When Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was asked the source of US enmity, she had a one word answer: drones.

In Yemen, escalating U.S. drones strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. Since the January 4, 2013 attack in Yemen, militants in the tribal areas have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. According to Abduh Rahman Berman, executive director of a Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, the drone war is failing. “If the Americans kill 10, al-Qaeda will recruit 100,” he said.

Around the world, the drone program constructed by John Brennan has become a provocative symbol of American hubris, showing contempt for national sovereignty and innocent lives.

If Obama thinks John Brennan is a good choice to head the CIA and secure America, he should contemplate the tragic deaths of victims like 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, and think again.

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org), cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Her previous books include Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart., and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide).

Time to End the ‘Conspiracy of Silence Over Drone Attacks’: UN Investigator June 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Human Rights, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Leading up to today’s conference, ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi stated, “The United States has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing. . . ”  It should be noted that all the atrocities carried out by Hitler’s Nazi government were done under the color of law; the horrors of the holocaust were implemented under laws duly passed by the government and enforced by the judiciary.
 
Published on Thursday, June 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

UN should ‘shine the light of independent investigation’

– Common Dreams staff

At an international conference today in Geneva, Switzerland, international law and human rights experts told of the dire Human Rights implications of the US Targeted Killing Program.

 Photograph: Getty Images

The conference, put together by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and other rights groups, heard from members of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, among others, who warned that the ever expanding use of drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law.

Christof Heyns, of the UN Special Rapporteur told that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, are encouraging other states to also neglect Human Rights standards that have existed since World War II.

At the conference, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, called for international legal action to halt the “totally counterproductive attacks” by the US in his country, the Guardian/UK reports.

Heyns went so far as to claim that such actions may constitute international war crimes.

Heyns countered the suggestion in Washington that drone strikes, on targets assumed to be linked to al-Qaida, are a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. “It’s difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to [events] in 2001. Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices,” he stated.

Heyns went on to to add that the time has come to end the “conspiracy of silence” over drone attacks and “shine the light of independent investigation” by the UN and other agencies.

Leading up to today’s conference, ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi stated, “The United States has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing, with standards that are far less stringent than the law allows. Senior U.S. government officials have claimed self-defense and law of war authority to target and kill suspected terrorists in states with which and in which the United States is not at war, based on largely secret legal criteria, entirely secret evidence, and a secret process.”

Late last night, the Obama administration rejected requests by the ACLU and the New York Times for documents relating to the US military’s drone and targeted killing campaigns.

* * *

The Guardian/UK: Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur

The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute “war crimes”. His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Addressing the conference, which was organised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a second UN rapporteur, Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism, announced he would be prioritising inquiries into drone strikes.

The London-based barrister said the issue was moving rapidly up the international agenda after China and Russia this week jointly issued a statement at the UN Human Rights Council, backed by other countries, condemning drone attacks.

If the US or any other states responsible for attacks outside recognised war zones did not establish independent investigations into each killing, Emmerson emphasised, then “the UN itself should consider establishing an investigatory body”. […]

Heyns told the Guardian later that his future inquiries are likely to include the question of whether other countries, such as the UK, share intelligence with the US that could be used for selecting individuals as targets. A legal case has already been lodged in London over the UK’s alleged role in the deaths of British citizens and others as a consequence of US drone strikes in Pakistan.

* * *

ACLU: U.S. Targeted Killings Program: A Dangerous Precedent

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi delivered a statement at the U.N. Human Rights Council today calling on the U.S. government to provide transparency and accountability in its targeted killing program. While noting that targeted killings may be lawful under some exceptional circumstances, Shamsi emphasized that:

“The United States has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing, with standards that are far less stringent than the law allows. Senior U.S. government officials have claimed self-defense and law of war authority to target and kill suspected terrorists in states with which and in which the United States is not at war, based on largely secret legal criteria, entirely secret evidence, and a secret process.”

To date the U.S. government officially claims the program is secret and has failed to “disclose who has been killed, the number of collateral civilian deaths, and the outcome of any government investigation into mistakes or wrongful targeted killings.” In a statement before the Council earlier in the day, the Swiss representative also expressed concern over the targeted killing program and called upon the U.S. to respect international law in its use of drone strikes.

Pentagon to soon deploy pint-sized but lethal Switchblade drones June 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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 Roger’s note: According to the Pentagon, this weapon is developed to reduce civilian casualties.  This is no surprise, as we know the Pentagon to be nothing less than a humanistic and peace-loving organization.  So now Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama has another weapon in his arsenal of terror.  It is nightmarish to think of the potential uses for this weapon, at HOME as well as abroad.

 

The drones, which U.S. officials hope will help reduce civilian casualties in war zones, pack tiny explosive warheads that can destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy.

 

W. J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

June 11, 2012, 5:00 a.m.

