Pakistan on Thursday denied any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, amid reports that Saudi Arabia is holding talks with it about arming the insurgents. A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets…
Syria said Sunday it is ready to cooperate with a rare UN Security Council resolution to allow humanitarian access, so long as it respects “state sovereignty.” A Saudi source, meanwhile, said Riyadh is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft…
Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said Sunday. The United States has long opposed arming…
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday condemned the killing of a former Taliban minister, saying the victim had recently returned from a Taliban meeting in Dubai where he had supported peace talks. Abdul Raqeeb was gunned down in Pakistan’s northwestern…
President Obama is now considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a U.S. citizen in Pakistan. That’s big news this week. But hidden in plain sight is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination.
Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After final confirmation of the deal several months ago, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”
The relationship means that Amazon — logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week — is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes.
Drone attacks in Pakistan are “an entirely CIA operation,” New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti said Tuesday night in an interview on the PBS NewsHour. He added that “the Pakistani government will not allow the [U.S.] military to take over the mission because they want to still have the sort of veneer of secrecy that the CIA provides.”
While the US government claims to have killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1st 2011 in Pakistan, all of the evidence, ignored by the mainstream media, strongly suggests that the “terror mastermind” died many years ago. The US and world public are being deceived on an almost unimaginable scale. How many people will fall victim to this latest deception, and what are the consequences of believing such a monstrous lie?
Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Pakistan on Monday to help arrange peace talks between his government and the Taliban, then took the rare step of extending his visit. Karzai came to Islamabad to meet newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in…
On March 17, 2011, four Hellfire missiles, fired from a U.S. drone, slammed into a bus depot in the town of Datta Khel in Pakistan’s Waziristan border region. An estimated 42 people were killed. It was just another day in America’s so-called war on terror. To most Americans the strike was likely only a one-line blip on the evening news, if they even heard about it at all.
But what really happened that day? Who were those 42 people who were killed, and what were they doing? And what effect did the strike have? Did it make us safer? These are the questions raised, and answered, in a must-watch new video just released by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation.
The attack was what has come to be called a “signature strike.” This is when the CIA or the military makes the decision to fire based not on who the targets are but on whether they are exhibiting suspicious patterns of behavior thought to be “signatures” of terrorists (as seen on video from the drone). Given that the CIA is killing people it’s never identified based on their behavior, one would assume a certain rigor has gone into defining the criteria for the kinds of behavior that get one killed.
So what’s a signature behavior? “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” former ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told the Daily Beast’s Tara McKelvey. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s — well, a chump who went to a meeting.” The New York Times quoted a senior State Department official as saying that when the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.
That day in Datta Khel, the signature behavior was a meeting, or “jirga,” which is an assembly of tribal elders who convene to settle a local dispute. In this case, a conflict over a chromite mine was being resolved. And, in fact, the elders had informed the Pakistani army about the meeting 10 days in advance. “So this was an open, public event that pretty much everyone in the community and surrounding area knew about,” says Stanford law professor James Cavallaro in the video.
Pretty much everyone in the community and surrounding area. But not U.S. intelligence. Or the head of the CIA. Or the president. Or the guy in Virginia or Nevada or some other undisclosed location pressing the button on the drone controller.
And so, almost all the tribal elders of the area were killed by the drone missiles. Akbar Ahmed is a retired Pakistani ambassador to the UK and now a professor at American University. “It’s feeding into the sense that no one is safe, nowhere is safe, nothing is safe,” he says in the video. “Even a jirga, the most cherished, the most treasured institution of the tribal areas. So we cannot even sit down and resolve an issue — that is not safe anymore.” As professor Cavallaro put it, “the loss of 40 leaders on a single day is devastating for that community.”
And far from building stability in places like Pakistan, something the administration talks a lot about, in fact the strike actually removed, in one fell swoop, the most stabilizing forces in an entire community.
Jalal Manzar Khail was at his nearby home that day and remembers the attack, which also claimed four of his cousins. Khail’s six-year-old son was later afraid — not unreasonably — to sleep in their house. “We cannot go home,” Khail recounts his son saying. “We have to spend the night in the tree.” Khail adds, “Convey my message to Americans: The CIA and America have to stop … they’re just creating more enemies and this will last for hundreds of years.”
Khail’s message is not uncommon. “At the end of almost every interview I did,” Greenwald told me, “the person would say, ‘Please tell President Obama I am not a terrorist and he should stop killing my family.'”
There was a time when President Obama might have been more receptive to that message. In the book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, Daniel Klaidman recounts another drone strike just days after President Obama had been inaugurated. Among those killed were a pro-government tribal elder and two of his children. Obama “was not a happy man,” an official told Klaidman.
The concept of the signature strike was then explained to him. “Mr. President,” said CIA deputy director Steve Kappes, “we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t always know who they are.” Obama responded, “That’s not good enough for me.”
