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Congressional No-Show at ‘Heart-Breaking’ Drone Survivor Hearing October 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Pakistan, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I posted on this subject yesterday, but I am repeating it here to underscore the blatant and callous disregard for human life (that is not white American) demonstrated by U.S. congressmen.  Five of 435 showed up to listen to how the drone missiles they casually lob into civilian neighborhoods took the life of a mother/grandmother and injured two children.  That represents 1.4% of the members of the House.  And this family is just the tip of the drone’s murderous iceberg.

 

 

In “historic” briefing, Rehman family gives heartbreaking account of drone killing of 65-year-old grandmother… to five lawmakers

 

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The Rehman family waits to testify at the Congressional Briefing on drone strikes Tuesday, October 29. (Photo: @akneerudh/ Twitter)

Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.

Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her Pakistan village which killed her grandmother. (Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.

In her testimony, Nabila shared that she was picking okra with her grandmother when the U.S. missile struck and both children described how they used to play outside but are now too afraid.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey.” –Zubair Rehman, 13-year-old drone victim

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” said Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.

“My grandmother was nobody’s enemy,” he added.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama last week. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”

“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” Rafiq continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.”

He concluded, “Quite simply, nobody seems to care.”

You can watch a recording of the briefing below and here:

The purpose of the briefing, Grayson told the Guardian, is “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”

The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—”a recurring problem,” according to Reprieve, “since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011.”

“The onus is now on President Obama and his Administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers,” said Gibson.

Also present was U.S. filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who first met Rafiq when he traveled to Pakistan to interview the drone strike victims for his documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.  Before the briefing, Greenwald told the Guardian that he hoped the briefing “will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed.”

The following clip from Unmanned was shown at Tuesday’s hearing:

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Lockheed Martin’s CEO Wants Your Social Security Check September 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, War.
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Friday 23 September 2011

by: Robert Greenwald, Brave New Foundation | Op-Ed

The law that created the deficit committee also created a zero-sum game: Any expensive program that escapes the budget knife does so at the expense of cuts to other programs. If the military contractors succeed in keeping the war budget intact, they’ll likely do so at the expense of Social Security and Medicare.

That means money that would go to your Social Security or Medicare benefits will instead go into the hands of people like Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stephens, who last year made $21.9 million, almost totally from taxpayer-funded military contracts.

Join War Costs in telling the deficit committee to keep military contractors’ hands off the money that should go to Social Security and Medicare.

These corporations have been and are devoting considerable resources into a coordinated effort to ensure they get as much of that money as possible. A new investigation by AlterNet’s Nick Turse (as part of a joint investigative project among AlterNet, Salon,and Brave New Foundation) uncovered that not only have tens of billions of dollars been sent to war contractors in deficit committee members’ districts in the last several years, but the millions of donations donated to the members’ campaign and PACs have heavily favored Democrats since 2007.

That means that the people we usually rely on to protect Social Security and Medicare may have been compromised by heavy war industry donations.

Democrat Jim Clyburn, for example, recently said, “…Defense may be something that most members on the Democrat side will not mind going after. But I do mind going after that. So I’m going to be very reticent.” Clyburn has taken several hundred thousand dollars in contractor donations since 2007, and he’s not alone. Deficit committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) literally campaigns on sending military contracts to Boeing, which has a heavy presence in Washington State. These members typically (and cynically) defend shoving money at corrupt contractors by saying they are “looking out for their district.”

As we show in our new War Costs video, if they continue this behavior from their perches on the deficit committee, they will most definitely NOT be looking out for their districts. Because the deficit committee is required by law to propose no less than$1.5 trillion in cuts to the federal budget to prevent automatic cuts across federal programs at the end of the year, all big-ticket federal programs are essentially competing against each other for funds. If the war budget wins, popular programs like Social Security and Medicare lose, and that means many, many more of the committee members constituents will be directly hurt by the cuts.

Below we list the number of people in each committee members’ district who rely on Social Security. We then compare the dollars received by Social Security beneficiaries in areas represented by the committee in 2010 with how much federal money was sent to military contractors in the same areas(drawn from Nick Turse’s research). Clearly, if the deficit committee slashes Social Security and Medicare to protect the military budget, many more of their constituents will lose, and their districts will take a much harder economic hit.

Number of Social Security Recipients in Areas Represented by Deficit Committee:

• Sen. Patty Murray (WA): 1,089,887
• U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-05): 125,185
• Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ): 1,067,717
• Sen. Rob Portman (OH): 2,124,650
• Sen. Pat Toomey (PA): 2,557,714
• Sen. Max Baucus (MT): 192,701
• Sen. John Kerry (MA): 1,140,830
• Rep. Dave Camp (MI-04): 155,855
• Rep. Upton (MI-06): 135,716
• Rep. Becerra (CA-31): 51,189
• Rep. Clyburn (SC-06): 142,082
• Rep. Van Hollen (MD-08): 88,726

View Graph

Military contractors are crying crocodile tears right now about the “fragility” of their industry, and they’re declaring that they’re really just concerned about the committee members’ constituents. But as we showed last week, this industry is flush with cash, and will do or say anything to protect the one thing they care about above all else: profit.

The deficit committee has to choose: will they stand with the 16 million people in their districts who rely on Social Security and Medicare, or will they send that money to Lockheed Martin’s CEO?

This should an easy choice: cut the war budget.

If you agree, join us at War Costs and tell committee members you want military contractors’ hands off the money that should go to Social Security and Medicare.