 
Seeking to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage, the Pentagon will soon deploy a new generation of drones the size of model planes, packing tiny explosive warheads that can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy.

Errant drone strikes have been blamed for killing and injuring scores of civilians throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving the U.S. government a black eye as it targets elusive terrorist groups. The Predator and Reaper drones deployed in these regions typically carry 100-pound laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided smart bombs that can reduce buildings to smoldering rubble.

The new Switchblade drone, by comparison, weighs less than 6 pounds and can take out a sniper on a rooftop without blasting the building to bits. It also enables soldiers in the field to identify and destroy targets much more quickly by eliminating the need to call in a strike from large drones that may be hundreds of miles away.

“This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible,” said William I. Nichols, who led the Army‘s testing effort of the Switchblades at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Ala.

The 2-foot-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it.

When soldiers identify and lock on a target, they send a command for the drone to nose-dive into it and detonate on impact. Because of the way it operates, the Switchblade has been dubbed the “kamikaze drone.”

The Obama administration, notably the CIA, has long been lambasted by critics for its use of combat drones and carelessly killing civilians in targeted strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In 2010, a United Nations official said the CIA in Pakistan had made the United States “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world.

In recent weeks, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the issue at a recent news briefing, and he said the Obama administration is committed to reducing civilian casualties.

Although Carney did not mention the Switchblade specifically, he said “we have at our disposal tools that make avoidance of civilian casualties much easier, and tools that make precision targeting possible in ways that have never existed in the past.”

The Switchblade drone appears to be an improvement as an alternative to traditional drone strikes, in terms of minimizing civilian harm, but it also raises new concerns, said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School.

She pointed out that when a drone strike is being considered there are teams of lawyers, analysts and military personnel looking at the data to determine whether lethal force is necessary. But the Switchblade could shorten that “kill chain.”

“It delegates full responsibility to a lower-level soldier on the ground,” she said. “That delegation is worrisome. It’s a situation that could end up in more mistakes being made.”

Arms-control advocates also have concerns. As these small robotic weapons proliferate, they worry about what could happen if the drones end up in the hands of terrorists or other hostile forces.

The Switchblade “is symptomatic of a larger problem thatU.S. militaryand aerospace companies are generating, which is producing various more exotic designs,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. “This technology is not always going to be in the sole possession of the U.S. and its allies. We need to think about the rules of the road for when and how these should be used so we can mitigate against unintended consequences.”

The Switchblade is assembled in Simi Valley by AeroVironment Inc., the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones, which include the Raven, Wasp and Puma. More than 50 Switchblades will be sent to the war zone in Afghanistan this summer under a $10.1-million contract, which also includes the cost of repairs, spare parts, training and other expenses. Officials would not provide details about where the weapons would be used, how many were ordered and precisely when they would be deployed.

AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, developed the weapon on its own, thinking the military could use a lethal drone that could be made cheaply and deployed quickly by soldiers in the field, said company spokesman Steven Gitlin.

“It’s not inexpensive to task an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet from a base to take out an [improvised explosive device] team when you consider fuel, people, logistics support, etc.,” he said.

About a dozen Switchblades were tested last year by special operations units in Afghanistan, according to Army officials, who said the drone proved effective.

The Army is considering buying $100 million worth of the drones in a few years under a program called the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, Nichols said. The Air Force and the Marine Corps have also expressed interest in the technology.

AeroVironment is not the only company pursuing small, lethal drones. Textron Defense Systems is also working on a small kamikaze-style drone. Named the BattleHawk Squad-Level Loitering Munition, the drone is being tested at an Army facility in New Mexico.

Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said the Switchblade’s entry into the war zone is typical of today’s weapons procurement path. Defense contractors, he said, are on their own developing smaller and cheaper but powerful high-tech weapons vital to waging guerrilla-type warfare in the 21st century, and they are finding success.

“This weapon system is the first of its kind,” he said. “If it works, there’s little doubt others will follow.”

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

US attack kills 5 Afghan kids May 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
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The way in which the U.S. media ignores such events speaks volumes about how we perceive them

By , www.salon.com, May 8, 2012

Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.

The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.

This happens over and over and over again, and there are several points worth making here beyond the obvious horror:

(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.

At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.

(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.

Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).

Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).

This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, but surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.

(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.

* * * * *

This point cannot be emphasized enough.