It would appear that he has since warmed to the concept. It’s unknown how many have died — combatants or civilians — in signature strikes, since the administration still doesn’t acknowledge that they happen. In February, Robert Gibbs told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that when Gibbs became Obama’s press secretary he was told not to acknowledge the drone program at all. “You’re not even to discuss that it exists,” Gibbs remembers being told.
Of course, since then, given how increasingly ludicrous — and insulting to the country — this stance appeared, the administration has acknowledged the drone strikes, though not much more. But estimated numbers have been compiled by other sources. As Klaidman points out, by the time Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize 11 months into his presidency, he’d already ordered more drone strikes than George W. Bush had in his entire presidency. By the end of 2012, he’d ordered six times as many strikes in Pakistan as Bush had. One study, conducted by professors from Stanford (including Cavallaro) and NYU, found that from 2004 to 2012, between 474 and 881 civilians were killed in Pakistan drone strikes. This includes 176 children — the subject of another Greenwald video, which I encourage you to watch. For fiscal year 2013, the administration has requested $26.16 billion for the drone program — at least that’s the portion that we know about.
In a speech in May at the National Defense University, President Obama gave what was billed as a major national security address meant to clarify his policy on drones, surveillance, and Guantanamo. It seemed to signal a transition in his approach. “With a decade of experience to draw from,” he said in the hour-long address, “now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions — about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.” In parts of the speech he even made a good case against the use of drones:
… force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
He also admitted that “U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties.” This was a far cry from the claim made in 2011 by John Brennan, at the time the president’s chief counterterrorism advisor, that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” from the strikes. He later amended this to say there’s been no “credible evidence of collateral deaths.” This ridiculous claim was demolished in an article in Foreign Policy by Micah Zenko, who concluded that Brennan either doesn’t get the same briefings given to other administration officials or he doesn’t have Internet access. Or “he was lying.” In any case, it didn’t stop his confirmation as director of the CIA.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The roars celebrating the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama on television give Mohammad Rehman Khan a searing headache, as years of grief and anger come rushing back.
The 28-year-old Pakistani accuses the president of robbing him of his father, three brothers and a nephew, all killed in a U.S. drone aircraft attack a month after Obama first took office.
“The same person who attacked my home has gotten re-elected,” he told Reuters in the capital, Islamabad, where he fled after the attack on his village in South Waziristan, one of several ethnic Pashtun tribal areas on the Afghan border.
“Since yesterday, the pressure on my brain has increased. I remember all of the pain again
In his re-election campaign, Obama gave no indication he would halt or alter the drone program, which he embraced in his first term to kill al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan without risking American lives.
Drone strikes are highly unpopular among many Pakistanis, who consider them a violation of sovereignty that cause unacceptable civilian casualties.
“Whenever he has a chance, Obama will bite Muslims like a snake. Look at how many people he has killed with drone attacks,” said Haji Abdul Jabar, whose 23-year-old son was killed in such a bombing.
Analysts say anger over the unmanned aircraft may have helped the Taliban gain recruits, complicating efforts to stabilize the unruly border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. That could also hinder Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
America’s deadly double tap drone attacks are ‘killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan’
By Leon Watson
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘
There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.
‘These strikes are becoming much more common,’ Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents victims of drone strikes, told The Independent.
‘In the past it used to be a one-off, every now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.’
The study is the product of nine months’ research and more than 130 interviews, it is one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to understand – and evaluate – Washington’s drone wars.
VOICES FROM THE DRONE ZONE
Sadaullah Khan, a 15-year-old who lost both legs in a drone strike, says that before his injury, ‘I used to go to school…I thought I would become a doctor. After the drone strikes, I stopped going to school.’
Noor Behram, a journalist: ‘Once there has been a drone strike, people have gone in for rescue missions, and five or ten minutes after the drone attack, they attack the rescuers who are there.’
Taxi driver: ‘Whether we are driving a car, or we are working on a farm, or we are sitting at home playing cards – no matter what we are doing we are always thinking the drone will strike us. So we are scared to do anything, no matter what.’
Safdar Dawar, President of the Tribal Union of Journalists: ‘If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of the drone. If I’m shopping, I’m really careful and scared. If I’m standing on the road and there is a car parked next to me, I never know if that is going to be the target. Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me. Even in mosques, if we’re praying, we’re worried that maybe one person who is standing with us praying is wanted. So, wherever we are, we have this fear of drones.’
Resident from the Manzar Khel area: ‘Now (they have) even targeted funerals…they have targeted people sitting together, so people are scared of everything’
Despite assurances the attacks are ‘surgical’, researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is ‘ambiguous at best’.
Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.
They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike programme or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over.
They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.
The Obama administration is unlikely to heed their demands given the zeal with which America has expanded its drone programme over the past two years.
Washington says the drone program is vital to combating militants that threaten the U.S. and who use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.
The number of attacks have fallen since a Nato strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan wants the drone strikes stopped – or it wants to control the drones directly – something the U.S. refuses.
Reapers and Predators are now active over the skies of Somalia and Yemen as well as Pakistan and – less covertly – Afghanistan.
But campaigners like Mr Akbar hope the Stanford/New York University research may start to make an impact on the American public.
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