The killing of Awlaki’s 16-year-old son October 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights, War on Terror.
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Thursday, Oct 20, 2011 5:21 AM 21:23:15 CDT

 

Extreme secrecy, as usual, shrouds this act, but it underscores how often the U.S. uses violence around the world

By Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com
 

 (Credit: Reuters/AP)

 

(updated below)

Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people. News reports, based on government sources, originally claimed that Awlaki’s son was 21 years old and an Al Qaeda fighter (needless to say, as Terrorist often means: “anyone killed by the U.S.”), but a birth certificate published by The Washington Post proved that he was born only 16 years ago in Denver. As The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson wrote: “Looking at his birth certificate, one wonders what those assertions say either about the the quality of the government’s evidence — or the honesty of its claims — and about our own capacity for self-deception.” The boy’s grandfather said that he and his cousin were at a barbecue and preparing to eat when the U.S. attacked them by air and ended their lives. There are two points worth making about this:

(1) It is unknown whether the U.S. targeted the teenager or whether he was merely “collateral damage.” The reason that’s unknown is because the Obama administration refuses to tell us. Said the Post: “The officials would not discuss the attack in any detail, including who the target was.” So here we have yet again one of the most consequential acts a government can take — killing one of its own citizens, in this case a teenage boy — and the government refuses even to talk about what it did, why it did it, what its justification is, what evidence it possesses, or what principles it has embraced in general for such actions. Indeed, it refuses even to admit it did this, since it refuses even to admit that it has a drone program at all and that it is engaged in military action in Yemen. It’s just all shrouded in total secrecy.

Of course, the same thing happened with the killing of Awlaki himself. The Executive Branch decided it has the authority to target U.S. citizens for death without due process, but told nobody (until it was leaked) and refuses to identify the principles that guide these decisions. It then concluded in a secret legal memo that Awlaki specifically could be killed, but refuses to disclose what it ruled or in which principles this ruling was grounded. And although the Obama administration repeatedly accused Awlaki of having an “operational role” in Terrorist plots, it has — as Davidson put it — “so far kept the evidence for that to itself.”

This is all part and parcel of the Obama administration’s extreme — at times unprecedentedfixation on secrecy. Even with Senators in the President’s own party warning that the administration’s secret interpretation of its domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act is so warped and radical that it would shock the public if they knew, Obama officials simply refuse even to release its legal memos setting forth how it is interpreting those powers. As EFF’s Trevor Timm told The Daily Beast today: “The government classified a staggering 77 million documents last year, a 40 percent increase on the year before.” And as I wrote about many times, the Obama administration even tried — and failed — to force The New York Times‘ James Risen to reveal his source for his story about an inept, disastrous CIA effort to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program, but as Politico‘s Josh Gerstein reports today, the Obama DOJ is now appealing the decision in Risen’s favor. Gerstein writes:

The executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Lucy Dalglish, said the appeal was troubling for First Amendment advocates, but not unexpected.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Dalglish said “The Obama administration has made it absolutely clear they detest leakers and they are going to be very aggressive against leakers.”

Since Obama took office, his administration has initiated five prosecutions of alleged leakers under the Espionage Act — a sum roughly equal to the total number of such prosecutions in all prior administrations combined. . . .

“It’s really looking like they want to put Risen in prison,” [the defendant’s lawyer Edward] MacMahon said in a brief interview. . . . “For the journalists in the world, it’s quite a significant First Amendment appeal.”

You can offer the ability to citizens to choose from one of the two parties and elect their leaders as much as you want. But “democracy” is an illusion — a sham — if the most significant acts taken by those leaders are kept concealed from the citizenry. Dana Priest and William Arkin wrote a multi-part series, and followed it up with a book, describing “Top Secret America”: the sprawling, secret government/private-sector apparatus accountable to nobody. Leaks and whistleblowers are the only real avenue remaining for citizens to know what their government does, and it’s why the Obama administration is so obsessed with persecuting whistleblowers, crushing WikiLeaks, and now even trying to imprison one of the nation’s best investigative journalists.

For many people, this type of secrecy is not bothersome because — when their party controls the White House — they trust their leader to be honest and act properly; that’s what Bush followers who viewed Bush as a good, earnest Christian constantly said in response to objections over radical secrecy, and it’s what many Obama followers say now (if Obama says someone is a Terrorist, I don’t need to see evidence: I’m sure he is – if Obama says Iran is behind a Terrorist plot, I don’t need to see evidence: I’m sure they are). But that obviously isn’t a healthy mindset when forming expectations of political leaders. More so, you can’t have a functioning democracy if the government refuses even to discuss its most radical and significant acts. The Obama administration is just off waging a secret war in Yemen, killing its own citizens from the sky, and refusing to account to anyone for what it’s doing. If you accept that level of secrecy, what don’t you accept?

(2) Every now and then it’s worth pausing to reflect on how often we talk about the killing of people by the U.S. Literally, the U.S. government is just continuously killing people in multiple countries around the world. Who else does that? Nobody — certainly nowhere near on this scale. The U.S. President expressly claims the power to target anyone he wants, anywhere in the world, for death, including his own citizens; he does it in total secrecy and with no oversight; and this power is not just asserted but routinely exercised. The U.S., over and over, eradicates people’s lives by the dozens from the sky, with bombs, with checkpoint shootings, with night raids — in far more places and far more frequently than any other nation or group on the planet. Those are just facts.

What’s most striking about this is how little effort is needed to induce America’s political and media elites to acquiesce to it. The government need do nothing more than utter empty nationalistic phrases such as “we’re at war” and “Terrorist!” and this unparalleled, endless state violence all becomes instantly justified. Yesterday, Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen wrote about the Awlaki killings: “Many Yemenis can understand (if disagree) killing the father, few can understand killing the son,” and pointed to this Facebook entry from a young Yemeni as illustration of what he meant; read the text:

I have no doubt that many Americans, probably most, would consider this comparison to be outrageous hyperbole, even offensive and slanderous. I have just as little doubt that many Americans, probably most, would be saying things quite similar to this if it were another country, engaging in far more violence than all others, routinely zapping innocent teeangers, children, women and men out out of existence on American soil using sky robots and cluster bombs (just look at America’s ongoing reaction to a single, one-day attack on its soil a full decade ago). But the U.S. does this so often, and has for so long, that most of the citizenry has either concocted or ingested mental and intellectual strategies for pretending this doesn’t happen or justifying it when they can’t. So we just killed an American teenager and his teenage cousin by drone-bombing them to death? They merely join a very long list of similar recent victims — a list that, paradoxically, makes less of an impact the longer it becomes.

UPDATE: Those who believe evidence and transparency in such matters are unnecessary because the government under Obama — unlike under Bush — would never issue false claims about such things and can be trusted without accountability should review this and this.

Study: CIA drones strikes have killed 168 children August 12, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I have been re-thinking the Vietnam War lately.  Some 60,000 US soldiers lost their lives, and millions of Vietnamese.  That is not to mention the destruction rained on that country by the US military and the ruined lives of countless thousands of returning American GIs.  Apart from the militaristic quasi-fascist right, common wisdom says that the war was a failure.  The naive analysts refer to it as if it were a mistaken policy (and not as the crime that it was).  I am thinking that from the perspective of US geo-political objectives, the war was not a failure.  It showed the world how much death and destruction the United States government was prepared to wreak on a peoples who oppose the American Empire.  Today President Obama is making a big fuss over the deaths of the government’s trained professional assassins know as the Navy Seals.  The Lyndon Johnsons, the Robert McNamaras, the George Bushs, the Dick Cheneys, the Donald Rumsfelds, the Barack Obamas, the Bill and Hillary Clintons … they kill and destroy with impunity.  They are the front men (Mrs. Clinton included)  for the military-industrial complex, about which ex-president Eisenhower warned in his farewell address.  I have no doubt that they believed or believe in their cause and consider their actions justifiable.  That, however, does not change the fact that they commit crimes against humanity

 

Justin Elliott, www.salon.com, August 12, 2011

AP/Noor Behram, HOIn this Aug. 23, 2010 photo provided by photographer Noor Behram, a man holds debris from a missile strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

Based on international and Pakistani news reports and research on the ground, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has issued a new study on civilians killed by American drones, concluding that at least 385 civilians have been killed in the past seven years, including at least 168 children.

Here’s a taste of the report, which can be read in full here (warning: graphic images):

Pakistani father Din Mohammad had the misfortune to live next door to militants in Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan. His neighbours were reportedly part of the Haqqani Network, a group fighting US forces in nearby Afghanistan.

On September 8 2010, the CIA’s Reaper drones paid a visit. Hellfire missiles tore into the compound killing six alleged militants.

One of the Hellfires missed its target, and Din Mohammad’s house was hit. He survived. But his son, his two daughters and his nephew all died. His eldest boy had been a student at a Waziristan military cadet college. The other three children were all below school age.

 

An Obama administration official told ABC that these numbers are “way off the mark” — but, tellingly, did so on the condition of anonymity, meaning he or she will be protected from any accountability.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Scott Shane has an important article reviewing the same issue and in particular Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s claim in June that for the previous year CIA drone strikes hadn’t caused “a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Shane finds that basically every outside observer — including those of all ideological stripes — finds this claim to be preposterous:

 

Others who question the C.I.A. claim include strong supporters of the drone program like Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, who closely tracks the strikes.

“The Taliban don’t go to a military base to build bombs or do training,” Mr. Roggio said. “There are families and neighbors around. I believe the people conducting the strikes work hard to reduce civilian casualties. They could be 20 percent. They could be 5 percent. But I think the C.I.A.’s claim of zero civilian casualties in a year is absurd.”

 

Brennan issued a new statement to the Times suggesting that the CIA has merely “not found credible evidence of collateral deaths” from the drone strikes:

“Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq, and we will continue to do our best to keep it that way,” Mr. Brennan said.

Given that the drones are operated remotely, it’s far from clear how the CIA even knows who is being killed in many of these strikes.

  • Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More: Justin Elliott